New Rufener boss: "Live marketing is going to become more important"

Published on 6/30/2016 by Christoph Spangenberg

The brand experience is much more intense with live marketing, says Robert Erhart. True friendship is developed in personal encounters. That is something that Erhart must know. He has been active in the event sector for two decades and has been the new managing director of the Rufener agency since mid-May. In this interview he speaks about the future of live marketing and his plans with Rufener.

Robert Erhart, Rufener Events (MCH Group)

Robert, the companies you have worked for include Red Bull and Triebwerk Event AG, which you founded yourself. Over the past two decades, you have built up a great deal of experience. How are you now going to further develop Rufener?

The event industry has changed a great deal over the past twenty years. There has been a lot of coming and going. Rufener has, however, always been there and has remained "as firm as a rock" within the regal discipline of "corporate events". There is no comparable agency in Switzerland that has always stood for this extraordinary quality. There are only a few agencies that can manage large-scale projects as competently as Rufener does, time and again. What matters first and foremost is to maintain quality and to contribute to Rufener's quality DNA being preserved for the future. <

"Few agencies manage large-scale projects that competently."

One of the next steps we would like to take within the MCH Group’s Live Marketing Solutions network is to make better use of synergies. I can feel that there is a big urge to work together. And, there is of course one constant factor: we want to win nationally and internationally exciting projects.

The technological possibilities are evolving rapidly, and everyone is talking about concepts like virtual reality. How might such technologies enrich events?

Virtual reality would appear to be a major trend in our industry. I am, however, convinced that the main motivation for an event will remain the live experience. Virtual reality will not be able to stand in for personal encounters. Despite that, we have to remain on the ball in such matters and face up to these challenges.

Put in more general terms, where, in your opinion, are things going in live marketing? What is it that makes for successful events?

Live-marketing measures are a good instrument for providing optimum support for building up a brand as part of a communication mix. That being so, live marketing is going to become more important. A brand experience is felt much more intensely through live marketing than through any other comparable measure. Personal contacts with people are the perfect way of underscoring client retention. True friendship is developed in personal encounters. We have to continuously remind our clients of that.

"True friendship is developed in personal encounters."

Several factors play a role in making an event successful. At the highest level, however, it could be said that when visitors have lasting positive impressions of an event, then it was a successful event.

How was your own start in the event industry?

It was back in 1996 as brand manager for Red Bull. At the time, it was a completely new brand in Switzerland, and I was responsible for its distribution in Switzerland, working for a company called Unifontes AG (today’s Feldschlösschen Getränke AG). Events played an overriding role for Red Bull, which was a revolutionary approach to marketing in those days. A much bigger portion of our budget went on events and sponsoring than, for instance, on classical advertising.

"In 1996, events were a revolutionary approach to marketing."

In 1999, I took a daring step into self-employment and founded Triebwerk Event AG. The agency developed magnificently, and, with up to 35 employees, we were privileged to manage a superb brand portfolio within event marketing and sponsorship activation. Then, in 2008, the bank crisis came along, and we felt it too. Like many other agencies, we were forced to make drastic cuts in our budget, and one of the effects of that was that changes were made inside the agency. Triebwerk Event, nonetheless, managed to make a good recovery, and, when an attractive takeover offer came from a bigger agency in Zug in 2013, we used the opportunity to undergo further change.

The highlight in all these years was without doubt the building up of sponsorship for the Migros cooperative. We advised and accompanied Migros for ten years on all aspects of sponsorship activities and numerous exciting sponsorship themes.

What projects is Rufener tackling in the immediate future?

There’s a lot happening at present. We’ve just completed the FIFA congress in Mexico. We're currently working on making the most out of the Davidoff ART event (editor’s note: the interview was conducted before Art Basel in Basel). At the same time, however, preparations are advancing flat-out for various events for the financial sector.

Apart from that, we are currently involved in a number of large projects that have been put out to tender and we are working intensely on them, hoping, of course, that the decision will go in our favour.

Rufener is an internationally operating creative agency focussing on live communication. The agency forms part of Live Marketing Solutions at the MCH Group.

> Pictures of Rufener

Christoph Spangenberg

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