When kitchen company Neff needed a venue to reflect the new range of products it was launching, the brief was clear. The late-February event had to be held somewhere clean, modern and industrial, which put Bedford's Concept Centre in pole position. "The Concept Centre is an enormous venue and has a mysterious, almost military feel to it that really suited the product," explains Ben Rodber, managing director of Rodber Thorneycroft, the agency handling the event. "It's got a definite 'wow factor' and it's also very close to the M1, so it stood out as the right place to use."
The launch was a lengthy one, running from 10am to 5pm over six days and welcomed around 1,200 delegates - predominantly independent retailers - over the course of the event.
Neff has established a reputation for itself as a fashionable company that sets the standards in its field. This was the first time it had launched an entire product range in one go, so the event held long-term brand significance.
Eighteen new kitchen appliances and other accessories were being showcased at the launch itself, while a number of interactive areas and a mock kitchen allowed visitors to take part in individual demonstrations.
The cutting-edge exhibition set, designed in a booth-style arrangement to encourage one-to-one briefings, was warmly received by both Neff and the invited guests. "There was a need to create a sense of occasion," explains Alan Pride, project manager at Icon Design, which created the set. "The fact that the event was catering for different kinds of delegates on different days meant that we could really make use of the design of the building to create some drama."
The launch was also a chance for delegates to learn more about the customer service support offered by the company.
Every company has its most prized clients, and the Friday of the launch was subsequently given over to 300 of Neff's most loyal customers, who, along with their partners, were treated to a lavish champagne reception and gala dinner in the centre. A four-course, silver-service meal and a Rat Pack tribute band added swing to the occasion, while a number of speeches outlined Neff's appreciation of its most valued clients.
Accommodation was provided at nearby hotels and activities were laid on the following day. The invited guests could make their choice between driving Porsches around the Concept Centre's track (the venue doubles as a motor industry site), watching a top-flight rugby game between Northampton and Leicester, indulging in country pursuits at Castle Ashby or donning skis in the snow dome at Milton Keynes' Xscape centre.
Around seven months of planning went into the event, and the attention to detail had the required effect. "This was Neff's biggest event since the mid-1980s and we were extremely pleased with the outcome," says the company's brand manager Hannah Watson. "We were able to really treat our key customers, and in terms of the exhibition itself, it was important that we used somewhere that was a blank canvas. Our clients were arriving at this mysterious venue and the branding made them feel that they'd arrived at Neff. We're all about creating industry firsts and this was certainly one of them."
Event: Launch of kitchen appliance range
Agency: Rodber Thorneycroft
Dates: 24 February to 1 March
Venue: The Concept Centre, Bedford
Group size: 1,200 over six days
Budget: approx £750,000