Four Tips for Shaking Up Your User Conference Engagement Strategy

Give yourself permission to explore the edges of what’s expected and possible to shake it up for your attendees.
<p>Today’s typical user conferences are hardly typical at all. With top notch entertainment, vibrant creative scenes and surprise and delight experiences around every corner, what was once a simple sit-down business event has become something that looks more like a buzzing arts festival. Here are four tips for shaking up your user conference strategy to give it a more competitive edge.
<h3>1. Create ‘Micro Experiences’</h3>
<p>Successful user events are doing away with the “general session plus exhibit floor” model and are creating more unstructured physical spaces filled with immersive, tangible and tactile engagements—“experiences within an experience,” says Brent Turner, SVP, Solutions at Cramer. “People are taking inspiration from and being influenced by the more general trend around consumer activations.”
<p>TED 2016, for example, offered rock climbing walls and ball pits for its attendees. The C2 (Creativity and Commerce) conference in Montreal erected a full-scale Ferris wheel inside its event space. Bottom line: the same people who are coming to your show are comparing you to what they experienced at South by Southwest, Coachella and other festival-style events.
<h3>2. Become One with the Destination</h3>
<p>Why host an event in a killer host city when you’re just going to lock your attendees away in a nondescript ballroom? “The biggest and best conferences become microcosms entwined in their location,” says Turner. “They’re authentic and true to where they are.”
<p>For example, think about how Austin, Texas, and South by Southwest have become synonymous with one another, and how you can bring that same sense of place and destination to your event. Some ideas: treat attendees to local musicians, artist engagements, and tasty fare by local chefs (even food trucks!) that infuse your user event with the local flavor—and a whole lot of energy.
<h3>3. Create a Next-Gen Environment</h3>
<p>Smart environmental design is just step-one in the modern user conference experience. To truly differentiate your event, you have to give it a sense of special energy that goes beyond the static identity work. “You’re not just branding a space, you’re figuring out how to take your business’s purpose and keep that tied into all the spaces,” says Turner.
<p>Can attendees collaborate on a digital graffiti wall that embodies your company’s spirit of collaboration? Can a local artist create customized takeaways that align with your product’s personalized features? “It’s about how you keep what’s special about your company’s message going on outside the general session, so when you walk out there’s something big and meaningful—a space of activation and activity versus passive signage illustrating just your brand identity,” Turner says.
<h3>4. Be Courageous</h3>
<p>“Give yourself permission to explore the edges of what’s expected and possible—of stepping into the irreverent to find something that may not make a lot of sense on paper,” says Turner.
<p>Like the <a href=”” target=”_blank”>C2 conference</a>, which offered attendees the chance to climb above the show floor, circus style, and have meetings suspended in chairs. “You may amaze and engage your audience in a way they didn’t see coming. That alchemy of physical reaction becomes so much bigger when you are tapping into those emotions in a way that’s not expected or planned for.”
<p>As an added bonus, quirky and unexpected moments are also highly shareable ones, and that viral effect is an imperative piece of any healthy user conference.

Advertising should be about everyday magic

Ryan Newey - Everyday magic

What better job is there than creating little moments of wonder that stop people in their tracks, even if it’s just for a brief moment? Fold7 Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Ryan Newey, discusses the need for everyday magic.

When I was a boy, I recall telling my neighbours that I was getting a pet bull. Not your average bull either but an imperious Spanish fighting bull. I thought bulls were cool. Lamborghini had one on its logo and I had a poster of that on my wall (a red Countach – what was I thinking?). Four feet tall at best, I pitched to my neighbours that the bull was coming and would be living in the back garden of a small bungalow in the Midlands. The neighbours smiled and I thought no more of it. Until, that is, two days later, when a few of them showed up at the door.

My folks answered with an air of innocence as I offered a smile of apprehension. Just to clarify, my street wasn’t a zoo. Animals didn’t roam the gardens. The idea was ridiculous. But, nonetheless, the neighbours were here and they were alarmed. And so they explained their concerns. Had we thought it through? Is it not dangerous? While hiding behind the curtain, I thought: “You’re kidding me, you can’t have believed a word I said – I’m just a kid!” Stood on the doorstep, the neighbours waited for my dad’s thoughts on the matter.

Cue a long, dramatic pause. Then: “He’s getting two bulls.” Boom! Dad was in on the lie – he had my back and I started to think this bull thing could become a reality. Holy shit, what was happening? My mind was dancing. After scraping the neighbours off the floor, my dad conceded: “He’s pulling your leg – he’s got an overactive imagination.” That spoilsport. And there it was. What an amazing campaign I had cooked up, rallying neighbours around a common goal, filling their lives with dread, fear, delight and imagination. What fun. Surely life should be full of such augmentation of the everyday? In that moment, I understood a little more about the power of communications and how they should be considered, aimed and fired.

Cut to today. Open on an alarm clock beeping from an iPad, cut to shower, close up on face (not for long: need to fix that in the grade), journey, meeting, work review (highlight), cut to wide of client meeting, travel, tracking shot through street and – boom – there’s a dog with dreadlocks! There it is: the moment of the unexpected, the moment of everyday magic that I crave. This is what I get up for: to experience and inject a drop of magic into the everyday. When all is said and done, what more should we expect of the idea babies we send into the world than little parcels of magic that just temporarily make people miss a beat? In that beat lives a creative director who is in all of us.

Everyone has a creative soul and, as creative professionals, we are tasked with helping others see it – even if it’s just momentarily. Everyday magic can’t be bottled – it’s the very thing clients can’t manufacture and it’s the only thing people really feel. No-one likes “advertising”. But everyone likes to pause their day for a moment for a creative blip that takes them to another place. What a gift that we have companies and brilliant minds dedicated to crafting spells to augment the everyday. Happily, the days of advertising as a tax on entertainment are long gone. Now, it’s all about owning the magic in consumers’ everyday. And, as creative businesses, filling our stables with such magicians. No bull necessary.

The article was first published in Campaign magazine.

Cadillac Shadows.

Following a series of successful digital and social campaigns in 2016, Cadillac tasked us with the development of a bold new campaign for the Cadillac Escalade that would not only be memorable, but also serve to drive consideration among the automaker’s conquest audience for the marquee model and deep cultural cache.

To drive earned conversion and help consumers to associate Cadillac’s “Dare Greatly” brand platform with the Escalade, Rokkan created a social campaign featuring daring imagery to illustrate the Escalade’s power and style while encouraging viewers to “Cast a bold shadow.”

Centered around four unique cinemagraphs titled ”King of a Different Jungle,” “Force of Nature,” “Every Road a Stage,” and “The Undisputed Champ,” respectively, the campaign ran on Cadillac’s various social channels using organic and paid placements on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Snapchat.

Outperforming all expectations, the campaign assets were also used in reporting for Cadillac’s broader brand success story.

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