Ah, the Minnesota State Fair – The quintessential Midwest bash where we wash down the final days of summer with all-you-can-eat food on a stick. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people come together to admire crop art, shop at merchandise mart, sip boozy slush, ogle butter busts, munch new foods, twist to live tunes, yeehaw at the rodeo, bump into folks you sorta know. . . Need we go on? The Great MN Get-Together really does bring people together to celebrate community, culture, and culinary delights! But beyond the fried food and ferris wheels, a day at the fairgrounds always gets our marketing gears turning. What insights, if any can small business owners derive from our beloved fair? Here are our Fuzzy Thoughts after this year’s Fuzzy Duck field trip.
Go With the Flow and Be Adaptable: As Minnesotans we understand how a shifting forecast or a construction season slowdown might throw a wrench in your state fair day plans. Like any good-natured fair-goer, it’s important to be adaptable in the world of business. Things won’t always go to plan and the most successful marketers are those who can pivot when necessary. Whether it’s adjusting to market trends or responding to customer feedback, being flexible allows you to navigate changing circumstances while maintaining a strong presence.
Find a Balance Between Staying Relevant and Staying Consistent: The best state fair bucket lists include the perfect mix of trying new eats and feasting on what you already know are your favorite, seeing new shows and catching the amateur talent contest as you do every year. A great state fair visit strikes a balance between enjoying the bits you always have and embracing the new attractions that are added each year. Similarly, marketers need to find the equilibrium between consistency and innovation. While staying true to your brand’s core values, don’t be afraid to introduce fresh ideas that land you on the New Foods list, resonating with your audience’s evolving needs and preferences.
Build Anticipation and Buzz: Months before the fair opens its gates, fair event planners create excitement by releasing a slow drip of information. News of who’s playing at the Grandstand, what offerings will debut, and when early bird ticket sales begin all work to build anticipation around the event and get us scheming about our visit. These messages work to bring the fair back to the forefront of our minds AND they add value to our experience. They aren’t necessarily talking at us just to talk, they actually have something to say! Take a page from this strategy in your own marketing by creating anticipation for product launches, sales, or events. Tease your audience with sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes content, and countdowns to build excitement and reward your fans for being engaged with you.
Tap Into Name Recognition: The Minnesota State Fair is a household name, drawing crowds from near and far due to its reputation for fun, food, and entertainment. Walking the streets of the fair, you’ll find even more household names: Sweet Martha’s, Pronto Pups, Corn Roast, Giggle’s Campfire Grill. These are powerful, memory-loaded words this time of year. Other brands fight to get a small slice of the action, making special collaboration beers and deals just for the event. I once attended a concert where the band made a limited number of crossover shirts with Sweet Martha’s to raise money for the St. Paul Public Library. They sold out before the music event stopped. Legendary. Similarly, leveraging cult-followed brand partnerships or local favorites is one way to reap the rewards of name recognition, boosting your reputation through affiliation. And if your brand has a strong reputation all its own, consider capitalizing on it by creating marketing campaigns that emphasize your credibility, longevity, and devoted fans.
Listen to Your Audience and Engage With Your Customers: In addition to the huge sales boost, a major benefit of being a state fair vendor is the opportunity to get direct feedback from customers. This is a huge takeaway that more passive marketing doesn’t often get to take advantage of. Most times, we are only hearing from the most vocal in our audience; the majority of folks don’t chime in. Direct engagement and feedback is a powerful tool that marketers should look to further incorporate into their processes. Ways to do this include asking for clients to complete surveys after service, offering incentives for reviews, or having yearly reviews with your most trusted customers. In the case of the State Fair, their ability to have something for everyone while not pretending to be something its not is based in part to its continuous attendee feedback! Give the people what they want by catering to needs and desires of your specific audience.
So there you have it, a visit to the Minnesota State Fair isn’t just about the animals, the art, or the adventure of it all—it’s a treasure trove of marketing wisdom. We Ducks are always inspired by the creative marketing and advertising strategies that abound at the fairgrounds! By embracing adaptability, finding balance between tradition and innovation, building buzz, leveraging your name, and listening to your audience, you too can create blockbusting marketing strategies that captivate and resonate. Soon enough, just like the beloved Great MN Get-Together, your company will draw a crowd.