October 31, 2012
Case Study

Event Marketing: Zombie-themed campaign nets $1.2 million revenue impact

SUMMARY: Conducting event marketing for a third-party event, at which you are a sponsor, or have purchased a booth, can be challenging when you must adhere to external guidelines, while still finding a way to stand out from other marketers at the event.

Stonesoft, a network security company, made sure it stood out at the 2011 Black Hat Briefings, where it conducted a zombie-themed event marketing campaign. This case study covers the elements of an effort that resulted in 384 unique leads generated and a $1.2 million impact on Stonesoft’s revenue.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


Event marketing for conferences, expos, summits or other live events you host yourself offer many marketing opportunities. Event marketing for third-party events, where you are a sponsor or have a booth, comes with a separate set of challenges.

Marketing at third-party live events requires you to meet criteria set by the hosting organization, possibly limiting what you can do at the event site. Another challenge is standing out among many sponsors and event booths.

Stonesoft, a network security technology company, participated in the Black Hat Briefings conference in 2010.

Heather Pritchett, Director of Marketing for North America, Stonesoft, said the company realized it could use the Black Hat 2011 opportunity to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

The resulting event marketing effort involved tying a popular culture meme -- zombies -- with an aspect of Stonesoft’s business. In network security parlance, a computer compromised with malware is called a "zombie."

Find out what pieces went into this event marketing campaign and about the different ways Stonesoft included the undead for Black Hat 2011, leading to a $1.2 million impact on revenue.


Pritchett said the marketing team wanted to improve on what it accomplished sponsoring the event in 2010, and decided the zombie theme would be a way to stand out from the crowd.

She added, "One thing we do at Stonesoft is not treat an event where you just show up and stand there. We typically build a campaign around events."

Step #1. Maximize the event sponsorship opportunities

When spending marketing dollars on event sponsorship, or even just purchasing an event booth, you want to be sure to take advantage of the marketing opportunities that are included with that spend.

For the Black Hat show, Stonesoft was not provided an attendee list. However, the conference management promoted all of Stonesoft’s various event marketing pieces through the event social media channels, email sends and blog posts.

As a sponsor, Stonesoft had the marketing opportunity of hosting a party during the event.
Pritchett said all the promotions, both the company’s pre-event marketing and the promotions to the attendees through Black Hat, were driven to a dedicated landing page tied to the zombie theme and where attendees had to pre-register to attend the event party.

Step #2. Include a prize incentive at the live event

Along with the event party, a major topic of the pre-event promotion through Black Hat channels was a pre-event sign-up for Stonesoft’s grand prize incentive -- a trip to Universal Studio’s "Halloween Horror" nights, providing another tie-in to the company’s zombie event theme.

Pritchett said Stonesoft also offered several other, smaller zombie-related prizes at the event.

The event party was held the first evening of the event, and featured the grand prize giveaway and a Stonesoft employee wearing professional makeup and costume to look like a zombie.

Step #3. Create a video featuring the theme to promote the event

Marketing for an upcoming event is most likely going to involve a number of channels, such as social media outreach and getting a message to the email database. Video is increasingly becoming a marketing piece for B2B marketers, and with this campaign, Stonesoft took video production to a higher level.

"We really centered the pre-marketing around the video that we created," Pritchett stated. "We actually had someone here from Stonesoft that really helped us out."

That employee served as the technical advisor on all things zombie, and actually served as the "spokeszombie" in the video.

Stonesoft hired a makeup artist from the television show, "The Walking Dead," to create the spokeszombie. The script was carefully written so that "it was not too cheesy," according to Pritchett, but so it still got the Stonesoft message across.

The makeup was the most difficult aspect of creating the video and took hours.

Actual production was recorded in front of a green screen. Post-production required placing a relevant background behind the spokeszombie.

Step #4. Include email in both pre- and post-event marketing

Email was part of the promotion Stonesoft received from Black Hat as part of its event sponsorship, but the marketing team also included email in its event marketing mix.

Before the event, three emails were sent to Stonesoft’s subscriber database with a call-to-action to register for the Black Hat event, and the larger goal of driving traffic to the company booth at the upcoming live event.

The pre-marketing email content promoted the zombie theme for the event, and also included an element of brand awareness around Stonesoft’s business for recipients who were not going to attend the event.

The follow-up email after the event featured a message from the Stonesoft spokeszombie with a call-to-action to set up meetings with Black Hat attendees.

Step #5. Tie theme to on-site event marketing material

Because Stonesoft’s entire theme for the Black Hat event was connecting pop culture zombies with the concept of a malware infected "zombie" computer, the zombie theme was part of all event material, including:

The booth also included a screen for demos.

"The easel board had a zombie look to identify the overall theme, and had some key messages that we wanted to promote at the event," said Pritchett. "The flyer promoted some side events, like meetings, that we were doing as well."


Pritchett said one of the key results of this campaign was what she described as an "overwhelming" response, not only from event attendees but also from leadership within the company, including the Stonesoft COO from Helsinki.

"I think the spokeszombie got a lot of internal press for his efforts, and for the impact that he made in getting people to our booth," explained Pritchett. "I think that the biggest factor was the sheer amount of people that came to our booth because of the zombie theme."

She continued, "That is what we want. We want to be able to tell our story to people because Stonesoft is still working on brand visibility and awareness."

Here are some of the metrics from this event marketing effort:
  • 384 unique leads scanned during the event

  • More than 400 unique contacts during the event

  • 10 opportunities identified from the event

  • $1.2 million impact on revenue

Pritchett offered her key learning from this campaign, "The key takeaway for a successful event is that you must know your audience. Tap into resources to get into their minds and understand what will resonate. Be edgy if appropriate, interesting and fun at a minimum. It’s critical to find a way to stand out from the crowd."

Creative Samples

  1. Spokeszombie in front of green screen in video production

  2. Event poster

  3. Tabletop display

  4. Event booth easel display

  5. Event booth flyer

  6. "Zombie-Free Zone" placard



Arketi – Stonesoft’s marketing agency

Related Resources

Stonesoft Spokeszombie discusses zombie threats (via YouTube)

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Lead Generation: Targeted event marketing effort leads to 300% ROI, generates 140 qualified leads

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