Meetings No 08
Intro
Regard me as a human being and I will listen
Atti Soenarso highlights the importance of relationships
Cover Story
Strategic Intelligence: Nathalie Wlodarczyk
We are a private intelligence agency without spies
Meeting Psychology
Meetings in Cyberspace
Hans Gordon on the origins and future of communication
Intermission
Color the Trees
Our own soundtrack
Brain Check
Facial Expressions
Tonya Pixton: A smile creates new thoughts
Radar
Steven Jobs
On achievement
Robin Sharma
The Business of Business
The primary purpose of business is people
Durable Strategy
Charlotta Mantell
Ericsson Studio
Kellerman
Constant Change
Knowledge is constantly renewed and developed
classifieds
news
knowledge for the future
Dubai confirmed
to host next edition of Meetings Design Week.
New opportunities
IBTM launches new trade show
for Asia Pacific Market.
Transfering knowledge
Business events
must count more than coffee cups: study.
Hotel News
Bjarke Ingels Group
designs new H.C Andersen Hotel for Tivoli in Copenhagen.
32nd year!
IBTM World
launches its 2019 event with new Corporate Buyer programme.
AWards
IACC Swedish Copper Skillet
– and the winners are...
new job
Martin Sirk
lead Global Association Hus Partnership.

CWT M&E chosen
As Partner of FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2021.
Future development today
Associations look to move away from capitals
to second tier destinations.

Jordan Ranks Second
in the Middle East according to ICCA.
Links
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Charlotta Mantell
In April this year, Ericsson Studio became the first European company to receive two awards from the Association of Briefing Program Managers (ABPM); the World Class Award for the best experience centre and an award for their environmental solutions. The citation from ABPM read: “Ericsson got us thinking in new and exciting ways about the nature of what makes a centre world class. Ericsson Studio is brilliant and … completely different.”

Creative Director Charlotta Mantell, one of the mainstays behind this achievement, has been on board since it all began as a tentative, small scale project. We asked her to sum up in one word how Ericsson Studio succeeded in bewitching visitors and the ABPM jury. She answered: storytelling.

“Before we opened Ericsson Experience Center in 2003, my colleague Eliot Freed, a San Francisco architect, and I had both used storytelling as a central strategy. This was before storytelling had become a buzzword. We wanted to use the company’s history as a springboard for starting conversation, something that would appeal to all the senses.”

The first thing that strikes you as a visitor to Ericsson Studio is that it is imaginative, casual and unexpected. Can a large company at the forefront of technological progress do this kind of thing?

Of course, creating something that visitors comment upon and which provokes conversation is nothing new. Well-to-do Victorian families laid conversation pieces on the dinner table for their guests to ponder over and talk about, a technique that Ericsson Studio exploits to the full. It’s not difficult to imagine visitors from Japan, Mexico and Sweden beginning to converse on seeing old portraits of Lars Magnus Ericsson and his family, hearing birdsong, lighting lamps by pulling silky tassels or climbing a tower.

“Previously it was important to differentiate between business-to-business and consumer marketing, but one should never lose sight of the fact that customers are people and it’s all about reaching out to them with your message.”

Charlotta Mantell is a business administrator and has been a project manager at several advertising agencies. In 1998, she switched to Ericsson where she worked with events, and four years later she was assigned the task of building up Ericsson’s Demo Centre in Kista near Stockholm.

The new studio rose from a rebranding process implemented by the company last year which saw it discard the dark blue in favour of a more colourful typeface.

“Changing the name from centre to studio added a creative element. Our theatre and backstage concept lures guests into a creative process, a process which they see themselves as being an integral part of.

“We strove to create a theatre; a ‘space to act.’ The word studio is also associated with the film world, so we built small stage sets where we go to describe our product portfolio. We can sit down with our visitors to discuss, record and illustrate our ideas. All the tables have glass tops that you can write on.

“I regard podiums and PowerPoint presentations as being old hat. The studio concept is more unconstrained; you get closer to people and always have something to talk about.”

For Charlotta Mantell the basic concept is to let their customers feel part of shaping the future, an illusion that begins as soon as they enter the building.

“They enter through a door with ‘Entrée des artistes’ written on it to take part in a play entitled The Future. As they come through the door they’re met by music, text, images, videos and data code projected onto the floor — multimedia with a touch of chaos. Here we have the opportunity to promote Ericsson as the world’s fifth largest software producer.

“Professional speakers know that they only have a few seconds to capture the audience. Making the audience laugh or smile will get them through this initial barrier. We kept that in mind when designing the studio.”

The cloakroom is clad in tapestry wallpaper with a portrait of founder Lars Magnus Ericsson. The walls are adorned with photographs of Ericsson and his family from the late 19th century. The toilets have different themes. Birdsong streams out of the loudspeakers and quotes are handwritten on the mirrors.

“Many of our guests take photos before going home.”

Behind the reception desk is a small exhibition that includes Ericsson’s first ever telephone and mobile phone. Recent awards are also on display.

“We allow customers to hold the objects to get a discussion going. We’ve also planted a tree of knowledge with a table and chairs around it. A wall of comments from previous visitors forms the backdrop. When there’s no room left to write, we photograph the comments then paint over them. The photos are on display in a folder on the table.

“Seeing the company’s product portfolio leaves an impression on our visitors and is a great conversation starter. If they don’t already know that this is an innovative company, they soon find out after the first scenes of a play they participate in.

“We guide them between our stage sets where we display our product portfolio. This gives us the chance to discuss the finer details and various advantages.”

There is also something that could be likened to a modern forum theatre. Everything is white except the cushions, reflecting the new colourful company image. Discussions can continue in the lounge suites that are fitted out with TV screens or in any of the seven meeting rooms that have names like Jari and Gail.

“These are names of employees and customers. Our visitors can read a short piece about them. The meeting rooms all have different themes and offer an array of colours and surprises. One room, for example, has a table tennis board as a meeting table. Participants can even take a pre-match time out. There are wall bars for anybody who feels the need to limber up.”

Ericsson Studio promotes the new age while embracing the ancient legacy of all human behaviour. Aristotle, who died in 322 BC, saw the potential of utilising the brain’s constant searching for familiar patterns. He systemised the art of rhetoric and played a large part in the creation of dramaturgy. Humans also developed the art of memorising narratives as a way of passing on knowledge before written language came into use.

“Storytelling runs like a golden thread through everything we do. When we opened our first exhibition in 2003 we had access to a few corridors and rooms. We had a small budget so we had to be inventive. We reused furniture from offices in St. James Square and Telefonplan. There weren’t that many technical solutions back then so we had to use narratives to entice visitors.

“We put together our green product portfolio in the beginning of 2007, which was earlier than most. The green corridor we created still fills me with pride. There were people who questioned it back then, asking: Who’s interested in our green message?

“That same year, the studio team began producing the exhibition. They wanted to show visitors an end-to-end solution for a range of environments. We could show a solution in a desert or on a roof in Manhattan. It had sound effects as well and was very successful. We could go around with our visitors, pointing at details and talking about them at length.”

Charlotta Mantell reveals that they found it difficult to put across the core activity of the company. The mobile phones made them recognisable but now they were no longer Ericsson – they were Sony Ericsson, of which Ericsson owns half.

“We came up with a clock showing that Ericsson installs a base station somewhere in the world every 150 seconds. A lot more people now know what Ericsson’s core activity is.”

When the studio team grew out of their old premises they had the chance to reconstruct the exhibition in a new 1,500 metre square building.

“The new exhibition is based on the old. The whole thing went at a furious pace; the pile driving began in March last year and the building opened in August. It went so well thanks to the confidence put in us by the management team and because we were a finely tuned unit with lengthy experience. We were also unorthodox in using one-man businesses: an industrial designer, a set designer, an interior designer and an historian to do the writing.

“Today I’m a creative director working with my favourite subject – creating new solutions. I no longer need to put a lot of energy into staff issues and budgets as I did previously.”

After many ifs and buts, the company has merged its Event Department and Experience Department into one Marketing Department.

“Experience marketing is what it’s all about today.”

Charlotta Mantell says they are not allowed to reveal budgets, but the project has been very cost-effective.

“The exciting thing about our solution is that we can dismantle the hall and sell it on and have plenty of fixtures and fittings for the next hall that opens in 2012, just like we took things from our old premises. There’s value in the recognition factor and it shows that Ericsson does not have a throwaway mentality.”

The studio is often visited by large Swedish companies who are keen to study their approach.

“One of the customers, Telenor, has just built a new centre in Oslo and they have derived inspiration from Ericsson Studio on several occasions.

“We will develop the studio in the future using 3D and animation. My vision is some sort of centre in all the regions in which we operate, depending on the budget. We’re also looking into how we can interact with and better utilise our research centre in Aachen.”

The company’s latest message is: everything that can be connected will be connected. Charlotta Mantell says that this is easier said than done. It requires that they put their heads together with their customers, partners and others to find a suitable approach.

“In Meetings International 7, Robin Teigland spoke of the growth of the online fashion and film industry. It’ll come to the boil and for us it’s about how we can help these sectors to connect and work in new ways. It’ll be a super fusion of everything possible and that’s where we’ll find a niche.”

Ericsson Studio measures how their clients, that is to say account managers who bring their customers there, experience the centre and the service provided. They also speak to the customers.

“We’ve received very positive feedback and have good customer references.”

In a few days Charlotta Mantell is meeting a customer who is planning to build an experience centre. She will talk about the background to their success, summarising it as follows:

It’s a strong concept that ties in with our objective of inviting customers and letting them take part in creating the future with us (creating the network society).

Storytelling. It’s beginning to wear thin, but this is what it’s all about. The shortest route between two people is a good story. We’ve polished the details and they are there to carry the story forward, arouse curiosity and promote our message.

Sustainability in all its dimensions is vital. We use wood constructions and heat our premises using excess heat from IT equipment. Sustainable design is important, not green design as such but sustainable, timeless, exciting furniture that you gladly take with you when you move.

Another success factor is in the utilisation of the five senses. We have birdsong in the foyer and toilets. This has worked perfectly and we’re continuing in this vein. We work with colours and shapes and unexpected elements like a real tree, for example, to catch the eye and provide a link to nature; everything to make people feel good and to help them make the correct associations. Smell is something I’d like to work more with. This is also very important. Then there’s the sense of touch. Here you can actually touch and squeeze everything.

The fifth success factor is the team who work here and those in reception, all passionate and service-minded people.

Before the interview ends and the ‘Entrée des artistes’ door shuts, Charlotta Mantell rounds off by saying:

“Most experience centres I’ve visited look the same with fantastic displays, technology in abundance and good salespeople, but that’s nothing new. If Ericsson is to succeed as a brand it has to enter the unknown again. That’s what the jury liked and that’s what our visitors appreciate.”