Events marketing agency Clearwater Communications has been on an active agenda to pivot from events into full service. The agency is currently looking to boost its leadership team, drive growth, and nurture client relationships, to provide its growing client base with more creative and effective design solutions to build engagement and emotional connection. The agency was recently shortlisted as finalists for boutique agency of the year, event marketing agency of the year and full service agency of the year.
As with most businesses, Clearwater Communications has had to pivot and adapt its marketing strategies this year. In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Min Liu, founder and managing director of Clearwater Communications said technology and digital marketing are now at the heart of the agency's marketing planning. This comes as Liu foresees the virtual experience economy continue to expand in the coming years from online events to efficiency-led technologies. She also dished out four aspects that she thinks makes great marketing in today's context.
This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series. To find out more about the awards, click here.
What are some of the expectations your clients now have for your agency?
Liu: The way we deal with this unprecedented crisis (COVID-19) and support our clients and partners sets our customers’ expectations. Our consumers would expect us to be reliable, responsible, proactive, supportive to their needs and responsive.
On top of these, the typical high expectations of our clients remain unchanged – i.e. being able to deliver quality, creative event and brand experience solutions, at the right value, to achieve the business objectives with the biggest impact.
How has your marketing/your clients' marketing plans shifted this year?
Liu: Technology and digital marketing are now at the heart of our, and our clients’ marketing planning; albeit whether to enable fast, convenient, memorable and engaging interactions online, ramp-up eCommerce capabilities, efficiencies or analysing data insights to sharpen marketing strategy and planning, marketers are being forced to upskill, embrace change and raise their game in deploying technology to value add to the experience and the customer journey.
Marketers are also being forced to be even more flexible, adaptive and faster to respond to the changes and variable factors, with marketing planning becoming even more fluid and short-term than ever before.
What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?
Liu: The virtual experience economy will continue to expand – from online events, to esports, to livestreaming, to e-commerce to efficiency-led technologies such as AI, chatbots, digital personalities, robotics, AR, mixed reality, – all these will remain and develop further post-pandemic.
Even when live events return in the new normal, we believe that virtual events will remain, and most event and brand experiences will be hybrid, featuring a smaller live component and an amplified digital experience livestreamed or on-demand streamed to a larger, virtual audience in multiple geographies.
Our team of event marketing experts remain passionate about delivering the best events and brand experiences and continue to stay in the know and ahead of the game with the latest developments in the virtual event world.
Trainings, webinars, reading and research combined with regular catch-ups with industry experts and our partners on the latest event tech and innovations are the best ways to make sure the team is well informed and prepared. Whilst this has always been our Clearwater Communications approach, it is now even more the case, as we pivot and adapt in these unprecedented times in the new normal.
What do you think makes for great marketing these days?
Liu: Relevance – the messaging and approach needs to be relevant, purposeful, build empathy and authentic, so as to speak, engage and connect with consumers in the realities of today’s world. Campaigns that are altruistic, and genuine in their community support will strike a chord with today’s market – For example, TripAdvisor launched a #LoveYourLocalSG microsite in April 2020 in response to the pandemic, and the site featured a wide range of dining deals to encourage customer support of businesses and communities impacted by Covid-19. Campaigns like this transcend TripAdvisor’s typical marketing campaign approach and although it does not increase sales immediately, the brand is building its share of voice, widening its target audience and strengthening brand loyalty in the long term.
Speed and agility – pre-Covid, we planned a year or more in advance and executed according to approved plan. Now, marketers who take the wait and see approach will fall behind. This is a new world where marketing is agile, fast and in real time, with real-time insights is key.
Reimagined experiences – international lockdowns, travel shutdowns, health and safety concerns of large group gatherings are forcing marketers to reimagine consumers experiences and create brand touchpoints that are more meaningful and inspiring. These engagement touchpoints are activated pre, during and post-event to continuously relationship build and engage with the audience.
In this new world of event marketing, it is not about who attends, everybody matters – be it the participant at the event or post-event. Marketers need to think about how to build multimedia, branded content that genuinely value adds to the experience, which will live on, long after the event and engage with all the people who cannot attend (whether onsite or virtually).
Digital amplification has to be a key part of any event marketing strategy now.
Transforming virtual events into digital experiences – Given the focus on virtual events for the foreseeable future, we need to ensure that the creativity and experiential elements that are a given in live events, can be pivoted into virtual, so that virtual events truly engage with the audience and create memorable, digital experiences that galvanise the audience into action. This could be manifested in the form of brand experience kits and unique F&B experiences delivered to each attendee before the event, or personalised content or unique, compelling branded content, edutainment and brand storytelling in multiple formats to maintain audience interest. Creativity needs to be increased to create immersive, 3D dynamic virtual environments, motion graphics and platform functionality that encourages both linear and non-linear customer journeys.
We should absolutely avoid digital events becoming passive experiences. To fully engage with the audience, we need to give them shorter and more structured programming, a lot of engagements and interactions including Q&A, live polls, virtual networking and business matchmaking, virtual social walls, virtual photo and video booths, virtual expos and trade shows, branded games and gamification in general.
Integrating social media with the virtual platform can also elevate the experience and make it more engaging. Multiple charismatic presenters and multiple contributors, as opposed to one key note speaker, will also increase engagement and hold audience attention. Most importantly, we should track every customer engagement during every segment of the event to further enhance and improve the event planning for future events.
How are you planning for 2021?
2021 will be a year of partnerships, IP development and business development.
Besides working with our clients on their event marketing campaigns and events, we are looking to expand our partners network and our collaborations internationally.
Developing, mentoring, training and upskilling our team in the virtual experience realm will continue throughout 2021. It is also our aspiration to create our own event IP’s through unique event properties, event technology and strategic partnerships, which should act as a value add to our clients and partners.
As well as co-creating and serving our loyal and esteemed clients, we will also business develop current and new world-class client relationships to evolve our future event opportunity pipeline. Lastly, with a number of effective live and virtual events delivered in 2020, we will also be looking at showcasing our work in Marketing Magazine’s various 2021 Awards.
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