Will marketers race immediately back to in-person events as Australia looks to open itself back up?

Farzeen Quadir-Hegde, Asus head of marketing SYS BG Australia
By Farzeen Quadir-Hegde, Asus head of marketing SYS BG Australia | 29 October 2021
Farzeen Quadir-Hegde

Like a lot of professions and industries, the marketing sector has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.

Exhibitions, events, product launches, roadshows - all once critical aspects to the marketing professional’s armoury, have been unable to take place in-person for over 18 months now. While this has predictably led to innovative solutions, it begs the question whether marketers will be keen to return to their old habits, once restrictions ease. As Sydney and Victoria look ahead to what a ‘living with COVID’ world looks like, what does it mean for the marketing industry? Will in-person events return or have marketers found alternatives to provide a better ROI?

While Sydney is gearing up for ‘freedom day’, with restrictions expected to ease, one can assume gradual build-up of live events. From music to sport to cultural activities and everything in between, but an important thing to consider is - where do product and business events fit into this ‘new normal’? Are people craving to meet people in person once again or have we all become too comfortable connecting virtually? According to a recent global study by Slack, 76% of us want flexibility in where we work, and that is bound to reflect attitudes towards business event attendance as well.

The pandemic and subsequent forced restrictions has led myself and other marketing professionals to think a bit differently when it comes to promoting brands and connecting with audiences. At ASUS, we have focused a lot of our energy into our digital channels, in order to reach our audience we have seen substantial growth in fanbase/followers and engagement as a result within our social platforms. Virtual product launches and briefings have also become a regular when it comes to engaging with media, partners and other stakeholders with attendance usually higher with external factors of getting caught in the office, bad traffic etc. no longer a barrier.

With the above in mind, it’s clear that alternatives have been found and in some facets may actually be more efficient and cost efficient than the methods that we have historically been used to. It’s great that the option is far more readily available for people to be able to dial-in from the comfort of their own home and still feel a part of an event.

However, virtual events and connecting through other means rather than in person certainly doesn’t work for everyone. In-person events present opportunities that you didn’t know existed prior to attending. We miss the spontaneous interactions, it’s why we don’t want to work from home five days a week and it’s why we’re over having to ‘book in' conversations with people.

With in-person events, you also rule out security based issues that have plagued some brands and their platforms of choice. There’s also the ability to be more personal when it comes to in-person events, whether it’s a small gathering or as part of a larger event, you can always tailor content and conversations to those most crucial to you. The hands-on experience with products, devices and subject experts is something you simply can’t replicate digitally. There’s also the added ability to build a brand through immersive activations, re-establish the human connection and deliver on having undivided attention of those you’re targeting at an event as opposed to virtual attendees clearly scrolling through multiple tabs simultaneously.

My honest opinion and my hope is that in-person events will gradually pick up as businesses and individuals will become confident organising them without the threat of cancellation. I do, however, believe that we will always have a ‘hybrid’ element in all events and it will be rare to see events in the future that will not have a virtual component in it. Flexibility is the biggest thing that people are craving when it comes to workplace practices, so it’s vital that marketing professionals reflect our approaches to suit our audiences and provide them with both a virtual and an in-person option.

With this in mind, marketers will need to be more selective as to whether a promotion or a launch warrants an in-person event, sometimes a quick digital connect can be the most efficient way of communicating to your audience. This will also help to maintain the appeal of in-person events - less regular but more impactful.

Although my marketing team and other marketing departments have coped admirably and found solutions during the pandemic, I am personally eager to re-connect in-person with partners, customers and other stakeholders. Many of us in NSW and VIC are suffering from ‘Zoom fatigue’ and craving that human interaction once again - I firmly believe that in-person events will find their place within the marketer’s playbook once again.

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