Why Brand Activations That ‘Kill The Agenda’ Deliver The Best ROI

Why Brand Activations That ‘Kill The Agenda’ Deliver The Best ROI

In this guest post, INVNT’s executive creative director Adam Harriden (main photo and below), argues a lot of brands are like that person handing out flyers in the street – we’re intrigued but fear the interaction in equal measure…

What do you think of when the word ‘agenda’ comes to mind? For me it’s one of uniformity, scheduling, routine… There’s not a lot of room for movement, creativity or self-expression.

Adam Harriden

But what’s interesting is, we’re living in an era that shies away from this – an era of hyper personalisation. We can notify Uber to pick us up whenever and wherever we like, ask Alexa which music to play, and pick the movies we want to watch with the flick of a switch.

So, how do we balance consumers’ desire for customisation with a brand’s objectives for their live experiences, which are pretty much always focused around a set plan, routine, timeline or fixed footprint?

The agenda, personified

Let’s humanise the agenda for a second. You know those people that you see on the street with a pen and note pad when you’re on your way to work?

You see them in the distance, they see you coming, and out of the corner of your eye you can tell they are getting ready to hand you a sample of a new sugar-free, low fat, low carb wellness drink, or a flyer with a special gym membership offer.

You know they are going to approach you and it’s uncomfortable. Do you take what they are handing out, say no thanks, or ignore them altogether?! We’ve all been there. We’ve all done the awkward, look the other way, subtle cross of the road.

A lot of brand experiences – or any campaign really – can give off the same feeling. You see them, you’re asked to participate, and you tend to know what’s coming.

Brands: they need to be our best friend

Imagine if brands could add value to your life seamlessly so that you don’t feel the need to figuratively cross the road to avoid them? They are like a best friend – they recognise and celebrate your uniqueness, act transparently, and while sometimes silent, you know they are always there when you need them.

So, how can we achieve this?

  • Instead of telling audiences exactly where to go, what to see, when to see it, and what to buy, why not offer up several variations or experience configurations? Let’s hand some of that control over to our audiences.
  • Step away from the ‘we’ve always done it this way,’ mentality. We need to be flexible, adaptable and change our approach up depending on the audience. Swanky annual dinner for a few hundred c-suiters not producing ROI? Kill the agenda. Tear it apart and re-work your strategy and personalise, personalise, personalise the experience.
  • Create bespoke canvasses for people to network in. A brand experience for 3,000 people is filled with different micro communities who will naturally gravitate to each another, so devise a few different activations around the event. Events like SXSW lead the way here – brands relax, let go a little and host experiences in places we’d all normally hang out.
  • Focus on telling stories that draw attention to the social, cultural, political and environmental issues we’re facing. There was an influx of this type of work at Cannes Lions this year, where almost every brand placed a goodwill layer over the top of their traditional campaigns. These won big – proof that success is possible when we veer away from the typical agenda and take a more humanised approach.

Stay true to the craft. Do work that does good 


I am a passionate believer that we should all do good work, work that we’re proud of and work that adds value. This is achievable when we kill the agenda and allow consumers to create their own path and make their own decisions.

So, don’t dictate and focus on the sell – most people don’t care about our brands, products or campaign tag lines, instead consider the ways you can create environments and opportunities that enable people to genuinely connect, talk, learn and discover. Isn’t that what we all want?

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