The coronavirus pandemic may be far from over, but the world is learning to adapt. Restrictions are being eased where they can, including the much-anticipated return of events and experiences globally. However, the uncertainty surrounding future lockdowns and a need for more health and safety measures has bestowed a new set of unprecedented challenges upon brands and agencies.
In this article series, Elevate’s global team leaders outline some of the key considerations for marketers over the coming months.
Joe Sheppard, the UK Managing Director of Elevate, explains why, amongst the turmoil, brands have been presented with new opportunities, especially when it comes to creating more meaningful connections with audiences.
Inspiring confidence again amongst brands and their customers
Despite the Government delaying the easing of restrictions in June, the UK events industry is perhaps slightly further ahead than some other countries, especially within the EU. We’re lucky to have been up and running for a while now, and although the date change is frustrating, I don’t feel like it will have a significant effect on what we’re doing. Every single week we’re activating more and more in both new and traditional ways.
Last year was about stimulating confidence, and confidence is a big thing for our clients. We’ve learnt that you can’t draw a line in the sand when planning events during coronavirus, and that’s because things are constantly changing; everyone has had to adapt. We’re seeing more bespoke brands pushing hard to get themselves out there over the coming months. Although the bigger names are perhaps more reluctant to do things in a slightly more traditional sense, they’re looking at how they can approach marketing differently. For example, this time last year, there was no way we could use physical activations, but we’re now helping brands to take different approaches in the form of door drops, localised activations, park sampling etc. Everyone feels safer outdoors, and there’s been a heavy focus on that.
Although there was a lot of negative press around crowded beaches and parks in 2020, it’s a different story in the UK now. Families and friends feel safer and are beginning to enjoy themselves outdoors again. They’re happy to see us and are willing to engage, which means brands are much more comfortable going ahead with COVID-compliant activations.
Bringing more personality to technology
At Elevate, we’ve worked hard over the past year to help brands and agencies do more with digital platforms, exploring new ways of creating experiences that are still immersive even without that physical connection. A great example of this is Arm’s Annual Partner Conference which took place during the height of the pandemic. Keynotes were presented using Oculus Virtual Reality (VR), so Elevate, in partnership with Smyle Agency, provided virtual event staff to ensure a flawless attendee experience.
To bring the VR experience to life, we tapped into our global network of Oculus-trained demo specialists who made sure any technical issues were addressed in real-time. We used various platforms to communicate with the client and guests to maintain a steady flow of information and reporting – all within a virtual environment.
Although we’re finding innovative ways of bringing more personality to technology, it definitely won’t replace – nor should it – physical events. We’re learning as we go to some degree, but we know that a really great event can be amplified using digital.
Outside of VR, other technologies have popped up or made a comeback during the pandemic that will play an essential part in events for the foreseeable future. For example, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the return of the humble QR code. Although this tech was around before COVID, it wasn’t popular, but now everyone has adopted it. It’s been crucial for health and safety by minimising physical touching, but it’s also massively important from a sustainability perspective in reducing wastage.
Customers are craving an emotional connection
Although COVID has presented many logistical hurdles for live events, it has given brands the opportunity to become more impactful with their marketing. Unlike in the past, when we could hand out thousands of samples, events will be ticketed with reduced numbers, providing more chances to build meaningful connections with audiences.
Everyone has experienced a lack of contact and connection, even between close friends and families, and that legitimises the importance of having a real message instead of a quick fix giveaway. We’re all aware of how hard certain industries have been hit and the emotional turbulence generated as a result, and it will be interesting to see how we can help build that connection between brands and customers once again.
A lot of brands have done really well online, but as we return to normal, I think any activation that feels like there’s been some real thought behind it and offers an experience over a simple transaction will be well received in the months ahead.
If you’d like to find out more about how Elevate can create brand connections and deliver events and experiences in a post COVID world, please get in contact with us here.