Who Doesn’t Love Dogs: Creating Community Engagement

A foyer activation that drove database growth, kick-started a community campaign and strengthened ties between the asset and its tenants


A mysterious voice once told Kevin Costner, "If you build it, they will come." If only running a successful brand activation program in a commercial asset was that easy. The truth is, they may come when you invite them at the beginning, when everything is new, but unless building managers maintain an experiential presence in the common parts of the building, they won't come back. And worse still, one of the key ingredients in maintaining a happy and engaged workforce or tenant group - a 'sense of community' - will be as defunct as Kevin Costner's career. 
Our recent experience with long-running client Equiem at 120 Collins Street came about when they approached us to activate their foyer in celebration of the Lunar New Year. They were resolute about a desk display and there was interest in an interactive experience to drive sign-ups to their community portal.


Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year as the traditionalists call it, is a mainstay in the corporate activation calendar that only seems to be getting bigger every year. Anyone wandering around the CBD in mid-February will attest to the many and predominately homogeneous visual displays cluttering up retail environments and office foyers. More red lanterns than one cares to imagine. At ENGAGE, one of Australia's best experiential agencies, we understand the balance between ensuring the activation connects with the core cultural element of the event and creating impact through innovation. 
With Lunar New Year those core elements were the traditional red and gold tones, customary greetings and celebration of the creature that the Lunar year is devoted to. In the first instance, the impressive red and gold balloon arrangement towering over the desk at 120 Collins was an instant tie back to the Orient and a wise use of space and height in the vast and somewhat sterile foyer. Combining complimentary textures and shimmering golden cut-outs created an effect that was respectfully modern. 
Artfully nestled amongst the abundance of balloons was the first of several references to the Year of the Dog. As a brand experience agency, we are always looking for the opportunity to take the experience of an activation to the next level, usually leveraging the human touch or making a personal connection. Who doesn't love dogs? Who doesn't have a story to recall about a dog they love or loved? The strong and deliberate integration of the dog into the 120 Collins campaign was a clear indication of our desire to connect people to the activation and to each other, creating the ongoing community engagement that is so often missing in established assets.  
The dog made its most heroic and memorable appearance on Wednesday at lunchtime when we arranged for the Victorian Guidedogs Association to bring a couple of their adorable Guide Dogs down for a meet 'n greet with tenants, which doubled as an enviable opportunity for the Guide Dogs Association to raise awareness and much-needed funds. A love seat that we set-up in the foyer for the week as an always-on photo booth - complete with 'dog face' props! - was the perfect place to host the Guide Dogs and provided the exclusivity Equiem was looking for to drive sign-ups to their portal. 
The attendance of the Guide Dogs added additional layers to the campaign as it enabled the client to integrate a key charity partner and create content for subsequent interactions. Beginning in 2018, tenants of 120 Collins Street will work towards raising the $50,000 required to train and make-ready a working Guide Dog. Internal campaigns around the Dog will raise money, drive attendance to the portal and ultimately develop a sense of 'community ownership', while photos and updates will track the Dogs progress as the story unfolds. The Chinese New Year campaign we designed and managed created much-needed awareness for the project and put a tidy $3,500 into the kitty. 
Alignment of values with activation is key to creating a strong and enduring asset community. Moreover, the Guide Dog activation, the desk execution and the evergreen 'love seat' were seamlessly combined using shared styling treatments and signage design. Any guest to the building or tenant would have been impressed by the upbeat and original content that clearly had their experience in mind. 


The Lunar New Year activation at 120 Collins Street achieved exactly what it set out to do - create a visual presence in the space and connect the building community through shared experiences. In the immediate, every person that interacted with the Guide Dogs walked away with a smile; the Guide Dog Association grossed over $3,500, and, one building tenant even donated extra to keep the 'dog face' props!  Visually, the desk arch was "even better than we imagined", according to the asset manager, and whilst the overall appearance was tightly themed, it was also fresh and elegant and used just the right amount of kitsch to make it playful and a hit on social media. 
Property development activations should not end with the asset launch. Over a long period of time events like Chinese New Year at 120 Collins Street sink into the collective psyche of the asset community and position it favourably in the mind of tenants. In order to develop and maintain this position, assets need to look at their event activation schedule as an ongoing concern and ensure they are making genuine connections at regular intervals throughout the year. 

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