Have in-person events become obsolete for marketing professionals?
There is no denying that in-person events are a popular marketing tactic and something that we marketers have been planning and executing for years. However, the last 18 months has forced marketers to think a bit differently while promoting brand and connecting with audiences, writes Farzeen Quadir-Hedge.
As Sydney and Melbourne are preparing to open up, marketing teams will start planning whether they should look at hosting in-person events. Or perhaps the new alternative of virtual events is the way ahead for them? Do in-person events still offer the same appeal and ROI they once did?
Since the pandemic we have focused a lot of our energy into our digital channels to reach our audience. This has seen substantial growth in followers and engagement as a result. Virtual product launches and briefings have also become a regular fixture when it comes to engaging with media. Attendances have been higher with the external factors of getting caught in the office, etc. no longer being a barrier to attendance.
Gaming events go digital
There have been changes within the gaming community as well. Their devices are a key part of their day, and there has been a demand for improvement on laptops and other peripherals. Working with gamers to improve user experience has been important. Over the years, we have observed that the gaming community appreciates different platforms for communication. They’ve often socialised outside the traditional in-person events and exhibitions. This has come through influencer marketing, platforms such as Twitch and specialised social media communities are prevalent within the subculture. It has become important to use these platforms to talk to them.
A new audience
It’s also clear to see from the last 18 months that brands have developed new audiences as a result of the pandemic. The ‘abnormal’ setting has given heed to the rise of creators. This has provided marketers with additional collaboration opportunities and has expanded what has been achievable. ASUS has seen it firsthand, working with the likes of creators in the teaching and business world who have helped to share the brand story. This reached audiences previously untouched.
With this in mind, it’s obvious that alternatives have been found and in some ways may actually be more efficient and cost worthy. There will be some who won’t have the desire to jump back into in-person events. They are more logistically challenging, cost more and present more opportunities for error. So, why would marketers be keen to re-engage themselves with this world?
It’s very dependent on personality type as to whether virtual events suit the audience. In-person events have the ability to present opportunities you didn’t know existed prior to attending. Spontaneous interaction is what’s missing. It’s why people don’t want to work from home five days a week.
In-person versus online
There is also no substitute for allowing people hands-on experience with products and providing interested parties with that undivided attention. Dialling-in virtually or connecting on digital platforms undoubtedly serves a purpose but it’s highly likely that it will be done so while looking at other tabs, or with any number of distractions. There’s also the added ability to build a brand and people’s affinity with it. This can be done through immersive activity at an in-person event. Human connection is what’s been missing during lockdowns and the pandemic.
My opinion and hope is that in-person events will again be part of annual planning for marketers. Although this will likely take on a slightly different form. It seems most events will be hybrid. This allows people to connect digitally and physically, receiving as close to the same experience as possible.
People want options and flexibility – whether they are tied to their desk for the day, can’t find appropriate childcare or simply don’t want to board a flight. Many looking to justify whether attending in-person is worthwhile, more so than we did previously.
What will marketers need to do?
With this in mind, marketers will need to be more selective as to whether a promotion or a launch warrants an in-person event. On occasion, a quick digital connection in the comfort of people’s homes can be an efficient way of communicating. This will also help to maintain the appeal of in-person events – less regular but more impactful.
Although marketing departments have coped admirably and actually been able to grow diverse audiences and platforms as a result of the restrictions, there might be something missing.This can be as simple as a conversation over a wine at an event that leads to a long-term partnership. It can also be seeing the instant reaction to a product unveiling. In-person interaction is vital to a businesses’ brand. In-person events will find their place within the marketer’s playbook once again.
Farzeen Quadir-Hegde is the head of marketing at ASUS Australia