The rising panic around the COVID-19 virus and the uncertainties that come with its level of transferability and mortality have stuck a stake in several marquee spring events. Some, like ShopTalk, have smoothly managed the hiccup, promptly rescheduling for a future date (made possible by taking over the dates for Groceryshop, a sister conference with a smaller audience that is being pushed out to 2021). Others, like SXSW, have publicly floundered with their cancellation plans while weighing how to mitigate both the risks of spreading the virus against the slew of speaker and sponsor cancellations that would adversely affect the experience for attendees who might choose to attend despite a virus scare. After a week of waffling, SXSW ultimately did cancel the 2020 event with the city forcing its hand, and the blowback for both Austin and conference will undoubtedly be felt for months and years to come.
While the reason for canceling these spring 2020 events is due to an unforeseen pandemic, it’s hard not to step back and look at the overall landscape of events and see a crossroads. Face to face is always going to be the gold standard for networking, but the strength of virtual platforms has rapidly expanded, thereby opening the possibilities of interaction around live events. The rise of thought leaders sharing content via TikTok, podcasts and Instagram has lessened the exclusivity offered by industry and entertainment events by increasing access. This digital evolution would continue to peck away at live events regardless of a virus scare, so how can savvy event producers embrace the duality rather than reject it at the expense of their event’s livelihood?
A look at NYFW
In its heyday, nothing was more glam than scoring a seat at a New York Fashion Week show in the Bryant Park Tents. The shift to Lincoln Center came with a loss of designers interested in showing and a more obvious deference to the whims of our corporate sponsor overlords. Socialites in the front row gave way to first wave (Tavi, Garance, et al) bloggers, eventually giving way to the cohort of influencers filling seats at venues that could only be referred to as tents in the most metaphorical sense. New York Fashion Week is not the only event that has suffered in magnitude as consumer interest has changed, but it is one of the most obvious.
The shift in events like NYFW popularity can be attributed to several factors: notably, a shift in industry requirements and changed consumer behaviors. Big designers no longer need to show on the runway for their collection to be seen, and as such the more interesting story has become what designers are doing to reinforce their presence on the scene without physically participating in the shows. Tanya Taylor has been showing her collection off-runway for a few years, but for Fall 2020 stretched her creative wings by showcasing her collection via a collaboration with four women comedians. The 2-5 minute videos allow the collection to be the main centerpiece to the storyline each comedian is central to, creating a zippy overview of this season’s prints and designs and cementing her status in the fashion scene even apart from the once requisite runway.
Inclusion over Exclusivity
If fashion brands are able to maintain their entire presence via digital engagement while simultaneously expanding their fan base, we feel festivals and conferences should at least have a significant enough digital component that an unforeseen circumstance like COVID-19 doesn’t completely derail the event from occurring. While there is no question that the preferred level of participation at an event like SXSW or ShopTalk is in-person, a baked in way to partner and share content and reactions could expand the reach of the festival even when there isn’t a wave of forced seclusion. Driving external participation also brings in an element of inclusion when people can’t afford or have physical limitations in regard to traveling. While some could argue this diminishes event exclusivity, we believe that it in fact creates an opportunity for tiered participation levels that incentivize more attendees and additionally expand monetization opportunities.
The cancellation and potential rescheduling of these two major industry events is going to have countless negative financial implications for many people involved. The independent film community is notably reelingfrom the loss of SXSW and the very real threat it has to the perpetuation of the event as a whole. An established digital component here would be particularly valuable as film is one of few areas where home access now rivals theater releases in compensation, if not quite prestige. As brands and event producers begin to pick up the pieces from the wave of coronavirus cancellations happening now, these takeaways around utilizing new digital trends and embracing a model that supports platform diversification will define in part how the conference and events industry rebuilds.
*Until we reach that euphoric hybrid digital/event state, here is a compilation of ways to help artists and event producers in Austin working to offset the financial losses of SXSW
If you’ve ever sat in a fluorescent-lit office just knowing everyone outside is doing something way more fun than you, then you’ve experienced the pull of summer energy. Summer energy is colorful, active and fleeting. Devising a way for your brand to tap into that FOMO with a pop up activation is a great way to make a splash in a season that can be otherwise limiting.
Rather than give a white paper version of the technical components of popping up that are a given, we’re going to call out some creative summer experiences and our thoughts on what they’re doing right and the takeaways you can apply to your own brand.
Milk Bar Austin
Christina Tosi has carved a unique space for herself out in the competitive world of baking with her nostalgia inspired confections, and her Milk Bar concept has been going strong for over a decade. However, unless you’re New York or LA based, you’re likely experiencing her famous birthday cake or compost cookies merely at the wiles of your most ambitious baking friend. Tosi and team offered a short term remedy to this locational deficit by popping up for a week in Austin after participating in local food fest Hot Luck held at the end of May every year.
While a food truck is not a novel concept on its face, the flawless execution of this week-long pop up is something to be commended. In town for a little over a week, the bright pink ‘69 Chevy postal truck stopped by four different local destinations offering a way to cater to an existing fan base and a way for the brand to trial a new market. Clear communication, defined operating hours and a mobile operating space that channels the brand’s personality is a great example of how to make a short term setup work for your fans and your budget.
If you’re reading this thinking, we don’t sell shirts and we don’t bake cookies- do pop ups even apply to us? Great questions! And, yes. A pop up is a great way to sell awareness around your brand and educate a new audience on why you’re the best. At the root of any quality retail experience is creativity, and that is even more critical when you’re selling something not quite as tangible as a piece of clothing. Pantone, the proprietary color wheel known for its use in printing, manufacturing and plastics, is well regarded but because their revenue focus is on licensing vs actual product output, their unique approach to popping up was creating the Pantone Café.
A colorful micro eatery, the beachside cafés are devoted to food and beverage items that can be classified by its color matching system. The brand has hosted three different cafés over the last few summers capitalizing on bold pops of color that photograph well and lend themselves to social media. The spaces are clean, photo ready and at trendy beachside locales perfect for short term activations. If you want to emulate their creativity for your non-tangible service, you want to be focusing on what activity guests will be doing on site (eating, hands-on samples etc), how they’ll be sharing the information (instagram, mainly), and how exclusive you want your activation to be (one location or ten, destination location or traditional).
Goop MRKT Amagansett
We unironically stan a beachside pop up and Goop is no stranger to the short term retail game. Their MRKT concept floats around the country popping up in trendy cities in peak season and the Amagansettlocation is a natural addition to the roster. Programmed to the hilt and flocked with a steady stream of well clad influencers, it’s hard to critique this shiny focal piece even if you want to find the lifestyle they’re pushing cloying. So let’s focus on what the lifestyle pop up whiz is doing right.
Location location location. Being where your consumers vacation, relax and play is a prime place to sell them goods. Without a high pressure sales environment, it gives customers a more laid back setting to try something new allowing them and the retailer to experiment with things they might not have otherwise. The other major player in their success here is the influencer focused integrations. Local partners and media figures who are relevant to the brand through a variety of industries from cooking to fashion make the brands seem relatable and accepting to a wide customer demographic. To engage the local market in person and develop a broader reach online, you can sample elements of their smart programming and make it work for you no matter your brand or pop up size. Small bursts of well defined thought leadership moments, food instructions or socially motivated parties can serve as great speed bumps to build a robust event calendar while also providing organic content for the duration of your activation.
by Melissa McNutt / originally published on LinkedIn
Summer is just around the corner and we all know what that means, right? Rosé all day! Errr, about that…For the last several summers we’ve been bombarded with a certain style of cultural cliche, one with a synthetic aesthetic that permeates social media and events created to be used on social- and if you’re feeling what I’m feeling, you’re over it. Like ourselves, consumers are sick of canned moments and lining up for engagements with a more genuine feel. Transitioning away from curated monotony and working to deliver more authentic content for your followers is a great way to stand out in a crowded space no matter which marketing channel you’re using to deliver your message.
Here are some thoughts on how to keep your brand messaging authentic rather than contrived:
Don’t be a clone
Summer events are hot, fast and fun and can give your brand a real boost if you’re picking the right places to activate. I’m a big fan of attaching activations to cultural moments to bolster brand marketing, but to really make this work requires some deep thought around execution. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a sponsorship that blatantly lacks the context to tie your brand into an experience or worse, you look just like every other brand on site. You have to come up with a concept that is unique to the event you’re associating with and not an obvious rip off of something consumers will recognize. Tie into the event, but put your own spin on it and make sure you’re approaching the concept with a sense of humor and an appropriate level of self awareness.
Pick partnerships with shelf life
A well crafted influencer or fellow brand partnership is a great way to give legs to an activation, but you have to ensure the engagement rings true to both sets of followers as this is the audience you’re looking to convert. If you want to give a genuine feel to a partnership with an influencer, you need to agree on a set amount of guidelines that go beyond just promoting things onsite at events. Your partnership should extend pre and post event via channels like social media and any custom content they are publishing. When thinking about structuring your partnership strategy, be sure to factor in activating online and IRL and how you want that to look to ensure it’s an authentic partnership that resonates with consumers.
Engage on a genuine level
What motivates you to get out of the house on the weekend? Chances are, your Saturdays are consumed with socializing, parenting and dining out like most everybody else. But when I pull up social media, I’m inundated with glamorous, posed families and serene women embarking on wellness journeys and frankly it just ties in to my life less and less. Life is messy and brands can absolutely keep it real while selling a lifestyle. As a brand creating messaging, factoring in your audience to determine content creation can save time and money in addition to helping you stand out. There’s a way to sell an aspirational lifestyle without alienating your audience, it just requires thoughtfulness and authenticity. Your audience wants to relate to you and moments that are too magazine ready just make you look out of touch rather than genuine.
Authenticity in marketing is not a new concept, but learning how to spread it out over the channels you use to engage with consumers is something that can be a challenge if you’re stuck in a rut or falling down a rabbit hole of clichés. As you evolve your messaging, be sure to weave your polished brand persona amongst efforts that show you’re real people behind the curtain. Your audience is savvier than ever, and updating your experiential channels to incorporate genuine moments is going to result in more loyalty in return.
Melissa McNutt is a Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at One Two Collective, a consultancy that helps brands enhance their consumer experience. Prior to that, she was Head of Brand Experience at mixed reality startup Magic Leap and Head of Experiential at Samsung. Email her at email@example.com.
Doubling down on efforts to reach your customers as individuals is a smart way to stretch budgets and establish relationships.
by OTC Staff
What two evergreen challenges are faced by growing brands no matter the sector?
You’ve got it- budget and competition. Both are regular concerns brought up in initial client meetings, and there’s no silver bullet to eliminate them completely. Instead, we frequently recommend refocusing and doubling down on personalization in your marketing as a great way to combat these obstacles. Reaching customers in their inbox without a previously established relationship is pretty much a pipe dream, so what do you do to increase your brand’s reach to customers on an individual level? You need to personalize your brand’s consumer experience in a more holistic way.
It’s time to get busy. Rather than leaning into one channel, a holistic approach emphasizes utilizing a variety of resources to enhance every touchpoint consumers have with your brand and creating opportunities for them to do so. Email fatigue is at an all-time high and creating a more authentic experience to represent your brand will tell customers way more about who your brand is than an ad following them around on the internet. Settle in and let’s get personal on how to deliver more individualized messaging.
But I’m an influencer!
It’s not just a buzzword; it’s a lifestyle. Seriously, it’s probably only minutes away from being a college major because it’s totally a legitimate career and it’s not going anywhere. Why? People follow influencers they like, and as long as their opinions can be monetized, brands are going to work with them. And since influencers attract a following by sharing their personal opinions, influencer marketing is inherently personal. The scope of your influencer program can be as large or small as you want, but developing authentic relationships with your influencers is a great way to get bang for your buck because of their reach and because they’ve already done the hard work of cultivating an audience.
At the core of it, the influencers you want to be engaging are successful because they’ve developed a core audience of people who trust their personal opinions and that audience aligns with your target demographic. Revolve, the online retailer who could give a masterclass in creating an influencer program, relies on influencers to get customers to their site. Personalizing the brand, the lifestyle, and the clothes for their core audience has enabled them to develop credibility and amplified the message Revolve is looking to get across. This savvy positioning has resulted in their influencer program being responsible for 70% of all sales.
Let’s get experiential.
Experiential is everywhere and it’s hot. Being intimidated by a mega-trend is a normal reaction, but crafting unique experiences for your customers is something that good marketers have been doing natively for ages. Finding the tipping point for turning an observer into an active participant is the key to creating an experience that connects with your customer on a personal level in a way that a passive digital engagement does not. If you’ve stepped foot in a public space in the past five years, you’re likely aware that the core challenge here is thinking about how to get people to look up from their phones. The good news is, this isn’t as much about how big your budget is so much as your penchant for creativity and how well you understand the motivations of the demographic you’re going after.
Are you demo’ing at a chain of stores? What makes your guest experience different than the standard? Are you sampling in a local coworking space? How are people interacting with your product in the moment and what does their follow-up touch point look like? Try and develop an experience that gets these new potential fans excited about the next time they hear from you. Even better? Leave them so incentivized from your interaction that they initiate the follow up.
Larger experiences are a great way to establish a tentpole event for your brand and connect with your consumers in a uniquely personalized way. For instance, Refinery29 has done a great job of this in their 29Rooms pop up exhibit and is now rolling it out to more locations to deepen connections with consumers in more diverse regions.
A few tips:
Make sure you’re creating an experience around your brand that matches the tone of your overall outreach, otherwise you’re risking your credibility. If you’re not going all-out in any other capacity, it doesn’t really make sense to here, either. Also, don’t assume you’re hitting the right people just because you get a lot of traffic. The key to experiential marketing is creating experience that YOUR customer will enjoy, not just looky loos. Also, experiential marketing has become a defined marketing channel and to ensure you’re getting the most ROI standardize your data tracking so you can compare and improve your experiences over time.
How plugging in to a major cultural moment like March Madness can give your marketing a boost by association
by Melissa McNutt / Originally published on Linkedin
You don’t need to spend millions of dollars on a primetime commercial to reap the benefits of a major cultural moment like the NCAA basketball tournament starting later this week. Looping into a current event is always smart when done correctly because there is a built-in fan base and if they overlap with your consumers, it can be a slam dunk (see what I did there).
How to make piggybacking on to a cultural moment work for your brand:
Don’t be basic: You can’t force something to go viral but you can trust that marketing campaigns that have an air of randomness assuredly had a lot of thinking and planning go into it ahead of time. Develop a unique concept and have a little fun with the methods used to reach your audience. Creativity is the calling card of successful brands who use a combination of cultural moments and a clear marketing message to cleverly reach fans in a memorable way.
Embrace the experience: Don’t be too cool to be a part of the big show, in fact that’s why we’re all here. Let’s take a humble step back and enter the scene with our eyes wide open as to where our efforts fit into the larger picture. If you’re running a consumer experience in conjunction with a larger property, you have to take certain event elements into consideration while programming your content. Try working with a variety of influencers that enjoy the event/festival you’re hosting them at, but who also speak across multiple channels (sports, fashion, lifestyle) to tie the conversation back to your brand organically.
You can’t fake it: This is my favorite piece of marketing (and life) advice: you can’t force a relationship. If your consumer just isn’t that into you, your inability to translate what events and cultural moments they’re interested in has the potential to damage your brand rather than bolster it. Work backward when considering the property you’re attaching yourself to, then think about how you fit into the conversation and if this partnership is relevant to your consumer before even starting to pursue it.
If you’re looking for an IRL example, I’ve recently seen multiple brands (I won’t call you out) attaching themselves to International Women’s Day when they don’t do anything to promote women the rest of the year. Don’t be that brand. It’s not a cute look, so be sure to think about the conversation you’re starting and ask if it’s authentic or if you come off like a poser.
These are all reasons why a genuine approach to developing experiences by piggybacking on a major cultural moment like March Madness is a great way to enhance the reach of your brand. Social, influencer campaign, experiential activation; the possibilities are endless when considering how to utilize a cultural moment for your brand’s benefit so get creative and work smarter to make it happen.
Melissa McNutt is a Co-Founder and Head of Strategy atOne Two Collective, a consultancy that helps brands enhance their consumer experience. Prior to that, she was Head of Brand Experience at mixed reality startup Magic Leap and Head of Experiential at Samsung.
Here at One Two, we spend a lot of time doling out info and felt it was high time some of that information centered around who we are and why you might have wanted to get to know us in the first place. You may know us by a few terms- consultants or marketers in residence- and hopefully know us in a broader sense by having seen our hands in various projects all centered around cultivating consumer experiences for clients. So, please allow us to gratuitously share our origin story in hopes that it will give some insight as to how we launched this venture and what we hope to accomplish for ourselves and our clients.
Who We Are
Melissa found her calling in entertainment marketing and consumer technology- first as a founding member of the Samsung experiential team in North America before heading up brand experience for Magic Leap. Elizabeth has spent the majority of her career in New York, after some time in financial services with Bloomberg she found a way back to her roots in thought leadership and marketing for retail and entertainment partnerships at WWD.
Regular observers of each other’s work, we have been percolating on the state of marketing and the shift we’ve been observing since our careers began. After various life events moved us all around the country, those observations began to seem more like fact than conjecture and we started to envision how we could utilize this shift in our work. Ultimately, we’ve found the best fit taking on the role of marketers in residence assisting clients and resulting in better work without the restrictions typically found within agencies.
The State of Marketing
What exactly was it that we were seeing? Well, after our cumulative years spent in technology, finance, retail and entertainment we noticed that the agency model once perceived as canon in the industry no longer makes sense for most brands. Disruptors of all shapes and sizes are popping onto the scene daily all clamoring for your attention and new customers.
On the flip side of this, or I guess partially as a result of, consumer interest in brands they’d been historically loyal began to decrease while we’ve inversely seen an increase in the appetite for the discovery of new experiences and brands. Speaking this new language of discovery authentically is a challenge faced by all marketers. To stay relevant, brands have to be able to adapt quickly and connect with consumers, so we pulled on a model used regularly in other industries and adapted it for marketing: the as-a-service model.
Marketers in Residence
With the formation of One Two Collective, our custom marketing programs integrate into what you’re already doing seamlessly because we act as marketers in residence for our specific points of expertise. If your brand is only operating in digital, we’ll figure out the best experience to complement your existing marketing whether that be an influencer strategy or thought leadership moment and build it out. Consumer experience is defined by every interaction customers have with your brand and because people will arrive at your brand for a multitude of reasons, you need all channels to be consistent and work together.
Building off what we believe are the foundational elements of the modern consumer experience: experiential, retail, digital, thought leadership and content, we can help you to develop and implement necessary layers of your consumer communications:
Define your brand messaging & strategy
Communications plan for how/when/where distribution occurs
Execution and/or Execution Oversight
Our hope in this writing exercise was to provide some clarity around who we are and our philosophies around the modern state of marketing. Melissa and her family are currently based in San Diego while Elizabeth and her family returned to their Texas roots in Austin- but you can find us frequently criss-crossing our states and the country meeting with clients, discovering exceptional new consumer experiences and continually staying abreast of trends and best practices for our clients.
If you want to learn more about how your brand can cost effectively reach your customers using methodologies rooted in authentic consumer experiences, we’re your team. If you don’t know what you want, but some of this sounds interesting, we’re your team for that, too. Drop us a lineand connect for the marketing version of a jam sesh where we have a no pressure convo about what your brand is doing and how we might help.