Podium runs UK Biobank Scientific Conference

At the beginning of the year, I was (like most marketing and events professionals) gearing up for a new year and a new decade – the horizon dotted with exciting event opportunities.

By March lockdown arrived and suddenly we were all making the difficult decision to postpone or worse, cancel events – the majority with months of planning and resource behind them. While this was the right thing to do, there was a real sense of disappointment – both for the teams who had been planning, selling and promoting them, and for the people looking forward to attending.

To avoid the complete collapse of an entire industry, the focus shifted almost overnight to the virtual space. A space that had existed for some time, but for many, was unfamiliar and unproven.

For many event organisers the pivot to virtual events has been challenging and the need to evaluate every aspect of the traditional event process and product against virtual audiences has been an interesting experience.

UK Biobank Scientific Conference 2020
With Biobank UK – a new Podium client, we jumped in at the deep end having a mere four weeks to build an event from scratch. From platform advisory to scheduling and talks, it was vital we could create an event to deliver the critical, potentially lifesaving work Biobank is doing to combat the Pandemic with scientists around the world.

In four weeks we pulled on the vast digital, technical and creative experience held within the Podium team to present UK Biobank’s ground-breaking research to over 3,500 attendees – three times the number of their previous live annual conferences. The event was a resounding success.

Having successfully navigated Biobank through all the challenges going digital could throw their way, I wanted to share some useful insight into the process:

1. Your audience might not be who you plan for
With none of the usual barriers to entry, your virtual attendees could suddenly be very different. Think twice about attendee needs and preferences and how you can harness this new format to expand the reach of your event. If travel, cost and time are no longer holding someone back from attending your event, what will draw them in? By running the UK Biobank event at a time that suited the majority of global attendees and by ensuring a mix of speakers who may have previously been unable to contribute, we tripled the number of attendees on the day.

2. Choose your technology wisely
Virtual event platforms are a minefield. One of the key differentiators for Podium is being platform agnostic, as there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all platform solution for any business. Invest time understanding what you need the platform to do and choose it based on your event needs, rather than shoehorning your event into tech that doesn’t fit. If you already have a platform but you’re not sure it’s working for you it doesn’t mean all is lost and certainly shouldn’t equal delivering a sub-standard event experience. One thing we do know is that whilst the platform sits at the heart of the experience, it’s only one part of it. If you’re not sure, talk to us. It’s likely we’ve heard of it and can help.

3. Have backups of backups – but don’t beat yourself up
Every event, whether physical, virtual or hybrid needs a backup plan. If a presenter’s WIFI goes down, do they have another way to quickly reconnect? In fact, it doesn’t matter how much time and effort you’ve put into rehearsals and testing, technology will seemingly always find a way to not work when you need it to the most. And beyond the obvious, have things like a small script to bring light-hearted relief to those times when a presenter goes full ‘freeze-face’ mid-sentence. Do this and you’ll feel far-less stressed before and during the day of your event.

As an industry, adapting to the new–normal, with virtual sitting at the heart of every event. If your live event promises to deliver value and build community, there’s no reason you can’t do the same things virtually – you just need to know how.

Kate Love
Digital Event Director at Podium | The Crocodile

I don’t want a conversation with you


Trainers, or, sneakers as they’re often known, are another life–long obsession of mine.

For as long as I can recall, they’ve been a source of irrational fascination.

In 1990, when I was eleven years old, Nike Air had just launched in the UK, and I remember being totally fascinated by these amazing trainers with an air bubble. So much so that I saved every penny of my birthday money and nagged my parents to let me go and spend it on a pair of them.

I was beyond excited, and while I can never claim to have been the most popular kid in school, for a brief moment I relished the attention the trainers I wore to and from school brought.

In life, no matter what we may believe, many of the decisions we make are irrational

While I think my desire for Nike Air was fuelled by my natural instinct to want anything shiny and new, it did cement my love for brands at a very young age. Although I didn’t theoretically stay loyal to Nike growing up (I also bought Reebok Pump, Puma Disc and Adidas Torsion during this time, too), any trainer that wasn’t a brand I liked was instantly dismissed no matter how tempting its technical claims.

Call my decision-making process irrational, because guess what, it was, and to this day, for many things I buy, or want to buy, it still is!

Last year, Les Binet and Peter Field published research that analysed ten years’ worth of B2B marketing. If you work in the industry and your job is to sell to people (in any capacity), then you need to read it, understand it and apply it to everything you’re doing today; from how you’re apportioning budget, to how you’re planning marketing activity.

While there are many fascinating charts, two in particular stand out:

Brand building vs sales activation

The first shows the power of brand building, which is and always will be a long-term activity, but one that, if invested in, creates growth way beyond that of activation (think on-off campaigns you run all year).

The second chart I love is this:

Fame, is the name of the game

This chart shows that campaigns that are specifically designed to create fame for a brand outperform other campaigns on all business metrics. In addition, emotional campaigns also perform better in almost all metrics, particularly in the long term.

What this research doesn’t say is that you should stop doing the marketing you’re doing today, but what it absolutely does reinforce is the need for every business – no matter what that business sells – to ensure brand is front and centre of every conversation.

But remember; when it comes to brand it’s not just what you say, it’s what you do that matters…

When I was eleven, I wasn’t really exposed to much advertising. The internet didn’t exist, there was no YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat and there were four channels on television. So, influence over what I liked wasn’t what it is today. But I was into NFL – the Miami Dolphins to be precise. That might sound random but American Football was big in the UK back then (and still is today), and I believe my fascination for Nike came by association of the fact they were the primary sponsor for the team.

My love for Nike didn’t begin with a clever ad, it came from the brand doing what it’s always done – associating itself with amazing athletes and sports.

So next time you’re questioning what your business should be doing, remember that whilst the short-term results from brand activity might be slow, if you get it right (you’re consistent, and consistently good) the long-term effects of brand on your business will far exceed that of any short-term sales promotion.

Oliver Budworth
Head of Strategy at The Crocodile

I buy you because I like you


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been into cars.

In fact, I love pretty much anything with wheels and an engine, although I’ll always argue that four wheels is better than two.

As a result of my life–long passion, I’ve owned, and still own quite a few cars, from brand new ones, to really old ones in various states of condition.

As anyone who owns a car will know, they come with often significant running costs; from servicing and tyres to fuel duty and road tax (my cheapest is £30 a year, my dearest is £580). But the biggest cost for many people is insurance. It’s not cheap and like many things in life, is what I’d class as a ‘distressed purchase’ – you don’t want to buy it, but you have to.

A few months ago, I got a renewal through for one of my cars. Being lazy about things like this, I usually just let the renewal happen, but I noticed the price of the premium had increased by over FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS. That’s a lot by any measure, so I hit up one of the comparison sites to see if I could get it for less.

A few minutes is all it took to enter a few details and straight away, offers began filling my screen. One hundred pounds less, two hundred pounds less, five hundred pounds less. I couldn’t quite believe it.

Trusted brand v value for money
I was suddenly in a bit of a quandary. I’ve been with the same insurer for fifteen years, so it felt a bit weird defecting, and, many of those offering the same sort of premium for way less money… well, I simply didn’t know them. So the dilemma of price vs trust started to come into play. I could get a super cheap policy but from an insurer I’d never even heard of. What would it be like if ever I had to make a claim? Having claimed off insurance in the past I know all–too–well the importance of one who is easy to work with and puts your best interests at heart.

I scrolled up and down the list and eventually decided on one that wasn’t quite the cheapest, but was much cheaper than the renewal price quoted by my current insurer. Why did I choose who I chose? Because I knew them – I felt an air of familiarity and trust in who they were. Good old brand salience was coming into play. And despite the fact that they haven’t really advertised on TV for years, I still remember their irreverent ads starring the late Michael Winner. That brand? eSure:

As conversation about the importance of brand building in B2B grows (something I’ve personally championed for decades) and which has been studies and proven by the brilliant Les Binet and Peter Field – Effective Marketing for B2B Brands, it’s useful to remember these key principles about the importance of brand:

1. Most people aren’t in the market to buy whatever it is you’re selling, most of the time – but when they are, it’s your brand that helps them choose you
2. ‘Brand’ is something you earn
3. Brand is what people think and feel about you – it’s not a logo, or a message on an advert.
4. Brand is created through behaviours, actions, associations.
5. Brand is an intangible thing, but one that drives enormous tangible value.

So whilst it’s important to run targeted, performance campaigns, brand should never be something that’s ignored, neglected or underinvested in. If you want your business to grow, brand is the key.

Oliver Budworth
Head of Strategy at The Crocodile