It’s every CMO’s dream to create a memorable brand that people love. The next Apple or Nike, if you will. Brands want the consumers to passionately love their products. A brand’s marketing strategy is successful if it can turn its customers to dedicated brand ambassadors.
Printworks is such a brand. Converted from an old printing factory, Printworks is a skilfully created multipurpose event venue known mostly for the many legendary electronic music concerts that it hosts.
Launched in 2017, Printworks quickly became an essential part of culture and nightlife in London. Once home to newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Evening Standard, the printing plant now hosts more dance acts than anyone can name and has become an icon for the dance scene. Most recently, Printworks was home to Dua Lipa’s massively successful livestream concert Studio 2054.
Simeon Aldred, Founder and Head of Strategy at Broadwick Live which owns and operates venues such as Printworks, Drumsheds, Exhibition, Depot Mayfield and Magazine, and organizes festivals such as Field Day and Festival No.6, is an expert in creating brands that people fall in love with. “I used to be a professional trumpet player but I like creating product, an experience and brands. I guess it’s a technical exercise that I like and hopefully do better than some others,” says Aldred.
Behind Printworks’s success is a thoughtfully created product that puts customer experience at the centre. From the programming to the sound systems, from the lightshows to the queues and the architecture, it’s easy to notice the amount of thought and work that went into building the space. “So for us, the customer experience on the dancefloor needs to be amazing, visually better than anyone else. You’ve seen how much we spend on production, light and sound but the sound obviously needs to be consistently good and I think we get that just about right. Printworks is really challenging because of the size of it. Programming is as good as you can get for the money, we believe. But it’s ever evolving,” explains Aldred.
The challenge with this particular product is the safety aspect. Considering that a big portion of overall experience is dependent on relatively unpredictable threats such as sexual predators or crime prevention, consistently delivering an excellent customer experience is much harder than for most other products. “What you experience on the dancefloor, although it’s dynamic and hopefully one of the best music venues in the world, we discuss that maybe 5% of the time. 95% of the time we’re talking about a terrorist attack, a mobile phone gang, people with weapons in the venue. How do we deal with those protocols? How do we deal with that safely?” says Aldred.
Certain design elements come into play to minimise the unpredictability of these threats and make sure that potential problems do not disrupt the experience. As Aldred explains, parts of the venue that carry high risk are purposefully bright, bars have a simple design and queueing systems are monitored by security and cameras. Spotters watch the dancefloor. If they see suspicious behaviour, they will deal with it smoothly. “What you don’t see in my venues is six men coming in, grabbing someone and wrestling them. We have a very strong female presence as a security force so a lot of the conversation is female-led. You’ll see a female security officer go in and ask for a word privately. Dignity is really important because there would be nothing worse than a false accusation, right?” says Aldred.
For Aldred what sets Printworks apart from its competitors and creates loyalty from the audience is the format and the way the Broadwick Live team thinks about their venues. “What I do isn’t nightclubs. In my mind, it’s a concert format. Why do people come to Printworks? I honestly don’t think people come to Printworks to meet boys and girls. It’s purely the music,” states Aldred. “The audience is definitely 50-60% female and that probably creates a lot of loyalty because girls know they can come with girls, not get harassed, they’re safe. They can see amazing artists with the best sound system in London. They can go home at 11.”
All these elements come together to create an excellent product that translates into fruitful brand partnerships. Each year prominent music brands such as Defected, Glitterbox and Anjunadeep hold day-long events at one of Broadwick Live’s venues.
The pandemic obviously presented a new challenge for the Broadwick Live team, but they were able to pivot, for the most part. As Aldred explains, taking a massive hit to their turnover meant that it was easier to put some venues on a shelf. Luckily, they were able to put their bigger venues, such as Printworks, Exhibition and Drumsheds, to filming. “Because we do culture, brand and film it was easy to switch. I think a lot of other venues found it really hard to pivot. Some tried – Roundhouse are doing a bit of filming, Ally Pally have done filming. But we have been filming something in the venues pretty much every week. The whole market has really stopped other than filming.”
As the UK approaches the end of restrictions the Broadwick Live team is getting ready for a busy season of live shows, corporate events and filming, as well as the launch of three new venues. When asked about the possibility of hybrid events, where ticketed live shows are also livestreamed to audiences at home, Aldred takes a moment to consider it. “I think one of the issues I’ve got with all the streaming is that – Defected actually are the only people who’ve done it well – is the idea of paying to watch a DJ at a table at home. If it’s going to be a compromise at least make it amazing. Because otherwise you’re just watching TV. I don’t see the audience really buying into that. So those that adopt it will be those that are innovative to do that. I don’t think it will be everyone. I think it will be those that can afford to do it well.”
Featured image: Printworks