How Do You Attract Younger Guests?

By Jenny Berg August 30, 2010, 8:45 AM EDT

United Entertainment Group, Cover Girl's New York-based PR and marketing agency, enlisted Koncept Events to stage a five-city road show geared toward women who are just starting to use makeup.

Photo: Courtesy of United Entertainment Group

By giving events a youthful edge, organizations can draw new customers and donors, and corporations can attract emerging talent or new customers. From carefully curated soundtracks to high-impact entertainment, here are some ways to draw fresh faces.

In Chicago, Saks Fifth Avenue director of marketing Julie Selakovich tapped online magazine, which has a core readership of 25- to 40-year-old women, to publicize an in-store fashion show. Saks and Cheeky staffers selected “six influential, fashionable people in Chicago,” including PR reps and members of the media, to serve as hosts and models. The event had a fun, low-key vibe with a shiny pink runway by Kehoe Designs, a DJ, and refreshments from sponsors MGD 64 and VitaminWater Zero. Through email blasts from Cheeky, postings on social networking sites, and word-of-mouth publicity from the host committee, the event drew 150 guests. “More than half were new customers to Saks Fifth Avenue,” Selakovich says.

In April, Hillary Smith and Sarah Turk of Miami’s Koncept Events worked on a national road show to promote Cover Girl’s Clean Foundation line of cosmetics. Held in the parking lots of stores such as Rite Aid and Walgreens, the events offered free makeovers and product education. Because the makeup is geared toward 13- to 21-year-old women, the events’ “marketing, signage, color palette, and even the uniforms and look of the makeup artists, were chosen to appeal to that age range,” Smith says. “We also created a playlist with that age group in mind, [with] artists such as Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga.” Smith says the coupon redemption for Clean Foundation products was “through the roof” and estimates that 75 to 90 percent of guests purchased products on site. 

In the nonprofit realm, planners are using after-parties to target emerging philanthropists. When the Art Institute of Chicago debuted its Matisse exhibition in March, the women’s board hosted an elegant gala with a champagne reception, a string quartet, and a three-course dinner. Geared toward a younger crowd, a separate event—new this year—started at 10 p.m. in the museum’s upper-level restaurant. There, guests found pillow-strewn lounge areas, a dance floor with disco balls, and a buffet of sliders and French fries. Dubbed “Radical Night,” the event had a separate host committee comprised of young area professionals. Some 350 guests, most in the 21-to 40-year-old age range, attended.
The party was “certainly a great success,” says director of donor initiatives Anne Henry. “It raised a bit of money. More importantly, though, it was an opportunity to welcome a new audience. All ticket purchasers who were not already members of the museum received a membership with their ticket.” 

Jung Lee, co-founder of New York production company Fête, says that clients with particularly dry corporate cultures hire her to produce events that will help retain younger employees. In addition to keeping current staffers, she says, “great corporate events can be selling tools to attract great new talent during the recruiting process.”

Lee says that uninteresting entertainment is a common mistake at corporate gatherings. “Most event entertainment goes on a little too long,” she said. “Young employees have a shorter attention span and will get bored.” Lee recommends hiring entertainers who can deliver short, high-impact performances that incorporate contemporary humor. She has wrangled up-and-coming comedian Aziz Ansari and talent from Second City Entertainment. She’s also hired a professional pickpocket artist to roam cocktail receptions and pluck guests’ watches and wallets.

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