In today’s climate when in-person gatherings are still in limbo, fostering a community and bridging connections between brands and audiences is still more important than ever. While experiential marketers are much more versed today in digital engagement than they were two years ago, the landscape continues to morph. Join InVision’s Eileen Page, SVP, Digital and Ray McCarthy Bergeron, Digital Experience Director, as they take us through a series of case studies and technologies that pushes digital boundaries, enabling a much more connected and immersive experience.
You will learn:
Eileen Page 0:07
Welcome to the IBC podcast where we help brands navigate audience engagement in times of change. I'm Eileen Page, Senior Vice President of digital.
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 0:18
And I'm Ray McCarthy brochure on the digital experience Director here at InVision.
Eileen Page 0:23
So, we've been getting asked a lot lately, how can you leverage technology to grow your own communities. For now, our response has been under one of four areas, networking, gathering real-time data, untethering your audience, and doing more with 5G. Before I continue, I'd like to start off by looking at the implementation of technology through a particular quote that has really resonated with me. I love how Aoife O'Donovan, a Ph.D. and associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF, addressed uncertainty this past year. As much as possible, she says we need to use technology to maintain our social ties and take care of one another during these times, community has never been more important. So, let's think about the current time that we're in. We like to use an acronym that originally started in the military VUCA Vu ca. And what it stands for is volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity as a result of the pandemic, social unrest and climate change has fostered this prolonged state of imagining; predicting, and preparing for bad outcomes all the time. And this is just taking an incredible toll on us psychologically, and by and biologically, exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep. These are all healthy coping mechanisms. But ultimately, we need to rely on our communities and our social ties to help reduce this collective anxiety and help us to better manage these times of VUCA.
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 2:00
And business today is the only trusted institution with a 61% trust level globally, and really is the only institution that is both ethical and competent. Which brings me to this question, Eileen, what—what are businesses helping to do to build trust and community?
Eileen Page 2:22
It's a great question Ray, especially right now, when people don't trust the government or medical institutions. For example, one great brand who's doing great things to build community is Salesforce. They built their own proprietary streaming platform called Salesforce Plus, which essentially builds a bridge between their internal and their customer communities. It was recently deployed at Dreamforce, which is arguably one of the most prolific events in our industry. Attendees participated from over 170 countries, they watched over 125 hours of content, think about that staggering number. And ultimately, they had a very seamless and engaging experience, they were able to connect with the small in-person audience in San Francisco along with all of their fellow virtual attendees, making connections that they'll be able to carry forward. And of course, Salesforce Plus will live on beyond the pandemic. Do you have any other examples, Ray?
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 3:19
Well, uh, yeah, well, you know, who's fostering community right now is DC. Its Fandom Now's signature event is DC's free global virtual fan events featuring a live webcast and activities where they showcase their biggest IP—their movies, their games, shows, comics, everything else, and really to get up and close and personal, with the people behind the characters and worlds that we love. But the challenges, they need to put those fans at the center of a rich virtual experience. And they aim to make this a global event that has to be translated in nine languages over a 24-hour period, which is crazy. But of course, to create a sense of FOMO for the experience, then they decided would go away after 24 hours, which is really honestly pretty smart. They went from a traditional route of 130,000 people attending Comic-Con, to a multiverse web experience and garnish over 22 million—and I want to emphasize—they went from 130 to 22 million people viewing within this 24-hour period of time. Talk about staggering numbers, right? And because they saw this incredible value and experienced being delivered virtually, they actually evolved their plans to reboot it this past October, also online, and even expanded the communities, supporting way beyond 12 languages than they originally anticipated. And if we lean into a direction, more focused in entertainment, let's look at the music world. The Belgian Bread Tomorrowland who produced, first of all, virtual festival Tomorrowland, I believe was Tomorrowland around the world, drew over 1 million ticketed viewers. Again, these crowds are getting way larger than the venues could originally provide. This was a two-day digital experience; an online alternative to a in person event that drew maybe about 400,000 people over a six-day period in 2019. And since then, festival producers began organizing weekly live streams for the fans to connect, and it drew another staggering number, Eileen, another 25 million actual viewers. So, as you can imagine, to no surprise, when they see these things, they rebooted the digital festival in July 2021, just a few months ago, with ticket prices starting at $30. Again, a not free event, they charged for this. And that's—they also did a very smart thing. They also started pricing for groups forming watch parties at home, which really, you know, understanding you have to follow safety regulations and recommendations, is really honestly very smart. So, in the past few years, they realized their long-term investment in a new live stream model could now become the annual event. And more likely in the winter, they're going to complement that with a live Festival, which is completely reasonable understanding, right, but you know, maybe I'll spend my summer in Belgium Island, I'm gonna put this down in my calendar.
Eileen Page 6:32
Sounds great, right? What great case studies, I imagine watching from home with friends would be awesome. But I'm sure people also want to go back in person. I mean, nothing beats seeing people all dressed up dancing and acting in the crowds. Another interesting thing about these three examples is that these brands really leveraged tech to extend and amplify what they were already doing successfully before. They multiplied their extended audiences, helping to build larger engaged communities. Now, I'm sure everyone is wondering, how can I do this for my own communities? So let's get to those four headings that we had mentioned, the first of which is networking. Ray, any thoughts on that?
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 7:13
Oh, oh, yeah, I'm sure you heard this before. I go to this event, because I find the best connections. And of course, birds of a feather is not new to us. But what are the tools that are now available for us to engage your communities in a much more compelling, effortless way, or even more imaginative? And I'll start with my, my, my honest, favorite example of all time—recreating the ad hoc networking experience, you know, the bump into a person in the hallway experience, is greatly desired by all attendees at an any event, honestly, especially in our virtual times, which are doesn't seem to really exist. So what if we craft a real or abstract environments that are proven to help facilitate and drive natural conversation? This is addressing the Zoom gloom that we're kind of sick of hearing, you know, the grids of, you know, unimaginative faces, I shouldn't say that. I created a faces that don't really inspire much in the environments other than peering into your peers, your coworker's home or your client's home. But when you place people into a dynamic, proxy based, much more interactive room, you'll not only spawn great dialogue, but you'll build connections to build your brand and relationships among your communities. And they especially work well when people have choices between which rooms, they may want to naturally draw to because they're themed differently. We built an experience using a platform called OhYay, and it went over so well, I was, I was told by client on the call, which was kind of funny. I mean, we talked about engagement. I don't know why our client wanted us to do this because really, it was a free platform. And it was just time. They wanted me to kick everyone out, they wouldn't go away. And which really says a lot about that interactivity, the engagement that people desire. And of course, there are folks who are intimidated by smaller, larger groups, or maybe the desire speed dating kind of experience. I mean, if you were like, let's look at Twine. Twine was actually developed this past year to create serendipitous networking, to ease folks into conversations surrounding topics generated for them to discuss. And there are a few video chat floor platforms that actually focus on exclusively on the quality and depth of the conversation between people. Now, I know that you and I have experienced this, but we'll remind our viewers that Brain Dates from E-180 has been around pre pandemic, it's been around actually very successfully and implemented at many events that I've been to, I'm sure we've experienced in the past several years. And it allows us to connect with people who are similarly minded, like you. And of course there is mentally, which honestly, is something that I really enjoyed. It was something that I personally experienced at South by Southwest that introduced me into the mentorship kind of perspective and engagement, which I thought was quite wonderful.
Eileen Page 10:26
Those are all really great examples, Ray. And all these conversations generated create a ton of data too. That actually brings us to our second category gathering real time data. We saw this, a great example of this at the recent Tokyo Olympics, the archery community actually has been requesting for years that data like biometrics, their heart rate, be displayed on screen. For the viewers at home, there's not a ton going on. The archers are somewhat motionless, they pull back their bows, but they are finely tuned high performing athletes. And the Olympics did decide to display their heart rate on screen so that the viewers could see the increases in heart rate as their adrenaline was building and even zooming in to see changes in their skin tone as their blood vessels contracted. So of course, we're not going to be making our communities try to hit a bull's eye. But this brings up really interesting ways to gather data on our audiences, taking us beyond surveying, thinking of really unique ways to measure how activations are resonating, how content being delivered onstage or in a virtual context is really hitting the audience and how they're reacting to it. There's a lot of great forward thinking technologies out there, in terms of measuring facial expressions in a live event, tracking emotional responses or sentiment via social networks, and a lot of ways to measure crowd, things like crowd density, understanding engagement, and really quantifying memorability
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 12:03
That, this is what I love about technology today, just these wild and insane access to a wealth of data, which is very important to collect, right and then analyze and but with the exponential advancement of online video platforms becoming more of a commodity, it can really make branded opportunities feel identical to others.
Eileen Page 12:26
You know, you're right, Ray. How can we find different approaches for brands relying on new methods of engagement with their customers or with their workforces?
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 12:34
I mean, well, for starters, let's look at untethering your audience from a work computer and offer them flexibility. And let's just take a step back. Here's a question I've been pondering. Do all breakouts need to be in person? Or? Or could we give people access to them remotely, and bring people together in person for exclusive social engagement?
Eileen Page 13:01
Right, please just let's not go back to the old way of engaging. Surely we've learned something over these past 18 plus months, right?
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 13:10
I couldn't agree more. Let's let's consider for an example observing the habits of a user when they work out. Many utilize technology to monitor the performance or to engage with different types of contents, especially exercise equipment utilizing video. Now, these devices could be new avenues to connect with our audiences. And honestly, let's meet them where they consume and when they consume. So consider broadcasting moments in a living room experience, or using platforms like clubhouse that allow people to go and stay connected and engaged through an audio only consumption habit. Just because there are no visuals attached doesn't mean that our messaging is any less effective. And if we combine this thinking with 5G, Eileen, that means we have greater access to different audiences engagements, right?
Eileen Page 14:06
Exactly. It's so impressive what we have access to now and what 5G is enabling. And this actually brings us to our fourth and final topic doing more with 5G. One example that 5G is really going to help enable as it gets more widely adopted, and as more convention centers and venues incorporated into their infrastructure, are hologram based keynotes. Now, these have been around for a while brands like Cisco did hologram based keynotes eight or so years ago, but 5G is making them much more affordable and streamlined from a production perspective. Think about global audiences and executives who may not want to travel, they can still interact with important audiences to deliver key content and messaging. And holograms these days are actually two way interactions where the hologram presenter is giving out content, but also collecting audience data in terms of reactions, where people's eyes are moving, etc. So it's a much more robust investment that it than it may have been 5-10 or so years ago. So another thing that 5G is going to enable is enhanced second screen content abilities. We can use 5G to really allow consumption wherever we want. So think about as we get back to going in person, which we're also eager to do, maybe someone travels on site, and they're not comfortable sitting in a ballroom with one to 3000+ people. They want to maybe stream the keynote from their hotel room or sitting next to the pool, and then go to in-person events like smaller breakouts that are maybe a little bit less threatening from a comfort level perspective. There's lots of great companies out there who are enabling these second screen experiences; Prezi being one, they've actually developed a second screen augmented reality experience. Live presenters interact with the media layer, and audiences see additional rich media like 3D models. Augmented reality not only delivers an elevated experience to our audiences, it also has, similar to the holograms, really fantastic data gathering abilities. Dwell time for augmented reality content is typically 2.5 times longer than traditional content. So it allows us to gather data on eye movement, content, preferences, etc. That will allow us to further curate content that's, that's really valuable for our audiences. And finally, 5G networks can actually make venues more secure. Again, there's going to be some apprehensive apprehension around returning to live. We're eager to gather back in person, but there's certainly more considerations than there used to be. So of course, security and taking care of our attendees is really going to be an issue that's at the forefront for event planners, along with venue, and hotel owners and managers. So thinking about 5G, enabling stuff like geolocation. If there were any contact tracing needs, for example, or the need to relay critical information by sending out instantaneous alerts, 5G will help us to keep our audience abreast of any happenings that are relevant and push out alerts to them accordingly.
Ray McCarthy Bergeron 17:21
Wow, that's, that's actually quite great. So if I had to, if I had to summarize a lot of what we shared for our listeners, I guess, I guess it would summarize into these five things. The first we would be cultivating key communities via existing and emerging technologies, right? And then second, encourage new connections. Third, would be leveraged real time data gathering platforms, right, so so that basically we go beyond surveys, if you will. And fourth would be untethering, the audience, my favorite, and then of course, fifth last, this brand new 5G tech can really deliver content and confidence to our communities.
Eileen Page 18:04
Thank you so much for joining us. And be sure to join us again for the next InVision podcast episode coming soon.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai