SHH. TELL NO ONE.
CAN A SECRET EVENT HELP YOUR BUSINESS?
Go on, admit it. We all like a secret, right? But with the unstoppable advance of the internet and social media, today we seem to have fewer and fewer secrets. Instead, we'd rather bask in revealing more and more about ourselves and world at large, across a whole host of social media channels.
Ironically, the more we share, the more exhilarating it is to find things that remain firmly in the realm of the unknown. There’s something liberating about the unexpected and not being able to prepare fully for all eventualities.
As a result, many brands have recently begun harnessing the power of a ‘secret’ to their advantage. Many innovative event planners are now working with big brands and utilizing secrecy to create a buzz and deliver memorable experiences. And there’s no doubt that secret events can give brands cachet and an air of exclusivity. This revitalized trend of secret events, exploits the unknown and unexpected to create a genuine sense of excitement and deliver the surprises that cement a brand (or product) firmly in the attendee’s memory.
As one UK based event manager explained, "Underground pop-up-style events are designed to immerse a select number of key influencer's or specific target audiences in an alternative and fleeting experience. Consumers are given limited information - some seeding clues in the build-up to the event to maximise engagement and social chatter."
But the concept doesn’t have to stay selective if the organiser wants a larger audience. Social media has made these typically smaller events, commercially viable with brands, who are now able to capitalise on the secondary reach generated through social media.
Take the phenomenal success of Secret Cinema. From its humble beginnings in 2007 as a small, intimate gathering of friends, Secret Cinema has transformed into a series of hugely popular interactive outdoor film screenings and theatrical events.
Secret Cinema is now a multi million dollar business with 40,000 tickets for its Back to the Future production, sold within the first hour of being on sale.
Ironically, Facebook and Twitter may be the reason for secret events' resurgence in popularity. In an era when so much of our lives is documented on social media, we still crave mystery, surprise and originality.
One-upmanship also has a role to play. Guests are prepared to go to an event that they know little to nothing about because of social kudos - the 'I was there' mentality. Secret events capitalise on consumers' desire to post cool and interesting experiences on their social networks. As one advertising creative director, surmised, "People are willing to take risks for rewards today. It's not about following the social calendar, it's about curating it."
Similarly, brands that add a secretive element to proceedings, not only capitalise on free publicity via social-media hype, but earn 'cool' points too. And there are further commercial incentives too. Secret events allow brands to behave in ways they wouldn't in the mainstream. Many events are one-offs or short-lived, targeting a specific audience which allows brands to experiment and mix up their approach. Add in a bunch of influencers, and very quickly a secret event can reach a new audience.
But is the trend for secret events sustainable? Like many advertising and marketing trends, its a cycle. As one commentator pointed out "Like everything, there will be a period when it's going to be more popular, and this is right now. But the element of surprise within events will never leave completely."
So whilst it may be a current phase, secret events will will likely evolve to the point of testing the limits of the social endurance of attendees. Essentially, as with all events, they will adjust to the appetite of our consumption and need for social currency.
Full disclosure: This story first appeared in Campaign UK in 2014 and has been edited for the purposes of this blog post.