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Industry Innovators 2024: Tomos Evans

With his team's work, the co-founder of We Are Swell focuses on adding value, entertaining, and enhancing. "Innovation should be inherent in the process," he says.

'Experiential goes far beyond events,' says Evans. 'It can be anything tangible, anything that provides a tactile experience with a brand.'
"Experiential goes far beyond events," says Evans. "It can be anything tangible, anything that provides a tactile experience with a brand."
Photo: Courtesy of We Are Swell

Tomos EvansTomos EvansPhoto: Courtesy of We Are SwellTomos Evans is the co-founder of We Are Swell. He's based in New York.

How he got his start: "Experiential marketers often come from unconventional backgrounds because we’re so passion-oriented, and my path is no different. After graduating with a law degree and postgraduate in journalism in the U.K., I worked at several leading PR agencies. I was fortunate to work at companies with leaders who were pushing boundaries and very much empowered teams to explore a range of creative means to reach our clients’ goals. That varied from stunts and large events to content creation—well before the term was used in its current sense. Eventually, this led me to work in the U.S. in social and engagement roles before setting up Swell and focusing on putting experiential at the heart of brand marketing strategies."

What innovation means to him: "My primary goal for any project is to bring a fresh experience to the consumer. Our focus is on adding value, entertaining, and enhancing. Innovation should be inherent in the process. 

The word innovation has become associated with major disruption or completely new-to-world ideas, but it can also be found in the subtle and day-to-day processes. In order to prove the effectiveness of an innovative strategy or idea, it takes focus and consistency. I don’t expect things to just happen overnight. 

I love finding the balance between evolution and consistency. Consistency in marketing is underestimated and somewhat tricky. People can see it as a hindrance to progress, but I’m an advocate for brands clearly establishing what they stand for, earning their authenticity, and building strong foundations. With that all in place, innovation flourishes because you’ve earned the right to push the space forward.  

When considering innovation, the most important question to ask is, 'Does it deliver a better result for the brand?' Big changes may be flashy and exciting, but if they don’t deliver the results a brand is looking for, we’re missing the mark."

Where he finds inspiration: "I’ve always found inspiration in different fields of art and design. From large-scale installations to small projects, time spent exploring creative arts is always worth it. 

That said, inspiration really can come from anywhere. It’s so important to observe and consume media. I was the kid with stacks of magazines, and I've not really changed that much. Social media makes it easier to discover, but it’s important to go deeper and wider. The narrow focus of social media raises the risk of a narrow field of inspiration and can result in more repetitive work."

At Coachella 2024, Swell designed, produced, and executed this eye-catching activation for Italian aperitivo brand Aperol. It drew inspiration from the original Terrazza Aperol in Venice, Italy.At Coachella 2024, Swell designed, produced, and executed this eye-catching activation for Italian aperitivo brand Aperol. It drew inspiration from the original Terrazza Aperol in Venice, Italy.Photo: Lex Gallegos for Aperol

Memorable moments: "We’ve been fortunate to work with a range of wonderful clients, and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in the face of rapidly changing times, whether that be Pride events that championed marriage equality or innovative Coachella activations. However, there’s one event that always sticks in my mind, and it’s the first I ever worked on with the other co-founder of Swell. 

We were both working at an agency in London, and the event—an immersive screening in (and on) a swimming pool in East London—was well ahead of its time in many ways. It delivered a strong brand message and was fully immersive and content rich (read about it in The Guardian), but the biggest takeaway for me was finding a partner with whom I’ve continued to work seamlessly now for well over 10 years."

His vision for the future of experiential: "When we started Swell, there was a general consensus in the industry that the future of marketing was going to be digital and digital alone. Brands were nixing events, moving into a more virtual space, focused on only social strategy, etc. I never understood the logic. 

As the world continues to become more online, our need for in-person connection and experiences has never been stronger. We knew it before, but 2020 and the years following confirmed it. 

In-person connections build longer-lasting brand affinity, and for products we need to touch, taste, or feel to fully understand, IRL is only becoming more important. 

Experiential goes far beyond events. It can be anything tangible, anything that provides a tactile experience with a brand. It can be a major music festival or it can be in the privacy of one’s home. The opportunities are endless, which is something I love about this business. 

My vision for the future of experiential is one where the discipline is at the heart of the planning and strategic process and not something tagged on as a 'nice to have.' There’s a wealth of knowledge, insight, and creativity in my experiential peers that can only add to a brand’s connection with consumers. When experiential is more than just a spoke in the 360 wheel, we’re able to reach an audience in ways that transcend the moment. Whether it’s a fun-filled summer weekend, a highly designed luxury experience, or a cause-focused campaign, experiential can be the wheel to move us all forward if we allow it."

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This feature is sponsored by Gladiator Productions, a new kind of production company igniting magic in the arena of live events, entertainment, and experience. We consistently partner with our clients by providing high-touch service through every step of the production process. 

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