Brands Throw House Parties

Jun 20, 2011
Tom Ryan

Magazines are now joining brands in throwing parties in consumer homes. This past weekend, Redbook partnered with House Party to throw 1,000 “girls-only” parties in readers’ homes. Those attending received copies of the magazine, as well as samples, coupons and other merchandise from advertisers such as L’Oréal, Seattle’s Best coffee and Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels.

House Party has worked with ABC Family, Budweiser, Ford, S. C. Johnson, Kraft and McDonald’s on such in-house events, but Redbook was the first magazine to hire the marketing firm.

“The most effective way to sample any product is to actually have a consumer experience it,” Mary Morgan, vice president and publisher of Redbook, told The New York Times. “This is like Redbook parachuting into a party and saying, ‘Here we are.’ “

Attendance at the events, described as National Happy Hour parties, was projected to reach more than 15,000.

In the same manner, Kiwi, the green-themed parenting magazine, is hosting events, known as Moms Meet, although it’s doing it on its own. About 14,000 “mom ambassadors” are expected to attend weekly or monthly meetings that average 20 attendees apiece, according to the Times article. Along with discussing themes in the magazine, attendees receive product samples and discuss their merits. The sampling program has so far included smaller brands like Sprout organic baby food and Laloo’s goat milk ice cream but a deal was recently reached for Teddy Grahams, the Nabisco brand sold by Kraft. The cookies are made with whole grain, no artificial flavors or colors, and sugar instead of corn syrup.

Kiwi moms are entirely engaged and committed to this lifestyle,” Maxine Wolf, the publisher of Kiwi, told the Times, “and recommending these types of products to their friends.”

The move by the magazines come as a wide range of brands from Michelin to Verizon to Bic are throwing house parties. The brands are said to gain customer insight and trial product, but also build buzz and create ambassadors for brands. Brands are also capitalizing on social media’s reach to find the best hosts for the parties as well as organize and promote the events. Some are even holding contests to host the house parties.

Speaking to Bloomberg Businessweek, Ronald Goodstein, a marketing professor at Georgetown University, said house parties for brands hold appeal because consumers are programmed to “resist the sales push” amid constant advertising blitzes in their lives. “The advantage of word-of-mouth is if I’m giving you a personal recommendation because we’re friends, you don’t counter-argue that,” he said.

The downside, he said, is that those invited to the events might wonder whether their friends “sold out” for coupons and free merchandise and likewise be turned off by the brands associated with the event. Hosts aren’t compensated and reportedly don’t receive any extra free gifts.

Discussion Question: What do you think of branding events in consumers’ homes and magazines getting into the house party business?

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4 Comments on "Brands Throw House Parties"

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Dick Seesel
9 years 10 months ago

The brief comment about “social media’s reach” seems to be the real point here. For the right kind of product, house parties sound like a targeted way to unleash the power of social networking. It becomes a much more “viral” method of creating word-of-mouth and trial, and potentially more cost-effective too…assuming the product and brand are targeted to the right audience in the first place.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
9 years 10 months ago

Many businesses need a shot in the arm. Magazines fit or struggle in that category. Just check out how they push the ever-increasing discounts on subscriptions in order to guarantee “readers” to advertisers. But branding events in consumers’ homes can get old hat and that strikes me as having the same magic as the hula hoop.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
9 years 10 months ago

House parties have been successful for a number of products for many years. Using the social occasion to promote products is not unusual. If consumers have time for the events (if there is a huge increase that could be a problem), either do not feel pressured to purchase or have decided to purchase before attending, and find the products or services appealing the parties will continue to work.

Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson
9 years 10 months ago

It makes sense for lifestyle magazines to venture into house parties, given readers have already made a choice to adopt the particular lifestyle portrayed by the magazine–including the brands that outfit that lifestyle. And house parties are a nice combo of fun relaxation with friends and a chance to learn more about new brands.

While there is a downside to the house party (e.g., guests feeling like they’re pressured into buying), I can see this being a viable way to target specific demographics and lifestyles across a variety of publications. For instance, a Field & Stream or Popular Mechanics house party for guys, a Brides house party for engaged couples, a Bon Appétit party for foodies, a Beadwork magazine party for crafters, etc.

And such parties don’t have to be in the home. They may prove even more attractive by making the party into a road show with stops in key cities nationwide.


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