May 15, 2020

Why Successful Brands Shouldn’t Change Their Strategy To Tackle Covid-19

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How can brands engage with consumers in this changing event landscape?

How can brands continue to engage with consumers in an ever-changing landscape? We reached out to some of our much-loved clients and industry-leaders for some insight, and it's clear that there's one strategy all brands should be following.

So, here’s a question on everyone’s lips right now: How can brands engage with consumers in this changing event landscape? And how can we manage to do this when the other question we’re furiously Googling is something like, “How long can you go without brushing your hair?” 

We won’t mention the dreaded C-Word, because we all know that’s what it is. Instead, whilst we gear up for a relaxation of restrictions, we’ll focus on what we think this means for our industry, our clients, and the brands and agencies that previously relied on face-to-face interactions and live events as part of their strategy to engage with consumers. 

What does the future hold for the events industry, and the brands that put it to work?

This week, we reached out to some of our much-loved clients and industry-leaders for some insight into how they’re adapting to the changing event landscape. And from this it’s clear that (despite mainstream opinion) some successful brands and agencies don’t seem to be changing their strategy at all. They’re doing what they’ve always done; innovating, listening to their customers, and adapting to change. 

Innovation Drives New Event Trends 

A mere few weeks ago, some of us may not have ever heard of Zoom, and now it seems to be an ingrained part of our daily lives. One way to continue engaging with consumers is to take your existing activities online, or to the virtual world. This may seem like a clear progression for some face-to-face events like conferences and seminars, but did you know you can also take your wine tastings, sampling activations, art classes, fashion shows and music festivals online too? Read on...

New Virtual Reality Technologies are Booming for Brands

Virtual Reality technology isn’t all that new, but we’re used to seeing only a select few utilising this in their mainstream event strategy. Meredith Cranmer of Because Australia has recently seen an increase in virtual and augmented reality based campaigns, from Google Cardboard to Virtual Showrooms, in the “new normal” event landscape. 

Meredith says that, “for brands who generally engage huge audiences, and may have traditionally relied on sampling and couponing consumers at large events like festivals, clients are exploring the use of Virtual Atoms (vAtoms).” 

What are they? She explains that “vAtoms” can be collected in the virtual world using map or smartphone viewer ‘grab’ techniques, much like the Pokemon Go phenomenon we saw sweep the globe. “They are stored in an individual’s digital inventory, but can then be shared, sent, posted or redeemed for real-life alternatives. So they’re a great way to drive reach, recommendation or recruitment via friend-get-friend techniques.” 

Geoff Branson of leading AV agency AV 24/7 concurs, saying brands need to embrace new technologies to gain cut-through in challenging times. He says, “the adoption of 3D immersive event experiences and the use of VR and AR technologies are going to come through much faster now we are no longer hosting live events.

Think about walking through an exhibition hall or retail store in a digital environment, exploring different products, live chat with a sales reps, and scanning QR codes for augmented reality options.” 

Use Augmented Reality to Provides an Accessible VR Alternative

Social Playground Director, Annabelle Davidson, says that web-based Augmented Reality also provides a way forward for brands to engage with consumers, without needing a face-to-face activation to do so. 

“For some brands, Virtual Reality or a custom app is out of scope, so web-based Augmented Reality experiences are often next in line, and can be even more engaging.” 

David Loughnan from UNBND, a technology creative agency and one of Social Playground’s key partners in this space, agrees and notes that “asking people to download an app is a considerable barrier to engagement, especially when it comes to brand or marketing experiences.”

“WebAR is a new technology that allows anyone with a smartphone to access augmented reality experiences via a URL, resulting in scalable AR experiences that drive far greater reach. Engaging with a WebAR experience is as easy as simply visiting a URL or scanning a QR code.”

The experts concur that WebAR, where consumers can use their own devices to scan objects in the real world and watch them come to life with AR technology, can also be a more scalable approach for brands. 

David provided an example of using WebAR to replace a live event in an experience Unbnd recently built for the AFL team the Western Bulldogs and Priceline. 

“As players couldn’t come down to on-ground activations at the stadium due to Covid-19, we built a flick footy webAR game that allowed fans to compete for prizes from the comfort of their own home. 

Participants simply visited the URL to ‘place' a set of goals in their lounge room and ‘flick’ as many goals as possible within the allocated time. Each week the top scorer on the leaderboard could win discount vouchers at Priceline.”

You can even try it for yourself here:

David adds that “combining gamification and WebAR is an effective way for brands to drive engagement. Integrating a competition mechanic drives stickiness and repeat visitation. By implementing prizing and data capture for leaderboards it allows brands to build their database through the activity, providing lead generation and long term return on investment.” 

WebAR can also be used to broaden the engagement possibilities of printed materials, like brochures and flyers, and even product packaging or labels. 

“WebAR can also be used to drive deep brand engagement and can be an effective way to drive customers from offline to online,’ says David. 

“Unbnd recently created the first WebAR wine table for Stoneleigh. It allowed customers to visit a URL then scan the label to ‘let nature take over’ in accordance with their above the line creative campaign and label artwork. Users could learn more bout the wine and click through to an online retailer to purchase the product and take advantage of time-based discount.”

Psst, try it here: and scan the below wine label to begin:

Scan the image above on the UNBND URL to see it in action!

Social Playground Director, Annabelle Davidson, says that “it’s amazing that in their own homes, consumers can scan a label, magazine or simply head to a URL with their own phone, without having to download an app, and watch a completely static object come to life.” 

When prompted about barriers to entry for a webAR platform, Davidson says, “Brands need to listen to their consumers and know what makes them tick in order to create a compelling reason to participate. Often this shows up as a special offer or prize.” 

Brands Should Listen, and Go Where The Consumers Are

Social media use is up 40% according to Hello Social Director, Sam Kelly. Social has always been a critical platform for brands to exploit, and especially so now, as channels like live sport, out of home, and cinema continue to be restricted. Kelly says, “social has become an even more important channel for brands looking to engage with existing or new customers.” So, how can brands use social media, and achieve high levels of consumer engagement like they would at a face-to-face activation? Our experts say User Generated Content is the key. 

Leverage User Generated Content

Brands are moving towards a leaner content production approach, so according to Hello Social’s Sam Kelly, UGC and real stories are on the rise. While resources are limited, Kelly says that “Without the ability to produce content, brands have been more reliant on influencers sharing content from home. We have seen some great working from home tips, exercise routines and cooking classes coming from homes all around Australia.” 

Social Playground has always been a champion of the benefits of UGC. Not only does it provide brands with useful branded content, it provides additional credibility, as 82% of consumers say they are highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer.

Create a Compelling Reason to Engage

So how does a brand engage consumers to create UGC? Research has been found to suggest that more than half of consumers (50%) wish that brands would tell them what type of content to create and share. As consumers continue to engage from home, research from Hello Social also tells us that curiosity is up and consumers also are willing to spend more time researching new products and services. 

Social Playground’s digital Social Mosaic is a great option for brands seeking new ways to compel consumers to participate in branded activities. Consumers would be prompted to upload an image to Instagram using a branded hashtag, or directly to a brand’s website. Hundreds of images culminate together to create a mosaic work of art. 

The digital Social Mosaic creates an online space for consumers to share and engage with each other in a branded environment. Given the Social Mosaic lives online for a longer time period than a single online event, it creates an opportunity for participants to meaningfully contribute to a larger brand story, and participate in an online branded experience that creates lasting UGC and ROI for brands. 

Agencies Should Adapt, but Stay True to Themselves

From an agency perspective, companies like Social Playground and Because are champions of utilising both ‘live’ and ‘virtual’ techniques, so moving towards a more digital offering is a natural progression for agencies too. 

AV 24/7 is just one of many agencies who have seen an uptake in demand for virtual events, ever since the restrictions came into place. From music festivals to fashion shows, virtual wine tastings, to cooking experiences, there has never been a better time to utilise existing equipment and assets to offer virtual or mobile event studios, like AV 24/7 does, to make those events a reality. 

Social Playground has even produced specialised packages for digital streaming. It’s safe to say we never thought our DSLR cameras, greenscreens, and lighting equipment would be used this way, but we’re glad we’re able to serve our clients, albeit in a different way. 

We’re even seeing some new businesses popping up that compliment virtual event experiences with physical products. Virtual Event Box ships physical products in the form of “event boxes” that become part of an online event experience. They can include ingredients for a live cooking class, a wine tasting, or cocktail masterclass. These are all ways to help people stay connected physically in a virtual world.

Stop Selling, Start Giving

Brands have more responsibility than ever to give back some of the brand love they’ve earned. It’s clear that people are looking for help, reassurance and even a laugh so Hello Social has  recommended brands don’t actively “sell” during times like this. 

They have advised a lot of their clients to move to a new brand positioning to show they care. Uber, one of their clients, is a brand that moves people, and has asked people not to move, and deployed their driver network to support charity initiatives such as Frontliners to feed healthcare workers. Great stuff! 

Because’s Meredith Cranmer is also loving seeing Lion and CUB providing growlers and resealable bottles to pubs to help sell through their draught stock. 

“We all have an opportunity and responsibility to give back, where to the communities that we operate in. I also love to see the smaller independent shops doing what they can to keep their doors open – whether that’s espresso martini delivered to your doors, or my local Italian café that now has Italian flour, socks and even Italian underpants in the window (I live in Leichhardt, one can only admire their category expansion!)”

The expertise is in, and it’s clear that although brands and agencies may need to take up new technologies, adapt and change their offerings (even though these offerings may be vastly different to what they used to be!), ultimately a brand’s underlying strategy should remain the same, and continue to depend on listening to consumers, and finding innovative solutions to solve their problems. 

If anything in this piece interests you, we encourage you to get in touch with Social Playground, Because, Hello Social, AV-24/7 and UNBND for more information. 


Annabelle Davidson, Social Playground: 

Meredith Cranmer, Because Australia: 

Sam Kelly, Hello Social: 

Geoff Branson, AV-24/7: 

David Loughnan, UNBND: