On a balmy Sydney evening last month, one of our INVNTrs was at a kid’s birthday party when they overheard “Xerocon was the best f*&#*!& event of my life!”. It had been three weeks since we had delivered our final Xerocon flagship experience at Sydney’s International Center, after a 7-week global tour starting from London, to New Orleans, to a final victorious wrap-up at our home ground Sydney.
We welcomed 6,500 attendees across 3 live events, driving soaring share prices from 80AUD to 92AUD during the London experience. Known for its lively activations, industry-famous wrap parties, as well as a diverse line-up of guest speakers and performers, Xerocon in 2018 was officially branded as the “Coachella for Accountants”, or the “Glastonbury for Accountants” pending on which region you are from.
“What’s the difference between an event and an experience?” is one of the most common questions we hear at INVNT. A live brand experience is considered an event, however, an event is not always a brand experience. An experience inspires multi-sensory feelings, is felt, and takes you on a storied journey. It resonates deeply, creating an emotional connection, which transforms into loyalty, brand commitment, and long-term community.
So, how do you authentically surprise and delight a diverse audience of Bookkeepers and Accountants and give them a day off from balance sheets and financial analytics? You tantalize every single one of their five senses through music, lights, connections, and silent-disco-inspired learning sessions, and if you like, you can even give them a tidy-up at a pop-up barbershop (why not?). Xerocon had all of this, and more, as colleagues quickly became teammates, flocking through the doors to dance, learn, and celebrate the accomplishments of the bookkeeping and accounting community.
Community is such an important element, if not the most important element of an event becoming an experience.
A community is an ecosystem of people with a shared common purpose, values, interests, and experiences…Bookkeepers and Accountants for example! Experiential marketing enhances community. It gives a point of connection when bringing people together, where shared experiences can strengthen relationships between community members and the brand.
The global pandemic was a period that saw an extraordinary number of small businesses suffer tremendously. The Xerocon main stage told stories of customers who had debt collectors at their door, parents struggling to bring food to the table, and those staying up at 3 AM googling how to sell their business. Xero and the partners who use the platform each day gave a glimmer of hope to business owners who needed financial advice during their darkest times. This was the harness of the Xero community – a unified group of people with the sole shared purpose of making a difference in their clients’ lives.
As the doors to Xerocon shut, the doors to the wrap party opened, as hundreds of accountants and bookkeepers, dressed in brightly clad 80s attire continued the celebrations.
So, in the journey to transform an event into an experience, and a conference hall into a community, what would our three key learnings be?
● Define the community, before going into the activation, programming, and all the other elements of a brand experience. The more specific the community, the more shared values, the more brand connection. The community is the base of the pizza, the details of the experience are the toppings.
● Remember that marketing is now a two-way relationship. Gone are the days when we simply bombard our consumers with OOH marketing and print ads in the paper. Brands now need to find ways to show consumers how they can be a part of their story – experiential marketing can be one of the most powerful and fun sources of doing this.
● Anchor the experience with storytelling. Good storytelling will create brand resonance for years to come. Ask yourself – how do you want the community to feel? Why are you telling this story? How is it relevant to them and above all, what is the one key message you want them to walk away with?
Xerocon 2022 after a 3-year hiatus due to the Pandemic showcased a theme of fresh perspectives and Togetherness. Together, this community celebrated their achievements and the impact the often-overlooked industry has made. As we witness how this community was the glue to making an event an experience, and a conference hall into a Coachella, we as a team also reflect on our own community of creatives, producers, and marketers, with a shared common purpose of telling the most compelling, touching, and magical stories through the experiences we create each day.