Case Study:

Fruition + Convoke + Affinio Help Transform Pittsburgh-based Thrival Festival into Premier Tech & Innovation Conference

Background: Pittsburgh Thrival Festival

The Thrival festival is a beloved Pittsburgh event. For years it offered something for all city residents: music, art, interactive exhibits, tech and innovation. In 2019, however, organizers wanted a major pivot. Rather than hosting a predominantly music festival, organizers wanted to transform Thrival into one of the East Coast’s premier tech and innovation conferences, attracting founders, entrepreneurs and innovators from all over the country. Thrival 2.0 would feature an Innovation Summit that, “explores the impact of technology on humans, business and culture,” under the theme, “By Pittsburgh. For Pittsburgh. For the World.” The summit would feature innovators in business, research, and the arts.

The Challenge: How To Attract A Completely New Audience

Festival organizers set a goal number of attendees with as many founders, entrepreneurs and innovators from outside of Pittsburgh as possible. But who are they? Where and how can they be reached and engaged? Which messages would resonate most? 

Thrival wasn’t well known outside of the city, and attendance would require the target audience to take time out of their busy schedules, travel to Pittsburgh, and pay for a hotel or inn — all high barriers to clear.

Solution: Fruition Co + Convoke + Affinio

Thrival organizers approached Amy Blackman, Founder and Principal of Fruition Co., a bespoke, Los Angeles-based innovation strategy consultancy that helps companies build their brands, engage their audiences, and design market strategy. Thrival tasked Fruition with helping them to create a new vision for the festival, one that would entice entrepreneurs to travel to Pittsburgh and attend the Innovation Summit.

Fruition Co. tapped Convoke to help build out Thrival’s go-to-market plan. Convoke is a Seattle-based full service integrated marketing agency that focuses on the gaming, esports and tech sectors. Convoke’s key task was to help Thrival reach the completely new audience and guide them from awareness to registration.

“An interesting nuance is, I asked for insights first from Affinio when I was designing the brand strategy and messaging for Thrival. It was important for me to have a deep cultural understanding of the target audience, so I could design messaging from a content and visual standpoint that they would resonate with. Then we realized we had a wealth of data that was the roadmap for our engagement strategy, which is when I asked Affinio for the reference for who could action all of these delicious insights, and they referred me to Convoke.” – Amy Blackman 

The first step was to learn more about the startup and founders audience. Specifically, Gary Gonzalez, Founder and Director of Strategy at Convoke wanted to know the overall traits of the audience persona, how and where to reach them, and content most likely to resonate with them so that he could build an effective market strategy. 


Affinio Driven Insights

As a starting point, Convoke and Fruition Co. divided the potential audience into two buckets: Pittsburgh-based and outside of Pittsburgh. To better understand the latter, they identified the Twitter handles of tech stars (e.g. Elon Musk), startups and angel investors followed by the ideal target audience. They leveraged Affinio to analyze the most relevant content and keywords in conversations to get a sense of the topics most likely to pique interest and drive conference attendance. Additionally, by analyzing keywords in bios, Affinio helped Convoke understand the basic demographics, top influencers, media outlets and brands for the ideal audience.

Fruition Co. used these insights to build messaging strategy and a visual identity for the new Thrival festival and Convoke built the social media campaign, targeting audiences on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. The campaign that launched in July 2019, focused on the inspiring innovation ecosystem that was emerging in Pittsburgh, along with the ways in which traveling to the conference would deliver big payoffs in terms of ideas, inspiration and connections.




Broad Awareness 

Thanks to the precise insight delivered by Affinio, Fruition Co. and Convoke delivered stellar campaign results for Thrival in terms of awareness and attendance:

  • More than 500k impressions delivered to 200k key audience members, driving broad awareness of the festival and Pittsburgh as an innovation hub.
  • Tracked several hundreds of Thrival 2019 registrations as a direct result of campaign.
  • More than 8,000 engagements with Thrival on social media.

Expedited Insights and Go-to-Market Strategy

Affinio helped Fruition Co. and Convoke shorten the time-to-insights for the campaign. In just two months, the teams were able to build the campaign from start to finish, including collecting highly relevant data, researching the audience, rolling out the campaign, building the creative and targeting the prospects.

“The best part about Affinio is the way it allows us to get smart about an audience in a hurry.” explained Gary Gonzalez. “Instead of spending at least a week and likely longer manually pulling content and audience trends, trying to get estimates or buying different reports to tell us about a similar audience, we were able to get all that data within a few hours from Affinio. And instead of spending the time trying to find data, we’re able to spend that time figuring out how best to use that data to reach our audience.”

Efficient Media Spend

“Affinio allowed us to get smart on our targeting by identifying exactly which hashtags, bio keywords to target. This, in turn, allowed us to get really efficient in targeting Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook ads, and to save on media spend right off the bat,” explained Gary.

The efficient media targeting allowed the campaign to realize click-through engagement rates that normally take time and continued optimization to achieve. Importantly, these insights allowed Convoke to quickly determine the best cities to target.

Long-Term Audience Building

Fruition Co. and Convoke were careful to track all interactions in order to build a database of Thrival’s key audiences, enabling future engagement across multiple touch points.