• May 1, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Are You Ready to Party?

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The terms "marketing" and "house party" are rarely used in the same sentence. If anything, we might think of Tupperware parties, but those would hardly be considered an entertaining night out. And yet parties are a wonderful way of bringing friends together. In a world where the customer is a marketer's best salesperson, it's no wonder the magazine Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) jumped on the opportunity to throw some parties of its own.
"We're always looking for something new and exciting to offer our advertisers," says Kristen Stucchio Suarez, BH&G's promotions director. So when it came across New York--based viral marketing platform provider House Party, BH&G saw an opportunity to engage in viral marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, and social networking, all in one package--a trifecta that would otherwise have required multiple distinct programs. The primary objective of the party was to promote the awareness of BH&G's limited edition of its Pink Plaid cookbook, which supported the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
BH&G began by outlining its goals to reach a national audience. Then came two to three months of detailed planning, and the first concrete step: the creation of the "Pink Plaid House Party" Web site. Beginning with Better Homes and Gardens' August 2007 issue, readers were invited to fill out host applications. By September, BH&G had received 5,500 completed applications, out of which the company had to select the 1,000 most-qualified applicants. Incorporating BH&G's vision, House Party was responsible for producing all the creatives involved in the planning, from invitations to party supplies. House Party also facilitated the flow of communication between Better Homes and Gardens, the hosts, and the guests before, during, and after each event.
Just days before the Event Day in October, hosts and guests were asked to complete a pre-event survey describing their perceptions and knowledge about the brands and products that would be featured at the event. According to the results, over 70 percent of guests were only "somewhat familiar" or "not very familiar" with the cookbook and its relationship to the fight against breast cancer.
On the day of the event, BH&G and its advertisers reached 15,448 direct participants, an average of 15 guests per party. Guests received "party packages" filled with goods including the Pink Plaid cookbook, CDs, recipe cards, coupons, and gift certificates.
To measure results, BH&G administered a post-event survey a couple of days after the event. According to the survey, 72 percent of hosts said that the party packages were "awesome--exceeded my expectations," while 23 percent characterized the packages as "great."
The post-event response proved to be extremely positive: 99 percent of hosts reported that they would host another party and 95 percent of hosts believed that the party made guests "more aware of and favorably inclined" toward event sponsors. Moreover, the survey concluded that over 90 percent of guests and hosts were at least familiar with the cookbook and its cause, fighting breast cancer.
After the event, BH&G continued to see active traffic on the Pink Plaid House Party Web site. More than 3,000 consumer photographs were uploaded and over 1,250 comments were posted to the site, which stimulated additional responses from other consumers. Far beyond just those who participated directly, BH&G estimates that the viral reach generated by the event extended to more than 500,000 potential consumers.
Motivated by the success of the Pink Plaid events, BH&G has allocated funding and resources to two other parties: Green House Party and Holiday Cookie Swap House Party. "[Continuing to] invest in House Party is a testament to our belief that [it] worked," Stucchio Suarez says.
Furthermore, advertisers that had heard about the event reached out to express interest in being considered for future parties. "We're always trying to service our advertisers [and] provide them with marketing programs they can only find with Better Homes and Gardens.... The relationship with House Party has helped us to do that."

By launching a House Party event, Better Homes and Gardens:
g made direct connections with approximately 15,448 people in cities all over the U.S.;
g increased awareness among 90 percent of party attendees regarding the Pink Plaid cookbook and its affiliation with breast cancer research;
g received the support of 99 percent of hosts to host again; and
g gained further brand awareness through user-generated content with over 3,000 photos and 1,250 online comments.

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