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
We’ve got thoughts, oh yes we do. Sure this newsletter is typically quarterly and we’re a little early, but we’ve missed you and who doesn’t enjoy a little light reading on a summer Wednesday? Diving right in…
Keeping it well rounded
This month, we’ve been musing on two completely different topics both related to summer: seasonal pop-ups and Pride Month. While obviously on opposite ends of the social responsibility spectrum, both have bright, colorful connotations and signal the start of the summer season. Read our two blogs below for more on our thoughts related to best in class pop-ups and being respectful of the historical context of Pride while still celebrating the community through brand marketing.
Of course, these aren’t the only things we’re thinking about. We’re always looking for unique takes on brand-guided experiences and what is motivating consumers. Fit is it in this breakdown on the rise of in-home styling services & Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends reportconfirms your suspicion that images are increasingly relevant in internet based communications (time to up your meme game). Airbnb is expanding their experiences division to offer 3-7 day trips catering to nomadic millennials but really all we want is to experience the inside of Augusta National.
We’ll be seeing you & thanks for reading! The One Two Team.
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.