MPI So Cal Connect

Leaders Viewpoint By Heather Mason, CEO and Founder of Caspian Agency

Print this Article | Send to Colleague

If you’re in the events industry, this is a harrowing time. Conferences and concerts have been cancelled, and not only that, been outright banned, around the world. What we used to market and produce is now mostly prohibited and it doesn’t look like events are coming back anytime soon. 

So now what? Do we wait out what will likely be an 18-24 month return to normal, looking to quickly pivot to what seems to be the safe haven of virtual and digital? 

Well, yes, of course we need to transition and bring our events online, while we are restricted from in-person gatherings. But I think there’s more here than just taking virtual or online and seeing it as the temporary B plan. This is a moment that offers a chance for reinvention, and for expanding beyond current, likely limiting, definitions. 

The lessons of a film company have a lot to teach us about how to not only remain relevant but thrive during periods of major transition. In the 70’s Kodak film was ubiquitous for capturing memories, and in turn captured 90% of the US market. As digital film and cameras started emerging, Kodak didn’t budge from their marketing strategy. This was film after all, and nothing was going to take its place. So they steadily saw marketshare decline until Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012. As we know, this confidence, or hubris, that film would be an evergreen product led to the eventual downfall of the corporation as digital beat traditional film handily.

So was it a product failure? In other words, if they’d only had a digital camera to compete, perhaps they might have held their own or at least held some of the market? No, ironically the company was the leader here too, if they’d wanted to be. Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975. They had the product.

The problem is that they were not asking the right question about what kind of company they were. Instead of seeing their value to consumers as a storytelling company, they saw themselves as a product oriented company. And because of that anything threatening that key product, was seen as possibly cannibalizing what they had.

The problem is that products, or even services, can be fleeting. But offering value to consumers or solving their needs, never becomes irrelevant. In hindsight it seems so easy to see the Kodak mistake, yet we make it all the time. Those companies still seeing themselves as a live only event company - pivoting to digital are making that same mistake.

When we see ourselves not as pivoting but as being in a larger industry all along. There is only adaptation to the tools that allow us to do what we’ve always done. In this case, create human connection and interaction. What allows us to do that now? What digital cameras help us meet this need? And how can we use these tools to magnify the skills we possess? Those are just some of the questions we can start asking.

I see this time as an opportunity to showcase the larger, strategic value of producers. It’s been here all along but many clients (or bosses) have been able focus on the distracting elements of events - the venues, food, audiovisual show, which sometimes covered over lack of clear objectives, or thoughtfully curated human connection. It’s going to be harder to do that online. All of a sudden, we need to know why we’re having that next Zoom meeting or virtual event, we need to strategize the various elements of content and rethink attention spans. There are going to be breakthroughs in formats and design that would not have happened otherwise.

We’re being forced out of our comfort zone, and that’s a good thing.  This is our time to not repeat mistakes of the past. We’re not limited by seismic society shifts when the definition of what we do is expansive.

I am excited about what this portends for us as an industry, and for the value we’ll bring to the companies and attendees who interact with these new platforms and our design expertise. When you think like a producer, your perspective is unlimited. See you online.


Back to MPI So Cal Connect

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn