Simon Richardson, Creative Strategist at agency Amplify, on how brands can make meaningful connections during a crisis.
IRL events, whether festivals or trips to the local, are a major part of our societal fabric. They form a significant chunk of our identity. So what happens when they disappear en masse? How are brands supposed to build those real connections with audiences in the absence of getting up close and personal with them? How do people keep passions alive and survive this great hollowing of who we are? And what happens when this is all over?
Through these difficult times, we need to look at how we can adopt content-led solutions that allow us to keep calm and carry on. But rather than simply creating digital versions of the events we had lined up, everything we do now needs to adapt to these unprecedented times.
Our pivots to digital experiences need to have brand purpose and audience understanding at their heart. It’s a no brainer, but it’s probably more important now than ever before.
Play a positive role
First and foremost, what we do for our audiences now needs to help them get through this crisis. Events that are helping people with pertinent issues like mental wellbeing, staying healthy and connected are the ones that will come out of this smelling of roses. But we need to avoid a mass home invasion. As people become concentrated on a select few media channels like never before, this intravenous feed of information shouldn’t be clogged with pointless content and bandwagon jumping. James Blunt knows…
This is something that’s at the forefront of Dr. Martens’ culture platform, which is all about supporting new creators and talent. As opportunities for up-and-coming talent to gain exposure drop like flies, that’s never been more important.
Before you create a digital version of an event you just spent the last six months prepping for, think to yourself “do people need this right now?” Sacrificing creative work that has taken a lot of time, effort and money is one of the many grim realities we’re facing. But it’s also one we have to grin and bear as we pivot to produce work that isn’t tone deaf. Investing in a rethink is better than ploughing ahead with what you’ve got.
Help your community
Canadian livewire chef Matthy Matheson took to his insta stories the other day to give a shout out to how his industry, now virtually decimated, has responded to the pandemic. The first reaction of many of his fellow chefs was to take to digital platforms to share resources, recipes and content. And the majority are doing so for free.
The commitment of Mattheson and his peers to hospitality is genuine, authentic and moving. They’ve stayed true to their brand and done something good for their community. Likewise, Dazed are giving away their latest digital issue for free in solidarity with house-bound readers. Events that can, should look to follow suit. Where possible, they should prioritise keeping their values alive over ensuring the Ps keep rolling in. We don’t want to do a Mike Ashley.
The community spirit is just as important between events. Filling the void left by the cancellation of football everywhere, Leyton Orient of all clubs were the ones to pull together a massive, Twitch streamed Fifa tournament. Uniting clubs from around the world, from Accrington Stanley to Ajax.
Meanwhile, global powerhouses like Barcelona FC, restricted by rigid corporate deals with rival gaming franchises, missed out on the action. Inflexibility in times like these can make organisations look dusty. Now is the time for event organisers to help each other, as well as their audiences.
We’re in a brave new world at the moment, and no one really knows how things are going to change from day-to-day. Be alert to spot a positive role to play, and ready to make it happen quickly when you do.
What happens on the other side?
When the world is in a state of flux, it’s easy to just concentrate on the here and now. But what happens when we come out the other side of this? Will life in lockdown have inspired real habitual change in us? Will we still see digital hangouts and live streams as an acceptable replacement for IRL get-togethers? Probably not.
As we emerge, blinking, into the light of the post Covid-19 world, our hunger for real world get-togethers will be insatiable. But, as shit as this has all been, when ‘Rona’s finally on the ropes, it would be a shame to lose the boundary-breaking connectivity that it’s inspired.
Establishing robust and effective ways to extend events beyond their real world venues should be a focus for any self-respecting organisation. Post-pandemic experiences need to think as much about the online and the offline. To be felt by as many people as possible. And to continue to play a positive role in uniting people, brands and culture.