GROHE, a leading global brand for complete bathroom solutions and kitchen fittings, has long participated in some of the industries largest events. As one of the biggest players in the sanitation space, this would mean elaborate and involved appearances at fairs, trade shows and other venues. However, these activities have involved in-person elements, an aspect that during the COVID-19 pandemic became harder to support in a safe manner.
Learn how GROHE, through partnering with IBM and VOK DAMS, has been able to successfully pivot toward launching robust digital experiences that continue to engage viewers on a daily basis.
The pandemic and the need to go digital
GROHE, since 2014 part of the Japanese water and housing technology pioneer LIXIL, would attend several large industry events and fairs a year. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit there was an expectation by show runners that the disruption would be momentary. Being one of the biggest players, the brand was able to work directly with these show runners to get a sense of their planning. Ultimately, it was realized many were acting too slowly to come up with a safe experience for attendees amidst the backdrop of the pandemic.
By July 2020, GROHE began planning alternatives. Prompted by their executive staff, with safety as a priority, the concept of creating their own event was decided on. To address safety concerns, the need for a virtual solution was quickly realized. What’s more, it was decided that they didn’t want to just do a simple live experience but create something dynamic and continually accessible. This was envisioned as a brand experience hub.
Choosing partners to realize their virtual vision
To realize this plan, GROHE reached out to potential partners in the event and virtual event space. After a long search, they found those partners in IBM and VOK DAMS.
“Choosing our partners was an important decision toward realizing a state-of-the-art communications hub” said Björn Hamacher, Leader Brand & Activation LIXIL EMENA. “A lot was at stake, as we’ve witnessed competitors doing more simplistic live streaming events which had faced technical issues. We wanted the richness of our content to set us apart. We wanted to showcase engaging experiences from a solution that could handle the large audience we planned to attract. To execute this, we needed the best possible business partners, which we got with IBM and VOK DAMS.”
Through this partnership, the brand would leverage the event expertise of VOK DAMS, a leading international communications agency for events and live marketing programs. This would include tapping into their decades of experience in creating engaging brand moments.
To power this vision, VOK DAMS would work directly with IBM as a partner to tap into their video streaming technology while using already existing video features.
“We needed a streaming service that was reliable and would be supported from a longstanding company, one that would be around to maintain the technology in the years to come” said Colja M. Dams, CEO of VOK DAMS worldwide. “IBM was an obvious choice, being a trusted company with a focus on technology through hybrid cloud and AI (artificial intelligence). In fact, after being announced as a partner, the trust in the IBM brand gave our clients confidence in our ability to have a reliable, scalable solution to bring their projects to life.”
“IBM has proven to have an excellent service for live and on-demand video streaming” said Nils Ruthe, Account Director at VOK DAMS. “Their very strong CDN [Content Delivery Network] setup meant we could host large scale, hybrid events all over the world while their out of the box functionality toward viewer engagement meant we didn’t have to develop services like these on our own.”
The IBM video streaming technology, backed by a worldwide delivery infrastructure, has been proven to reach global audiences of over a million concurrent viewers and would be able to accommodate virtually any event.
Building a robust communications hub
Since the beginning, GROHE was looking at this project as more than just a single virtual event. While it would launch with live streaming in March 2021, a vast and continually growing library of video content would also be a foundation of this experience.
“Providing a content rich experience was a priority for us” said Björn Hamacher, Brand & Activation Leader LIXIL EMENA. “We approached this from a richness of content types, such as keynotes to breakout sessions to prerecorded video, to a richness of content topics, such as news to trends to how-to videos. We knew we had to launch with an extensive experience. If we approached this half-heartedly we’d lose the audience. So over the course of those months from August to March we scoped and planned for 150 pieces of content, so that by launch we would not only grab their interest but convince people to keep coming back for this rich experience.”
Launching GROHE X
With everything in place, a three-day launch week was set for March 16th-18th, 2021. Various events would kick off GROHE X, the new brand experience – from a keynote, to panel talks to a live evening get together hub.
“The response was overwhelming” said Markus Ehehalt, Leader Digital Solutions LIXIL EMENA. “During the launch week we had 35,000 visitors with more than 70,000 video views. The scale was incredible, attracting about 12 times the audience we would get for an in-person keynote. The average time spent on content was over 11 minutes. What’s more is the feedback, as colleagues shared how impressed they were with the experience while we also got praise from end users, especially on our how-to series.”
Engagement was always a consideration for this event and was executed through live Q&A that was done while the event was streaming.
Accessibility and user journeys
GROHE’s solutions appeal to a wide range of audiences and clients. This includes wholesalers, installers, but also architects and designers as well as end consumers. This audience is also multi-national and multi-lingual.
These considerations were all factored into the experience. For audio, the extensive equipment, resources and expertise of VOK DAMS were used to deploy multiple audio tracks. This would see upwards of eight different audio tracks that would be streamed live, through simultaneous translations. As a result, sellers could engage with clients with material that matched their preferred language, preventing key details from being lost in translation.
Visitors were also guided through specific user journeys. This would recommend content but also work as a blueprint for the brand’s salespersons to guide prospects.
GROHE X and the Future
With this platform, and the combined expertise and technology from VOK DAMS and IBM, GROHE has access to a comprehensive communications hub. That solution will continue to evolve, though, as GROHE is looking toward optimizing their approach. This includes looking at additional features from IBM, like live audience polling, and usage data to figure out what content is truly resonating while the platform continues to enjoy over 5,000 visitors daily since launch.
“We now have an amazing platform at our disposal” said Markus Ehehalt, Leader Digital Solutions LIXIL EMENA. “We aren’t limited to announcing big news or unveiling new trends at predetermined event times either. We have a lot of flexibility, a lot of control in timing along with the ability to scale that message to a large audience. This is thanks to our work with IBM and VOK DAMS, that are allowing us to explore methods of going digital and to provide captivating online experiences. We’re also looking at scaling this further, looking toward other markets like the United States and Japan along with also expanding to other brands under LIXIL EMENA.”
Beyond the freedom offered and optimization opportunity, GROHE is also looking at what more they can do with the solution.
“Our first phase was the launch.” said Björn Hamacher, Brand & Activation Leader a LIXIL EMENA. “Our second phase is exploring how far we can take this and what features we can add to stand out. This also means expanding how content is created and the type of content we have, like factoring in social responsibility and doing virtual recruiting efforts. We are really excited about challenging ourselves on what else we can do and how far we can push the envelope with GROHE X.”
GROHE is a leading global brand for complete bathroom solutions and kitchen fittings. The company provides innovative water products and committed to the brand values of technology, quality, design and sustainability that all illustrate GROHE’s commitment to creating exceptional experiences. In 2014, GROHE became part of LIXIL, maker of pioneering water and housing products.
About VOK DAMS
VOK DAMS has over 50 years of experience developing marketing strategies. Around 300 experts in offices across the world are leveraged to create brand presentations for events, trade fairs, roadshows, and showrooms. These take the shape of live, digital, and virtual events. In addition, VOK DAMS is a full-service agency. This encompasses helping clients identify their strategies and goals. From this, concepts are developed and then project management delivers the content, such as an event or keynote. VOK DAMS manages the logistics, from video equipment to green screens.