The transition to the virtual world has been accelerated through the pandemic with event organisers forced to adapt to the realities of lockdown life. But there are indications that rather than a return to normal service after the pandemic, many virtual innovations will be here to stay and for those organisations who have developed their digital delivery through 2020 and 2021, great rewards ahead.
On the face of it, the events industry has been devasted by the pandemic.
Yet, for those who persevered against the odds by pivoting to virtual delivery, there is a blueprint for lowering organisational overheads, reaching, and engaging wider audiences and fresh and lucrative revenue streams. The Virgin Money London Marathon is one such example. As the mass participation market ground to a halt, they postponed their traditional April staging and considered their options. They eventual came up with a model in October that saw an elite-only in-person event taking place in tandem with a virtual event for runners to be part of in their own communities.
It was not without its teething troubles. But they pulled it off with 38,000 ‘virtual’ runners. The brand stayed relevant and with runners peppered across the UK in their London Marathon race bibs, the event had – arguably – a wider reach. They delivered value for sponsors and generated revenue through the virtual delivery. Pre-pandemic, the event was consistently oversubscribed way above its 40,000-runner limit. This year, they have publicly stated they are aiming for 100,000 participants – both in person and virtually, more than doubling participation in a fell swoop.
Other hits (literally) of lockdown have been Gary Barlow’s Crooner Sessions, where has teamed up with the likes of Robbie Williams, Cliff Richard, Jessie J, and many others, striking a chord with millions across YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Of course, the Take That national treasure has been delivering the sessions as a pep-up to the nation. But it has provided another indication of the new possibilities of the virtual delivery in all entertainment industries. It is a model that offers theatre and live music huge potential in the future.
In the corporate world, conferences have taken a hit with the traditional trade show and conferences model and their flesh-pressing culture impossible to deliver.
Yet with crisis comes creativity and platforms like GoToWebinar, Hopin and Big Marker have brought the in-person experience into the home. With interactive presentations with Q&A and audience polling features, breakout rooms, digital handouts, and recorded sessions – to ensure that you do not miss a minute, the model in many ways exceeds the in-person experience and is markedly cheaper too.
Of course, when the time comes, there is likely to be a resurgence in the event industry with people desperate for a level of human interaction that has been missing from their lives. But virtual delivery is here to stay with obvious potential in efficiencies, audience reach and the generation of new revenue streams. We expect hybrids model to be the core of event delivery post-pandemic.
Community life is practically on pause through the pandemic. And yet, there is a feeling of a stronger sense of community being engendered.
People are finding new and creative ways to connect with friends and family using video calls with online quizzes and zoom nights in. And the public displays of solidarity from children’s rainbows adorning the nation’s windows to the now-weekly ritual of clapping for carers bring a strong sense of societal fabric.
The situation the masses now find themselves is identical to that of minorities did before the growth of the internet, reaching out to find connections with people with a common purpose, interest or need.
The internet enabled minorities, based on sexuality, race, religion, medical conditions or niche hobbies, to better connect with those with a common interest or the like-minded.
At the advent of the internet, there was an explosion of online communities to overcome the barriers of geography, isolation, and a need for anonymity in a less tolerant time – in some cases.
With no sign of social distancing being brought to a conclusion, we now all find ourselves in this situation. We are social creatures and have had our social lives severely curtailed. And so, online communities are where many of us are turning.
There are several brands, who either organically or even strategically have established online communities. Lego, Apple and Starbucks quickly come to mind. There are others whose product is the community itself, such as Mumsnet.
Those brands who effectively enable consumers to connect are making themselves an indispensable service to a public who are craving a sense of community during the coronavirus crisis.
As ever, Fruit Marketing are available to talk with brands interested in developing an online community.
Behavioural science has always been of serious interest to the marketing sector and – of course to the world of politics. But its theories have taken on particular importance in recent months with the spread of the coronavirus and an international lockdown.
One such theory has been notably employed in the UK to influence the public to practice social distancing, self isolation and ultimately lockdown. Nudge Theory was first brought to prominence by US Academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their 2008 book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.”
It articulates tactics that influences not through enforcement, but by presenting a “choice architecture” that nudges people towards adopting a behaviour that can benefit them and not significantly impact them economically. Humans respond better to being coaxed rather than being coerced.
COVID-19 has – of course – caused a significant change to people’s everyday lives. But the threat to lives positioned against the inconvenience of lockdown, softened by mortgage holidays and support for furloughed employees schemes makes the choicer easier.
Similarly, the current arrangements were not brought in wholesale and nor are the timelines stretching months into the future. There has been light kept just ahead of us in the tunnel.
We – the UK public – have been nudged along gradually from voluntary restrictions to the over 70s self isolating to the urgings over non-essential travel and on to lockdown.
The lockdown was to be reviewed after Easter and now we are moving towards an unspecified date. But still we are nudged along with daily Government updates supported by consistent messaging and any developments will be gradual. Nudge, nudge and say no more.