Event Strategy 101: Thinking like a brand marketer

Strategy-led events are on the rise

If the last twelve months have shown us anything, it’s that a clear event strategy is not just a good idea, it’s crucial. Google trends from January to March 2021 show worldwide searches for ‘Brand Strategy’ have more than doubled in popularity, so why should event planners be thinking more like brand marketers and be starting with strategy, and why is it so valuable this year? 

We asked our experts, Hannah Luffman and Toni Griggs, who highlighted five key points to consider when planning your next event.

Why is it important we are leading with strategy for event programs in 2021 and beyond? 

Toni Griggs: “As interest in live formats starts to resurface, it’s still the strategy and purpose behind the experience that needs to be identified early. This goes for any campaign that wants to impact its audience beyond a single wow moment. An integrated, audience-first approach means planners need to be asking why, before asking how. Brands are looking for strategic support much earlier in their planning phases, which is exciting for the growing strategic comms division at Cheerful Twentyfirst.” 

How have you seen understanding of virtual event strategies shift this year?

Hannah Luffman: “Virtual event design is not black and white. There has been a lot of content around “how to” design a virtual event but from a strategy perspective virtual event design is a complex shade of grey.  To make sure it really hits the mark we are looking to ask questions early, understand the business objectives clearly, and design the experience with an audience-first approach. We cannot undervalue the importance of scheduling time for strategy and content workshops before jumping into production and delivery. They bring the story to life in an engaging and impactful way that drives adoption, but they don’t write the book.” 

How do you see the role of the event planner changing in line with this?

Hannah Luffman: “This is an incredibly exciting time for event planners who don’t traditionally come from a brand marketing background to expand their knowledge in this space. What we really need to understand is that events are just one possible output within the wider marketing mix and whilst that opens up huge opportunities for us to sit side by side with other campaign outputs it also makes us more vulnerable against the measurement and success metrics associated with other forms of deliverables.

As we start to see our event programmes finally sitting alongside digital, print and social campaigns, we will need to understand how to design them better against strategic objectives and then measure them so they hold their rightful place in fully integrated rollout plans.” 

What do you see as the biggest challenge for corporate event planners in 2021?

Toni Griggs: “Much like last year I think the biggest challenge is going to be the ability for forward planning on event format and delivery types. Whilst we are seeing a rise in event business across both the UK and EMEA, we are also seeing challenges in being able to confidently plan for live experiences in the next 6-months. This reaffirms the need to start with strategy and output workshops. The communications behind the event still need to progress regardless of live, hybrid or virtual delivery formats. What we need to be doing is designing an integrated approach that resonates with the audience, not one that relies specifically on a fixed delivery format. “

How do you see event agency models shifting in-line with the above?

Toni Griggs: “There is something to be said for agile agencies that can adapt solutions to deliver the best case for audience engagement and brand impact, driven by client needs and shaped by excellent talent. We will start to see event agencies that had previously focused on production and delivery shift to adopt an integrated approach to creative solutions. The flow-on effect for project teams will mean talent with more rounded experience in digital and content, as well as softer skills like collaboration and creative thinking as a priority. As brands reevaluate purpose and spend behind event programs, agencies are responding with transparent, insights-driven measurement processes that reflect the true value and impact of brand experiences, whatever the delivery format.”

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