by One Two Collective staff
So your event’s been canceled.
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 reeling from 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
A customer centric approach transcends the silos of digital vs physical marketing by utilizing a marketing strategy that prioritizes the interest of the consumers.
It’s no secret that Millennials have high expectations for their customer experience and offer a fierce brand loyalty in return. Millennials may be the outspoken voice leading the charge, but they have a significant influence on family spend and older generations of consumers are quickly following suit, showing affinity to brands who engage them with quality and authenticity.
So what can brands do to engage with Millennials consumers in a way that translates across generations and stays authentic to your brand? We believe the answer is integrating a customer centric approach to your overall marketing strategy and engaging with customers in a way that’s flexible enough to evolve as they do. Read on for our pillars of a customer centric marketing approach.
- Customer Communication: How you’re interacting with your customer sets the tone for the rest of your relationship. Are you talking at them or having a conversation with them? Millennials has a strong focus on quality and authenticity and want to see the brands they interact with be paying attention to them. A two way relationship is more valuable than a one way impression [+] and once trust has been established with Millennials, the transparency with their interactions creates a more valuable direct to consumer relationship. Social media and influencer marketing are a great tool for this as the younger generation is comfortable being completely transparent enabling brands with the chance to develop tailored campaigns by deep diving into their local differences and interacting with them in the manner that reflects how they want to be engaged.
- Concurrent Messaging: Ensuring that all of your channels are working together to get your message across creates a seamless end to end experience for your customer. Millennials is the first truly digital generation and enjoy actively engaging with brands whether that’s in physical experiences, social media or even participating in product design when given the opportunity. A recent study [footnote to link] advises that the key to winning the affinity of Millennials shoppers is by engaging their creativity, and ensuring they feel their values and preferences are being authentically acknowledged. In exchange for this high level of activity, they also have high standards for the opportunities brands create for them to partner with and simply targeting them with digital advertising won’t cut it you have to build out multiple channels and use them to engage this audience on multiple levels.
- Dig into Authenticity: In a nutshell, don’t be fake; they’ll see right through you. Millennials is practical yet skeptical and prefers to interact with brands who lead with authenticity and individualization. Interestingly, one way to approach this is by incorporating AR/VR into your in-store and online experiences allowing customers to view actual product and use cases they might encounter in real life. By encouraging hands on experiences that give a sense of surprise and delight and then rewarding participants you give consumers a sense of being a part of something and are allowing them to authentically contribute to your brand.
Millennials are setting the stage for how brands interact with consumers going forward. While there will always be shifts in the nature of marketing and advertising, the core values remain the same- stay true to your brand promise and engage with your consumer on their level and adapt based on how they respond
If you’re interested in having a no-pressure evaluation of your consumer experience, we’d love to chat. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smart brands know that an effective experience incites emotion and pays itself forward by creating a personal connection to your brand that lasts long after the event itself is over. You can probably guess what we’re getting at here- it’s time to start planning your 2019 SXSW experience. Check out some of our capabilities in the deck below and then let’s connect as we start to craft an event- retail, thought leadership, scavenger hunt & more- that makes your presence at SXSW memorable and beneficial for your brand.
Fall 2018 SXSW One Two Entertainment Deck by Elizabeth Hood
The sun was shining last weekend in Austin for SXSW Interactive- whether it was actually hot or cold out depended on the day but as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute. SXSW is an excellent way for brands to showcase their latest and greatest while incorporating some fun elements (we see you, baby goats at Viceland) and free schwag. After attending countless SXs, we thought it might be helpful to share some of our key take-aways and tips for success as more brands begin to enter the fray.
Don’t get lost in the clutter
SX has becoming a melting pot for brands to showcase the latest and greatest- there are a ton of activations to experience and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. There are some key factors to consider while creating your buildout to alleviate this common pain point and help you stand out.
- Differentiate yourself by creating authentic moments that enhance your brand. You can do this by being clear about your objective.THis is a chance for you to tell your brand’s story in an organic way, don’t fall into the hype of doing too much. It’s better to have one memorable moment than 5 “eh” ones While building out your activation around your objective (sales, email capture, etc), develop clear branding and have a logical and immediate call to action. Develop clear signage with key takeaways so participants know what’s going on when you can’t greet them immediately.
- That being said- hire great talent. They WILL be the face of your brand. If they are excited about your product, it resonates so much more with visitors.
- We all want to reward guests for stopping by, but don’t get caught up in the schwag game. At an event where everyone is handing out schwag, make sure you develop memorable takeaways that relate to your products
Have a little something for everybody
Not everyone who attends SXSW is a badge holder, and if your activation is limited exclusively to people with a badge, you’re missing out on a core demographic.
- Negotiate your activation smartly. When you’re working with a large property like SXSW, they have specific requirements to activate. Look out for your goals and your core consumer by making sure you get what you pay for and allowing access to everyone.
- Kitschy activations are fun, on this we can all agree, but make sure you’re extending your reach by creating shareable social moments and valuable content.
- SXSW has become a playground of places to pitch and get your hands on products- the problem is it’s also become a schwag branding war. People will walk with items that are useful or unique. Don’t overthink the schwag component and instead focus on creating memorable moments in your activation itself.
Be true to your brand
Now more than ever, buzzwords are everywhere- specifically those attached to movements. Attaching yourself to a meaningful movement is very important, but make sure it doesn’t come across as unauthentic or not thought out. Make sure you ttach yourself to movements that tie back to your core values. If it doesn’t make sense or feel genuine, it won’t resonate and may actually hurt more than it helps.
- This year the women’s movement was heavily promoted, but we saw several activations where there was no tie-in or clear goal as to how you’re helping the movement. Find a balance between what your company does and what you’re preaching.
Now, about the word “experience”
Let’s be real here, despite our usage of the word experience several times in this blog post- it’s more than a hair overused. Everyone wants in on the experiential game, so you need to thoughtfully consider what that means to your brand before activating.
- Giving away free snacks is not an experience. Thanks for the turkey burger/fish taco/protein smoothie/etc, but that does not mean it’s an experience. . Keep up the free snacks- keep out the word experience.
- SXSW has become a playground of places to pitch and get your hands on new products- the problem is it’s also become a schwag branding war. People will walk with items that are useful or unique. Don’t overthink the schwag component and instead focus on creating memorable moments in your activation itself.
- With a clear message comes a clear name. Use your brand’s name in your experience and be straightforward in your lingo. The Fast Company Bar & Grill is a great example- you know exactly who the activation belongs to and exactly what to expect when you walk inside. Clarity is much more valuable than cleverness when competing with dozens of other activations.
It’s time to get prepared for SXSW 2019. Let us assist you in making sure your band stands out! – email@example.com