The rise of the workshop

Greg Saunders, co-founder and creative director at White Label, discusses the popularity of workshops when it comes to brand experiences.

Ten years ago a brand workshop would have felt like a hard sell to consumers, but as people increasingly adopt brands as badges to wear, they are also keen to learn more about them.

A consumer immersion into a company’s DNA may not work for traditional FMCG products, but with considered purchases and luxury goods, a hands-on deeper dive can pay dividends, and a well-executed workshop can be the perfect way to build genuine customer loyalty.

White Label UK specialises in drinks marketing, and over the last few years we have produced, created and sometimes run workshops that have included tea blending and salmon smoking with Krug, poetry writing with Laphroaig and most recently, teaching people how to make their own signature ‘hoptails’ with Auchentoshan.

The commonality between the workshops is that participants happily get stuck in, they’re curious, they have fun, and they leave with the strongest brand advocacy you could hope for. If you go to a large-scale event and it’s OK, you might tell a couple of people about it. But a truly inspiring workshop will create a fan for life, and you’ll share your knowledge and experience of that brand in a personal and compelling way, with lots of people, and over a longer period of time.

But great creative is only part of what makes a workshop fly. The people involved need to be the best a brand has got, be that a storyteller, a raconteur, a scientist, or just someone who truly loves a product and understands it from all angles, and can bring it to life for anyone.

People will forever afterwards associate that brand with that person, and their purchases will be informed by the experience that brand ambassador gives them. A good example of this was our ‘Stoli Lab’ interactive workshops, which took place at Imbibe in 2015, and offered bartenders the chance to make their own Stoli Lemonade from scratch.

The sessions were led by the brand ambassador Matthew Dakers, who encouraged the guests to choose their own ingredients to create their own cocktail. He then helped them use scientific equipment to intensify the flavours, with methods including carbonation, vacuum infusion and nitro cavitation.

Workshops like this are bringing people back out of the digital world and into close quarters with each other in a tactile way. Virtual and augmented reality can give different and unusual experiences, but at the moment you still can’t replicate the sensory inputs of sight, smell and touch, and possibly most importantly that collective sense of experience that you get by being with other people in the same space, and experiencing something together.

The battle between screens and reality is a truth of modern living, but if you can give people a good reason to step away from their phones and do something less boring instead (for those of us old enough to remember Why Don’t You?), they probably will, and long may it continue.

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