With 3,000 leaders in Davos last week, getting any attention from the top journalists and other participants is really a challenge. Davos is somehow the world championship of communication skills. The absolute star of Davos was Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Everyone wanted to meet him, listen to him and get a picture together. Sadly I did not have the opportunity but I watched three marketing geniuses exercise their art during the week.
Branding and marketing inside the Congress Center of the World Economic Forum isn’t allowed much. There are no “conference” booths or sponsored rooms like in most events. There is some sponsorship going on but it’s more like co-funding a research with the WEF content team and getting your company name quoted in the report and the associated session, it’s very minimalist. You cannot really buy yourself a prominent presence inside so you have to be creative and do it outside.
Marc Benioff throws his own Salesforce event right next to the Congress Center
It’s near impossible to miss Salesforce in the streets of Davos. Salesforce takes over a local commerce on the main street and turns it into a beautiful Salesforce customer and sales lounge. The entire shop or restaurant is entirely redesigned, inside and out, so much that you cannot even recognize what it was before Davos. Restaurants, hair saloon or coffee shops and bakeries owners get paid fortunes to get their spaces turned into a street sales booth.
The creativity of the marketing teams is incredible. There is even a church right next to the World Economic Forum that got entirely rebranded by Tradeshift. One week in Davos probably finances the church operation for decades.
Salesforce created its own huge reception venue in the center of the little village. Hundreds of guests get invited for lunch and panels gathering celebrities such as Will I am or Bono are run. It’s a miniature version of Dreamforce, the corporate event of Salesforce that attracts 100,000 participants in San Francisco every year and many other thousands around the World. Since there is no lunch inside the congress center, leaders appreciate the opportunity to join Salesforce for lunch and listen to a great panel. They can then stop by the Salesforce lounge for coffee and enjoy the space. Marc is the brilliant MC of the events organized every day and also throws one of the best parties in Davos that everyone tries to get to.
George Soros speaks in tweets to the media leaders
Dinners in Davos are one of the top attraction. Hundreds of dinners are organized every night and there is an intense competition to throw the coolest dinner. Food isn’t really the criteria here, sadly. It’s more who is in the room and how influential the dinner is. There is competition between the brands throwing the dinners to get the best participants in but there is also competition among participants to get to the best dinners. Which dinner you are invited to shows how relevant you are to your peers. Michael Wolf of Activate has one of the best and most amazing dinners in Davos as far as who participates. The whole week at the World Economic Forum is intense networking and meeting hundreds of people so some brands chose to throw small and intimate dinners. I really enjoyed the Wall Street Journal dinner this year.
George Soros has to my knowledge one of the largest and most impressive dinner as far as how many top journalists participate. Literally hundreds of leading media journalists came to that dinner. The setup was impressive in one of the best hotels in town. A stage was setup in the center of the tables and George Soros gave an interview to a very well known journalist. It was of course broadcasted live on TV from the restaurant. Questions from the dinner participants were routed to George in real time.
Beyond the setup I was very impressed by the way George spoke. He spoke in tweets. As if anything he says was designed to go viral or make a headline. And it worked!
Here are a few tweets he dropped: “The European Union will collapse” — “Trump makes the work of ISIS” — “The Greek problem is the only problem you cannot solve”. Those strong opinion statements went around the World in a matter of minutes both on social media and mainstream press.
Arianna Huffington masters live coverage on social media.
With her huge social media following and a media that has her own name, Arianna is everywhere in Davos. The Huffington Post lounge was right across the street from the Congress Center and has a whole setup for interviews as well as their own small conference. Arianna’s team covered most of her moves around Davos and followed her everywhere. Who she talks to is posted to her Facebook page in a matter of minutes. She lets her Facebook and Twitter fans live Davos through Arianna’s eyes. It’s particularly difficult to cover Davos as you want to actually spend your time connecting with the leaders in meetings so anytime spent writing is time you could have used to meet someone new. It’s smart to “outsource the writing” if you can.
Three leaders, three different ways to market themselves and their products in a space where it’s impossible to get anyone’s attention.