Virtual events

Virtual events: how the future of brand events is changing

Transforming your brand’s presence from in-person to 100% virtual

From the CEO posting the company’s annual report to your Zumba work out class, everything this year has switched from in-person to online. In just a matter of months, we have experienced a revolution in the way events are executed. Zoom turned into an internet sensation overnight, with more than 62 million downloads in March alone; Facebook and Global Citizen partnered up to launch the #TogetherAtHome campaign, a global broadcast to support frontline workers; and Fortnite started integrating in-game virtual performances, partnering with artists like Travis Scott.

Meanwhile, in the B2B space, trade shows have always been ground zero for new product launches, eight-figure business deals, and of course, networking and free booth gifts. Brands, both big and small, invest millions of dollars of their marketing budgets to be able to attend and have a presence among their competitors at these events. But the advent of COVID-19 has abruptly erased business norms and announced a ‘Year Zero’ of reinvention for global communities, businesses, industries, and trade shows.

The future of brand events and trade shows

While events are still essential, companies are being forced to tackle the challenge of recreating the intensity of the in-person experience in a virtual encounter. There are four things to consider for the foreseeable future to make your brand matter at events:

  1. Evolution and adaptation of your content to the digital and social space
  2. Use of social features to recreate offline behaviours
  3. Reimagining PR initiatives for an online/social strategy
  4. Innovation through allocating event budget to marcom technologies

Brands are all looking to survive and thrive during these turbulent times. COVID-19 has brought revolutionary change, not incremental evolution, and so businesses will have to be bold in their response if they are to seize the initiative in a post-COVID-19 world.

COVID-19 has accelerated the take up of any number of technologies and will continue to do so beyond the likes of Twitter and Zoom. Tools and techniques from the fringe of sci-fi will become staples of business. Avatar drinks receptions with AI hosts handing out digital business cards and virtual handouts are no longer the stuff of fantasy the way they were only six months ago.

In a world where in-person events may no longer exist, brands will need to reassess their goals and objectives and how to achieve them digitally.

From idea generation and selecting the right platforms to engaging your customer all the way through the purchase journey, the events business is now a new game. It requires creativity, innovation, partnership, embracing new technologies and a focus on performance.

Business trips and trade shows may not yet be a thing of the past, but brands are now faced with the challenge to generate buzz and achieve the same goals in a totally transformed landscape. The opportunity is now there for creative communicators to rewrite the rules and new brand leaders may emerge in the process.

Read Ogilvy’s A New Game for Virtual Events for more on how to make your events matter in 2020 and beyond

Andréanne Leclerc

Ogilvy Asia

published on

28 October 2020



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