How This Wearable Tech Device Provides Custom Marketing at Large Events

Hurdl is a text-based platform that creates one-to-one communication between attendees and hosts.

By Mitra Sorrells November 10, 2016, 7:15 AM EST

Event guests receive a wristband with an LED button, known as a Pixl, attached. Each one comes with a unique code that is used to activate the device via text.

Photo: Courtesy of Hurdl

On November 2 at the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, a new tech product debuted that offers a different way for planners to communicate directly with their attendees. Hurdl has created a wearable device that has applications at a variety of events such as festivals, sporting events, trade shows, and fund-raisers. The brains of the wristband are housed in a circular LED button called a Pixl that attaches to the wristband. Guests receive a band upon arrival at an event, and then activate it by texting the unique code associated with their band to a phone number. In response, the guest receives a text that has an opt-in privacy policy and asks a series of questions created by the event host to gather the data they want for the event.

“The client can ask any question. 'What team are you cheering for? What’s your favorite song? How are identifying your gender?'” says Hurdl co-founder Betsy McHugh. “From that point forward, the event happens, and your wearable will light up based on your unique answers. For example, if Beyoncé wants to light up all the single ladies, or a sporting team wants to light up all the people who served in the military.”

McHugh says the moment of illumination is not only fun, it can also create a meaningful communal experience. “We did a fund-raiser where we lit up everyone who knew somebody on the autism spectrum. You could see visually how many people there were in autism blue, and it was a really powerful moment.”

At a conference or trade show, guests could be asked questions about their job title, industry, or location, and then at a networking event, for example, the wristbands could be illuminated based on the answer, such as C.E.O.s in blue and C.M.O.s in green. Or at an awards program, the wristbands of the top sales people could light up at a specific moment.

The illumination feature is just one aspect of the product. Once the guest activates the wristband via text, the event host can communicate directly with that person. “Now that we’ve built this one-to-one communication network … you get to not only be part of the experience, you can also can get a text from the host. It could say, ‘Go to the concession stand to get a free Coke for the next 10 minutes,’ or ‘Go to the merchandise stands and you’ll get 10 percent off,” McHugh says.

Hurdl is developing partnerships with a variety of online entities such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Facebook to create a connection between their services and people at live events. “I had the chief marketing officer of Apple Music say to me, 'You’ve created a new direct marketing channel for us to the most engaged consumer. We’ve never been able to send a message to everybody immediately following a live event who is on that high of the event and say, “Hey, great to see you tonight. Sign up for Apple Music now and get a playlist of tonight’s show,” for example,'” McHugh says.

In a trade show environment, Hurdl’s algorithm can analyze the anonymized data to help sponsors and exhibitors target messaging to specific attendees. “We’re able to make direct marketing more efficient. For example, we can say that our algorithms find this person has such a high likelihood to be interested in this high-end wedding dress instead of a low-end dress at a bridal convention … and then those booths can work with us to send a direct text to that person to give them an incentive to come to their booth,” she says. 

The Pixl button that attaches to the wristband, including the chip inside and the plastic that surrounds it, is recyclable. The wristbands cost about $3.75 each but, to incentivize recycling, Hurdl offers up to $1 back for each Pixl that is turned in at the end of the event. To offset the cost, planners can offer the bands as a sponsorship opportunity and a logo or hashtag can be imprinted on the Pixl. At the C.M.A. Awards, Walmart sponsored the devices and imprinted the hashtag #greenlightavet on them and illuminated them in green in recognition of the company's campaign to support veterans.

After the event, and even if the Pixls are turned back in, the host can continue to communicate with guests via text. “For example, at a music event, they could send a message saying, ‘Thanks for coming. If you didn’t get a chance to stop at the merchandise booth, click her for one-click purchasing, and we’ll send the item to your home overnight,’” she says. Hurdl collects those orders and then transmits them to the client.

While the primary means of activation is via text, Hurdl also has an API so it can be integrated into a mobile app. “Especially for those kinds of events that require you to download an app to be a part of an event, we can certainly allow people to activate their wearable in the app,” McHugh says.

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