Software firm Adobe launched Acrobat 7 in 2005 by taking it on tour.
The company, working with integrated agency Gyro International, chose to use a mobile unit to host events around the UK and Europe. So when it approached Gyro in early 2006 to work on the launch of its next generation Acrobat product, the foundation was already laid to build on a successful live marketing campaign.
"The Acrobat 7 campaign was simple and the first time we had used a hands-on element," says Adobe Systems Europe events manager Hayley Nash-Smith.
"The feedback was very good but we wanted a bigger and better concept.
Our primary aim is training. We were talking to delegates who have already bought the product and perhaps wanted to upgrade, so it was about product awareness and getting people talking as opposed to driving people to purchase. It's one thing telling people how it works, but using the software in context is really important."
With this in mind, Adobe and Gyro created a UK tour based around training delegates in Acrobat 8 Professional's new functions. Each session was tailored to a specific sector or discipline such as legal, creative, marketing and local government, and presented the product in the context of the user's line of work. Gyro's in-house team was charged with audience generation and used direct mail, targeted email and press inserts to drive event registration.
The tour, which ran from October until December, took in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Bristol and Manchester. In total, Adobe hosted 160 separate events, with five two-hour sessions a day, and interacted with 2,500 product users. Temporary structures firm Baconinflate was commissioned to design and manufacture an inflatable modular dome to house the experience and PSL supplied audio-visuals.
"Our objective was to build an experience where delegates go on a journey," says Gyro International senior event manager Laura James. "The first dome was a meet-and-greet area, the second housed a 30-seat theatre, then delegates moved through to a classroom area for a 45-minute, hands-on training session.
Each workstation was set up with a laptop, printer and scanner."
Gyro chose locations close to the offices of potential delegates, such as business parks, but also used prominent city-centre locations to create a talking point. "We were obviously restricted by size as the structure has a sizeable footprint," James adds. "They are such interesting structures that whether you were in an urban setting or Regent's Park, they transformed the landscape and gave the wow factor we were looking for."
The sessions were free to attend and Adobe found it relatively easy to persuade such high numbers to take two hours out of their day by ensuring the delegates got something valuable out of the experience. "There was a real mixed bag of delegates. Some had spending power, especially the IT managers, but for the creative guys it was fundamentally a training session," says James.
Adobe is sending out online evaluation forms post-event to assess the success of the tour, but conducting the evaluation in this way has a secondary purpose, as James explains: "The surveys use the product, which has new features relating to editing forms, so it is another touchpoint and a way of reminding them about the benefits of the product."
The feedback will determine how Adobe's future live marketing campaigns are run, but in the meantime Gyro International is in talks with Adobe's Benelux office about the possibility of taking the tour to Brussels and Utrecht.
Gyro approached temporary structures firm Baconinflate in May 2006 and worked in partnership to design the series of pods that housed the presentation and training areas.
"I think the look and feel of the brand and the product - it's a very clean-cut, minimalist style - meant Adobe was attracted to the Eventhaus structure," says Baconinflate sales and marketing director Gary Bennett.
"It's a very polished white surface, and we married it with aluminium trussing and a light-grey rubber floor.
"With any tour I think the advantage of using temporary structures is that you can ensure your events are consistent. In addition, the aesthetics are very pleasing to the eye, which ultimately makes people want to be involved - it draws them to the structures and into the product that is being displayed," he adds.