Brand experience, experiential, live brand marketing – call it what you will, it seems just about every kind of agency wants to get in on the ‘experiential’ act these days.
On the one hand, that’s great news for clients. More diverse agencies should mean a broader range of ideas and approaches. Experiential marketing has moved up the marketing agenda with live brand experiences now at the heart of numerous marketing campaigns; providing powerful platforms on which to build integrated activities.
On the other hand, clients considering ‘brand experience’ are now faced with a bewildering choice of different agencies to choose from. And unfortunately, half of them aren’t equipped to deliver on their promises.
The thing about live brand experience is that it requires a distinct type of creativity – something I believe only those with hands-on experience of live marketing can truly deliver. Face-to-face interaction with consumers is unlike any other form of marketing – a fluid mix of emotional, enviromental and personal factors. Success is about finding relevant ways for brands to talk with people, not at them – kick-starting meaningful conversations and long-term brand relationships.
All too often, I’ve come across clients who’ve been blinded by an agency’s ‘big experiential idea’, only to see it fall flat because it hasn’t been properly thought through and expertly delivered. Einstein said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, and so it is with great brand experiences.
In my view, experiential calls for integrated thinking, but specialist implementation. Lots of agencies are good at the first bit. Not many excel in the latter. So often, by the time that big pitch idea gets to the field, it ends up looking very ‘unbig’ and performing miserably.
Specialist brand experience agencies tend to approach the creative process differently. We understand how people react in different scenarios to various emotional triggers. We know the local tricks of the trade – what you can and can’t do in different environments and locations. Most of all we know how to create rich ideas (with several layers to the experience) which build a meaningful dialogue with consumers along a brand journey – genuinely engaging them in a brand experience, not broadcasting one to them.
It sounds obvious, but also sound commercial thinking has to be the startpoint for every brand experience. Is fame or reach the primary goal? It’s very easy to get excited about the idea of a spectacular, theatrical brand experience, where consumers can immerse themselves fully in your brand. But what’s as important is the projected cost and return per engagement.
It is often said that experiential marketing is one of the most trusted forms of marketing because it’s based on first-hand consumer experience. Doesn’t it also make sense to put your trust in agencies with the experience to deliver?
Meredith Cranmer is managing partner of BEcause Brand Experience.