Creating virtual online luxury experiences for brands in a touchless world.
The current pandemic has impacted every nook and cranny of our world. It’s changed the way we think, the way we live, and the way we work. When we look at its impact on the marketing industry and brands, the category that stands out above the rest as one that’s had to evolve the fastest is the luxury category. Luxury is dependent on high touch, sensory rich, personalized experiences, which are impossible in today’s world. Brands have had to adjust their expectations on what a successful launch looks like and agencies have had to pivot on how to create elevated experiences in a virtual environment. Editorial publications are important not only because they are culture makers, but because they are integrally involved in bringing many of these experiences to life in partnership with brands. It was in this spirit that Lindsey Warner, VP, Media Director and Carolyn Hadlock, ECD at Young & Laramore reached out to experiential experts at Conde Nast, Robb Report and Departures to hear how they are creating and curating memorable luxury experiences.
Ben Peryer, Executive Director of Events for the Lifestyle Division at Conde Nast, put it best: “2020 has certainly kept event marketers on their toes. We had to adapt basically overnight to producing virtual experiences. That meant instead of booking venues we were booking digital platforms. And our back of house all of a sudden looks better equipped to launch a space shuttle than serve hors d’oeuvres.”
As this eventful year without in-person events draws to a close, and the shift to virtual formats is seemingly here to stay, we asked those with authority on luxury and elevated brand experiences to share how their category, teams, brand partners have adjusted to creating elevated, unique brand experiences through digital platforms.
Create a sense of physical space by incorporating multi-media elements
The expectation for sensory engagement, especially for luxury clients, has never been higher. Virtual events need to be engaging and interactive, not passive. Even on Zoom, it is important to create a moment of connection. Brands are incorporating interactive elements like live chat, polling, VR adaptations, social engagement, and gift bags or materials to drive participation during the event. Those elements are great ways to keep someone engaged, but Preyer and his colleagues at Conde Nast strive to “breathe life into a virtual event.” For example, to make a virtual tour experience feel more like a private showing in a home, they added innovative elements like shoppable renderings and multi-media components like audio recordings of designers in different rooms as attendees move through the space. Thinking of Zoom as a room or venue can help bring a mental physicality to it.
Put the right people “in the room” virtually
This means having the person who truly knows the brand and can help tell the story, the history and future of that brand in the room. Cristina Cheever, Senior Vice President of Live Media at Robb Report says, “Another very important component is to make sure that a conversation can be had during the virtual event, so it doesn’t feel like you are just tuning into a TV station. Our sessions must stay interactive.” Considering the chemistry and energy of an event moderator with a guided discussion or panelist-focused event can take an event from feeling like a presentation to an intimate conversation ‘among friends’ or a spirited debate.
Luxury is becoming more human
The new reality of virtual events is that in many cases, they are more intimate than ever sharing a glimpse into the very personal life at home for attendees and high-profile guests. In turn, industry experts are seeing brands, even in the luxury category, behave in a more vulnerable and personable fashion with their interactions based on this type of access and dealing with the reality of unprecedented times. “We have had the opportunity to see chefs speak to us from their homes and backyards as well as from the golf course.”
Focus on the “why” before the “what”
Peryer says, “We have twice the responsibility of figuring out the “why” of an event. We have to ask ourselves why this event matters.” It’s important not to lose sight of the purpose of the event and what it has set out to achieve for the brand or deliver to the audience. With digital becoming the new norm for luxury experiences and events, it is important for brands to be mindful of timing and frequency of events. As more virtual events come to fruition, ensuring the attendees are not overbooked and considering the frequency and timing (whether that’s length of the event, time of day, or day of the week) are factors that brands should be mindful of moving forward to avoid wear out and maximize engagement.
Expanded accessibility is an advantage
Attendees or guests who were previously difficult to lock in for an event due to physical limitations with travel schedules or physical location are not as much of a barrier and international audiences can be brought together. DEPARTURES Marketing Team has embraced the fact that they “can transport attendees to multiple locations during a 60-minute, engaging and interactive virtual event.” The virtual platforms can also enable personalized or more scalable experiences, depending on the brand’s objective. Ben Preyer from Conde Nast says, “A virtual summit becomes more inclusive when the ticket price becomes more affordable. A panel becomes more diverse when panelists can sit in different locations across the country. And you can amplify those conversations beyond any one single venue’s capacity. That becomes both an advantage and a responsibility.”
“What’s most exciting about the state of events right now is thinking about where we go from here. What does a 20,000-person food festival or a 40,000-person design show look like when you pivot to virtual? We are the creative marketers who will define that future, and that’s a source of endless inspiration to me.” Ben Peryer, Conde Nast
We couldn’t have said it better, Ben.