Event Marketing in Turbulent Times

Two men in a virtual meeting

For weeks, we have helped our clients shift their events online, so it only made sense that last week we hosted our own virtual event: Event Marketing in Turbulent Times.  With so much industry information inundating us during the COVID-19 crisis, we wanted to provide meaningful insights, relevant content and an optimistic yet pragmatic approach to helping marketers plan their way forward.

We were joined by two hyper-relevant speakers who shared their thoughts, insights and some predictions – Don Mayo, Global Managing Partner of IMI International and Chris Mahony, President of Go RVing Canada.

We’ll go into detail on both speakers and their content, but some common themes emerged:

Prepare for the worst.

Hope for the best.

Be nimble, creative and add value in the meantime.

The event and experiential industries have been rattled by this pandemic, and we have had to pivot our thinking, strategies and tactics – at lightning speed – to continue to stay connected and relevant to consumers in real time.

Tactics like virtual conferences and augmented or digital experiences were once compliments to live experiences, leveraged to expand reach and engagement. Now they are the cornerstones.

So today we must reimagine every event: to make it smart and strategic as well as safe, engaging and interactive from the audience’s side of the screen. We need to keep people from wandering off to the refrigerator!

Our event started with an icebreaker and featured two in-event polls with live results. The audience was also invited to participate in a live, moderated chat; asking questions in real-time to both speakers.

Don Mayo kicked things off and shared previously unreleased consumer insights from IMI’s latest NextWave Covid-19 Tracking Study.  He discussed how Global and Canadian consumer attitudes & behaviours continue to evolve amidst the ongoing crisis.

We learned that as of April 30th, Canadians believe life won’t be back to ‘normal’ before November.  We have seen that date move out consistently as each phase of the research is released – giving marketers pause for their fall planning.

Much of the presentation focused on what we, as consumers, miss most. Safe to say, there is a lot we miss, including going out to restaurants, watching live sports, and traveling. The hopeful takeaway from all of it was that the intention and desire by Canadians to get back to experiencing life is very strong.

Don left the audience with a few key points on how brands can win coming out of this. It came down to three things:

  1. Plan with solutions in mind. While there may still be fear amongst consumers, the desire for experiences of all kinds is there.
  2. Add value to every situation. Define how your brand can authentically provide value and solutions to your customers and instill them with confidence.
  3. Start reaching out to your colleagues in the industry. Find creative ways to come together to enrich the lives of customers. This is bigger than all of us and we’re stronger together.

IMI’s insights showed a strong desire amongst Canadians to get out and travel again as soon as it is safe to do so. When you dig deeper into the data – the desire is primarily to stay local. Canadians’ travel plans are focused on staying within Canada. That was good news for our second speaker Chris Mahony, President of Go RVing Canada.

Chris was very forthcoming as he balanced his innate optimism with the business reality. That came through loud and clear when he divulged that he has four different scenario budgets for 2020. Talk about preparing for the worst and hoping for the best!

Chris also talked about some of the initiatives they have developed since the pandemic hit, like creating a Visitor’s Centre on their website. They’ve done an amazing job aggregating some of the best content out there including best activities, destinations and overall Wildhood inspiration. He also detailed the RV industry’s charitable response and how they have been able to uniquely provide frontline assistance in the form of donating RVs to doctors in isolation.

Chris shared his love of partnerships and advised attendees to consider some of their own. They have had to cancel a big one planned for this summer, but they are keeping their partnership with Bryan Baeumler. He sees it as critical to instilling consumer confidence this year, encouraging them to hit the road in RVs and get exploring again.

Finally, Chris shared his perspective on how their events and experiential strategies will have to pivot this year. He believes the industry’s RV shows will be forced to re-invent themselves, perhaps adopting a hybrid virtual approach. He still sees a strong business case for experiential activations moving forward, continuing to drive consumer experiences for the industry; perhaps more brand ambassadors to help control traffic and more of a focus on outdoor events where it is easier to keep your distance.

Thank you to both of our speakers and we look forward to the next event. After all, we’re hoping for the best, preparing for the worst and we’re staying nimble and creative in the meantime.

Lorne Cooperberg

Senior Vice President, Growth & Innovation


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