Experiential Marketing Summit 2018

The annual Experiential Marketing Summit (EMS) hosted by EventMarketer just wrapped up in San Francisco. The leading concepts at this year’s event echoed loudly. Be authentic. Let data and audience insights define your strategy. And find awesome partners for collaboration.

Experiential marketing requires authentic branding

“If you’re telling an authentic story, the raw simplicity of that is enough,” explained Albie Alexander of Refinery29.

That sentiment was repeated often.

Experiential often is thought of as the biggest, brightest, most badass stunt you can pull off. But that’s just simply not true.

Jil Eisnor, who was presenting on this year’s EventTrack results, asked, “Why does everyone want to activate in Times Square?” Having the safety net of a lot of people doesn’t necessarily make your campaign more effective if you’re not reaching or resonating with your key target audience.

Experiential champions the one-to-one or one-to-few approach, because it allows you to get closer to the exact right audience you want to engage. (That doesn’t mean you can’t work amplification into your plan.)

Annie Yuzzi of Sumo Logic said that being thoughtful and creating a meaningful experience for someone – no matter how flashy – will always generate more impact on your audience than throwing a large concert with your logo on it.

“Slapping logos everywhere doesn’t work,” said Alexander. Instead, he recommends, “Invite guests to step inside the heartbeat of your brand.”

Brands who don’t know themselves well will struggle with pulling off an effective brand experience. Experiential allows you to humanize your brand and bring your personality to life.

Use the experience to evoke emotion. The experience facilitates the consumer’s perception of your brand.

It’s not about the bells and whistles, but rather about the way you make your audience feel.

Over and over again, I heard that experiential doesn’t have to cost the big bucks. If you know your audience and can create even small, relevant experiences for them, you can drive impact.

(The speakers were reinforcing what I already knew in a powerful way!)

“If you think about it in a creative way, it doesn’t need to be expensive,” agreed Joe Luchesse of Pro-Ject.

So, what’s your brand’s ethos? And how can you bring it to life?

Data-driven strategy drives experiential marketing

Data. Insights. Strategy. Measurement.

A trend in our industry is that there is a shift from tactics to deeper strategy. This strategy needs to be rooted in data, consumer insights and previous measurements. This strategy is one differentiator between the field marketing campaigns of yesterday and the brand experiences of today.

Eisnor argued that experiential marketing isn’t a marketing channel at all. Rather, it’s a business model.

Brands can create value for their targeted audiences through experience – and even find ways to monetize it.

The experience must:

  • be designed to achieve specific brand objectives
  • be tailored to a specific audience, one in which you know well
  • create value to the audience, such as offering an exclusive opportunity
  • be measurable and trackable – all the way to sales alignment

We are more savvy than ever before, and our ability to leverage data is only going to get stronger.

And that’s a good thing. Because marketing professionals are expected more and more to prove their value.

However, Eisnor cautioned that advertising and finance professionals may try to compare it to media spends across other channels.

No, no, no.

Digital might be a cost-efficient method. But experiential marketing is a cost-effective method.

Not only can we accomplish some of the same goals as other media (building awareness or driving sales), experiences can drive earned media and also become its own retail channel. Plus, there may be cost-savings to be found when you think about content generation.

We always review data first – before we ever go into the ideation stage. (And so should you.)

Partnerships allow for collaboration – and better experiences

Zach Overton of Samsung explained that partnerships allow you to both offer an experience you wouldn’t be able to alone…and also expand your brand loyalists based on connecting with new audiences.

“The first thing you do is find great partners,” said Gabrielle Kessler of The Visionary Group.

Of course, Alexander advised that your partners need to align to your own brand’s core values and beliefs. There has to be a cultural fit that makes sense for the two of you to collaborate together.

Partnerships can also become that revenue stream you need to offset costs.

Diana Pavlov of Marriott International (and a 35 under 35 winner) predicts that the opportunity to cross pollinate and partner with other brands will be a growing trend in experiential over the next three years.

To sum up Experiential Marketing Summit in three words: authenticity, strategy and collaboration.