From Creating Experiences to Creating PPE for Businesses
Experiential marketing agency NPARALLEL is known for designing and building trade shows, exhibitions, pop-up businesses, and brand environments. But Covid-19 left the Minneapolis-based company utterly out of work. So, the agency started making something it could market and sell in a pandemic: sneeze guards for checkout counters, desk shields for offices, and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
“As a team that made it through the 2008 [Great Recession], we rolled up our sleeves and began ideating around—not just what we could do to replace lost revenue, but what we could do to help the community through this pandemic,” president and partner Megan Diamond said. “We have a 100,000-square-foot fabrication facility with a variety of tools and machines that we typically leverage to design and build brand experiences, so we decided to turn a section of the space into an area where we could create personal protective equipment.”
Within a week, NPARALLEL went from fabricating trade show booths and popup retail environments to fully operational e-commerce site selling acrylic barriers, desk protectors, rolling dividers and stands, and communication graphics for floors, windows, and other signage areas. They also developed “reopening toolkits” for salons and spas, healthcare and wellness facilities, corporate offices, retail and grocery, and convenience stores. A PPE & Products section on NPARALLEL’s website showcases recommended items service businesses need to have in place before reopening.
Q | How has your work changed/been disrupted by the pandemic?
Diamond | Much of our business is around helping brands create a memorable experience through face-to-face marketing, typically at large gatherings such as trade shows or retail experiences. With the pandemic, our business has just about come to a halt as all trade shows and most in-person events have been cancelled through Q2, and many into Q3.
Q | Anything you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work, create new streams of revenue, and/or help your community?
In addition to the PPE products, during the pandemic, we rolled out a new virtual experiences trade show offering to help brands that typically engage in face-to-face marketing find a new, digital solution. A lot of our clients have chosen to pursue virtual experiences since their in-person events have been cancelled. This new offering has taken off for us, and we plan to continue to offer this solution as part of our core business.
Q | Any bright spots in this crisis?
A | It is difficult to cite bright spots with the weight and reality of the great losses for so many individuals, communities, and the world. However, we are in the business of human connection, and we have been able to help our neighbors continue to work—and return to work—with at least some sense of control over the safety of the environment they are in. We have helped Cub Foods, Bachman’s, Haskell’s, and so many other Minnesota business and companies around the nation. We are thankful that our team is able to help and be part of community solutions.
Q | Do you anticipate your agency’s role returning to “normal” any time soon?
A | We can’t see “normal” taking place until Q4 or 2021. Many of our clients are using this season to further develop their current face-to-face marketing strategies or create online, virtual experiences to connect with their audiences.
Q | Anything else you’re doing to help clients?
A | On June 24, we are hosting an online event panel featuring three executives [in the technology and marketing industries]. The goal is to share how Minnesota leaders are innovating and further deepening customer relationships and gathering new leads in the midst of a pandemic.