The Gift Suite Model: Building A Positive Brand Association For Cambria Cove
Monetizing the Mommyblog: An ABDPBT Personal Finance Series
This is the fourth in a series of posts on the topic of monetizing mommy blogs featured on ABDPBT Personal Finance. The models I’ll be discussing have not yet been implemented on a large number of blogs, and thus the use of them is still pretty experimental. You can try these at home, but for the love of God, please BE CAREFUL. Read all of the Monetizing the Mommyblog posts here.
Gift suites have been a standard for Hollywood events like the Academy Awards and the Sundance Film Festival for years now. The gift baskets handed out at the Oscars are supposedly so valuable that people will agree to host the awards show just to get their hands on one of them. To an outsider, this might seem like just another opportunity for ostentatious gift-giving by rich people to other rich people, but the truth is that getting your product into a gift basket is a pretty smart marketing strategy, particularly if you’re a brand that’s trying to get its foot in the door.
Sponsors love the idea of a gift suite because it gives them an opportunity to get a highly visible star to wear their products or be seen patronizing their establishments. Celebrities like them because, hey! free stuff — and if you think celebrities are above getting freebies because they make a lot of money, guess again. Everybody likes free stuff, particularly when it’s not being handed out to just anyone. Being able to get into a gift suite or being invited to host something and get a gift basket is a symbol of status among celebrities in some cases to a greater degree than money alone, precisely because money cannot buy it.
But more to the point: what if I told you that some smart mommybloggers are experimenting with this kind of monetization in the mommyblogging world? Well, they are, and you can, too, if you know how to go about it. Read more below.
How It Works
In a nutshell, here’s how it works: a blogger approaches a brand to host an event at a blogging conference, either in the context of a gift suite, or as a sponsor to a party. The sponsor may or may not already be affiliated with the blogging conference or event; if they are already affiliated, the bloggers’ offer gives the brand an opportunity to have more control over the circumstance in which their brand is presented (i.e. in a nicely decorated suite rather than a booth in an Expo Hall), and it also gives them closer to a guarantee of getting good interaction between the brand and particular bloggers, because bloggers will be invited to attend the event specifically, and are more likely to make a point of visiting the suite to support their blogging friends and to see what kind of swag they can get, whereas with an expo hall, it’s kind of a crapshoot who will show up and why.
The terms of the agreement between the blogger and the brand depend upon the deal; however, there are certain constants. The blogger promises to promote the suite on their blog. When Allison Czarnecki (Petit Elefant) and Marie Le Baron (Make And Takes) hosted the Cambria Cove Suite last month at Mom 2.0, they promoted the suite on both of their blogs during the weeks preceding the event, and then sent out tweets inviting people to come to the suite during the actual event. The suite was hosted in their hotel room at the Four Seasons Houston, and both Marie and Allison were on hand in the suite all day on that Friday to host the people who came by. They also arranged for food and refreshments, and promoted the suite in various other ways, e.g. by telling their friends about it, and encouraging people to come to the suite via word-of-mouth.
The inclusion of a means of gathering business cards is standard for these kinds of PR events. At the Cambria Cove suite at Mom 2.0, Allison and Marie provided a nicer atmosphere for the PR business that takes place on an Expo floor by collecting the cards in a silver dish, right next to artfully displayed premium chocolates, a generous coupon offer, and lovely candle scents. Beats the giant goldfish bowl that Walmart had at BlogHer last year, is all I’m saying.
On the corporate side, the sponsors of a gift suite are expected to provide some kind of incentive to come to the suite (aka swag). In return, they are allowed to showcase their wares at the suite, and have a public relations representative on-hand to answer questions about the products, as well as other opportunities for brand partnerships, presumably. The terms of the deal worked out between Cambria Cove and Allison and Marie were not disclosed to me (yes, I tried), but I do know that the hotel room at the Four Seasons used for the Cambria Cove Suite was also the one in which Allison and Marie were staying (this is key: it lends a private party atmosphere to the event, and is a nice touch), so I am presuming that Cambria Cove might have footed the bill for the room, though I do not know for sure. Another unsubstantiated piece of conjecture: I think that Allison and Marie probably procured some kind of flat fee for throwing this party, but I can’t confirm or give you an idea for how much this kind of thing goes for, because nobody’s letting me in on the inside terms of the deal.
Everybody at the party was given the choice of two favors (while supplies lasted). I chose these cameo drop earrings by Extasia (similar ones retail at Cambria Cove for $85; the originals retail on the Extasia site for $64) over the mini ceramic candle by Voluspa (retails for $15). The idea behind the gifts is that it provides a positive brand experience for the corporate sponsors that cannot be achieved on the Expo floor. And, depending upon the conference, it might even be a much cheaper means of achieving it: a booth at an Expo hall at one of these conferences is a very expensive affair . . . why not spend a little bit of that money on giving gifts, rather than giving the conference organizers more money?
Corporations and Blogging Sponsorships
One aspect of the gift suite that is not immediately clear to me is the relationship between the larger conference and these kinds of gift suites. Though I’m sure you don’t have to have the blessing of the conference organizers to throw your own suite, you won’t get any promotion without their blessing. However, in the case of Mom 2.0, it appears that there was an agreement between the sponsors of the conference, the bloggers, and Cambria Cove: the speakers gifts at Mom 2.0 were also supplied by Cambria Cove, and Cambria Cove is listed as an official sponsor of the entire Mom 2.0 event. I am not clear on whether Cambria Cove was approached first by Allison and Marie, or first by Mom 2.0; but in any case it appears to have been a partnership that pleased everyone in this case, and as a conference attendee, I can say that this kind of gift suite is far more effective than an exposition booth. The other people with booths at the exposition got barely any of my time, and no mention from me in my blog, and here I am writing a full-lenth post about the Cambria Cove Suite. And I’m not the only one: there were at least two other mentions after Mom 2.0 about the Cambria Cove Suite (Lookiloos and Pure Amber Blog), all in rave reviews. I have yet to see anything written about the other expo people.
How To Organize A Gift Suite
If I were to go about organizing a gift suite, I’d start by determining how much an exposition hall booth costs at the conference event I was planning to attend, in order to get an idea for how much sponsors are willing to spend on this kind of thing. Then, I’d check with the conference organizers to see if they had any kind of rules about this sort of thing, because it’s probably better to be on the up and up as much as possible. Then I’d seek out a sponsor that fit my brand as well as the brands of bloggers I knew would be at the conference, and pitch a deal based on that. These kinds of deals are where having your blog’s media kit really comes in handy, and being able to point them to this post for an explanation of how things work is also something you might consider. Beyond that, I think it’s kind of an inexact science — when you pitch it, emphasize the idea that what the sponsor is buying is a positive brand association that really cannot take place in any other way, and that association is to be made with a bunch of people who also have their own blogs, so the possibilities for sales leads are really endless.