Q&A: Nigel Ruffell on Creating Memorable and Persuasive Consumer Experiences

Nigel is Director at The Company We Keep.

If you want your next event to have an even greater impact, you might want to add more to the mix than just a riveting, well-known keynote speaker.

To meet the evolving expectations of attendees, event companies now aim to create virtual and hybrid experiences that harness the power of all five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

To learn more about the transformation from traditional events to cutting-edge sensory experiences, we recently spoke with Nigel Ruffell, Director of The Company We Keep, which describes its mission as creating “game-changing live, virtual and hybrid experiences and story-driven content that make lasting memories and turn the ordinary into extraordinary.”


 

Since launching in 2018, The CWK has grown its team across Australia and Southeast Asia and has worked with clients including Amazon Web Services, TikTok, Salesforce, and Virgin Voyages, producing live and virtual events as well as social and creative content.

Over the course of our conversation, Nigel talks about sensory marketing, The CWK’s expansion in Southeast Asia, some of his favorite work, and more.

Can you tell us about the science and strategy behind creating immersive sensory experiences?

At The Company We Keep (The CWK) we create experiences that people feel deeply. One quote that always stays front of mind for me is form civil rights activist Maya Angelo “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We are 100% about how we make your audience feel. From conception of creative ideas to the end result we keep this in mind. For us, connecting with people’s senses ensures that our experiences create emotive responses with the audience. Which always deepens the experience and results in better outcomes.


 

What we hear, see, taste, smell, and touch has the power to change how we feel. So when we create experiences to help bring a client’s story to life, engaging the senses matters most.

We’ve recently partnered with Dr Hannah McCann, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies in the School of Culture and Communication, to help our team understand the science behind the impact a truly sensory experience can have on the individual.

“Overall sensory marketing taps into the multisensory nature of human perception to create memorable and persuasive consumer experiences, ultimately impacting behaviour through enhanced perception, emotional engagement, and differentiated brand experiences.”

Brands such as Abercrombie and Fitch recognise that the power of familiar scents is undeniable. And their own fragrance, Fierce, has become a prime example of how a memorable scent can impact consumer behaviour.

Overall sensory marketing taps into the multisensory nature of human perception to create memorable and persuasive consumer experiences, ultimately impacting behaviour through enhanced perception, emotional engagement, and differentiated brand experiences.

As we build our creative responses for clients we ensure that we always consider a sensory lens.

In early 2023 CWK announced the opening of an office in Singapore. How are things one year in and what about the Southeast Asia market drove the expansion?

I’m so proud of the growth and success that we have seen in the first year of our Singapore hub being open. The office and team has gone from strength to strength. We started with our Director of Business, Victor Darmawan in April 2023 and we’re now a team of 12 and actively recruiting for more Keepers at the moment across production and design.

We saw the opportunities across the South East Asian region and we have managed to expand our offering into this region. This growth is coming from existing relationships as well as new and exciting clients.

Having a local hub to service this area has seen us expand into Malaysia, Thailand, India and Indonesia. The Singapore hub has been essential to ensure our work in this region is culturally relevant and localised to the market and we can’t wait to see what the next few years brings in this area.

What is your approach to creating unique experiences for clients in diverse locations?

One of our brand values is ‘Be Inquisitive’ and that trait helps when it comes to delivering exceptional work in these locations. We take time to find out what our clients are trying to achieve and what they need to be able to get the return needed.

This approach allows us to tailor the best solution for each and every project. Working alongside local suppliers who know the region and the compliance protocoles ensures a seamless delivery of projects.

The CWK has been doing broadcast and content production for The Salesforce World Tour since 2019. Can you talk more about that work and some of the challenges?

How people view and consume content has changed enormously since Covid times and we’ve really leaned into these challenges. Broadcast production has had to evolve to become more professional and engaging.

It’s much more challenging to keep people engaged when they’re not in a live audience capacity and in front of you in the room. We’ve always ensured that broadcast content is treated separately from live events to ensure that the experience is carefully considered in order to deliver for our clients.

“It’s much more challenging to keep people engaged when they’re not in a live audience capacity and in front of you in the room.”

Coming out of Covid and with the introduction of AI technology, such as mid journey and Unreal engine etc we’re able to offer a truly engaging broadcast experience that keeps the audience captivated from start to finish.

The CWK reported a 147% increase in job wins over the past 18 months. What is your strategy for securing and executing a wider range of projects?

We continue to diversify our service offerings to meet the needs of our clients. We’ve evolved from primarily events to now covering film and broadcast, design, digital, content, experiential, technical and creative. This evolution is a natural fit for us as we have grown these offerings organically alongside our client base.

“We’ve evolved from primarily events to now covering film and broadcast, design, digital, content, experiential, technical and creative.”

Our creatively lead approach and our focus on exemplary customer service means that we are fortunate to have some long lasting and truly collaborative client relationships. As an agency we are people focused and that remains our priority. Nurturing and developing our team of talented people and working closely to deliver our clients needs, whatever they might be.

What is some project work you’ve been a part of over the years that you’re most proud of?

One of our recent projects that I feel most proud of is the Indigenous Art Project. To acknowledge and celebrate the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the new Salesforce Tower was built, Salesforce approached us to help create a unique 3D digital art installation for the building’s foyer. The brief was to ensure this installation was done respectfully and authentically, ensuring a First Nations-led creative experience from beginning to end.

Through a breathtaking blend of live-action footage and extraordinary animation, the story explores the creations of the lands, waterways, and animals that live on in Sydney Harbour to this day.

As the animation takes hold, an array of colours dance around to create shapes and narratives that are lifelike and dreamlike simultaneously – immersing the viewer in a magical world below the surface. The result is both meaningful and mesmerising.

This wasn’t just an opportunity for us to learn and pay respects to First Nations stories, perspectives, and experiences. It was also an incredible opportunity to share the creative animation process with the artists, Amanda Longbottom and Shane Youngberry.

Ensuring a truly collaborative experience throughout, we guided them through the storyboarding, filming and motion capture processes required to turn their artwork into the final animation piece you see today.

This was a very special project for The CWK – and one that will be cherished for years to come.


Quick Hits:

Book everyone in the industry should read

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon and Uprising by Scott Goodson

Favorite show you’ve been watching lately?

I love watching some of the classes on Masterclass. They always have some interesting presenters and there is such a variety of subjects, from barbecuing to filmmaking.

One album you would take to a deserted island:

For me, you can’t go past the Housemartins. Their music reminds me of my time in London and I love the nostalgia of it all.

Something you want to learn or wish you were better at:

I would love to learn to surf and speak fluent Spanish

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