Inner Circle

Digital Marketing  

IBIE’s Fresh Approach to Attendee Acquisition

by Kate Ammerman and Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes


The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) is anything but stale. Each edition of the triennial event reflects the most current trends, highlights the latest innovations, attracts the hottest celebrity chefs and features new competitions, education sessions and demo areas. mdg’s campaign to promote IBIE is no different – it’s constantly evolving to reflect market forces, the shifting media landscape and changing audience behaviors. As a result, IBIE’s attendance continues to increase despite industry consolidation, the proliferation of low-carb diets and the aftermath of the recent pandemic. In fact, we achieved a 25% growth in baker attendance over 2019, with the following initiatives …


A targeted international outreach program. With ongoing domestic consolidation among wholesale bakeries, selling to foreign buyers is consistently cited by many exhibitors as the most viable channel for their growth. As such, a dedicated team of international marketers, a healthy budget and a sustained strategic approach were directed at this goal. Anjia Nicolaidis, mdg’s international marketing strategist, attributes much of this year’s success to a strong international delegation program, a tailored multilingual marketing campaign and a unique approach to influencer marketing. The results speak for themselves – IBIE attracted 22 delegations and visitors from 106 countries. International baker attendance rose by 34%, including a 52% increase from Mexico and a 40% increase from Canada.


Robust influencer marketing activities. mdg’s communications team activated macro- and micro-influencers to drive awareness, reach new audiences, elevate the brand and increase event exposure. In addition to showcasing celebrity chefs like Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman along with other stars from Food Network, Bravo and HBO, this year, four macro-influencers were recruited to engage in pre-show marketing, present demonstrations on-site and even add value with post-show content. The macro-influencers’ social posts garnered more than 3 million impressions and 70,000 engagements. mdg also called on the power of micro-influencers by encouraging attendees to use a referral marketing tool upon registering. Additionally, speakers were provided with personalized graphics and a branded video-production tool to promote their sessions. These micro-influencers were responsible for nearly 5,000 mentions reaching 6 million people.


Betting big on digital. Since the last show, IBIE’s database had fallen victim to the “great reshuffle” in addition to the natural attrition that happens over a three-year cycle. mdg therefore shifted strategy to include more paid and earned channels to supplement the data decay within IBIE-owned channels — and a budget shift from direct mail to digital marketing delivered 10.2 million impressions and more than 5,500 conversions attributed directly to the campaign. mdg also revamped IBIE’s media partnerships to expand reach, partnering with 50 media outlets and working very closely with editors to generate content.


An adaptable event brand. Reaching and appealing to the ancillary market segments of the grain-based food industry, including retail bakers, pizza, biscuit and cracker, snack, tortillas and more is a huge growth opportunity for the show. As such, the campaign creative had to be adaptable for the various segments and stay fresh and exciting over a three-year cycle. This year’s “BAKED IN” concept not only checked all the boxes but also helped transform the lobbies of the Las Vegas Convention Center into a beautiful celebration of grain-based foods. The campaign was so popular that it was used to create swag, which created another revenue stream for event organizers.


A high value on collaboration. The IBIE team takes a cross-disciplinary approach to event planning, ensuring that sales, operations and education are all aligned with marketing on growth strategies. For example, upon learning that U.S. sales of cannabis edibles were valued at $3.6 billion and expected to exceed $8 billion by 2025, mdg decided to target the growing number of food professionals interested in adding cannabis-infused baked goods to their product mix. A dynamic new pavilion was created that offered exhibits and a dedicated education track. This offering helped the event expand to new audiences and sparked the curiosity of loyal attendees.


A version of this article originally appeared in PCMA Convene.