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  • Joseph Panetta

Experience vs Events

Among the many Pandemic Paradoxes – “events” are mostly dead. They have been replaced with EXPERIENCES. The most successful of these? Immersive Experiences.

But much more than immersion – there must be relevance and it’s always helpful to have an analogy (link to past article) that bridges the experience to the brand’s deliverable.

For example (you knew this was coming….)

eCourts 2022 was my 6th tradeshow and 5th Thought Leadership “experience” since March of this year. That’s a show and dinner about every 60 days – across three continents. Each participation served one of our five verticals and thus, each needed its own identity. The brand is new to the US and EMEA. We needed something compelling and unique to pull focus on a crowded floor – let alone persuade people who do not know us to engage in a Jeffersonian Dinner.

How We Got “Noticed”

Choosing to ‘stand out’ in the legal services sector can be risky because no one ever really tries to. I come from the CPG world where glitter and unicorns simply mean it’s Tuesday. Legal? Not so much. Conventional ‘wisdom’ says you must be as conservative as your most conservative client or prospect to be taken ”seriously”. But don't mistake glitter for frivolity. Every touch we built in is strategic and thought-through.

Guess what – lawyers are people. They respond to (good, relevant) marketing for legal offerings in much the same way they do to traditional consumer products – provided the brand can deliver on its promise.

Yet “standing out” is exactly what you need when you are David among Goliaths. At every show we had a small stand – but an outsized presence. At each event our creative booth concept pulled focus – so much so that attendees wanted to know “what’s going on over there?” The immersive aspect literally got them into the booth.

Beyond the Booth

Showing up is only part of the equation. When you are the proverbial fish out of water, you get the passing lookie-loos and interested parties. This can foster some engagement, but it’s an uphill climb. We had to reverse the mentality – send our targets something in advance that compelled them to come to us – versus us trying to pull them over from the show floor.

For @ILTACON custom-made fortune cookies were sent to 300 target CIOs with a note. Five custom fortunes offered “lucky numbers” as combinations for our safe – it so happened our booth was an actual vault (!) With exactly ZERO feedback, on Day 1 we anxiously awaited – then one by one they all started coming over. Some had saved the fortunes, some saved their fortunes on their phone.

The goal was achieved – we brought folks to us vs trying to pull them off the floor.

Sell without Selling

For the un-initiated, Jeffersonian Dinners are a gathering of thought leaders and practitioners to opine on a broad industry topic. In New York, we gathered partners and CIOs from top law firms and most of the large arbitration and dispute resolution centers in the US around a table at The Stone Mill inside the New York Botanical Garden to discuss how to drive sustainability within the practice of dispute resolution.

In Melbourne, Australia, 36 of the nation’s top executives in sports (and no shortage of professional athletes) came together to discuss protecting sport integrity in the country.

During Dublin’s ODR Forum, we took thought leaders ‘back to school’ at the oldest standing schoolhouse in Dublin to discuss institutionalizing mediation before litigation across EMEA.

@NACM we gathered judges and court administrators around the dining table at Milwaukee’s historic Pabst Mansion after a short tour and explanation of how the mansion itself was a living testament to mediation.

Finally, we just finished one for the books: during eCourts this week in Las Vegas we took 26 judges and court personnel on a walking tour of MGM Grand Hotel & Casino’s technology underpinning with UNLV author, historian and ombudsman David G. Schwartz Schwartz where we connected how casino’s adopted tech to improve both guest experience and operations (linking that to how courts can do the same).

At none of these events did we discuss our brand. Never mentioned its functions or features. Did not present a showcase or demo. We got folks who don’t know us to gather together and hold a high-level discussion about a matter far bigger than any one of us.

Moreover, we had special speakers at each event who had nothing to do with us like Judge Scott Schlegel and Alice Armitage and Michael Hollis and Colin Rule.

Why it Works

The way you do one thing is the way you do everything – and our outreach is high-touch, white glove and properly cadenced. It is also 360-degrees, so we understand our guests and invite them into the dialogue, into the booth and immerse them in an experience

People buy from people they like and trust. As an unknown brand we proved we can create a relevant stir, build positive WOM in months and create momentum in multiple verticals across continents.

Different works when it is relevant, thought-through and interesting.


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