A sure sign that events are poised for a comeback is people in advertising and marketing questioning whether an excursion to the Cannes Lions festival is “worth it.” The question holds more weight this year as a full-scale war rages in Ukraine, perhaps making the prospect of a sun-filled, rosé-soaked celebration a little less appropriate than usual.
SXSW also took place in-person earlier this month after a two-year hiatus, sending a clear signal that the world of events and conferences is springing back to life as large-scale COVID-19 shutdowns become a thing of the past.
For brand publishers, that rekindled interest and demand for live events presents a timely and potentially powerful opportunity to bring their content initiatives into the physical realm.
While the event and conference space has largely been dominated by media companies and trade organizations to date, at this moment in time the door appears to be open for brands to step in and take a piece of the pie as the landscape for events is redefined in a post-COVID context. As more brands build direct relationships and connections with their audiences via content, events can offer a powerful opportunity to translate those relationships to a live setting.
We’ve seen in our work at Toolkits that audiences care more about the quality of the information they’re getting than who or what entity is delivering it. In certain cases, such as business-specific knowledge that demands certain levels of expertise and authority, companies are in a better place and position to deliver high-quality content than traditional publishers are.
Trust is an important part of the equation here. As recent research has found, in some cases, people trust their employers and big businesses more than they do social media, NGOs, the government and traditional news media. That probably doesn’t extend to reporting on current events, of course, but when it comes to certain topics companies often have a leg up over traditional publishers. Companies often have better access to the types of experts and speakers that high-quality events thrive on, often through customer and partner relationships.
Netflix’s Tudum fan event last year did this with a behind-the-scenes-style event that gave people access to showrunners and content only Netflix could provide them with. Salesforce’s Dreamforce has done this for years by being the place for developers, partners and customers to come together. Salesforce-owned Slack also a slate of events, including a flagship conference about the Future of Work, plus meetups nearly every month. Successful events don’t have to be big to be valuable. And they don’t have to be only for customers. Amazon, for example, holds career events that include career coaching sessions, workshops and lets people hear from Amazon employees. (As a bonus, events can also mean more content for a brand’s publication, as we’ve detailed here.)
For brand publishers who have toyed with getting into events as a way to connect with partners, employees or customers, it might be time to strike now while demand is high, and there is room to get in.