Pico weighs in on the metaverse as an event space
Pico is an event management company that specializes in what it calls “total brand activation”. He merges experiential, communication and technology talents to create experiences and activations designed to engage target audiences everywhere. It was selected as a finalist for Best Virtual Event Content Creation, Best Event Creative, Best Virtual Event (B2B) and Best Virtual Event (B2C), as well as Gold for Best Integration digital to INTERACTIVE-MARKETING‘s Marketing Events Awards 2021.
In an interview with INTERACTIVE-MARKETING, Tay Ling (pictured), VP, TBA HK, Pico explained that the purpose of the events remains the same, but the skills and techniques used in the events will evolve. It also explains why the metaverse is a potential event space for brands.
This interview is part of the MARKETING-INTERACTIVE Winners and Finalists Interview Series for the Marketing Events Awards 2021. Read more about the awards here.
Tell us a bit about what the past two years have been like for you and the steps you’ve taken to survive and thrive in a tough industry?
Tay: It may come as a surprise to hear this, but aside from some temporary measures to tighten budgets and protect staff, the pandemic hasn’t fundamentally changed the way we operate. But it accelerated a change that was already well under way.
The reason was that we had already seen how the gap between online and offline business was dissolving and had started a digital transformation strategy years earlier. We had already delivered many online or in-app projects, which helped lay the groundwork for a new in-app model and a new era of total brand activation. The entire Pico Group globally has transformed to support it, in an approach we call “Experience-Led, Digital-First”.
When the pandemic created a pressing need to connect brands and people despite social distancing and self-isolation, we were well placed to explore and deliver the right integrated solutions. We had already developed the expertise and were developing a content creation and community building strategy to ensure that our projects brought value to clients.
For us, the only surprise was the cause and the timing. We are now quite accustomed to using technology to circumvent and transcend the limitations of the physical brand experience.
When I talked about expertise earlier, I didn’t just mean knowing how to use technology; it’s having the imagination to use it effectively. This is really the essence of “Experience-Led, Digital-First”. Bringing activation online isn’t just about getting closer to an in-person event online – there’s more depth than that. The public does not behave online as it does in person. The format is also capable of different things. So what our head start has given us is the ability to think differently – in terms of the online format and how the audience relates to it.
This, more than anything else, has helped us retain our existing customers while attracting new ones during these tumultuous two years. We have achieved the client’s objectives, regardless of the format. And that’s leading more and more customers to view digital strengths as indispensable. In the future, we’ll likely see a lot of digital content integrated into events, even mostly in person.
As markets slowly open, what do you think 2022 will look like for you?
Tay: I think the key for 2022 is that we can’t assume that markets open slowly and evenly. But reopening is everyone’s goal, so we’ll likely see it happen more and more frequently. What we have already seen is that when the markets reopen, more events, exhibitions, roadshows and conferences, among others, are returning, with an increasing proportion of them returning to the in-person format, as well as hybrids of in-person and online. .
But as we’ve seen with Omicron, disruptions are happening and they’ve already dampened the signs of growth that started last year. For 2022, we are optimistic but also aware that anything can happen. So, as a Group, we will continue what has worked very well for us and our customers amid the challenges of 2021 and 2020 – the ongoing digital transformation, and our content creation and community building strategy.
What new challenges are you preparing for and looking to meet?
Tay: I don’t think we’re here to counter anything. Whenever challenges arise, they stem from new technologies, new behaviors, new social priorities, or unpredictable events like the pandemic. Our industry’s job is not to counter these things, but to harness the new momentum they create in order to achieve our clients’ goals.
An example of a potential game changer is the metaverse. No one knows exactly what it is yet, but we have an idea of how it might work on a conceptual level. Imagine it as all the online worlds you already know – from games and shops to virtual concerts and even workplaces – rolled into one seamless, immersive whole that you interact with through an avatar. Almost everything you can do in person – and an infinite number of things you can’t – can be done virtually in the Metaverse.
Now, what are the implications for us and our industry? We are still thinking about this question. But what we do know is that if events, conferences, exhibitions, etc., move to the metaverse, their goals and objectives will be the same as they are now, and the expertise we developed for today’s online and virtual engagement will be directly applicable, just as it will remain relevant and essential if there is significant return to in-person events.
In this new world we live in, what does a big event really look like??
Tay: The purpose of an event is to create emotional touchpoints that connect a brand, product, or message to an audience. A great event is probably one that exceeds expectations in this regard. So there’s really no one vision of what it would look like; it can be big or small, in person or online or in between, virtual or live. The form it takes evolves from an understanding of its goals, its audience, and the touchpoints that will be effective in achieving those goals.
That said, new technologies always give us new tools and touchpoints. For example, we are currently exploring virtual photography as a way to connect brands to players within a metaverse. Gamers are already using screenshots to share meaningful gameplay moments via social media – to the point that virtual photography is becoming a major genre in its own right. Brands interested in gaming could then enter this space and leverage this emotional connection to build communities. This is, in essence, what a great event really looks like.
What will be the place of events in the world of marketing in the future?
Tay: As long as there are brands and organizations with products to sell, issues to discuss, ideas to convey and stories to tell, events will have a role to play. But while the need and purpose of events won’t change, the tools and techniques they use to connect audiences to the brand, products, stories, and more are constantly changing. In this sense, we are in an era of dramatic transition.
There will probably never be a complete substitute for the in-person event, but technology allows us to enhance the experience, and even extend it beyond location and even time constraints. The metaverse could go further: events could essentially last as long as the client wants, like a continuum, with their own communities visiting repeatedly for the latest special sub-event or new offering. A new horizon is opening up, and it’s an exciting time to be in the industry.