How far we have come: Mark Pickering on the rise of experiential

  • Experiential
  • December 5, 2012
  • Mark Pickering
How far we have come: Mark Pickering on the rise of experiential

As we enter another busy summer of brand activation in New Zealand, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on the state of the experiential marketing industry. 

I returned from the UK seven years ago this week. Since arriving back, I have witnessed a fledgling experiential industry awaken and flourish into a respected marketing channel for global brands. I have celebrated as a network of small agencies evolved from promotions and sampling into finely tuned experiential machines capable of strategy, creative and marketing analysis. This was the same natural progression I had witnessed15 years ago in the UK, where experiential agencies now sit on the roster alongside their client’s creative, digital, PR and media partners. 

As chairman of The Experiential Marketing Association of NZ (EMANZ) and a member of the CAANZ Marcomms Leadership Group (MLG), it has been exciting this year to see the fantastic work that dedicated and experienced practitioners in the industry have produced for their clients. Experiential agencies have taken the delivery of brand activations to totally new levels; from creative concepts, strategy and planning, right thought to the production and measurement of the brand experience. 

Campaigns such as the Mountain Dew Skate Park and the FJ Cruiser Top To Bottom Road Trip hit the headlines for their creativity and effectiveness in delivering against brand objectives – winning AXIS and EFFIE awards along the way. Other campaigns such as BCG2’s Grant’s Whisky Corner-to-Corner campaign showed how a long-term experiential focus could prove effective for brands, this year winning an EFFIE for sustained success. My only gripe is that the activation partners for some of the award winning campaigns also need to be credited in awards, rather than remain unacknowledged by their bigger partners.

Integration has been a buzzword in the industry in 2012. We are beginning to see experiential teams sit around the table with other agencies to share briefs, strategy and budget from the outset, rather than being seen as an afterthought, much as digital marketing was ten years ago. Now, experiential agencies work with their partner agencies to plan and deliver increased engagement, reach and frequency to campaigns.

As clients understand the experiential medium more, so we have seen increased budgets as experiential begins to lead the thinking for creatives and becomes the core idea. We are lucky to be a growth channel in what continues to be a challenging climate for other media overall. I expect this trend to continue, as it has in the UK, US and Australia.

Experiential agencies have also spent significant time and resource this year investing in future talent in the industry. It takes a special kind of team to deliver a successful activation that is risk-free, but still hits all the marketing objectives. That is why EMANZ and MLG members select and train the best creative, strategy and production teams to ensure that campaigns deliver for brands in the future. 

As always but particularly in this current economic climate, ROI and measurement are the most important factors in any marketing or media campaign. EMANZ and CAANZ MLG agencies have worked hard in 2012 to provide tangible measurement techniques across experiential so we can show our clients that this medium really does change consumer perception and behaviours for the better. Recent CAANZ seminars have showcased and discussed effective campaigns and their measurement. As an industry we continue to research best practice and to produce clear and defined measurement principles for our clients. 

As my colleague Megan Clark showed in her recent article on US trends, digital and social media continue to converge to increase consumer connections with brands. Experiential activations create unique and compelling content for digital platforms and digital continues to amplify experiential campaigns. This helps them to be measured and increase interactions between consumers and brands. Definitely a huge global trend and one to watch in the coming year. 

Globally, the Olympics were everywhere in 2012 with brand theatre on show from the opening ceremony (for brand UK) right through to surprise and delight moments with David Beckham in shopping centre photo booths for Adidas. London was transformed into one giant activation piece for brands, but it certainly showed the world the power of the experiential channel. 

My challenge to brands and their agencies in 2013 is: use dedicated experiential agencies for experiential briefs. If you want the best for your buck, go to the experts; go to an experiential agency that has the dedicated thinking, skill set and connections to not only deliver, but measure real results.

EMANZ and the CAANZ MLG continue to show how successful this media can be by promoting it as an effective channel to market. To check the best out, research through EMANZ and the CAANZ MLG and find the right experiential partner for you.

Have a great Christmas and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you at a brand activation over the summer. 

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  • StopPress Team
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