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For corporates, choosing an agency that is sympathetic to their brand ethos is vital. But, says Matt Ede, strategy director at communications specialist Logistik, often agencies need to use a firm hand to give the company’s message more focus.
“Businesses often want to say everything about what they do and why it’s important that you understand all of it,” he says. “But it rarely is that important, and often goes against how people learn. We’re believers of less is more, as long as it’s delivered with authenticity and personality.”
The mechanism for this message delivery could be a presentation, a film, a digital interface, signage, graphics, or any number of alternatives. Ede adds: “It’s critical we know the potential factors that may distort what our audience will hear, regardless of the client’s intention.”
Often, clients and agencies become too scientific about understanding a brand, according to events management team Smyle’s managing director, Rick Stainton. What’s important, he says, is that you do your research about what the company is going through, its values and its future vision.
“For us, the end goal is behavioural change – which is tricky, as attitudes are often hard to influence,” he says. “This means the brand message has to be conveyed properly, before, during and after the event, using various methods of communication, such as social media.”
It’s all about creating a synergy between agency and the brand, maintains event comms agency Crescendo’s founder, Russell Allen. He says that if the partnership is not a natural fit, a good agency will walk away.
“Mothercare was a great client for us, because we are made up of many hard-working parents who know the importance of great service and innovation,” he says. “Meanwhile, when we worked with technology brand Lenovo, we changed our work laptops to theirs, to ensure we understood their product and market stance.”
Keeping it credible
The process of deciding on messaging requires honesty and frankness from both sides, according to events management agency Top Banana’s managing director, Nick Terry. He says that corporates should do all they can to avoid the concept of ‘brand stretch’, which is when a company oversteps its credibility with an audience.
He gives an example of a parcel service firm: the agency chose a realistically priced hotel and “credible, punchy messages” delivered with “very little extravagance”.
At Logistik, the approach to event messaging is widely varied. “We’ve turned an old school into an immersive tech-playground for developers; created enormous picnics for telecoms firms; and developed interactive museums for banks. We treat every job as individual,” says Ede.
The ‘stickiness’ of an event’s message is a yardstick of its success. “We think of the event as an experience, from the weeks building up to it, to the way you tell people about it back at the office,“ says Ede. “When you leave an event, you should feel more of an advocate of the brand than when you arrived. We’re dealing with perception and belief, so it’s critical we get it right.”
A ‘sticky’ tagline can also be a useful tool for messaging, according to Terry. “One we’ve used before was ‘high-performance behaviour’, which is a simple phrase, but it helped employees look at what they were doing and decide whether it was in line with that maxim,” he says. “Messaging is about finding something that resonates, and building on those values. To take a famous example, Mars’ ‘work, rest and play’ tagline is eminently memorable, but in an event context, it could come to life by having an area where delegates can learn about how to ‘work smart’, a chill-out ‘rest’ area, and a ‘play’ area with fun activities.”
To get this mix right, and to choose the most suitable activities and itineraries, initial meetings should be focused but fun, according to Allen. “We like to meet at a relaxing, scenic location, conducive to creativity and thought-provoking discussion. The process of understanding their message helps us visualise how it is best conveyed in a live environment. Every brand has its story, and if we have trouble getting it, then you can be sure the audience will also struggle.”
While most agree on the need for earnest pre-event discussion, there is more divisiveness in the delivery of the message. Logistik‘s Ede says if you want to make your messages stick, you should mix up the delivery for lasting impact as well as maximising digital content. “A backdrop that surprises is important, and we recommend adding video walls, customer stories and fast-paced inspirational talks,” he says. “Even the most conventional businesses are looking to move away from the standard sit-back-and-listen conference.”
Crescendo ‘s Allen, on the other hand, is keen to get away from distracting technology and gimmicks as much as possible, favouring message delivery via live discussions and finely honed scripts. “We try to make messages and events as clutter-free and message-focused as possible. Too many gimmicks will distract from the ultimate goal of connecting with the audience with authenticity,” he adds.
Stainton adds that using technology for messaging is a matter of context. “More traditional brands won’t be ready for the latest technology, and attempts to overcomplicate things can lead to complaints. Most people have smartphones, it’s true, but how they use them can vary widely,” he adds.
As the events industry increases in sophistication, with greater tools in its arsenal, it is ever more important to decide on the appropriate media for getting the brand message across.
Case study - Technology enabling creativityNick Hart, director of corporate at events technology firm Anna Valley
An event is a unique medium for engagement, with the potential to appeal to all the senses. Thanks to technology advancements, budget and creativity are really the only obstacles to creating an environment befitting yourbrand message.
Engagement involves showing and telling, which are different arts. For BSkyB’s Game of Thrones fourth season premiere, we used projection mapping to make the Guildhall in London resemble the ‘Wall of ice’ from the show. The grandiose spectacle was befitting for a world-beating show, and the event gained the attention of the world’s media, as well as being an unforgettable, immersive experience for the visiting delegates.
Technology can also be used more subtly for eye-catching, on-message touches. A simple Powerpoint presentation can be bought to life by AV-4 super high-resolution LED, which makes even the smallest details viewable on screen. We’ve used this kit on shows including The X Factor, as well as at numerous conferences and live events.
Object-tagging is another way to make a message come to life and attract attention. Sensors can track any moving object, allowing projectors to map the design of your choice on to it, in real-time. It’s popular with automotive clients for making their cars come to life, but it can also be used for tracking moving objects as part of a stage set.