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Stand out: it’s time to bring experiential into the mix

Included from the outset as a core element of the creative marketing mix, experiential has the power to wow. Ian Priestman, head of experiential at Blackjack Promotions explains how.

In the same way that you create standout for the consumer, to engage with the brand, experiential agencies need to create standout for the marketers and planners to understand why they should be using experiential marketing.

In the same way we need to communicate the brand message, product USP or sales drive – we should be able do the same for our own offering.

It’s all too easy for experiential to be missed out of the marketing mix, using the excuse that it has limited reach, high cost of contact and basically is seen as hard work. Let’s make sure that we have an answer to all these negative responses with strong case studies and proven measurements of the standout successes of the campaign.

As we know, experiential works very well either as an amplification of a mixed marketing campaign or to create the content for digital and PR amplification.

Technology boost

If experiential wants to make the most of its strengths, as well as strong creativity, it must constantly stay at the head of technology. Even if the technology is not directly used in our campaigns, we must be aware of what is available and what is to come.

By embracing technology, we can ensure the consumer has a standout experience, engaging all the senses, which is at the very heart of experiential. If people are having fun, they will be far more willing to respond to the marketing message and have a good recollection of a brand.

An easy way to see how this is working is the advance in out-of-home (OOH) screens. Many OOH media-owners have invested heavily in new screen technology. This means that the experiential site can now interact in real-time with the OOH digital advertising in the vicinity. Not only does this create great content for the screens, it also drives footfall to the experiential site.

Added to this is the ease of amplification through PR and the incredible number of views possible on channels such as YouTube as soon as you deliver great content. In some cases, with just the right product and execution, this content will make it onto national TV channels.

So what’s key? The success of these campaigns starts with the planning. Who do we want to target and in what sort of mind­set? Experiential has many options for this. We’re not tied to a site measuring x number of metres. We have site space, for sure, but the vast amount of festivals and days out offering just the right crowds enables great targeting of the consumer. You can take your campaign to a high street, a beach, a polo match, a festival or a VIP area. This is a really strong offering as you can create real standout at these locations.

We tested our own beliefs in the targeting power of experiential at a number of open days alongside other agencies specialising in specific media products. They went along with their specific product or portfolio; we took our staff and a cocktail bar. We gave cocktail demonstrations. Not surprisingly, everyone was drawn to the bar. We were then able to start a dialogue with the visitors.

They were surprised when we explained what was happening. They had ignored the other stands, openly spoken about their thoughts on marketing, enjoyed the experience and were listening to how we were now selling experiential as a viable marketing channel.

When we asked how they would have felt if we’d put in a phone call to discuss the same points, they admitted that they would not have been interested. So the very people who saw experiential as an unlikely route had to agree that when they were part of it them­selves, it worked.

By the end of the open day, the managing director, senior planners and new-business directors were asking the questions. It had opened the conversation. We know that wouldn’t have happened from a mail-out, cold call or magazine ad.

You may think that this knowledge should be kept in-house, but I believe the best agencies can support one another to make sure experiential marketing raises its profile and becomes part of the marketing mix, in the same way that TV, press, radio and OOH are understood and considered.

As we hear that marketing spend is again on the up, especially within the UK, we need to ensure that experiential is not left behind. Digital has grown rapidly and taken a huge slice of the media spend. We need to ensure that experiential aims to achieve the same.

By Ian Priestman, head of experiential, Blackjack Promotions