Give me some thick-framed glasses and overalls…I’m the geek in the office. I totally get caught up in the brand discovery and strategic mapping phases of our experience development journey.
But for my super creative co-workers, it’s the ideation phase that turns them on. When they start getting big ideas, I swear I can feel electricity radiating out of their skin. Sparks fly. Arms wave. Voices raise. Excitement soars.
Once the team has reviewed the experience brief, it’s time to stretch our creative muscles. But to get an experiential creative concept ready to pitch to the client, it requires some work. Here’s the process we use to create a concept and refine it to an effective brand experience plan.
The first thing we all do is independent research. We review the experience brief, check out the brand’s online presence and view existing ads or marketing content. We’re each individually forming an impression of the brand. What resonates with me may be very different than what catches my co-worker’s eyes. So it’s important we all have time to review alone before we come together. At this stage, we start to jot down some simple ideas as starting points for the group conversation.
Next, the team comes together. Usually this is in one of our conference rooms, but sometimes it’s outside…or at the local watering hole. We share our individual thoughts and then start spewing out ideas. We use creative, open-ended thinking to generate lots of ideas. Most of these ideas never leave the room. Some of the ideas are “pieces” of a larger idea. Some of the ideas are pretty large, themselves. This is the heart of the ideation, which is why I keep writing the word ideas. They just keep coming. As the creative cohort brainstorms into hysterics, I usually sit quietly, scribbling the quick notes, as I witness the madness transpire around me. It’s amazing to watch the creativity unfold. And of course, there’s the devil’s advocate (ahem, also me) who pushes back on some of the ideas. Then there are more ideas…
Sometimes the whiteboarding happens in the first team meeting, but often, it’s in a subsequent meeting. Once we have “lots” of ideas, the team usually needs to digest those ideas. Sometimes we have to check-in with logistics to see if the ideas are even feasible. At some point, we reconvene and start whiteboarding. Here is where we start to “see” some of the ideas take shape. “What if we do this…” and “what if we did it like this…” are phrases heard often throughout this step in developing an experiential marketing concept. We write. We take photos of the whiteboard to review later. We erase. We repeat. Usually at this step, we can narrow down our ideas to a top 3 – 5 experiential marketing concepts. For each, we discuss key messages, the consumer journey, how we’ll measure success and the look/feel of the experience footprint. We start to bring in more details, and we refer back to our experiential marketing strategy to ensure these ideas are a good fit. We also do our best to ensure the emotion is right. Are we creating experiences that invoke the right feelings?
Depending on the client, we may share these leading ideas at this point to get some quick feedback. Are we headed in the right direction? Some clients like to jump in here, so we’ll have another team brainstorming with everyone at the table. We’re open to as much collaboration as the client would like!
Unlike the divergent thinking we did in the brainstorm session, convergent thinking refines our ideas to be more strategic. We do this both individually and collectively. We use this step to identify challenges in our initial thoughts. And we also start to layer in important elements to enhance the experience. These elements may be to help us accomplish our goals, to provide more powerful messaging or to increase the interactivity on-site. We have what we call our experience gut checklist. Through a series of questions, we use our guts (and knowledge) to decide if the experiential marketing concept is truly strong. When we step outside of the creative thinking and ask questions like, “Will the precise target audience respond positively?” and “Have we nailed the brand’s culture and ethos?”, we can tighten up our thinking. Sometimes, we come back to the group (or our logistics team or the client or our legal counsel) with questions that we need to talk out before we can sign, seal and deliver a final scope of work.
Problem Solving and Testing
Depending on what challenges we identified in the previous step, we now work to overcome them. We make sure we can execute the campaign confidently. We know exactly how we’ll measure the key performance indicators (KPIs). And we’ll have a solution for tying those KPIs back to the client’s overall strategic objective. If necessary, we’ll test our thinking through an online survey or focus group before the final pitch.
By the end of all this ideation, we have a pretty solid experiential marketing concept that we’re really excited to bring back to our client. (We hope more sparks fly!)
To put your brand in the middle of our creative genius, give us a call.