How to upstage the competition on the main stage in event marketing

This is a story that began with a joint marketing retreat of TW Garner Food Company’s two ad agencies. Creative Energy handles foodservice advertising and marketing for the company’s Texas Pete® Hot Sauce brand. A Greensboro, NC, ad agency handles Texas Pete® retail advertising and marketing. The joint meeting was the brainchild of TW Garner’s Vice President of Marketing, Glenn Garner.

The experiment was to explore the possibility of creating a brand position that works for targeting consumers and restaurant operators. From that experience, all agreed that the positioning that the bold, balanced flavor of Texas Pete® will make you a “kitchen hero” could work and Creative Energy went to work on demonstrating that the positioning would build the national brand and increase foodservice sales.

Our objective for events was to be unique with our culinary executions to demonstrate the product’s end-user benefit of offering flavor enhancement, not just heat. Our philosophy in everything we do for the brand is called Whole Ass Marketing (WAM), meaning that we choose to stand out from the competition in everything we do. The best example recently came to life in Dallas during the Multi-Unit Foodservice Operator’s (MUFSO) SuperShow. For more than three decades the event has brought food manufacturers together with large chains for what had been discussions on best business practices. It took some convincing, but we were successful in arguing with the show’s leadership that it would benefit by adding a competitive culinary shoot-out to their agenda. The first-ever Texas Pete® Kitchen Hero Cook-Off was heavily promoted by the show organizer via online, print and direct mail.

The competitors and judges were from some of the nation’s top chains. The chefs were given the freedom to create any menu item for their chain – as long as it contained Texas Pete® as an ingredient. The winner would become our first-ever Texas Pete® Kitchen Hero and TW Garner would donate $10,000 in their chain’s name to Share Our Strength (the industry’s charitable effort to fight kid hunger). We utilized a talented video crew to cover the competition and produce videos that would debut on the big screens of the event’s general session.

The results were phenomenal, with every eye of top chain executives turned to the big screens as the fun and creative competition played out. When Chef Jim Doak, master chef of Ignite Restaurants (Joe’s Crab Shack, Macaroni Grill and Brick House Tavern + Tap), won the Cook-Off, the applause was the payoff for a one-of-a-kind event that successfully stole attention from other hot sauce brands attending the event and in positioning Texas Pete® as the innovative, culinary-focused hot sauce brand for foodservice.

jim doak accepting his check

Jim Doak of Ignite Restaurant Group accepting a check on behalf of his charity No Kid Hungry as winner of the Texas Pete Kitchen Hero Cook-Off.

Want to upstage the competition at a trade event? Be creative and focused on the core positioning of your brand. Don’t be afraid to step out from behind your trade show booth and make something memorable, compelling and effective in selling more of your product. That is exactly what we did for Texas Pete®.