media update’s Adam Wakefield spoke to rAge Expo and Rush senior project manager Michael James about the expo, how it has grown, and how marketers can reach attendees across the three days.

Briefly, what is the history of the rAge Expo?

rAge was started in 2002 out of a desire to grow the readership of NAG Magazine. It was also loosely based on things like E3 in Los Angeles and Gamescom in Germany. rAge was, essentially, an elaborate marketing plan to grow gaming in South Africa and, thereby, gain more readers for our magazine, NAG.

The first expo was well supported by both exhibitors and visitors, which allowed us to do a second show, and a third, and now, 15 years later, we're at capacity at the venue and expecting close to 40 000 people this year.

How has the strategy changed over the years to publicise the event as it has gotten bigger, and what are the challenges of publicising an event with that scalability?

The first event was exclusively marketed in NAG Magazine as we were only trying to get our reader base to the expo, but since then we've done everything from radio to billboards to cinema campaigns. It feels easier each year as the expo grows bigger, because people know the brand very well now. It's an event on their calendar that they won't miss.

Word of mouth also drives a lot of traffic to the show. This year, we're doing street poles, radio, university campuses, mobile trailers, and plenty of below the line PR among other things. A nice bonus is that many of the exhibitors advertise rAge through their channels – highlighting special offers or prizes.

rAge is not just about gaming, but technology and gadgets. How diverse would you suggest the audience that comes to rAge is and, as a marketer, what is the best way to engage with them?

rAge has always been about seeing, touching, and trying – an experience. The ideal way to speak to this audience is to have your products on display so people can play with them or try them out and ask questions.

Handing out flyers or relying on static displays is not the way to engage with the rAge visitor. In terms of the market, it's a high LSM group, as this is an expensive market to play in. Its ages are 16 – 36, with many younger visitors and some much older. It's a good mixture of males and females but does lean toward the male demographic.

In terms of race, when rAge started, it was mostly white males that were coming to the event. If you look at the crowd on the show floor today, it's about as mixed and varied as you get in any average sector of South African life. It's great to see everyone embracing geek culture and enjoying the show like this.

In planning rAge, what are the key logistical and marketing considerations from a timing perspective? How far ahead does planning begin and why does planning begin at this stage?

We generally begin planning in December for the event the following October. We initially have monthly status meetings with our management team, which are eventually ramped up to weekly meetings that can last four to five hours a time.

We have plenty of experience with rAge now, so we just know what the pace and timing should look and feel like each month. Every element of rAge has its own production and timing schedule, so we are easily able to keep track of what needs to happen and by when.

With so many different partners involved in the event, how is it co-ordinated to a point where everyone is cooperating as efficiently as possible? How important are relationships with key stakeholders?

Relationships are critical with all the stakeholders at the show, from the infrastructure in the LAN to the smallest exhibition stand.

There is a lot of cooperation and coordination that happens around the show without our direct involvement – this is an organic process that's evolved since the very first rAge, and is indicative of the small and close-knit community here in South Africa.

Occasionally, we have minor conflicts that are inevitably resolved and then everyone learns going forward. Without the right kind of relationships and trust between the key exhibitors and the rAge team, the show would never work.

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The PC and console gaming industry has ‘fun’ at its centre. Marketers can apply a healthy dose of ‘fun’ to their brand objective to connect with consumers. Read more in our article, Gamification in marketing – the fun way to engage.

*Image courtesy of NAG