BlogHer 2012: Five Ways the “Unexpected” Broke Through

BlogHer ’12  was full of what we’ve come to know of the annual conference – thousands of bloggers (close to 5,000 this year, mostly women and some men) with hundreds of sponsors in a fun-loving, swag-laden, information-packed forum (this year at the Hilton in NY) that reverberates through the blogosphere for months afterward.

As I expected, there were food companies giving out samples, CPG companies with booths that tried to engage bloggers on the Expo floor and big-name speakers. Some of these efforts and people were interesting and entertaining – a large pineapple tree made out of pineapples at the Dole booth, Samsung’s living room, Jamba Juice’s great-tasting fruit and veggies smoothies and Staples large and beautiful home office set up.

But what commanded attention on-site and conversations in the halls and ladies rooms were several “unexpected” products, promotional ideas and on-site engagements. Here’s what I learned from the ‘unexpected:”

  • Unexpected speaker: While I’ve seen a number of high-level speakers at this venue, it was especially impressive to see President Barack Obama give the opening address live via video. Citing the conference attendees as an “impressive and influential” group, his address certainly added credibility to the influence of bloggers. Learning: the BlogHer crowd has the power to impact elections, not just product reviews and their influence continues to grow.
  • Unexpected location: Clorox created a booth, entirely constructed from Clorox wipes, not on the Expo floor, but at the base of the elevator where everyone had to pass. Learning: avoid the competition of the Expo floor and stage your presence where no one else is.
  • Unexpected sensory connection: the Expo floor is filled with yummy food samples to smell and taste and interesting items to touch and see and it’s noisy with conversation, but no other “sounds.” Lysol commissioned a song writer to write and play on a guitar funny little songs about Lysol. Passersby joined in and stopped at the booth. Learning: audio is underutilized and really can make a brand stand out in a crowd.
  • Unexpected promotional placement: Many of the 5,000 bloggers stay at the Hilton and use the elevators to get back and forth to their rooms. So the elevator wraps by the “The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure” movie was an eye-catching placement. Learning: be where the traffic is naturally.
  • Unexpected product: Given the success of Fifty Shades of Gray, I should not have been surprised that erotica would be present at BlogHer. At the Trojan’s Vibrations booth, women flocked and stayed to hear more about the new condoms and see demos of the product on vibrators, which were handed out to booth attendees. Learning: the crowd responded to open learning about a product that is not usually discussed, or demonstrated, in the open.

Learnings from the unexpected at BlogHer is making me think differently not just about BlogHer ’13 in Chicago, but also about how we can use these insights to break though in upcoming work.