The Drum: Learnings from MWC 2023

Max Gethin, Brand and Marketing Lead at Wonder looks at the high-impact brand moments and the numerous engagement techniques at Mobile World Congress (MWC).

  • It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by exhibitions at the best of times, and for the 88,500 attendees at MWC 2023, it’s fair to say that whilst Barca wasn’t balmy, it certainly was bustling. With eight different halls hosting household names and challenger brands alike, MWC gives you little chance to catch your breath.

    MWC is clearly an occasion for high-impact brand moments, both globally through press, media and socials, as well as on the ground at the Fira. The four-day event brings together some of the world’s biggest telecoms decision makers, and MWC 2023, without doubt, represented one of the most important opportunities for *real* at-scale B2B FaceTime we’ve seen in the last three years.

    So how did brands leverage the opportunity to connect with the people that matter most to them? What activations and experiences really helped do the business? And where was there room for improvement?

  • From top-of-the-funnel engagement through to eventual commercial conversion, standout is vital. Whether it’s to help orientate attendees (“We’re right next to that massive red tick mark!”) or to help steal audiences (“Look for the full Hyperloop carriage”), the need to cut through is always critical.

    Bigger, brighter and bolder are the watchwords when it comes to branding at MWC, and a number of brands had on-stand installations that caught the eye, either architecturally (the new Nokia logo dominating Hall 3 being the most impressive) or through giant LED displays (HP took home our ‘OMG That’s the Biggest Screen I’ve Ever Seen’ award this year).

    Across the event, screens were abundant, yet a significant proportion of the content was lacklustre and relatively unmemorable. T-Mobile’s anamorphic 3D content, however, was certainly a highlight. The content played the simple, yet challenging role of grabbing audience attention, creating intrigue and engagement as two larger-than-life butterflies playfully paraded themselves to the audiences, before a kaleidoscope of hundreds formed the iconic T of the brand logo.

  • Attraction is every brand's first hurdle, but what were the exhibitors doing to keep people engaged, entertained and informed once they'd crossed the threshold of their stand? With limited space available, strategically weighting demos, content, meeting rooms, lounges, hospitality and more - all based on your audiences and their unique needs - is a precise balancing act.

    Of course, someone needed to put the ‘Mobile’ in MWC - so, as you might imagine, there was no shortage of smartphones (and laptops) on plinths to play with and admire. The familiar Apple Store B2C retail style clearly influenced certain stand designs, with one or two brands only a half-munched manzana away from being a carbon copy (naming no names).

    Samsung and Xiaomi boasted lifestyle-inspired spaces that leaned on both brands’ smart appliances and mobile handset features, whilst Telefónica, T-Mobile, Oppo and others included auditoriums for talks, presentations and content (although these felt unusually thin on the ground across the entire event).

    Perhaps the star of the VR show was the headset experience from SK Telecom, which took place inside the full-sized hover car that dominated their stand. Whilst rather lacking in context, this nevertheless drew in the crowds, although the massive queue that snaked back in front of the next stand may have caused some heated conversations between neighbours.

    Naturally, meeting rooms were abundant, with semi-private glass boxes on show, and even entire stands dedicated to private conversation spaces. While those that weren’t completely closed-off risked the envious glances of the uninvited, longing for a comfortable seat, a free snack or faster wifi.

  • Providing a moment of respite from the bright lights of the show floor was a tactic employed by the few brands that occupied space outside of the main halls - quite literally offering attendees a breath of fresh air. The likes of Android, Amazon Ads, Salesforce, ServiceNow and The Wall Street Journal were all found outside, either flanking the central mezzanine or - in the case of Android - in the food truck area between Halls 2 and 3.

    Whilst this was a fantastic way to create a unique vibe for brands - from Amazon Ads’ Jardín, Android Alley or Salesforce’s verdant hiking path (inspired by its brand ‘trail blazers’), there’s a definite risk-reward dilemma involved in occupying an outdoor space. Particularly if you’re in Barcelona in February, the temperature is hovering around 5 degrees and it’s gently raining.

    Crafting intriguing, entertaining, accessible and informative customer touchpoints that can keep the people that matter most to your business immersed and engaged on-stand is no mean feat. Creatively conveying a brand message or product feature in a memorable way is what every brand strives to achieve at these events; certainly, at the Fira, some did it better than others.

    One thing MWC certainly did tell us, however, is that big, global B2B exhibitions are back and there’s an opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s possible for brands looking to authentically engage with the people that matter most to them.