When we talk about conveying the essence of the brand – the substance that makes it meaningful and unique – we are talking about storytelling. But storytelling is more than a literal all-purpose history; it’s about crafting information into a human experience. On each occasion it is used, a story needs to be refreshed so that it resonates with a different audience, time, place or product.

For event marketing, the story comprises content; for the audience, it is a lens through which the event is perceived. If it is conveyed immersively and persuasively, it becomes the audience’s story. At that point, they are a part of it, relating to aspects of the ‘plot’ as personally suits them.

Storytelling is a brand’s most powerful marketing tool if it is done effectively. But how is it done effectively?


An energetic narrative

See how USPs relate to the brand story, and build an immersive narrative environment around them. Establish a propulsive and consistent storyline for your event. For example, even the architecture of the award-winning Singapore Pavilion at Expo Astana 2017 brought visitors into the story of the city’s ‘greening’.

The structure was divided into six zones, each one a carefully sequenced experiential ‘chapter’. Visitors began by experiencing Singapore’s tropical environment and its scarcity of natural resources. In the following ‘chapters’, they interacted with a city in development and its energy history, examined new energy solutions and viewed Singapore’s entire green energy ecosystem. The ‘story’ concluded with visitors sharing their thoughts and reflecting on the experience.

 Storytelling also promises to be at the forefront at the upcoming Dubai World Expo 2020, with many national pavilions presenting visitors with unique variations on the event’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.


Use the power of suggestion

Giving away too much detail in a story leaves the audience with nothing to do – and feeling manipulated. For event marketers, the key idea is to say just what they need to know. As for what they want to know, be more evocative and less concrete; inspire them to make some imaginative leaps of their own, tempered with their own values. It’s an effective way to win their engagement and enable them to ‘own’ the story.

Constructed by a Pico-McLaren partnership, the UK Pavilion at Dubai World Expo 2020 will be located in the event’s ‘opportunity’ district. Visitors will arrive through an illuminated maze with augmented reality-enriched exhibits on British advances in artificial intelligence and space.

What will make the pavilion’s story compelling is its visitor contributions. Their messages will be used to create a continuously evolving poem shown across dozens of screens. The aim is to make the pavilion into a creative hub while establishing a strong sense of audience engagement and ownership.


The GUINNESS™ Connoisseur Bar – stoutly local

Storytelling can work just as effectively on a smaller scale, as demonstrated by Guinness’s innovative pop-up store at Hong Kong’s K11 Art Mall. The installation replicated enough signature detail of the brand’s iconic brewery in Dublin to immerse visitors in a true ‘Guinness experience’.

Notably, it also mixed in certain local elements to simultaneously create a comfortable sense of familiarity. In June, for example, a collaboration with Oddies Foodies led to the launch of the Black Beer with Ice Cream, along with availability of traditional Hong Kong egg waffles. Neither are a part of the ‘real’ Guinness story – but both bring Hong Kong enthusiastically into it.


Start early, end late

The start and finish time of an event shouldn’t be the beginning and end of the story. Devote some imagination to ways you can pull the audience in even before they arrive and keep them thinking about the experience long after they’ve gone home.

For example, a series of intriguing, scene-setting videos or emails prior to the event can generate a sense of anticipation – of wanting more. The brand and/or event website should also tell the live experience story.

After the event, social media, pictures and videos from the event can be used to keep memories fresh – and perhaps keep the spirit alive for the next event. For that, craft a direct continuation of the story, or branch off using the most popular angle from the last event as the starting point.


The end is the beginning

A well-prepared event marketer knows a couple of crucial things before they even begin crafting a story; the identity of its audience, and the desired effect it will have. For some, a great story may be crafted by working backwards from there. Just always remember to make the experience immersive, built around an enticing ‘plot’ for your characters.