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Case study: Calgary Stampede and Exhibition
Calgary Stampede partners with Zinc Research to assess consumer segmentation effectiveness
As one of Canada’s top-rated tourist attractions at home and abroad, every July the Calgary Stampede draws an average 1.2 million visitors (30% of whom live outside the Calgary region) for its wild and wonderful ten-day run. That’s prime time for tourism in Alberta and across Canada, and there’s a lot of competition to choose from, for visitors and locals alike. Getting people out to the park, delivering a great experience, and keeping them coming back for more is a year-round occupation for Stampede program planners and marketers.

As you would expect from a strongly customer-centric organization, the Stampede gets its strategic direction largely from a diverse and constantly evolving range of consumer research programs. “In our industry,” says research consultant Mathew Stone, “there is no other organization that does the amount of research that we do – not just in quantity but in quality.”

Research consultant Mathew StoneMathew, who has worked either for or with the Stampede for over ten years, has been involved in most of that research. Ironically, in the Stampede’s crucial local marketing campaigns, one of their biggest challenges is to cut through the myriad of advertising by everyone in the city about the event. “For us to get our specific messages through, it gets very complicated. How do you compete with every other business, every other community association, every other sponsor in the city, all talking about the same thing? Being able to target messages in a way that resonates – attitudinally, psycho-graphically, behavioural messages, and getting to the right people at the right time – is something pretty special.”

In early 2010, the Stampede organization completed an exhaustive consumer segmentation study that organized customers into eight distinct target audiences. In addition to psychographic detail and basic demographics, the profiles were also geo-mapped via postal codes. “We know our guests’ behaviours and how they feel about us, but we also know where they live and we know how to reach them.” That little postal code entry, Mathew emphasizes, can pay big dividends: “Because 70% of our guests are local, we have to spend a lot of time there, but our regional and national and international marketing doesn’t talk about those same things.”

Proof positive
Conceptually, the segmentation profiles can be used to tailor Stampede programming, marketing and other communications initiatives, not only for each segment but also for local and regional audiences. But how exactly would the numbers play out at the gate? That question came up in a conversation between Mathew and Brian F. Singh, president of Zinc Research, which has managed Stampede’s onsite surveys for the past five years. Brian’s answer was simple, though not as obvious as it might seem: “I said, ‘Hey, if you have the data, why don’t we just ask the questions?’ And that’s what we did.”

By adding three or four short questions to Zinc’s onsite and exit surveys, Stampede researchers would be able to use this data to triangulate their existing segmentation data. “If we’re able to go in our surveys and get this postal code,” Brian explains, “and we can also determine that this person who came through the gate is also, say, a married thirty-something and a jazz lover, we can now attach those two pieces of information to the postal code that we collected at the gate and we’re able to reverse-engineer what their segmentation was.”

The key insight, of course, is seeing if CES programs and marketing campaigns are attracting their target markets. “The Stampede has marketing campaigns targeting certain segments. At the beginning of the week, after the first weekend, attendance tends to be a bit lighter for some segments, so they try to fill up those days by creating themes and marketing pushes that are actually aligned with the segments. So if they wanted to create a couple of events that might appeal to jazz lovers, we can test out – by the people coming in the gate and also exiting – if they match up, based on the data we have. That way we’re able to test the efficacy of each of these campaigns faster and more effectively.”

“That has been a game-changer for us,” says Mathew, “because now we have that “before” aspect of where they live and what they think, and then we have it in real time, what these segments are actually doing onsite. That is a really big thing.”

The power of partnering

Brian describes collaborations like this one (he prefers to call it ‘co-creation’) as one of the major benefits of a successful client-researcher relationship. Mathew Stone agrees: “And Zinc is a real rare one, because they are able to take our information that we do in other areas and say, ‘You know what, what if you apply it to three or four other areas.’”

Zinc and the Stampede research team will continue working together to see how the onsite program can improve the segment profiles even further. “We’re going to keep testing how these questions correlate with other longer questions within the big survey,” Brian says, “to see if we can keep cutting it back and get more strategic, based on that level of segmentation data.” Once again, he adds, the endgame is the same for both the client and the researcher: “It’s how we can continue to co-create what a more intelligent onsite research program looks like.”

For more information on this initiative and other client-researcher collaborations, contact Zinc president Brian F. Singh.