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Do your research

by Olivia Powell

EN discusses the growing trend in UK event regionalisation and why it is essential to build stronger, healthier and financially rewarding brands on our ‘home turf’ before launching internationally.

Knowing when and where to clone or launch your event is one of the toughest decisions an exhibition organiser has to face. Not only does it require guts, energy, plenty of money and resources thrown at it as well as months of planning – you have to get your research spot on. For every successful launch, there’s a similar number of failures. We teamed up with Event Centre Liverpool (ECL) for the latest EN Roundtable and assembled an all-star cast of event marketers and entrepreneurs to dig a little deeper into the processes that lead to launching an event and what are the key factors involved in cloning an event regionally or internationally.

How do you decide to clone an event?

Tomas Benjamin, brand director at Clarion Gaming, who works in events including ICE, believes you have to get your research right. He said: “We look at other competitors in the market. We then look at the continents that we want to launch the event in where we believe we can do a better job for our customers. We aim to recreate a feel similar to our existing events. You can’t just take a strong brand and move it anywhere you want. You really need to think about who you’re targeting and you have to really understand the customer in that country. If you don’t get that right, it can reflect back on your existing event. We do a lot of research asking our audiences what they really want. You can’t just rely on your exhibitor and event research locally. As a result, each event should be localised for that region and in some cases have a slightly different feel for that market.”

Aurore Braconnier, COO at Raccoon Events, who is launching The Running Show in Paris, believes that culture plays a key role in cloning events. She adds: “I hate the word geo-cloning, it’s more geo-adapting. You really need to understand the culture. There are core differences in the culture and if you understand this you really can adapt an event well.”

How important is it to have a strong brand on your ‘home turf’?

Benjamin explained that it’s crucial to understand that your brand may be well-known in the UK but people may not know who you are internationally. He adds: “I remember going to Las Vegas to visit another event and I was talking to people about ICE and they had no idea what I was talking about. It was fascinating because some of us assumed that everyone knew the brand and that we reached every single gaming company.” 

Braconnier explains that, apart from having the advantage of being French when choosing Paris for the National Running Show, she believes you need to look at market strength both nationally and internally. She said: “We did a lot of research. France is a bigger market than the UK. We have to research the market and understand the visitors but also look at the seasons as our show is seasonal. We also need to research other events and identify the gaps in the market and ensure we can geo-adapt it easily.”

Ed Tranter, MD at 73 Media, who launches One Earth show at the NEC on 24-25 October, believes each event is different. He adds: “The research process is absolutely fundamental. We’ve all been in the situation where we have a boss that has decided they want to launch the show in another place because they said they know this market and nine times out of 10 it’s a colossal failure and then it was your fault that it wasn’t done properly. There’s no guarantee a show will work but you can give it its best chance if you do the research properly.” 

“We did the best part of eight months of sub-sector research across Gen Z and Millennials. It’s going through each target audience because each one of them want different things. We asked people what are they looking for at the show? What can we do to help them? What do they want to learn? Which brands do they want to talk to?”

“I’ve run shows where we’ve regionalised instead of globalised, We took a national show that we did in London but only people from London and the home counties turned up and then we replicated it in the north. There is a model for doing this as well, especially for a sustainability show where you want to drive the message nationally as well as internationally.

Paul Brown, COO at Investor Publishing, who specialises in health and education events and has a strong national model for events, said: “We look at where the operators are for events and choose locations where they can reach our events. The key thing is to get brand investors, but we also have to understand the culture and the region you’re going into and what impact it will have on your audience.”

Benjamin believes that we need to think differently about research, he adds: “You can research anything to validate your point. There needs to be an understanding at a top level that it’s not just about creating a market for an event based on what you are looking for but actually understanding if there is a need for the event and what people want.”

Understand the culture and securing the right partnerships

Tranter explains that understanding the culture and needs of where you launch an event is essential. He said: “The partnership approach is huge because there will be different companies, government bodies and associations and they can offer valuable insight into those markets. I worked for one company and we launched an event in China and we thought the thing to do to wow them was to take them for a Chinese meal. Those partnerships can help you do a lot of the research and help you not make silly mistakes.”

Ian Stone, MD at UK Industry Events, who works on ChemUK, adds: “When launching an event, partnerships can hold the key. If you don’t secure those key partnerships, you can get shut down very quickly. You only have to look at the association strength in North America, where they rule the roost and are highly protective about their events.”

Tom Fisher, former marketing director and now group marketing operations manager at Clarion Events adds: “It’s tough when you licence out events and they can run a show the way they want. When I started working on the PowerGen events, there were four different logos for the same event and there was no brand continuity. We have had to be careful about this and have provided brand guidelines and tone of voice and even what the registration platform looks like. You don’t just launch because you think you can. We’ve been researching the recent launch of the Enlit rebrand for almost two years. We’ve done personas, spoken to our key 100 customers and asked them what do you think about the market, rather than imposing our event on them.”

“We have a really impressive show in Europe and we leverage this show to help us to talk to new markets about what they think about going into a region.”

Jenna Gardner, Show Manager at QD Events, who has the Carnival event at SEC, said: “I think the Carnival is very tailored around Glasgow and has a rich cultural history there. To launch the event in England, it’s key that we did the research, right down to health and safety.”

Athena Kyriacou, portfolio marketing manager for Media 10 on the Ideal Home Show explains that the Ideal Home Show is a good example of a developed brand in the UK. She adds: “We have launched the show in Manchester and Glasgow. We do well in Glasgow with around 45,000 over four days. Wherever you launch, it’s important to understand the impact of the event on each regional show. It’s essential that you do plenty of research in that region and truly understand what the customer wants in that area and build your event and marketing around that. Media 10 is excellent at establishing the right partnerships.”

Get venues to support you

Adrian Evans, who heads up the sales team at ECL, said: “I deal with exhibitions and conferences and the big buzzword is legacy – what do conferences leave behind in that region? Every event that you hold will have a legacy for that area and what we don’t get asked very often is for support from the local region for exhibitions, but we do on the conference side. The diabetic conference came to Liverpool and they wanted to have a positive impact on health in the North West region which is a really positive message.”

“The National Running show could have a huge impact on cities or regions and any council or regional body will see the benefit of that and help develop the event and put you in contact with key people in the region to develop the show. We are council owned and we support any events that benefit the region or the city.”

Sam North, MD at Inflection Point, a coaching and training business, who also worked in marketing at Clarion, added: “When we worked on EventCity, we had a really good relationship with Manchester Airport, and we were able to work with airlines and travel agents. The venue made a huge difference to helping us get into the airport and airlines and helps us get going.”

Fisher adds: “Not listening or looking at what your audience wants is incredibly risky and I’ve seen what happens to organisers that don’t pay attention to this.”

Tranter explains his approach to cloning One Earth: “We have a strategy for One Earth but you have to be more flexible than an established brand. You have to do the research and talk to people. Every event that we do we try to put part of our profits into that area. There might be spin off regional events or gatherings but lots of people do that and I don’t want to stamp on regional sustainable events doing good work. My vision for One Earth is a national event or possibly a North/South event.” 

Colm Graham, Senior Exhibition Manager at ECL, adds: “Audience is key for regional events and we do a lot of research to help organisers understand if there’s a market in the North West for their event. We actually ran our first ever event inhouse, and it went very well for a launch. We are definitely interested in doing more research for organisers to help them.”

Stone believes venues need to form stronger partners. He said: “Venues want to attract, encourage and develop and be partners with organisers that have events that benefit the region. We all see strong partnerships internationally with venues, but we don’t see it that much in the UK and it feels like we’re two separate communities. The venues need to get more involved in the subject and there could be stronger financial partnerships between venue and organiser with more risk sharing to encourage seed to sapling events to grow.”

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