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Sitting at the Right Table

Jonny profileFor it to be effective, experiential marketing must sit at the strategy table and not with the guys hogging the activation table, writes Jonny Davis.

Over the years one of the most frustrating aspects of running an experiential marketing agency is the constant confusion about what it is we do. Obviously when people mistakenly

One of the most clichéd slides in an experiential marketing presentation must be the old Chinese proverb “tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.”

I have seen it written in many different forms and also be credited to many different authors. It’s a great quote like many insightful quotes it is now such a cliché that it has lost its initial impact. A big bugbear for me is that people think by showing this, people suddenly understand experiential marketing and justifies what an agency does. It doesn’t.

write “experimental marketing” it doesn’t help but I think the issue is our own fault. Do we do enough to clearly show what experiential is and how it can directly benefit our current and potential clients?

Let’s start with a basic search into Google.

“Engagement marketing, sometimes called “experiential marketing,” “event marketing“, “on-ground marketing“, “live marketing” or “participation marketing,” is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages consumers to participate in the evolution of a brand.”

The key word in that definition is “‘strategy.” Experiential must sit at the strategy table. Too often in the past experiential sat at the activation table. This can limit the effectiveness of the experience. It shouldn’t be a nice to have add on that compliments an overall strategy. It sounds blindingly obvious but if consumer experience is not at the heart of a marketing strategy then there is a big issue.

Are we fighting our corner? Are we singing from the rooftops about how experiential should be central to every marketing strategy (and no, don’t even start with a flashmob actually singing on the rooftops!).

Ok. We can shout. But what we need to do is offer our own experiences to our clients. We need to deliver real experiences that deliver real results.

Spending on experiential has been increasing year on year but return on investment figures are still not as good as they should be. At Imagine, for example, we have implemented a bespoke reporting site for our clients that gives live access 24 hours a day on all of our client campaigns. This is a fantastic addition to our service as an agency but the actual success of the new reporting relies on a collaborative approach with our clients prior to the commencement of the campaign.

We sit down and determine KPI’s that are both tangible and impactful. This allows us to gather results that show the true worth of experiential. This is especially prevalent in the current climate of clicks, likes and shares. We need to see tangible results. Views or earned media are not enough. There are a variety of factors that can measure the success of experiential. It’s an area that we are working actively on and are doing our best to ensure we are at the forefront of within the industry.

If we agree that experience is vital to the overall marketing strategy then it is essential to have an experiential marketing agency at the strategy table. Not an afterthought but a core influencer within the ideation process. The ability to deliver tangible results and metrics will keep the experiential agencies at the table and will allow them to become real drivers of success for the client.

There is a lot of work to be done by agencies to ensure that experiential is better understood. Experiential as a discipline has been around longer than the term itself. How we define and categorize it may change but one thing is for sure it is now more turbo charged than ever thanks to social media and technology.

Jonny Davis is managing director of Imagine, the Dublin-based experiential maketing, sales promotion and activations agency.

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First published in Irish Marketing Journal (December 2015)© to order back issues please call 016611660