Canon Europe takes to the Everglades

The electronics company's imaging division wanted to reward European resellers with a memorable trip that reflected its environmental concerns.

THE BRIEF - Canon Europe's imaging division wanted an exciting itinerary to reward key European resellers as part of its annual incentive. Canon specified something that was both 'out of the ordinary' and with a link to water. This was to tie in with the theme of an internal sales incentive programme, titled Ride on the Wave, which had highlighted the fact that the US market was two to three years ahead of Europe. For this reason, Canon was also keen to build in meeting time with US colleagues, and had opted for Florida as the location for the event.

CHALLENGES - Although it was not an explicit part of the brief, Christophe Remy, Canon's European distribution channel manager, was keen to have an incentive that recognised the company's CSR efforts. Its 50th anniversary event in Monaco won the Eventia International Best Use of CSR award, and the company is a corporate sponsor of the WWF.

A further challenge was timing. The results of the incentive would not be communicated until early January, so the Phoenix Partners had less than a month to finalise an event that would include participants from all over Europe. Remy couldn't even be sure of numbers ahead of the announcement. "We set the targets six months in advance so the big question was budget, as we didn't know how many of our representatives would achieve their sales targets," he says. "We worked on historic performance for each market, but the lag made things tight."

SOLUTION - Remy put the brief out to three event agencies, but was most impressed by the way the Phoenix Partners addressed it. Although he had been keen on a trip that took in the Florida Keys, Phoenix pointed out that this could lead to logistical issues and might not be to everybody's taste. It proposed using Miami as a luxurious base for an incentive that could provide the group with a taste of the Everglades.

"It was good advice," says Remy. "Going to the Keys would have been a huge waste of time. Phoenix questioned the brief and gave it a creative tweak, using it as a guideline."

Aspects of the trip would have an eco-theme, but it was left loose enough to ensure that all guests would enjoy the trip. Similarly, there was to be no hard sell, but lots of opportunities to relax with delegates and get to know them better. Achieving the right balance with a group is tough, and smaller groups can be harder to please, according to Rachel Hargrave, director at the Phoenix Partners, which has been working with Canon since last year. "In a small group, the grumbles come to the fore, whereas in a large group they tend to be drowned out," she says.

EXECUTION - The group of 16, made up of five Canon executives and 11 award winners drawn from the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Poland, convened at the Crowne Plaza Heathrow the night prior to flying Virgin Atlantic to Miami. Once there, the group was based at the historic Ritz-Carlton South Beach hotel, where Marilyn Monroe and her baseball-star groom Joe DiMaggio honeymooned.

Phoenix's DMC had introduced the concept of an eco-tour in the Everglades, which ticked a lot of boxes for Canon and dovetailed with its positioning as an environmentally concerned organisation.

On the day after arrival, the Everglades tour started with a trip to the gallery of photographer Clyde Butcher, who takes atmospheric black and white shots of the area. Then, rather than sitting atop an air boat, guests were plunged up to their waists in water for a walking tour that got up close and explained the different types of Everglades, the impact of man and how the habitat is being restored.

After a lunch at a local restaurant, the group went to hip local boutique property The Hotel to eat at its Wish restaurant. The event was capped by an unscheduled meeting with guest Boris Becker, who happily chatted to the group and posed for pictures.

The group took a tour of the city on Sunday, followed by a catamaran cruise to an offshore stilt village, for those who wanted to go, while those who wanted to relax, sunbathed at the hotel. The next day the group held a meeting with US colleagues to gauge their thoughts on the market before flying back to London.

VERDICT - According to Remy, the success of the event can be measured in the strength of the relationships with resellers. "These events really help build trust between Canon and our reps," he says.

The eco-theme helped define Canon's CSR position, although Remy concedes it was a bit of a risk. "We were not sure how people would respond to the Everglades walk," he says. "It sounds like a great adventure, but when you bring them to this environment, there's no way to anticipate their reaction. Luckily for us the feedback was fantastic."

With the fact-finding meeting with Canon US under their belts, Remy feels the group is primed for the future. "We definitely have a clearer view of the market and that is important for us. We are currently a smaller market, but we are catching up fast."

FACTFILE
Client: Canon Europe
Event: Incentive
Group size: 16
Agency: The Phoenix Partners
DMC: South Florida Events
Dates: 8-11 February, 2008
Venue: Ritz Carlton South Beach, Miami
Budget: Undisclosed

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