Comments first featured in Campaign Asia's, 'The view from Down Under: does Australia point the way for a return to IRL brand events?'
Our Sydney office explores the impact of the pandemic on brands looking to harness the power of experiences.
Since the beginning of this year, we are slowly seeing some conferences come back into the calendars of major venues like Sydney’s International Convention Centre – but they are predominantly Government or Industry body-led, rather than brands. This is where a significant challenge facing the industry lies. The government rightly initiated dynamic lockdowns and event restrictions, changing weekly or even daily in reaction to COVID outbreaks.
This has understandably led to brands being cautious of hosting or investing in in-person experiences. They quite rightly do not want their brand or activity associated with an outbreak story or be impacted by a snap decision by the Government that might see their efforts cancelled at the last minute.
Despite the COVID-19 case numbers indicating that we are back to ‘business-as-usual’, this is sadly not the case across the board. The Australian market has been even more conservative with live events than most of our global counterparts, who have still been delivering live events throughout the pandemic.
However, this halt in live events has allowed for great development in the world of virtual and digital content, as well as investment in retail or brand centre experiences. Brands are looking to deliver great quality engagement in safer, more manageable environments, so we have seen investment in bespoke B2B and B2C experiences like Telstra’s Customer Insight Centres.
With three centres around the country, Telstra can host smaller cohorts through their own spaces, delivering a more tailored, white-glove experience for customers. Harnessing the latest technology to improve experience engagement and monitor COVID safe conditions are being met through a bespoke app created by Telstra Purple.
For customers who are still happy to hit the high street, we are seeing some great activations in-store. Louis Vuitton, who are always pushing the envelope with in-store experiential experiences, and Telstra with their flagship store activity are both great examples of this. For Telstra we have delivered ‘touch-free’ interactives - allowing customers to engage with content and digital experiences, without the health fears that follow typical touch-based interactives.
The time is now for brands to plan ahead
With COVID numbers remaining on a steady decline in Australia, and a vaccination rollout beginning soon, now feels like the right time for brands to begin planning for significant activity for the back half of the year. There is an innate desire for things to return to normal. But I think deep down we all recognise that ‘normal’ will be different than before.
As we start to see the resurgence of festivals, retail, travelling and meetings, I know that the demand will be there for brands to be part of that fabric moving forward. We are working with our clients on award programs, smaller conferences and events, and touring engagement experiences, and the appreciation and excitement in the planning process to be live again is palpable. I think it is fair to say that we are going to see a massive rebound.
To find out more about how Imagination can help your brand leverage experiences this year in Australia, please get in touch here.