Casual Living Staff -- Casual Living, November 3, 2011
MOST RETAILERS KNOW BY NOW THAT AN EVENT is one of the best ways to promote a product or their business. Events can range from a "simple" grand opening to more elaborate cooking demos or classes taught by some-level-of-celebrity personality.
Arguably, there is no company that has figured this out in such grand fashion as Big Green Egg. For 14 years, the company has been perfecting the art of promotion via EGGtoberfest, an Atlanta-based event for cookers and tasters to behold the wonders of the egg-shaped ceramic cooker. The main event has been so popular that there are now versions of the festival that take place in more than 40 regional markets throughout the year.
EGGtoberfest is an annual event that is always held the third weekend in October. It originated in 1998 as a way for Big Green Egg to say "thank you" to loyal customers that regularly logged on to the website Forum page to chat and share recipes and experiences. They frequently found themselves becoming fast friends, and many were eager to meet their online "family."
So an event was planned that would allow EGGheads to get together, cook their favorite recipes for their new friends to sample, and swap stories about life experiences. Big Green Egg supplied the EGGS, which would later be sold at a discounted price to attendees who were interested. The first year, about 100 Big Green Egg pioneers attended the cookout, which was held at the American Legion Hall in Atlanta, with 15 cooks firing up an EGG. The meet, greet and eat event turned into the EGGtoberfest, which was considered a big success.
By the 2005 event, the event had grown to a fun-filled weekend celebration and had moved to the new Big Green Egg World Headquarters in Tucker, Ga. Now, the event has grown to such spectacular proportions that it is held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. In fact, the October 2011 event boasted more than 400 cookers turning out food from 225 EGGs, and had more than 2,400 people in attendance, according to Jodi Burson, marketing manager at Big Green Egg.
While there is no doubt that the event is designed for showing off food - ranging from moose kebobs to this year's Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger - it is a very clever way for the company to build solid word-of-mouth about its products.
Retailers and distributors are getting the message. Don Tooley at Winter Garden Ace Hardware in Winter Garden, Fla. says that they are planning their inaugural Greater Orlando EGGstravaganza in November to help convince customers that the EGG is a worthwhile investment. They're expecting about 40 cooks and 250 tasters. Seeing the cooking versatility of the EGG offers value because "people think they're kind of expensive," Tooley said.
Big Green Egg operations staff assembled 225 EGGs, which were used by EGGtoberfest cooks.
Tarantin Tank and Equipment Company sponsored the June 2011 NewEGGlandfest held in New Hampshire:
Charlie Leondike shows off his skill at cedar-planking salmon.
Chuck Helwig from Smokin’ Aces with a grill-prepared pizza.
Dr. BBQ (Ray Lampe) presenting the People’s Choice Award to Chuck Wagon BBQ.
Cookers tend to have more than savory fare in their repertoire. Chuck Helwig of Smokin’ Aces “grills” a tasty pineapple upside-down cake.
Ribs are a classic, and it’s easy to do them on an EGG with a rib rack — and what a great add-on sale.
Tom Townsend, marketing manager at Taylor's Do it Center in Virginia Beach, Va., planned the company's EGGs on the Beach event in October. They have 10 stores and are the biggest seller of EGGs and EGGcessories in the area, "so it just made sense to do it," Townsend said.
He added that both the company and event attendees benefit. "The idea is to build awareness of the EGG by word of mouth."
So how do first-timers figure out how to pull together a successful EGG event? Many turn to the manufacturer, which has been more than happy to provide support for dealer events.
"We are happy to provide guidelines for how to stage an EGGfest," Burson said. "It covers first-time events to bigger ones like ours. It's pretty much the ‘Bible' about how to hold an EGGfest." The company also has been known to provide product to retailers and distributors for giveaways, including EGGs, charcoal and EGGcessories.
So are these events prosperous?
Townsend said they've been cautioned about expecting too much for a first-time event. "We understand that the first year may not bring a return on investment, or we could break even. But the following year we should see some return."
Burson said that following an event, dealers usually see an uptick in sales, and it is a result of attendees being able to see the versatility of the cooker. "They are blown away by all the foods that you can cook on it," she said. "It's clear that it's more than just a grill."
In an interesting twist, the ceramic cooker phenomenon isn't just appreciated by those in the business of selling - there are a number of independent EGGheads who are organizing festivals because they love the product. Steve Cockerham in Allen, Texas, is the organizer of the Plano Outlaw EGGfest, now in its third year. He does have a retail sponsor, however, in Elliott's Hardware.
"When I retired, I bought an EGG and didn't know anyone else who had one," he said. So Cockerham organized the first event and suddenly had 25 other EGGhead friends cooking on nine EGGs. The event now has about 300 attendees with about 30 EGGs being fired up.
"No doubt, the grill is an investment, but people can't control themselves when they see it in action," Cockerham said. "In fact, the only bad thing about someone who owns an EGG is that they won't stop talking about it. If you see someone with a T-shirt or a sticker with an EGG, you immediately start talking to them. It's really a brother or sisterhood."
As a retailer, an EGGfest may not be the exact fit, but it is events such as these from which other great ideas may be gleaned. Big, small or in-between, events can provide a multitude of opportunities to interact with existing and potential customers.
A fi rst at the 2011 EGGtoberfest. A Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger.