In personal relationships, just having information about somebody is important, but it’s crucial to know who that person is. Close business relationships are no different, especially those based on creative performance. Having information about a corporation is just the start. To succeed, one must know who they are. In a business inspired by the emotional bond between pet and “pet parent,” this adage is never truer. And knowing Petco was not just the central ingredient in our successful presentation of their annual leadership summit, it was the critical factor in Petco choosing Go West as their event company.
Over 2,000 of Petco’s key store personnel from over 1,300 stores around the United States and its territories converged on Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville to learn about new product and business opportunities, but more importantly, they did so to understand the new vision of their brand. The attendees were more than simply managers and key personnel; they were the future of Petco as a brand, both in the long- and short-term. And they had to leave the summit with a contagious enthusiasm for the brand and for the leadership team. The event had to be impressive, professional and emotive.
On day one ‘doors,’ we knew we had hit the mark. The immense, spectacular stage dropped jaws. In a room set up for 2,000 attendees, the stage itself filled one entire end of the space. It didn’t just dominate the room, it demanded attention. Resplendent in Petco digital branding, the platform was set off by brush stainless-steel-look curved wings, which lent a modern, high-tech look. Curved panels of digital screens presented non-stop, changing Petco branding throughout the summit, which led to a contagious enthusiasm about the brand. The result? The event sometimes had more in common with a pep rally than it did with a corporate convention.
The entire stage changed color based on mood, presenter and day. Each day’s presentations were coded with different graphics background colors. The center stage backdrop was dominated by an immense 10 x 20 foot video screen which lent a dramatic effect to the presentations by the speakers. In the course of the leadership summit, every Petco executive appeared before the assembled managers and/or participated in Q & A sessions and panel discussions. Our writers collaborated extensively with the executives to add entertainment content and compelling visuals to the presentations. With the high-volume of presented material, we employed several teleprompter operators and systems so that any late changes in copy/images could be seamlessly implemented even minutes prior to the presentation.
Possibly the most visually dramatic element of the summit, however, was the Petco branding in the summit areas. In every direction, kiosks and wall-mounts displayed digital branding in widely varying forms and formats. Petco commercials played at times, and at other times Petco branded videos were presented. Banners and signage created a ‘Petco Island’ within the immense Opryland facility.
An essential part of the leadership summit is vendor education of the attendees. Petco utilizes literally hundreds of vendors. With so much information to impart to so many attendees, it became crucial that the education mesh seamlessly with entertainment. Significantly, 41 breakout sessions occurred simultaneously each day for Petco’s corporate partners, with corporate executives or vendor representatives leading the individual sessions. Due to careful planning, breakouts were situated in such a way that “traffic jams” were avoided. All content for all the breakouts had to be approved and thematically coordinated.
In addition, we planned, coordinated and executed every event for the week, whether general sessions, breakouts or off-campus entertainment, the highlight of which was the closing concert, line-dancing extravaganza at the Wild Horse Saloon in the historic Elliston Rock Block section of Nashville. When the confetti had all made it back to the ground, Petco management commented that the leadership summit was easily the finest event that Petco had staged for their national management.
But possibly as significant as the execution of the leadership summit was the very fact that Go West was chosen by Petco to be their event/entertainment partner out of ten others bidding for the contract. In searching for a creative partner to take them forward, Petco searched for a group that understood them, who knew who they were, and not just what they sold. Go West, a company that routinely has writers, artists, event planners and employees’ schnauzers and bull dogs competing for office space, “gets” Petco. But how to communicate that? Besides dispatching our proposal to Petco housed in a dog kennel, besides sending flash drives in the shape of animals, we had something else…
We brought in Steve Connell, an actor, poet, philosopher and spoken word artist. He has performed around the country, notably at presidential command performances at the White House. A ‘pet parent’ himself, Connell’s insight into the bond between pets and people was folded into a sometimes humorous, sometimes emotional video which lauded the vital links between Petco and Go West. We were so excited about Petco’s reaction to the video that when they called to tell us that we were one of “three finalists” for the relationship, we had to ask what they thought about the video.
They had somehow overlooked the video in the proposal. As we waited on the phone, they watched the video. Very soon, in the background, we could hear laughing, and then sniffling. And their response?
“You know us!”