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How Brandlive Taps Hollywood Techniques to Create Digital Events

Brandlive has worked with numerous partners in the industry including Nike, Adidas and Levi’s to produce and stream live events to over 30 million viewers since January 2020. CEO Sam Kolbert-Hyle shares insights on what creates a successful digital event in fashion.
Brandlive VOICES 2021. BoF.
VOICES 2021, streamed by Brandlive.
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Launching in 2010, Brandlive originally built its business to execute in-person events and product launches. However, as the Coronavirus pandemic disrupted physical events globally in January 2020, Brandlive innovated new products and pivoted its operations to deliver more than 50,000 digitally native events for its partners in 2020, both within their companies and to a wider community. It counts Levi’s and Adidas, Aveda and Luxottica, Nike and the Biden Presidential Campaign among its clients.

Fashion executives expect digital to be the biggest opportunity in fashion moving forward, with around 90 percent of executives anticipating hybrid working to become the norm, according to BoF and McKinsey’s State of Fashion Report 2021. As a result, meeting digital as well as physical events and production has become critical to reach wider audiences and meet the expectations of end-consumers, business partners and company employees in a post-pandemic reality.

Brandlive distinguishes its output through the quality of its video content, which mirrors high-budget TV production standards, bringing “the magic of Hollywood” to virtual events. Its team of more than 200 employees deliver customisable products, with data analytics dashboards, to help partners reach target audiences. To date, its projects have accumulatively reached over 30 million viewers and over 75,000 hours of streaming.

Within an organisation, Brandlive supports B2B and internal communications, such as all-hands meetings to boost employee engagement, on-boarding processes or digital showrooms — a new tool designed to replicate the benefits and interactivity of a physical showroom for its fashion partners, like Nike and VF Corp.

Now, BoF sits down with Brandlive’s president and CEO, Sam Kolbert-Hyle, to learn more about the company’s services, and how the business is innovating its offering to reflect the shifting lifestyles and behavioural trends of the end-user.

What makes a hybrid or digital event successful today?

Over the last decade, the way we consume television content has undergone a revolution. It’s not just that the platforms we have now like Netflix, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram are constantly evolving, but the content itself has changed too — it’s shorter, louder and styled to stand out. At Brandlive, we realised early on that we needed to bring that same approach to the way that we work, and it has proven incredibly successful for our partners.

Brandlive CEO Sam Kolbert-Hyle.

We have all the features that every other platform has, like live reactions and a Q&A function, but we are more focused on making the content stand out to be memorable. We do this with a mix of creative assets like intro music, walk-up cards, credits, and encouraging brands to invest in a mix of live and pre-recorded content. The best events are themed and have a narrative arc that connects from beginning to end.

What viewer trends are you witnessing and built into your 2022 strategies?

Half of the global workforce is under 40, so we need to appeal to them. To connect with audiences, you have to make shorter form content that is more inspired by platforms like TikTok— the things that are driving pop culture. No one wants to re-watch a Zoom meeting — that’s not interesting.

So, everything that we’re investing in right now is about the future of work, to help companies and event planners think about a creative canvas to elevate experience, so that people can watch the content whenever they want — and again and again.

As the world opens up, we’re seeing a lot of patterns and behaviours. There is a move away from live-only events, just because people are busier. Especially for external events, we have found that attendance is wavering. It’s less about connection now, or feeling closer in lockdown — it’s about giving the attendee the freedom and flexibility to watch whenever they want on their own terms, and making something so good, people want to watch it.

How does Brandlive support manufacturing and sales processes?

During the pandemic, you couldn’t fly everyone into headquarters for a four-day meeting to go through every single product. So, we launched a product called “Showrooms,” which takes those physical elements of a showroom, like printouts, presentations and a three-ring binder, and turns it into an immersive, interactive, digital experience.

Our clients set these up themselves, and organise all their resources, from reference slides and website links to imagery alongside product descriptions. They can record videos and upload them to the platform; users can ask questions, written or via video recording, and everyone benefits from the answer. Showrooms allow you to translate internal and external trainings of each season — and ensure that the training process that used to happen over four days can now happen asynchronously over the quarter.

What impact has this evolution had on Brandlive’s external-facing events?

We started by powering 30 of the top multi-level marketing companies, which included hosting their sales conferences — the internal engagement of their distributors. We then won clients with consumer products and media businesses, so we have hosted events for Condé Nast and Wired to Timberland and The Northface among other fashion houses. We’re doing maybe hundreds of events a day, which are generally a mix of external and internal events.

[Our platform] is different because its focus is on design tools and originality, and because we are focused on how to create amazing content.

Admittedly, I hadn’t planned to do pandemic-infused events — it was never part of our wider thesis. But we have this platform that is different from all other virtual event platforms because its focus is on design tools and originality and because we are focused on how to create amazing content. Most of our large customers require us to manage all of their events across their organisation, and every event type is different and customisable.

What is the user experience for your partners?

Earlier this year, we profiled our customers and realised a lot of the planners and organisers are creative-driven; they just work at big companies. We then conducted research into how creatives think, and we found they often like to tinker with projects and products, and to think on ideas over long periods of time.

So, we have designed in a way to be an experience for the creators as well as the viewers, so you can play with an event almost to the last minute. For me, it’s those design tools and the ability to sit on ideas, to let them ruminate with you, that is so powerful for our creative clients.

How has Brandlive evolved its offering in recent years?

Our products are customisable, with design tools at the forefront so that no one in the audience knows we exist, and you can really do whatever you want with an event. Because broadcasts are online, everything can be tracked too. In our admin panels, you have access to the full analytics dashboard to pull whatever data you want, like who attended which sessions, for how long, where they were located, or which browser they used.

Although I was already involved with Brandlive at the board level, coming in as CEO in January 2020, I discovered these all-hands experiences that some of Brandlive’s big clients held. Around April last year, we started to receive all these calls from our big clients as people realised that they were not going back to the office anytime soon. They realised they shouldn’t be doing their 5,000-person all-hands meetings on a teleconferencing platform — no one wants that. I wanted to reinvent how companies do these weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings.

Initially, we thought we would make it all about the software, to focus on Q&A functions or seamless switching between virtual meetings. Then we realised most virtual meeting video platforms force everything down to 360p, which is not a good visual experience for a piece of content or any meeting you’ve invested energy into. To stay engaged, audiences need to feel that the content is worth watching. So, we turned to software to help create TV-style 30 to 60-minute engagements.

We’re focused on helping every business look and feel a little bit more like a media company with entertainment-industry abilities. Our products are designed to make that easy.

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