Events informing your campaign: what to watch out for

Topic: Insight /

Branding and marketing are all about making ideas real.

It’s one thing to have a mission statement, some brand values, and a goal of this many conversions or touchpoints or sales. Getting those across to your prospects and targets, though? That demands something valuable, something meaningful, something real.

The art of persuasion - getting people to do what you want them to do, i.e. marketing, in a nutshell - is about finding ways to make the big creative ideas work in the real world.

Mocking up your ideas, leading with a story and statistics, giving your clients a tool that makes their ideas happen - they’re all viable ways of creating a tangible experience around a concept. Events stand in the same category. Events are an opportunity for simple, powerful, almost theatrical gestures on your part, and a chance for customers to get involved and discover your big idea for themselves.

Showing people something beats telling them about it, and having people do something beats showing them how it works. If you can offer people that opportunity, they’ll line up to convert themselves.

From campaign to exhibition - bringing the idea to life

When you’re building events into a campaign, what you’re really doing is building the campaign’s values, goals and brand aesthetic into the event. For this to work, you need to answer two key questions:

  • What is the message of the campaign?
  • Does that translate to an exhibition stand?

When a campaign idea doesn’t translate to a real world event experience, forcing it through yields disastrous results.

Target’s New York opening event in September 2018 went virally wrong. The retail giant thought that its murals and displays showing the mom-and-pop business past of the East Village was a respectful nod. Consumers saw it as a hymn to gentrification, a roll call of local businesses driven out by mass market chains… like Target.

A clumsy “we’re sorry you didn’t get it” apology was followed up by sincere public engagement that repaired relationships at the local level - but it still meant throwing out a campaign plan in a hurry and scrambling to regain ground, at a much higher cost in time and money terms than originally planned.

Some ideas work better in the controlled environment of advertising and content marketing. But some, when you get them into the event, exhibition or conference space, really start to shine.

Renault’s presence at Goodwood Festival of Speed translated perfectly. The message of the campaign was “celebrating Renault’s 40 years of innovation”, which translated to:

  • An experiential setting where guests could get hands-on with different generations of Renault’s cars
  • A content showcase - live action from the track, social media activity, fan interviews and bespoke videos that provided a day-long live TV programme at the Renault stand
  • The reveal of Renault’s 2027 F1 concept car, showing the future for Renault’s innovation and the sport as a whole

In other words: three real, palpable experiences that feed back to the past, present and future of Renault as innovators in their sector, that paid off with 16 million social interactions - a massive splash beyond the event itself.

How to assess your idea’s compatibility with events

When we partner with a business to plan an event and its surrounding campaign, we get in at the brand level, striving to understand the brand’s mission, vision and values. The marketing objectives flow from there, and the communications from the objectives. Good campaigns have a depth of thought, and a sense check for how they’re going to work in the real world.

You’re living and breathing your brand’s activity - you understand what it means. Will people who don’t work on it see things the same way? You might be Amazon, thinking about promoting your challenging adaptation of The Man In The High Castle, but your audience might just see you painting Nazi insignia all over public transport - something they really don’t want to see on their way home from work, with fascism all over their Twitter feeds.

Defining your campaign? Now’s the time to think about your event plan, too. An event or exhibition is not an afterthought - when you're planning a campaign, think about the application and impact. Making sense in the office is one thing - but how will it hold up in the real world?

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