Today we have selected Bianca Knop to take her interview. She is the Founder of Wildfire Experiential and Events.
First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
Above all, we’re thankful for our health, but it’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a drastic and severe impact on the world of live events and experiential marketing. COVID-19 hit our industry almost immediately and resulted in a halt to pretty much all of our regular projects and client work.
It was jolting; however, looking back now and seeing where we are today, it’s resulted in us becoming even more resourceful, focussed, and quick on our feet. So, at this moment in time, we’re doing just fine.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?
I have a background in Sports Marketing and Events that led me to Cossette Communications, an advertising agency in Vancouver, Canada. I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Thorpe, the other Founder of Wildfire.
Some of our earliest work together was with prominent Olympic sponsors, where we assisted in planning and executing their sponsorship and brand activation projects around the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. We quickly realized that we not only gel together professionally, but we also enjoyed a good laugh and became good friends.
After almost 15 years in the industry, we decided to launch our agency to provide a nimbler experiential and event option for brands and agencies looking to execute memorable moments for consumers.
We launched Wildfire Experiential and Events in February 2015 and have had the pleasure and honor of bringing amazing experiential marketing to life across Canada.
How does your company innovate?
We love taking inspiration from creative design trends and other industries. Experiential marketing is a very creative space. We often develop ‘magical moments’ to engage with consumers through their five senses. To do this, you have to think outside of the box and step into the shoes of a consumer.
What would make them stop and pay attention? Or What is the value proposition to them? What are they going to rush and tell their friends about? These are the type of questions we’re looking to answer when designing experiences. Observing what others are doing and staying on top of the latest trends and design ideas helps us deliver those amazing moments.
Watching other industries was also very beneficial in navigating through the pandemic. Retail and restaurants led the charge in developing health and safety protocols due to imposed health orders. I applaud both industries as they were hit hard but showed resilience through thoughtful pivots and innovation to find new ways to serve their customers safely.
From spacing to consumer flow to sanitization and touch-free technologies, experiential and events will take many of the legacies from these two industries and utilize them moving forward.
How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
COVID–19 had a direct impact on our business and our service offering. It’s a strange situation when you cannot change the regulations and mandates restricting your business from operating. At first, we were in shock, as the rest of the world was, but we then began to focus on listening and learning to see what new trends, adaptations, and opportunities presented themselves as we were all faced with pivot.
We have stayed true to our core business offering and belief – that you can’t replicate the magic of live experiences and engagement – but we have been able to layer in the hybrid approach by featuring virtual extensions of our events and brand activations.
Although the past 18 months have been uncertain and uncomfortable at times, many silver linings have popped up from COVID-19 in our industry. Our agency will come out of this period leaner and meaner, provide more inclusive and accessible events, and more than ever consider consumer needs and wants when building experiences.
Did you have to make difficult choices and the lessons learned?
Luckily our agency model is quite lean and can handle workflow ebbs and flows, so we did not have to make the tough decision of laying off or furloughing staff. That being said, you are never prepared for a pandemic. We knew this would be a period with an unknown timeline, so we became conservative regarding overhead and spending.
This is true to our core business model anyway but again forced us to go through the exercise of asking the question – how can we be the most effective by becoming the most efficient?
One other big lesson was that you could plan for the worst, but things will always happen. Watching an entire industry gets shut down overnight is something I never thought I would witness working in experiential and events. Although frightening at first, I can confidently say that we are more resilient now and will face new challenges and difficulties with a stronger foothold.
Your final thoughts
Live events and experiences will flourish again, and when this time comes, we need to be ready to navigate within a new normal. While experiential marketing certainly changed due to COVID-19, people will always respond to experiences that drive emotional connections. We can all agree that we are craving connection with each other more than ever these days and Wildfire looks forward to helping deliver those meaningful moments.
- Spokesperson: Bianca Knop
- Company: Wildfire Experiential and Events
- Website link: www.wildfireevents.ca