Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A Classic Blogger Event In 3 Acts

Moonpig Mother's Day blogger event

March started with an events invite - and as you know I love blogger events! The team from Moonpig kindly let me join them at their uber-cool Head Quarters for a Mother's Day Event*. The afternoon promised to be filled with activities, crafts and a good old Afternoon Tea session so I couldn't say no. Ever since I've joined the blogging community in 2014, I've been a huge fan of branded blogging events, attended a good amount of them since and have also worked professionally and delivered a few iconic events myself. As I'm still very much interested in events as part of an experiential marketing strategy - basically how brands can engage with their customers - I had been very excited to be invited by the popular card retailer. 

Moonpig belongs to the Photobox Group, which is Europe's leading personalization business. The group comprises five brands to date across the UK, Germany, and France, which include personalized photo services, posters, greeting cards and gifts. On the UK market, Moonpig is the dominant brand and I'm sure you all have their jingle Moonpig.com *sings* in your heads right now. 

In one of my previous events posts, I've analysed the ten points that make a great blogger event on the example of Very.co.uk's Valentine's Day Event; however, their event was more of an in and out networking nature, whereas the Moonpig event followed the classical structure of a branded blogger event. I've used the same outline when I designed events to bring the brand and consumer closer together, so in today's post, I'd like to share with you the classical elements of a blogger event in three acts: 

1. Introduction


Brands organise blogger events to connect with their consumers, in this case, a few selected influencer and their target audience. Once a brand has established the connection, they work on developing a relationship with said influencer to create a long term momentum. The first step is to get to know each other, so usually once everyone has arrived at the event's venue, brand representatives will take a couple of minutes to introduce themselves, the brand and their mission. This is actually a very crucial and highly enjoyable part of a blogger event because you can directly connect and engage with the best person who later will be your main point of contact. Usually, marketing departments for brands tend to be mysterious and barely give out their details, so you do research for ages until you find the best person to speak to and to connect with. At blogger events, this is a great opportunity. You'll most likely meet the marketing manager or the brand manager, and executives which handle the blogger relationships. All very good contacts to connect with and worth keeping in touch afterward the event for future collaborations and working together.

blogger events brand representative gives introduction
cocktails served at moonpig event
at the moonpig blogger event at their offices

Once we all had sat down, Moonpig welcomed us to their Mother's Day Event. We got introduced by Claire from the SEO team who held a lovely presentation on the brand, so we've learned about its mission and in particular with a focus in the upcoming Mother's Day. The brand has specifically designed a few gift ideas which we would later try out ourselves. We were also shown the Mother's Day advert which is currently floating around on TV to get us into the right mood for the activities that were to come.

2. Main Part: Activities


Now let's come to the fun part. There's no real blogger event without the activities. Those have the function for the blogger to experience the brand's services and products for themselves. As we all know, people buy from people, and these days consumers buy from authentic reviews and experiences, so this part of the event is important as the experience will be shared later on the influencer's blog (and hopefully animate the readership to make a purchase decision). 

The afternoon at Moonpig was filled with lots of activities because the card retailer is also THE destination for personalised gifts and flowers. Yep, you read correctly - the office has its own flower department which arranges the most stunning bouquets every day. More on that later! For the first stop, I joined my blogging friends for a cocktail making class which was funfair themed. How cool was that? With the help of skilled mixologists, we got to create our own cock/mocktails in no time which we sipped out of bags similar to goldfish pouches which you can win at American funfairs and take home with you. I'm not sure if it's a common thing in the UK (it's defo not in Germany) but at American funfairs, you can shoot yourself your own goldfish and then you'd take it home in a plastic bag. I know...it sounds weird and I only know of this from watching way too many movies. However, our drink was basically resembling the same concept. No worries, no real fish were harmed in the process, we plopped some fish-shaped jelly sweets into our bags and off we went to the next activity.  

bloggers having fun at the moonpig blogger event
fun at the fair creative cocktail making masterclass

Once we had challenged our inner mixologist, we sat down for Afternoon Tea. You know, the classic British tradition when you sit down, eat finger sandwiches, cakes, sweet pastries, enjoy unlimited tea and do not give a care in the world until Sunday afternoon has gone like this *snaps fingers*. The Moonpig team absolutely spoilt us with fine china, steaming teapots and scones, cream, jam and cakes galore. It is just the absolute classic experience when you're British and as Afternoon Tea can get quite expensive, it would be a wonderful idea for Mother's Day to take out your mum for a good old catch up. (I give up on mine though, cause she's an impatient German and sitting down for an entire afternoon to relax, chill and stuff your face with sugary treats would not really be her thing - more for me then!)

afternoon tea at moonpig office
creating gift cards at moonpig
flower bouquet arrangements

Upon the Afternoon Tea session followed a photo shoot. Yep, that's correct we wouldn't be at Moonpig's office if there wouldn't have been a photo booth. Equipped with some props and killer posing, we got to shoot our very own pictures to create our bespoke Mother's Day cards. Once the picture was taken, we took seats at the laptop bar and scrolled through their Mother's Day cards collection. The range was diverse and it was hard to select as I loved a lot of the designs. Once I had chosen one I edited my picture from the photo booth in, personalised my message for my mum and added the card to my virtual basket. I was then able to decide on the cards' size (I went for super large), checked out with my address and clicked send. Great! 

With the card in place and in order, there was still so much to come and to see. The office had been set up in little work stations to display the brands' current range of gift ideas for Mother's Day. There was anything a mum's heart could possibly desire from bath bombs, to picture frames, luxury chocolates or tea, special hampers - and all available to order from Moonpig for a special gifting experience.  

The highlight came at the very end of the afternoon: for our last activity, we joined the flower department to learn how to arrange Mother's Day flower bouquets. The Moonpig team showed us how to cut the flowers and arrange them perfectly in a vase. I know this sounds a bit dull, but there are a few things you can actually do wrong in arranging flowers. The shafts need to be cut at an angle of 45 degrees for about 1-2cm. To keep the flowers fresh for the longest, you can either use specific food that comes with the bouquet or dissolve a spoon full of sugar in water before adding the flowers to your vase. Remove leaves to keep the water unspoiled for as long as possible. The vase should always have the same height as the shafts' length to make the bouquet sit nicely in it. Sounds like a lot of work, right? 

I'm usually not too fond of flowers because of the sheer amount of work they make, let alone when they start to die and lose their petals. However, my bouquet was simply stunning with pink geraniums, roses and stargazer lilies greeting me every day when I got home for a good ten days.   

3. Close


The close of every blogger event is another opportunity for a brand to connect with their influencers and leave a final positive impression. The brand representatives usually thank every blogger individually for their time and for coming along. Often business cards get exchanged to keep in touch and goody bags are handed out. As I've mentioned in my previous events posts, goody bags are never to be underestimated. A final incentive to make the event experience as memorable as possible to be featured online, they are also the only thing that an influencer physically takes away. The excitement to get home and uncover the bags content can be decisive for a blogger if they cover an event on their blogs or not.    

Goodybags from Moonpig

There you go, the classic structure of any blogger event always follows the same procedure: introduction - activities to experience the brands' product and service - and the close to leave a final positive and lasting impression. There are of course other event models and types which can work for influencer marketing which you can find in my Blogging Events - Are They Worth It? series. 

Thank you so much for reading and till next time,
Carolin

* I was invited to the Moonpig event and gifted a goodbag and a flower bouquet.
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Sunday, 17 March 2019

A City Break In Birmingham

luke matthews - birmingham city centre

If someone had suggested visiting Birmingham five years ago, I would have given them a look. Known for its industrial heritage as one of the major trade cities in England and the epicenter of a major urban conurbation that swallows Solihull, Dudley, Wallsall or Stourbridge alike, Birmingham just wasn't appealing to me at all.

However, since the UK’s second largest city is partnered with my former home Leipzig, Germany’s up and coming central business hub, I've made a few trips to the West Midlands and have seen the city's huge transformation over the past few years.

It all started in Birmingham's heart and has worked its way slowly up and down in all directions. The vibes suggest that Birmingham really wants to become a city of culture, diversity and worldly character although it has always been thriving and busy. Now, there's this positive change in the air. The train station, formerly known as New Street, is now completely renewed and carries the name "Grand Central" which conveys a lot more glamour and style. When you step out of your train and enter the light and bright open spaced station, you feel immediate London vibes - less dirty and more modern though. It is vibrant, modern and very cosmopolitan. There are little shops and eateries as well as a newly opened John Lewis. Once you arrive in Grand Central, you can’t but to be in complete awe over the city’s impressive welcome. And it doesn’t stop there – you'll see the modernization process everywhere - especially as the city is currently under construction to extend their tram system which will make going around town more accessible in the years to come. 


matthew-feeney-birmingham street outside the new grand central train station

Birmingham - Fashion Capital of the West Midlands

From Grand Central, you can easily explore the Bullring, the city’s massive shopping centre which has the usual High Street shops including a Victoria Secret Store, Smiggle or Selfridges. Selfridges, in particular, is one of Birmingham’s most iconic buildings with its futuristic aluminum façade. In fact, the outside of Selfridges has been replicated for Leipzig’s central shopping centre Höfe am Brühl to reflect their partnership. Inside Selfridges on the lower ground is a JellyBean replica of the shopping centre's mascot The Bull as well as a Krispy Kreme factory and more unusual things to explore.

The Bullring has actually been built on Birmingham’s old trade spot. In the 18th century, this area was famous for textile trading. So it is no surprise that there's now a shopping centre at the exact same spot. To commemorate the historical background of the area, a massive 6-tonne bronze statue designed by Laurence Broderick has been installed onto the site. Since 2003 it has entertained visitors from all over the world and once in a while for specific occasions, the statue gets dressed up. Its unusual wardrobe has earned the bull the title of a trendsetting fashion icon nationwide - but it is always good fun seeing the Bull in a new outfit. 

the bull at the bullring with a christmas outfit designed by kate unwin

You see, Birmingham is not only known for its industrial heritage, but it is actually a top secret tip for an emerging fashion scene. Over the years, I've explored Birmingham's vintage fashion side and made good and bad experiences. If you follow the road down the Bullring for a short ten-minute walk it will lead you to Birmingham’s trendy Digbeth area. The Custard Factory is a thriving hub for vintage lovers and hosts monthly Vintage Kilo sales. However, the Vintage Kilo sale is a massive jumble sale, so if you prefer a more orderly browse I can suggest Cow to you. The shop is huge and sells beautiful vintage clothing and handbags. 

reuben-hustler-Selfridges in Birmingham

Another area worth exploring is the Jewellery Quarter in the North of the city which has stunning independent shops. Up and coming local designers sell mostly here and they annually showcase their fashion at Birmingham’s very own Birmingham Fashion Week (usually around February time). Rad Fashion or House of Borgezie are worth checking out and I’m sure you’ll discover the one or other gem here.

A Treasure Trove For Food

When I think of Birmingham I immediately think of food. The city is a culinary treasure trove with lots to explore. There's my favourite, Bodega Cantina which serves nachos and Mexican street food at 12 Bennetts Hill. Next door is The Botanist which serves British cuisine in a stunning botanical environment. The botanical theme is also picked up at Lost & Found, which is a more fine dining experience of Birmingham. In fact, the city has it all. There's fine dining in the most stunning building, such as The Lost & Found or the impressive pub The Old Joint Stock in Temple Row near Victoria Square. Then, you have the romantic settings around the Canals or cosy restaurants in Brindley Place. For more Indian and Modern European cuisine Broad Street is your address.

nachos served at bodega birmingham
eryk-the canalhouse in birmingham

In the area around the modernised Mailbox, you’ll find Miller & Carter next to Marco Pierre White Steakhouse in the Cube. The Canal House on the opposite side is perfect for cocktails and drinks or you can relax in Gas Street which is only a short walk away from the city’s stunning new library. Whatever you fancy, Birmingham has it all and you won't be starving. 

Day Trips From Birmingham

Birmingham itself is easily walkable in a day but if you stay here for a weekend, I can also recommend taking a day trip from Birmingham Moore Street to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Shakespeare’s hometown is only a short 1h train journey away, nestled in the romantic English countryside and offers plenty to see and explore. The charming town center has tonnes of historic buildings, offers idyllic river walks and exceptional theatre performances will be waiting for you.

If you're ever on the train commute Birmingham to Wolverhampton, you may notice 12 individual iron horse sculptures. Kevin Atherton established these in 1987 and shows the horse in different positions and movements. The main idea behind this art installation is that the sculptures accompany the commuter on their journey and serve the general notion of companionship, a notion that has long attributed to horses and mankind. The horses are also a representation for Britain’s industrialization period, early trains and the movement alongside the railway tracks stands for the journey itself. The sculptures have won the Independent Gulbenkian Foundation Award in 1991 and the first one can be found in Birmingham on platform 5.

So there you go, these are my tips for visiting Birmingham and the West Midlands. Let me know what you think or if you've ever been in the area exploring. 


Thank you so much for reading and till next time, 

Carolin

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