Events Fulfil a Human Need for Community

Suzanne Malhotra, Director of 4D, discusses how brands must focus on what their customers have in common with each other more than with the brand itself.

Heading to a festival or outdoor event is a personal kind of Dante’s inferno for many. There’s the inevitable mud, bar queues, little chance of getting within listening distance of the acts you want to see. Some might wonder, why bother?

Still, I get it.

At a festival, concert or event it often isn’t these nuances you are there for (or even really care about). What we’re all looking for is that feeling of solidarity. Of being in the same moment as thousands of others, all of whom could be likeminded individuals. It’s about a shared moment, however fleeting, where you look up and everyone is singing the same song line, or moving in the same direction.

And here is where brands often miss a trick; humans need synchronicity. Not just with their peer groups, but also with their work colleagues and the brands that they buy from.

Marketers today should be focused on what their customers have in common, rather than what divides them. Unfortunately the art of marketing; building personas, cutting customers into cohorts, often relies on the latter.

This is where the power of events and face-to-face experiences come in handy. Building community is an experience that’s ripe within the physical space and brands have the power to build moments of synchronicity through their physical stand space.


Building community through design

The first opportunity at a tradeshow is that you are building a show within a show. Your booth space is a mini-world where you are asking customers to join you on a journey. If it’s a good one, they will come away having learned something.

This relies heavily on how the design works, something we’ve discussed in detail with all of our clients. How the stand looks is important. It’s an advertisement for all of the features, experiences and unique selling points the audience can’t physically see.

Yet how the stand works is even more important. This is where synchronicity either flies or falls. Can your audience understand what you do, yet not feel like they are in a sales pitch or sermon? Can they hold products and feel like part of the experience, rather than a static bystander? Do they feel at one with your company mission and messaging?

All of these aspects and more, are taken into consideration when designing and marketing a tradeshow booth. Without them, the experience becomes meaningless and the visitor is just another face in the crowd.


Building community through experience

Once the audience is on the stand and perhaps buying in a little, it is how that stand functions and the experience it creates that make all of the difference.

A few ideas; peer-to-peer, you can use large videowalls to share content that can be watched in unison, over a coffee or two.

You then have virtual and mixed reality; two formats ripe for shared experiences and creating that feeling of community. This is two-fold, first the use of experience technology creates a moment between the visitor and your brand. As they feel, see and sense your product or service, they become unable to forget it.

Secondly, it is the shared experience with each other. The passing of a headset, the smile shared and the words of encouragement. The feeling that you were ‘all in it together’ as you brave something new and unexpected.

More visitor-to-visitor moments could be created using a smart app which helps facilitate networking between peer groups, a meeting room area that can be booked in advance and a coffee bar which connects visitors using data on their drink preference and status at the show.

As a recent article in the Drum states; “brands and marketers need to think about what they have that brings back the feeling people had when Mash was on and 125 million Americans were doing the same thing at the same time”.

How often do brands achieve this within an event? As we know well, not nearly often enough.