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Navigating Davos: Elevating Your Brand on the Global Economic Stage

By Cassie Barnes, Client Director at Smyle

As I reflect on my 13th year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s fascinating to witness the evolution of this global gathering. The change is not just in the scenic Alpine backdrop but in the very fabric of the forum itself. Davos has grown, with every nook and cranny presenting an opportunity for real estate and the once tranquil promenade bustling and expanding year after year – a true testament to the event’s undeniable significance.

However, the expansion has come with its fair share of criticisms. Some argue that Davos has become too vast, with fundamental players choosing to keep their distance, fearing a dilution of the intimate and impactful sessions that were once the hallmark of this gathering. 

The spectre of “conference fatigue” looms large. Yet, in the midst of these concerns, there is a compelling counter-narrative: Davos provides a structured platform to accelerate collaboration precisely at a time when global challenges demand urgent attention.

As many big names returned to Davos this year, we observed a significant trend in brands expanding their physical footprint. Take Neom, for example, which seized the opportunity to occupy four shopfronts, amplifying their visibility in a prime location. It’s a strategic move that elevates brand presence and underscores the ever-growing competition for attention in this bustling environment.

The landscape of Davos is also witnessing a shift as the crypto sector makes its mark. Companies like Ripple, Coinbase, and Circle are increasing their representation, reflecting the industry’s growing influence on the global economic stage. The discussion is no longer limited to traditional sectors; Davos is becoming a hub for conversations around the transformative power of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Sustainability remains a paramount topic for business leaders, and those who take tangible actions are ahead of the competition. The Davos stage provides a unique opportunity for brands to showcase their commitment to environmental and social responsibility, aligning with the growing demand from consumers for purpose-driven business practices. At Smyle, we have worked hand in hand with our clients to communicate their commitment to environmental and social responsibility, positioning their brand in line with purpose-driven practices.

One of the most resonant themes this year was the call for collaboration to drive fundamental change. Companies increasingly recognise the need to work with competitors on shared initiatives, understanding that collective efforts can expedite progress in solving global challenges. With its promise to transform roles and boost performance, the new era of Gen AI adds another layer to the conversations permeating Davos.

As we navigate this congregation of ideas and opportunities, success in Davos requires more than just a physical presence. Brands must be strategic, innovative, and purpose-driven to stand out in a crowded market. It’s about leveraging Davos’s unique platform to engage in meaningful conversations, showcase initiatives, and forge partnerships that transcend industry boundaries.

Davos is not just a forum; it’s an ecosystem of ideas, collaboration, and change. The key to success lies in embracing the evolving nature of this global gathering, staying true to one’s values, and actively contributing to the dialogue that shapes the future. As we continue to witness Davos’s dynamic transformation, let us seize the opportunities it presents and collectively strive for a better, more sustainable world.

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Gamescom – expanding gaming culture beyond traditional gamers and brands

By James Howitt, Client Development Director at Smyle

Gamescom is the most important show in the calendar for the gaming world. All the major players in consoles (Xbox, Sega, Nintendo) and game creators (EA, Activation Blizzard) are there, as well as thousands of fans that descend on Cologne to see and play the latest releases while exploring new innovative technology. However, the biggest takeaway from my inaugural Gamescom was that, in fact, this arena of fun isn’t just for gaming brands.

Netflix brought Stranger Things to life with “Surfer Boy Pizza” while JD Sports’ “Beyond the Basement” had DJs, sneakers, games, and a foam pit to get lost in. Gaming culture has shifted. Yes, there are still the hardcore gaming fans, but now brands are tapping into a really diverse audience hungry for experiences, technology, and storytelling with plenty of fun and a bit of nostalgia thrown in.    

Whilst the brand doesn’t need to be limited to gaming, it’s important to remember who the core attendees are. Bring gamification into the experience through interactivity, discovery and hidden surprise and delight moments. Some stands had two to three-hour queues for a ten-minute mini-game or prize. Easter eggs and hidden components also proved really popular. When there is so much competition, these small ‘gaming’ elements can be enough to tempt people to come and explore

As you would expect from a gaming convention, there were screens and consoles everywhere. Samsung had a big presence, with some incredible screens and technology – graphics that gamers’ dreams are made of. With that in mind, stands need to wow visually through high-impact screens and builds with music and moving image components. 

The likes of Sega, Warhammer and Ubisoft transported fans into their favourite games through giant sets, props and even a VW camper van, giving them a real-life experience of the games. The fans loved it, and it created amazing photo opportunities, which were, of course, shared all over social media and picked up by the press, amplifying the brilliant brand messages even further!

To learn more about ‘Beyond the Booth’ thinking, click here.

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Beyond The Booth Thinking: A Holistic Approach

An exhibit stand is often the centrepiece of a brand activation strategy at an industry event. It’s all some brands spend their money on at a show, though they’re wise to use their own marketing channels and for sales or marketing teams to promote their presence. But, for companies that can invest further, most industry events will happily sell all kinds of additional promotional opportunities.

The approach, inside and outside the booth, needs to be seen as a chance to show creative flair. Looking at a show floor presence as an opportunity to create an experience for prospective and existing customers, think of it as a playground rather than a traditional booth.

Check out the garden space Smyle created for Salesforce at the Mobile World Congress.

It’s crucial for an event team to not just ‘order from the menu’ by using the event prospectus (provided by organisers) as a single source of truth when making investment decisions. To extend the metaphor, it’s helpful to see who else is in the restaurant, ask others for suggestions on what to order, and, most importantly, talk to the chef. In this case, the chef is the event organiser. They should know the event and audience better than anyone and provide consultative guidance to help develop a strategic plan for the event.

Activations outside the booth tend to fall into three key areas:

Brand awareness and traffic drivers:
For companies that are not market leaders, tactics like event signage and enticements to visit the stand are worth considering. The brand may not be well known, so these sponsorship elements make sense to change that paradigm.

Hosted networking:

For brands that are market leaders, an investment in hospitality activities may make sense. These give the brand a chance to show love to customers and hot prospects and are less dependent on getting people into a booth.

Thought leadership:
Speaking opportunities can build awareness and drive traffic to the booth. We hate paying for speaking slots, but paid or not, they can be very effective if you’ve got great speakers.

Brands can do many other things to get the word out, from sponsoring digital elements to promotional items given out to all attendees – although it’s important to note that promo gifts aren’t usually aligned with sustainability goals.

The point is to consider where the brand sits reputationally in the industry. Evaluate competitors, identify how you can stand out, and consult with the organiser to make a plan that includes a range of activities. Consistency is essential. You should tell related stories across all activations, from the key messages to the visual identity.

Whichever route you pursue with your brand activation, having strategic suppliers, a clear set of key messages and well thought-out visual identity will help you hit the mark. At Smyle, our teams have worldwide experience activating across every sector, from pharma to finance. Get in touch to see how we could work together on your next industry event.

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Look Outside the (Palais) Box to Bring Your Brand to Cannes

By Cassie Barnes, Client Director at Smyle

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending my first Cannes Lions and I was blown away (figuratively and from the weather) by the creativity and authenticity of the festival. The biggest thing that stood out was that the whole of Cannes became a playground for brands and industry leaders. From Google to TikTok, there were activations on beaches, hotels and even yachts, showing that the action wasn’t limited to the Palais.

Given its prestigious reputation, it can obviously feel intimidating for a first-time attendee and even more so for a brand looking to break into the scene. But it’s an important event on the calendar and certainly not to be missed. So, what can you do to ensure your brand stands out? Here are key insights following this year’s festival:

Look Outside the Palais
The hundreds of activations outside the Palais des Festivals are just as much of a draw as the main event, and it’s also where creativity flourishes as brands are vying for customer and attendee attention alike. Much like the World Economic Forum in Davos, the whole town comes alive, and every venue is an opportunity – with or without a badge.

Create “Wow” Moments
From the Palais to the Croisette, the buzz around an activation can often exceed a reputation. Rumours of secret artist performances at Spotify Beach were enough to send audiences rushing for a glimpse. Pinterest fully embraced this idea with “Manifestival”, which saw long queues starting early in the morning for tattoos, piercings, and tooth gems – no mean feat in a usually late-night party festival. Everyone is looking for something special, something that generates a buzz, so take risks and think outside the box to create truly original “wow” moments.

Aim for Authenticity
Cannes Lions trades the theatrics of global advertising for genuine, human connection. The relaxed atmosphere strips away formalities to spark extraordinary conversations and new ideas. Embrace the opportunity and get chatting with your customers, partners, and even competitors!

Welcome Creative Collaboration
Creative collaboration is a driving force at Cannes Lions, showing the power of partnership. Meta and KidSuper joined forces to develop the SuperStudio Reels activation, showing off Meta’s Reel capabilities whilst creating a fun experience that had a global reach. Snap’s Disney collaboration used AR and themed rooms to transport guests through the immersive worlds of Star Wars, Marvel, and Avatar. Partnering with like-minded brands or organisations amplifies your reach, elevates your stories and strengthens your presence.

Cannes Lions offers a world of opportunities for brands willing to think differently and pioneer creativity. If you challenge the norm and explore those possibilities, there’s no limit to what you Cannes do at Cannes.

Find out how Smyle can help your brand to be the talk of the town next year. Get in touch at hello@smyle.co.uk.

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Choosing the right exhibition

Smyle can help you choose the right exhibitions and trade shows.

In the dynamic business landscape, participating in industry exhibitions and trade shows can be an excellent opportunity for companies to connect with target audiences. However, choosing suitable events and allocating the right level of resources can be challenging. At Smyle, we’ve developed a strategic methodology that informs event selection, enabling businesses to achieve their goals and maximise their return on investment.

What are the steps to deciding your next event?

Shaping an exhibition event strategy starts with an understanding of the business, answering questions like:

  • What are our barriers and opportunities for growth?
  • Who are our most important audiences? What do we need them to do (differently)?
  • What value should they get from interacting with the brand at the events?
  • How do we need perceptions of our brand to evolve?
  • What makes us different from our competitors?
  • What macro-trends are impacting our industry?
  • Who are our stakeholders, and how will they evaluate the impact of our exhibition event activities?

Then, a team must look at potential exhibition events across several dimensions:

  • What percentage of the event audience represents the target audience?
  • How relevant is the event content to the business strategy?
  • What is the event’s reputation in the industry (and its trajectory)?
  • What is the nature of the competitive presence at the event?
  • And other areas relevant to business priorities (geography, time of year, etc.)

Finally, consideration should be given to ‘ways to activate’ based on the brand strategy. For example:

  • Exhibiting may be tied to a need to acquire qualified new customer leads.
  • Signage may be connected to brand awareness needs.
  • Speakerships might be focused on a thought-leadership goal or integration with an above-the-line campaign.

All of these elements are examined and prioritised. Data is gathered to answer questions that need some research. And from that foundation of knowledge, decisions are made about which events to target, how to activate the brand at each event, and at what investment levels. This may include a non-activation level of participation where representatives of the company attend the event to audit it for future potential involvement.

As brands participate in trade shows and exhibitions, data should be collected about the events to inform future decisions. This then empowers event teams to continuously refine their event selection approach over time, with more and better information collected with each activation.

 

At Smyle, we work with brands worldwide and across all sectors to define their exhibition and trade show strategies. We can create one activation or a plan that covers a whole year of events, with a flow of aligning content and approach. 

Get in touch to see how we can support you with your event strategy: hello@smyle.co.uk

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Why Laval Virtual Should Be on Your Event Circuit

For the past 25 years, virtual and augmented reality industry leaders and enthusiasts have descended on Laval, France, for an annual conference that showcases new products, insights, and trends. Attracting over 6,000 professionals, researchers, and the general public, Laval Virtual gives brands an excellent opportunity to reach both B2B and B2C audiences.

Smyle were lucky enough to support Pico, a leading VR company that produces headsets and technology to support VR, this year and get involved in the fast-growing sector. Smyle’s own Ellen Humphries, Project Manager, attended and shared her insights on why Laval Virtual should be on your event calendar.

Demonstrations

“At the Pico activation, the brand invited six technology partners to show how its products could be used with different apps and software. Across the whole conference, a majority of brands had multiple demos to give both professional audiences as well as VR/AR fans a taste of the latest technology. Additionally, stands that had demos were a lot busier!”

Latest Technology

“There were a lot of very technical stands; it was super interesting to learn about the latest innovation and developments in this space – although I think I only scratched the surface! One thing that struck me was the diversity in what VR technology and the metaverse can be used for – everything from manufacturing to medical training – it certainly isn’t just gaming, with a far wider reaching view on how this technology can enhance our lives and push things forward.

“The attendees represented a really wide range too. We saw people in suits and then the classic experts or bloggers who were there to absorb all the new tech.”

French Brand Awareness

 “There were loads of international tech names in attendance in addition to Pico, such as Meta, Microsoft and HP. But I was also struck by the high number of French companies, PwC France and Credit Agricole, for example. So for brands that want to grow their reach in the region, this would be the perfect event for networking and nurturing the local market.”

 Elevated Stand

“Given Laval Virtual is a relatively small event, especially when compared with the likes of MWC or Vivatech, the standard for the build tends to reflect this. However, at Smyle, we don’t think the size of the event should affect the quality of your activation.”

Alizé Amrani, EMEAI Enterprise Marketing Lead, said, “The booth built by Smyle was truly impressive. The attention to detail was outstanding, with high-quality materials and a unique, innovative shape that really set it apart from the other booths. It’s clear that Smyle takes pride in their work and is committed to delivering exceptional results.”

Looking to 2024

The entire programme of events includes talks, workshops, awards and even a hackathon! It’s certainly not to be missed, especially if you or your brand has a stake in the AR/VR sector or are hoping to develop technology relationships in France.

We’ll see you next year.

If you want to get in touch to discuss how we can support your next event, contact us: hello@smyle.co.uk

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MWC: 8 Key Takeaways for Event & Strategy Pros

Smyle Client Director Cassie Barnes shares her MWC insights

If MWC 2023 has demonstrated anything, it is that European industry trade shows are back with a bang! Huge crowds, exhibits and brand investments across the board.

Crowd management:

The GSMA gets it right when it comes to moving massive amounts of people in, out of and around Fira Barcelona. Digital badges and facial recognition scanners made access quick and easy, with additional support provided to help people through secure entry points.

Health considerations:

Less than 1% of people at the show were masked and I saw nothing from the event about health precautions, and there were times when big crowds were in very close contact. It certainly felt like the era of masks and social distancing was over.

Big players, big stands:

Every big player in mobile or tech was out at this year’s MWC. All of the big names were present, and so were many companies I’d never heard of – in some cases with very, very large exhibits. This is another sign that the event industry is recovering post-pandemic. Brands are investing in shows to reach industry audiences.

Invite only / FOMO:

Meetings are always an important element of shows like MWC, but it seemed on another level this year. Many companies, like our friends at AWS, integrated private meeting spaces into their environments. Some brands, like our friends at Samsung, had dedicated exhibits only for meetings. Samsung’s imposing big black box was a notable investment on the show floor for booked meetings and private demos. They also had an open-access stand for all to visit. Some brands were off the floor – with meeting rooms and demos designed only for invited guests. On the flip side, some companies hosted open-for-all garden environments to take advantage of the usually beautiful Barcelona weather.

Cookie cutter messaging:

It’s a real challenge to make a brand message stand out on the MWC show floor. It’s mystifying, then, how little copywriting creativity there was on display at this year’s event. One could travel from booth to booth and see the same bland content about better business and secure cloud, where one brand’s key message could easily be exchanged for another. Not to mention that the vast majority of booth messaging didn’t indicate what the company actually did. This might be fine for the big players but why would someone visit a stand of someone they don’t know without some description of what they actually do?

Sustainability and DEI:

I’d argue the two biggest concerns in our industry, and one might suggest even in telecom, are climate and diversity, equity, and inclusion. In my unofficial tally of content and demos tied to sustainability, I’d say around 10% of stands were discussing this critical topic. Some, like the Vonage presence, were all about sustainability. From a DEI perspective, it’s more challenging as other delegates are heavily skewed towards men of a certain age and speakers are more likely to be White and Asian. I did notice support for the hearing impaired provided, which is a move in the right direction. In elevated stands, only about half offered ramps for accessibility purposes.

Stunning screens, dull content:

There were some incredible screen displays throughout the event. In particular, the Nokia space used screens to a stunning effect. In many stands with huge, presumably very expensive screens, there wasn’t much to say about the content on those screens. Should brands be paying more attention to the content on the screen rather that the tech spec?

Technology experiences:

There is obviously a lot of tech on display at Mobile World Congress – most of it, honestly, sitting on tables or being shown on a screen. But it was the tech experiences that won. SK Telecom, for example, had a VR experience that placed visitors (four at a time) in an in-booth aircraft experience, resulting in massive queues of people desperate to give it a try. Meanwhile, many booths had VR headsets set up, but without that experiential pizzazz.

It was a real pleasure to get back into a big show and see what everyone is up to (in addition to our own Smyle work at the event, which was excellent). Great to see the industry come back, but there’s room for all to create more interesting, resonant and impactful experiences.

If you’d like to discuss how Smyle can work with you at your next expo or congress (maybe you’ve got your eye on MWC already?), we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a message at hello@smyle.co.uk

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Why you need to start planning for the World Economic Forum 2024 now, and what to expect once you get there

By Cassie Barnes, Client Director at Smyle

It was a pleasure to be back amongst the snowcapped Swiss mountains of Davos for the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) recently following its return to original programming in January. WEF is one of the most important dates in the calendar for over 2,500 political, business and academic leaders who descend on the small town every year.

Traditionally seen as an opportunity to discuss pressing geopolitical, environmental and societal issues, WEF has expanded in recent years to include more activations outside of the main congress and security zone. As a result, more global firms are bustling for space along the main promenade to capture the attention of those moving between meetings. 

Alongside a host of prestigious attendees and speakers such as Greta Thunberg and Idris Elba, Davos is arguably the only occasion that hundreds of the most influential people on the planet are together in one place. So it is an opportunity to network, stake your claim as a global player and rub shoulders with the top decision-makers in the world. 

But what does it take to activate your brand at WEF? Following the 2023 forum, we pulled together some key insights:

Global Economic Instability

In keeping with the global belt-tightening happening at the moment, we saw smaller, and in some cases more humble, pared-back activations. At a time when big multinational firms, especially in the technology sector, are cutting budgets and jobs, extravagant builds and champagne evenings would send a conflicting message.

That said, cutting budgets doesn’t mean cutting quality or impact. A considered approach wouldn’t be compromised by a directive to pare back. By working with a knowledgeable and experienced team, brands can still achieve a premium activation and an experience that aligns with their objectives.

Sustainability

With sustainability, a core ESG target for most businesses, the approach and design of temporary spaces need to reflect this commitment. Short-term builds at the top of a mountain are, understandably, seen as not very sustainable, but WEF offers a global platform to illustrate a bold commitment to accountable production. Our collective responsibility to show considered maintained progress in this area is vital. 

At Smyle, we have been working with our clients to create an approach to delivering sustainable experiences worldwide. Having provided numerous custom builds in Davos since 2015, we’ve been working on gathering a set of baseline metrics that inform our choices for a sensitive, creative approach and insights that allow us to develop a detailed plan for the future. 

Sustainable design doesn’t mean compromise; it can be as beautiful as it is responsible. 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Much like sustainability and ESG, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has taken a centre focus for consumer-driven businesses. So we saw CSR get the attention it deserves at Davos this year with the poignant “Pride on the Promenade”. Accenture spearheaded the campaign to create greater visibility for the LGBTIQ+ community – celebrating progress and serving as a call to action for the work left to do. The initiative saw participating activations light up their exteriors with a rainbow on Wednesday night. It was undoubtedly a stand-out moment for WEF to see the injection of colour along the promenade and how it represented the support and advocacy required for this important message.

The whole occasion was a great example of big business recognising that change in society must come from the top and how this multicultural Forum opportunity can provide a platform for CSR campaigns.

Collaboration 

The Davos landscape provides a prime opportunity to focus on conversations that matter. The cross-collaboration nature of the Summit is at the heart of the experience for businesses focused on keeping WEF’s key issues at the forefront of discussions, with multiple opportunities for meetings, networking and talks. 

With many businesses focused on centring their strategies around the right conversations and hosted discussions that spark collaboration, brand-owned spaces must be designed to enhance collaboration. These high-level opportunities remain critical for business impact, and we saw many of the activations provide inspiring spaces that encouraged this.

Future Trends

Metaverse was the word hot on everyone’s lips. For the first time, WEF built a ‘Global Collaboration Village’ in the metaverse as a platform for more efficient collaboration between world leaders. Up and down the promenade, almost every activation had strong messaging around this topic as businesses looked to showcase their approach and steps to integrating VR headsets and mixed reality into the everyday. 

The message was loud and clear, virtual reality and the metaverse aren’t going away. The sooner leaders and businesses start investing and getting to grips with the technology, the better. We don’t see it as a replacement but rather an evolution in how business is done and builds are designed. The future is already here, and the best companies are getting a seat at the table early.

2024 Is Already in the Planning

The Forum has just wrapped, and the final boots on the ground departed, but planning for next year is already well underway. Due to the size of Davos, prime locations are hot property as there is limited space. Most businesses will already be in the process of booking and planning for 2024. 

If you are considering taking your business to the World Economic Forum next year, one question you need to consider is: Why do you need to go? What do you want to achieve? Who do you need to meet? It could be because you want your seat at the table on climate action, or you have cutting-edge technology you want to get in front of investors. 

If you know the ‘why’, it’s probably time to start looking forward to January 2024 and investing in some snow boots.

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Learn more about Sessions

Intelligent planning for 2024

Smyle Sessions look at industry insights and current trends to facilitate fresh thinking on how to approach digital, hybrid and in-person experiences.

We're helping client teams take on their biggest challenges with innovative thinking, flexibility, and robust planning to make sure they can reach audiences and move their businesses forward.

So, where to begin? Our workshops take a look at what we can expect from the year ahead: insights into how to connect to today’s audiences, how to best future-proof plans when we need to pivot, and most of all, to continue to create bold experiences that capture the imagination.

In these sessions, we share case studies and creative inspiration, tips and tricks, and develop content-rich collaboration activities to support your team’s needs.

Session topics can be fully tailored, but we’re currently exploring some key trends:

Hybrid is here to stay: the new way to connect people in person and online

Powerful virtual experiences: how content is more vital than ever

Doing well by doing good: the impact of authentically inclusive experiences

Delivering a meaningful sustainability strategy, intrinsic to your brand experience

We love collaborating with our clients, so whether you only have an hour for a quick insights chat, or would like to spend some extended quality time with us on a tailored workshop, please just let us know!

See also

Country House

The Lockhouse,
71 Mead Lane,
Hertford, SG13 7AX

Town House

Albert House,
256-260 Old St,
London, EC1V 9DD

Manchester

Studio 105, SeeSaw,
86 Princess Street,
Manchester, M1 6NG

Amsterdam

Suikersilo-Oost 22,
1165 MS Halfweg,
Netherlands