Sondra Noble of Hip Hues

How to Turn a Virtual Event into an Experience

Sondra Noble is the co-founder and Owner of Hip Hues, a Nashville-based company that has been bringing experiential branding fun to live events since 2012.

What should we know about Sondra?

Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Sondra came to Nashville some 15 years ago and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Vanderbilt University. Her background is in both tech (hello, Google!) and marketing. With offices in Nashville and Columbus, Ohio, Hip Hues combines art, fun, marketing, and branding by setting up custom, interactive swag bars for any type of event, anywhere.

How did the idea for an experiential swag bar come about?

Sondra had always wanted to start her own company, so she and sister, Tracy Dunn, teamed up and created a new concept: interactive, live {branded} screen printing at events! Similar to a photo booth experience, event attendees print their own gift/favor at swag bars in just a few minutes.

Sondra explains how she and Tracy really founded Hip Hues on bringing creativity – screen printing and art – to as many people as possible. They started out with workshops, bringing folks into their space to learn about screen printing. But it wasn’t before long that Sondra’s marketing brain kicked in, and she asked, “Why don’t we do this for brands on site at their events? That way companies and brands could bring their designs to life through us as the medium.”

How does this provide a different experience from ordering swag and handing it out during an event?

Hip Hues is centered wholly around creating an interactive event experience. Sondra says attendees get to have a memorable experience with Hip Hues, where they not only get the fun experience of customizing their swag on-site, but they also get to hands-on print their own swag in just a few minutes.

Party-goers’ memory of that experience will forever be tied to the event, to the brand, and to the product that they take away with them. So, it’s that much more meaningful, and they’re more likely to keep it, wear it, and use it – and be proud of it. Plus, it makes for a fun story to share!

What are her favorite kinds of events?

Sondra enjoys activating grand openings for brands like WeWork, which opened a new building in East Nashville a few years ago, helping people print their limited edition swag. And each year helping Vanderbilt University welcome students to campus.

But more than anything, she loves when Hip Hues gets to print with kids, whether at summer camps or birthday parties or prom. “It is just so fun when we get to see the reaction on kids’ faces when they lift up the screen and see what they just printed. So, we get to re-live the magic of what we do through them, and it’s pure joy.”

What does Hip Hues’ target audience look like?

Just like events, Hip Hues’ audience runs the gamut. But she notes that most event planners and marketers she works with are female. Sondra says, “Women are really out to make the most impact we possibly can whether it’s from an events or marketing perspective (or both). And pardon my French here, but we just get shit done. We know what our attendees want, and we craft authentic experiences and high-quality products accordingly and what we’ve been able to get done with other women event planners and marketers over the years has just been magical.”

Hip Hues is one-part experiential branding and one-part marketing – what has she found to be the biggest marketing tool when finding new clients?

Hip Hues has consistent repeat customers, but Sondra noted traditional marketing and advertising doesn’t really work for Hip Hues. Instead, the company leverages networking and meeting people face-to-face (before COVID) to get the word out about their services. Plus, she says email marketing is extremely beneficial is sharing their latest offerings with folks even before they’re planning their events.

Since COVID, it seems like all in-person events were either cancelled, like this year’s Red Letter Day, or postponed indefinitely. It really forced businesses to be innovative and rather quickly. How has Hip Hues adapted to the new virtual environment?

Hip Hues was faced with two options: either wallow in all the lost revenues or embrace the new direction of virtual. They chose the latter, focusing on virtual experiences: customize swag online, videos of swag being printed, and even curated swag boxes shipped directly to attendees’ homes. This reality of virtual isn’t going anywhere for events, so Hip Hues has fully embraced virtual experiences.

What have been some of Hip Hues’ biggest and biggest learnings?

Hip Hues successfully pivoted to doing virtual events and swag box campaigns. And the group has also been able to provide lead generation solutions for businesses interacting with virtual booth attendees or customers.

Everyone loves swag! What are the newest trends she’s seen?

People continue to love super soft t-shirts – short and long-sleeved. Sondra says the trend has (thankfully) continued shifting away from tchotchkes in the past decade. Recently, though, she says there has been an increase in sweatshirt blankets and Bondi bands, which are like stretchy athletic sweatbands. Plus, with the addition of leather and faux leather goods, clients have really enjoyed debossed/embossed goods with hot foil stamping.

Resources and Links

Hip Hues website

@HipHues on and Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Sondra Noble on LinkedIn