December 05, 2012
Case Study

Event Marketing: Stunt combined with social media draws 2,500 to Dreamforce booth

SUMMARY: When marketing at large conferences, it can be a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Buying a booth at a major event can be an effective means for lead generation, but the entire effort requires a substantial budget.

SiSense, a business intelligence software company, decided to purchase a booth at the highly attended Dreamforce 2012. This case study looks at the marketing decisions and steps the SiSense team took to grab the attention of 90,000 attendees, and drive 2,500 visits to its booth.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


A major challenge with in-event marketing is creating visibility for your event presence, particularly for the larger shows. SiSense, a business intelligence analytics company, faced that issue at this year’s Dreamforce, with its more than 90,000 attendees.

Bruno Aziza, VP of Marketing, SiSense, said Dreamforce provided two problems to overcome -- first was the sheer size of the event, and second was that the theme of the show is so wide that it’s not easy to get noticed for a particular business area, such as business intelligence in SiSense’s case.

On top of those two issues, as a startup company, Dreamforce was SiSense’s first stab at event marketing.

Aziza said, "When you think about these three things, how do you get out above the noise?"

This case study will cover SiSense’s event marketing strategy, such as booth placement, where it spent budget dollars, and the rationale for what might be considered a fairly outrageous stunt to gain attention at a very large conference that drew more than 2,500 visitors to the booth over three days.


Aziza summed up the challenge of marketing at a large event, "How do you make it clear what your message is about, and how are you able to make the message in a way that is impactful? If the message is unheard, there is no point."

Step #1. Choose the event for the marketing effort

Aziza stated one thing SiSense understood about its target audience was many businesses did not understand the basic concept behind its software offering.

"People don’t know what business analytics, or BI (business intelligence), is, so we really want to be strong in selling into that audience," he said.

Taking that into account, when choosing a conference to launch its event marketing, the SiSense team considered business intelligence and business analytics shows, but chose Dreamforce for a reason.

Aziza explained, "We chose, on purpose, to go after the one (conference) that is not a BI conference because the BI expert is not who we were selling to."

Step #2. Plan the initial event marketing strategy

The pre-event strategy planning covered two main areas: the theme of the marketing effort, and how to best invest the budget spend.

The spend was broken down into two options: invest in a large booth, and invest in a big presence in ways beyond expo floor real estate.

The decision was made to buy what Aziza described as a "reasonable-sized booth" and really put an emphasis on creating visibility for SiSense through a big "presence" at the show.

The team accomplished this through gadget giveaways, such as iPhone 5s, and special guests to draw attention to SiSense’s booth.

The second stage of pre-event planning involved understanding the overall feel of the show.

In the case of Dreamforce, Aziza said celebrity was a major hallmark of the conference.

"It was very clear that Marc Benioff, the CEO of the company (, loves celebrity. He had General (Colin) Powell. He had Richard Branson (CEO of Virgin). He had all these celebrities on stage," said Aziza.

Understanding the emphasis on celebrity at Dreamforce influenced Aziza’s selection of the booth guest in SiSense’s marketing effort.

Booth placement

The placement of SiSense’s booth also became part of the pre-event strategy.

Before the conference, Aziza consulted an expo floor map, and deliberately chose a booth directly across the aisle from a more established competitor. The idea was the competitor would draw in people interested in the business intelligence area who might not have heard of the startup, SiSense.

Step #3. Determine promotion to maximize event visibility

To take advantage of the celebrity culture at Dreamforce, Aziza decided to have a celebrity look-alike in the SiSense booth.

He said he interviewed Ray Charles, Marilyn Monroe and Mitt Romney look-alikes.

But, he ended up choosing a look-alike for President Obama.

Aziza added, "I didn’t want to make a political statement. I am a vendor. I have nothing to do with politics."

The idea of choosing an Obama look-alike was the fact having the "president" in the booth would create buzz and visibility for SiSense.

The event ran Tuesday through Thursday, and the Obama look-alike was scheduled to appear in the booth on Wednesday.

Aziza used Tuesday to promote the visit with an air of mystery, coupled with some hints. He told booth visitors they could return the next day to have their picture taken with the celebrity guest.

He also engaged in updating social media channels to promote the celebrity visit to take advantage of the high social media interaction nature of the Dreamforce event.

Tweets included hints, such as, "Every vote for SiSense is a vote for America."

One in-booth promotion designed to hint at the profile of the celebrity guest was a toy helicopter giveaway.

An important aspect of having an Obama look-alike as the in-booth "celebrity" was a connection with SiSense’s overarching marketing message.

Aziza explained, "The tie is not a political statement, but rather is a statement in favor of 'data democracy.' Today, most of the ‘big data’ talk is about big data for the biggest companies. Our vision is 'big data for all.'"

Step #4. Execute the high visibility stage of the event strategy

When the day and time for the Obama look-alike arrived, Aziza met him at the entrance of the building where the vendor booths were located with a large American flag and made a production of walking the look-alike through the crowd to the SiSense booth.

Aziza said event attendees were taking photographs of the procession, and some even joined the line to reach the booth.

Aziza said the "stunt" was surprisingly successful in grabbing the attention of event attendees and driving additional traffic to the SiSense booth.

Once in the booth, the Obama look-alike greeted and took photos with booth visitors. More than 1,000 attendees waited in line for a picture with the look-alike.

Aziza said the in-booth appearance was so successful, the Obama look-alike stayed longer than his contracted time because he was promoting his own business and passing out business cards.

Step #5. Leverage the high visibility promotion after the event

"There is no reason this needs to stay locked at the event," said Aziza.

To take advantage of the successful event strategy, and the popularity of having an Obama look-alike in the booth, the team videoed Aziza interviewing the look-alike on his thoughts about business analytics.

SiSense published the video after the event and let it run until November, gaining the benefit of interest in the actual Obama with election-year media coverage.

"(People) are going to be searching on YouTube for Obama, and there will be our video," Aziza stated.


About making the event marketing successful, Aziza said, "First, you have to know yourself. Secondly, it’s about timing -- where are you going to be? And, you lose sight of the top message. Your top message has to work with the stunt; otherwise, it’s a memorable thing, but it goes nowhere."

For SiSense, the top message was "big data for all," and not just for large companies.

He said the main key performance indicators for the campaign were recognition at the event, and lead generation:
  • On recognition -- beyond the Obama look-alike strategy, one magazine named SiSense as the number one analytics product at Dreamforce

  • The overall event marketing strategy brought more than 2,500 people to the SiSense booth over the three days

Aziza stated that the key to a creative event, such as this campaign, is making sure the idea ends up creating business for the company.

"Think about the impact to revenue, and think about the long term, because the risk with a stunt like this is that it might be forgotten a week from now," explained Aziza.

He continued, "You want something that is going to keep on giving. That is why we did (the look-alike) at the event. That is why I did the video."

Creative Sample

President Obama look-alike at Dreamforce


Related Resources

Combining Social Media and Event Marketing: Year-round effort boosts clickthrough 236%

Event Marketing: HubSpot's Dreamforce effort generates more than 2,300 new leads and 362 product demos

Trade Show Follow-Up: 5 tips to optimize response

Event Marketing: Regional customer forums improve field events attendance rate by 150%

Nine Simple Tactics to Drive a Higher Return on Trade Show Investment

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