11 May “Mission: Be the First Company to Hold an Event on Another Planet.”
What makes an event great? How can a young company compete with the older, more established agencies? Why do what the competitors do? Why not be the first to have an event on another planet?
My company was recently honored to have been selected to showcase our work in The Global Times as the up-and-coming, exciting Event Agency across China. In it, I discuss the key points above and more…
Underdog agency brings a new touch to China’s events planning industry
By Yang Lan, Global Times
As a reporter in Shanghai, I am required to attend functions and receptions on an almost daily basis. Many of these events used to be elite, white-tie and red-carpet affairs, but in recent years a few brave event organizers have dared to step out of their traditional comfort zones and toy with unconventional ways to make their clients and brands stand apart.
Verve International (Verve) is one such Shanghai-based firm that has been making a name for itself by going against the grain. UK-born Jordan Campbell, founder and managing director of Verve, previously worked in the brand and marketing management divisions of Bacardi China for six years, where he noticed that their events were similar if not identical to what their competitors were doing.
“Why do what the competitors do? It makes no sense. The competitors have more money because they have been here longer. Why can’t we do our promotions in a slightly different way?” Campbell asked during a recent interview with the Global Times.
In 2012, Campbell left his former employer to create Verve, where he could sprinkle some excitement into his client’s events and promotions. “We are not wildly risky, but we are wildly engaging,” said Campbell.
Campbell says that the difference between his event agency and others in China is knowing his clients’ brands inside out. “We make sure that we know the brand as well as our client, so when we work with them we are all on the same team,” Campbell said.
Making people who attend their clients’ events “feel special” and leaving with fond memories is also a priority for Verve. “Our aim is when people look at photos (shared on social media) of an event, they will still remember what the brand was even after removing the logo of the brand.”
Verve also specializes in guerrilla marketing, which in China is still a bit of a gray zone in the country. Fifty people gathered together in a planned place all wearing the same clothes, for example, a flash mob could technically be considered a “protest” under Chinese law. “So we have to be smart to find ways around that. We have worked for Budweiser, F1, Intel and other companies in this aspect,” said Campbell.
Within Verve’s events division is a subdivision called Verve Interactive, which integrates different groundbreaking technologies such as virtual reality, digital interaction and 3D mapping. The unique combination of this tech, Campbell explains enthusiastically, allows event attendees to see, hear, and literally feel their experiences. A balance of tech and human aspects, he says, is what makes an event go from being forgettable to unforgettable.
Like a speedboat
The company is admittedly small compared to Shanghai’s numerous PR giants, many of which have been operating here for decades. But Campbell is confident that Verve will stand apart. “Big companies move like a ship, very slowly. If they want to change tactics, it takes a lot of time. But Verve is like a speedboat. We react quickly. We provide proposals and respond to the client fast,” said Campbell.
Campbell is currently operating the company as four separate divisions. Their events division is tailored toward conferences, product launches, and brands, while their growing sports division creates their own events, such as football leagues (most recently forming a partnership with former English footballer Michael Owen), golf championships and tennis tournaments. They also help brands such as Adidas and Manchester United to organize events as well as staffing for the F1 throughout Asia.
The exhibition division does booth building and exhibition staffing while the talent division provides a large talent base of professional and celebrity performers such as singers, dancers, and superstar personalities. “When I go to an event, I want to see another human being. I want to see a beautiful hostess or host that is smiling, which makes me feel welcome. That is where our talent division comes in,” said Campbell when describing to the Global Times his firm’s event staff.
Each division is autonomous, but they also support each other. “Most companies grow as a triangle or a pyramid. As they grow bigger, it gets harder to move around. So instead, Verve will have four small pyramids. Each division can go directly to their clients to serve them in that specific area. And when a huge event involves many different areas, the four pyramids come together perfectly,” Campbell told the Global Times.
Events on another planet
Not content with becoming just another events firm in Shanghai, Campbell says that Verve has a “big, hairy, audacious goal” of being the first-ever company to organize an event on another planet.
“It should be possible, and it should be like the North Star that we follow and everyone in the company aims for,” Campbell said proudly. “It should be a bit crazy, but why can’t we do the first event on another planet?”
Campbell hopes to one-day challenge British business magnate Richard Branson and South African-born billionaire Elon Musk to give Verve the account to their first events on other worlds. Of course, this mission statement is also a metaphor for Verve employees to do their best to aim high and always be better.
“China is a huge market, and this is why Verve has grown; we are very ambitious. I push my team hard, but they rise to the challenge time and again. They make it happen,” Campbell said.