This blog is part of a short series called “The Events and Classes Diaries”, where we recount our own experiential marketing journeys to highlight the power of classes and branded events in creating an exceptional customer experience.

On Fridays, my kids have swim team practice at the Needham YMCA on Great Plain Avenue. In theory, it’s great – they exercise, learn about competitive dynamics, spend time in healthy social interaction, etc. From a parental and logistical perspective, however, it’s a nightmare.

They never want to go, they can’t find their goggles, they lost their swim caps – and that’s just leaving the house. When we finally get to the Y, they go swim – and I’m stuck killing time in the cramped waiting room. Along with every other sullen parent, I’m huddled in awkward semi-silence as I scroll through my iPhone or read magazines.

Well, this week was different. Just two days before the Friday practice, I received an email pitch touting the weekly beer and wine tasting at Needham Center Fine Wines. It caught my eye because I’ve heard about one of the participating brewers, Jack’s Abby. But the real appeal was the chance to saunter away from the Y to sample some food and beverages – Alert: adult social interaction opportunity ahead – and still be back in time to pick up the kids.

Hello, branded event – consider me engaged. And lookee here: an easy-to-use mobile link facilitating my automated scheduling. Sign me up!

As experiential marketing programs go, this was an unqualified success for them and me. The event was comfortably full – a commercial space full of samplers with ample space to mingle. The owners were well prepared to provide store-level execution. I didn’t feel the pressure – or obligation to buy – that I might have endured if I had formally booked a one-on-one appointment with a specific vendor. At the same time, however, I was getting personalized treatment from every salesperson plying their respective wares.

beer bottle on table

A few stand-outs:

  • Harpoon IPA – these guys were early on the micro-brewery scene, and I had forgotten how solid their IPA is. I had a tasting, and was reminded why they are now one of the well-established giants in the local – and national – brew scene.
  • Hoponius Union – an India Pale Lager, arguably THE signature label from Jacks Abby. It stands up commendably to the hype.
  • Spiga Ristorante pinot noir – chi ben comincia é a metá dell opera… need I say more?

The take-away? I stayed longer than I planned (I dashed back just as the kids emerged from the locker room), and definitely spent more than I planned. But sometimes you gotta spend to save, right?

I left with a case of Harpoon IPA, a case of Hoponius Union, and a case of Meioimi wine (it’s not entirely about me, after all). My spending rate alone justifies this retailer’s entire strategy behind holding Events and Classes like this one: they complement the customer journey by offering consumers a way to engage with the brand in a more anonymous way than simply booking a 1×1 appointment. Each vendor there interacted at the local level through an experiential marketing effort that produced a higher spend, new opinions and loyalties.

This was a great idea. I plan to do other such events – I’m on the lookout for a new pair of skis…

It sure beats sitting in the cramped waiting room at your local YMCA!

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