EMS 2017

My colleague and I arrived in Chicago yesterday, full of high hopes and expectations for an exciting Experiential Marketing Summit. And so far, we haven’t been disappointed!

Experiential Metrics

The first session we attended discussed measuring ROI from brand experiences. Presented by Ben Grossman of Jack Morton and Steve Boyce of George P. Johnson, this session stressed the importance of looking at data holistically across an organization. This holistic approach has been a theme throughout many sessions, actually.

At dio, we champion integrated campaigns. So holistic data makes perfect sense to us!

Boyce affirmed that the consumer has one single relationship with a brand. He may consume data socially or digitally, see a TV commercial, watch a YouTube video, participate in a branded experience, see an out-of-home ad, shop online or shop in a retail store, but to him, it’s just one brand. Therefore, as marketers, we must unify the curation of customer intelligence across all channels. And then develop a dynamic ecosystem for that integrated data, which allows us to deliver personalized journeys for each consumer.

Experiental Marketing Summit Solutions Center, aka Exhibit Hall

Next, we walked through the solutions center visiting the vendor booths. Here are the booths that caught my attention the most:

1. EventsTag – I played an interactive social slots game that truly captured my attention. And, it didn’t hurt that the booth rep had a lovely London accent. (I didn’t win the plane tickets to Vegas, and I’m still waiting for my bottle of champagne that I won!)

2. The Trade Group – The portable exhibit environments we saw at their space were versatile, and I was imagining activating them at trade shows, at festivals and as pop-up stores. With full branding opportunities, plus the ability to rent for shorter marketing tours, they seemed like a great alternative to vehicle-driven events.

3. Xylobands – Interactive LED wristbands with RFID technology that can be integrated with social media…need I say more?

4. Totally Mod – Their quiet room is a great option for having private meetings on a trade show floor or creating an indoor pop-up store, meeting space or media interview room.

There were several uses of VR on the floor, as that is the big trend right now in experiential tech. You can catch our blog articles dedicated to virtual reality.

American Express Keynote

After carefully balancing my breakfast burrito atop a paper plate on my lap from a bench in the lobby (creative but not the most practical conference breakfast), today’s agenda kicked off with a keynote by American Express’s VP Global Experiential Marketing, Deborah Curtis. She had some great tweetable quotes, like this one:

“What is the ROI of not trying new things?”

…and this one:

“Do what matters to you. Do what you crave, and do you want you love.”

…aaaaaaannnnnnddddd this one:

“Always listen to your customers. Deliver personalized experiences, and create affinity for your brand.”

Curtis shared how American Express’s sponsorship of the U.S. Open has evolved from getting logo placement on a banner around the match’s court, to later American Express radio, to a full fan experience activation. The award-winning You Vs. activation included a truly immersive VR experience that included a “racket” in the participant’s hands.

Twitter Keynote

My (second) favorite part of today was listening to Helen J. Stoddard of Twitter. She completely captivated me, and I was hanging on every word. When she walked off stage, I yearned for more. She was that good!

One of the many things she discussed was the #TwitterHouse at SXSW. Most brands go big at SXSW, vying to be the coolest, raddest, loudest stunt at the show. Twitter took a different approach. They wanted to provide a chill out spot, a place people could take a break from the noise of SXSW and relax. They took over a local bar, allowed fans to make their own swag and focused on product demos. She said:

“Why do something big? Just put product in their hands.”


Day 2 General Sessions

My day was jam-packed with educational sessions. Many times, I couldn’t decide which session to attend, since there were several trending topics offered at each breakout time. I learned how to build an event for Instagram, how to live wire an influencer event, how to use data to prove ROI and about the art of storytelling in a world of technology. Rick and I divided and conquered, so he attended a different selection of classes and workshops. These were all amazing sessions, with wonderful presenters, and I’m still trying to absorb all the great tidbits.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the day:

If you want to take consumers on a journey, give them a map. -Stacy Mackler, Lancome

Paid media doesn’t drive engagement like authentic content. -Stacy Mackler, Lancome

Social listening over time and using cognitive technologies to determine tone is important in identifying social influencers. -Elizabeth O’Brien, IBM

Encourage people to share socially without pushing them. -Logan James, MKTG

The most authentic content we get is the content the influencers, themselves, create. -Elizabeth O’Brien, IBM

TV ads can’t create promoters. Experiential marketing can. -Craig Steensman, eShots

Don’t overthink it. ‘Big data’ is marketing speak. Start simple. -Craig Steensman, eShots

And I’m saving the storytelling takeaways for a full blog article – I think my four pages of notes from that one session demands it! (Follow our blog, so you won’t miss it!)

A theme that did keep emerging in several sessions is that as marketers – in any discipline, we are competing differently today with the rise of digital media. Digital media is so metric-centric, that marketers have to defend every dollar – and analytics is now a requirement with any campaign. Digital media created big data – and it’s our opportunity to leverage that data to create better, personalized experiences for consumers.

While data is important, emotion still matters the most in experiential marketing. That’s why I love this industry so much – it’s all about making someone feel something.

Event Industry Gives Back

So for those of you who know me personally, you know it doesn’t take much to get me to feel something. Or to cry.

By far my favorite part of today was the opportunity to participate in the #EIGivesBack activity, powered by Sparks and in support of the Headstrong Project. I can’t imagine there was a dry eye as Zach Iscol, Executive Director, recounted the last time he saw his best friend who was later killed at war. Or when he talked about the number of suicides that have claimed 20 of his battalion’s members post-war. Or when he spoke about the veteran in Las Vegas that Headstrong wasn’t equipped to help, yet.

I helped a community of other EMS attendees make wellness kits for veterans. It seems so small a task, but I’m really grateful that the event included a way to get involved – at least a little.

So after an exhausting two days, I’m actually more energized than ever! I can’t wait to learn more tomorrow. I’ll be sure to post my after thoughts!

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to some of the awesome people I’ve met in the past two days. Everyone has been so friendly – and although I don’t love to network at events, it’s been really easy to connect with these like-minded marketers who love experiential marketing as much as I do.

What has your biggest takeaway from EMS been so far? Keep the conversation going in the comments below.