Chester Sharp grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee, watching his father run a car dealership, invest in neighborhood properties and help other people.
Those lessons have remained for the 38-year-old marketing entrepreneur, who started his own PR and marketing firm a couple of years ago focusing on experiential marketing.
The marketing firm has specialized in creating events and experiences which help connect consumers to products and services in a more relaxed environment. Sharp has worked with sports, music and fashion marketers in Chattanooga to create events that both entertain and connect local people and local brands.
"I think this is the next frontier and offers an opportunity where consumers, whether they are existing or new customers, can establish an emotional connection with a brand outside of the usual sales environment," Sharp says. "The event gives a company a chance to show off its culture, product and people and show what they are doing in the community."
Experiential marketing is a form of advertising that focuses primarily on helping consumers experience a brand.
While traditional radio, print and television advertising communicates a brand and product benefits, experiential marketing immerses consumers within the product by engaging as many other human senses as possible. In the end, the goal of experiential marketing is to form a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the brand so that it may generate customer loyalty and influence purchasing decisions.
Sharp, a Cleveland native who attended the University of Memphis, previously worked as a business account executive at both Comcast and Brewer Media before launching his own business, Sharp Events, in 2013.
"We wanted to attract a diverse audience and believed great music and food was a common ground for all people," Sharp says. "We focused on delivering a quality experience, developing partnerships with other brands and most importantly, creating an environment where like-minded people could connect."
The principles Sharp learned promoting events to a diverse clientele are the same principles he says he is using today in his marketing company to help clients connect with a diverse marketplace.The company has aided such clients as DeBarge Vineyards, BMW of Chattanooga, Verizon, Beast & Barrel, Chick-fil-A at Brainerd Village and Coca-Cola bottling, among others.
Beyond just telling consumers about their goods and services, businesses can benefit also be building relationships and showing community involvement, Sharp says.
"Companies must go where the people are," he says. "The content companies create must be relevant, relatable and authentic."
In recent months, Sharp has also worked with sports figures, including Nikolay Timoshchuk Jr., a business management teacher at Hixson High School who also works with a number of local athletes including New Orleans Saints safety Vonn Bell who, like Timoschchuk, graduated from Chattanooga Central High School.
Shay McCowan, a fashion consultant and marketer for 364 Enterprises, recently started a group of young black professionals known as Chattanooga Business Elite who have come together to encourage and recognize one another with an awards program. McCowan is working with Sharp and others to help grow more diversity in marketing and events in Chattanooga.
"The next frontier is for Chattanooga to embrace new people who may be a bit different from what they have seen in the past," Sharp says. "There is a shift and an undercurrent of change that is taking place. I think the city is starting to embrace more diversity."