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Devaney & Associates created an identity for the first annual Maryland Cyber Challenge & Conference from the ground up and employed micro-targeting tactics to reach the competition’s unique target—hackers—ultimately doubling the client’s registration goal.
Devaney & Associates Cracks the Code on Niche Audience Targeting
When beginning an advertising campaign, the first step is to determine what audience you’re targeting. Audiences can be vague, like adults aged 25-64 in the mid-Atlantic region, or more specific, like men aged 25-34 with college degrees living in 10 specific zip codes.
Then there are niche audiences.
When Devaney & Associates was brought on to handle the branding and marketing efforts for the first-ever Maryland Cyber Challenge & Conference (MDC3), they were tasked with targeting an uber-specific audience: amateur and professional cyber hackers.
MDC3 was a two-day competition and conference that began as an initiative launched by the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), UMBC, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), and others to establish the state of Maryland as a hotbed for cybersecurity innovation. The competition pitted teams of high school students, college students, and professionals in a cybersecurity challenge to win scholarships, cash prizes, and bragging rights.
The goals of the event launch were to recruit at least 24 teams to participate in the competition, secure media coverage of the competition and conference by print, broadcast and online news outlets, build partnerships with media outlets for donated advertising space, and align with non-profits to help promote MDC3 as supporting partners.
As the first event of its kind, Devaney & Associates also had to build MDC3’s brand identity from scratch, including designing the logo, developing the website, and establishing the event’s social media presence. We even took on the role of event designers, overseeing the transformation of the Baltimore Convention Center into a cybersecurity hub.
“We were tasked with doing everything,” says Diane Devaney, founder and president of Devaney & Associates. “We had to brand the competition, promote it, and recruit competitors—namely students and educators—in the dead of summer. The timing and novelty of the event made it seem like an impossible task, but we pulled it off.”
In order to recruit teams to compete, Devaney & Associates had to work strategically to reach three niche audiences: high school, college, and professional hackers. Posters were mailed to high schools and universities for display, rack cards were distributed at professional events, and micro-targeted email marketing and social media advertising tactics were used to generate buzz and track interest among this highly savvy and selective group.
“We built email lists from scratch,” says Devaney. “It was 2011, so it was also still the ‘early days’ of social media advertising. Having to target three separate audiences, all of which were so specific, was a challenge but it gave us an opportunity to prove our capabilities in a rapidly changing field. It also showed that we excel at building brands from the ground up.”
The results? Unprecedented. More than 50 teams entered the first-of-its-kind competition, beating the goal by more than double. The conference was attended by cybersecurity industry professionals from across the state, and featured appearances by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Dutch Ruppersberger, and other state and industry dignitaries.
Media and public relations efforts brought in nearly $50,000 in free print and online advertising and generated more than 7.5 million impressions. The event was even covered by all the local major news outlets, including WJZ-TV, WBAL-TV, WMAR-TV and the Baltimore Sun.
Without having any past events to base efforts on, or even a logo to work with, Devaney & Associates turned MDC3 from an idea to a successful annual event thanks, in part, to our micro-targeting expertise. Six years later, we’re continuing to advance our targeting capabilities to help clients conquer their marketing goals.
In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are travelling back to an important company milestone each month. Be sure to stay tuned for next month’s look back!