Owner/Marketer: Nick Ferry, Smile Dealers

Sharing is caring in the world of social media. So Nick Ferry tapped into that sentiment and started Smile Dealers, a Facebook-enabled photo booth aimed at amplifying brands’ experiential events. 

How did Smile Dealers get started?

It began with me as a one man band, but in the past six months we have added five permanent part time staff. We also have three software development partners. I noticed brands were missing an opportunity to leverage these experiences by using guests’ Facebook networks, so I decided to have a crack and invested my life savings (and my sanity) into developing the business. I’ve worked for the likes of Coca-Cola (I secured Coca-Cola’s 2012 Summer Experiential campaign as my first job), Red Bull, Mini and Coors (an American brewery) and was involved in some fantastic experiential events as a result. 

Why is experiential marketing on the rise?

It is essentially a live, two-way interactive experience that creates a lasting relationship between a consumer and a brand. And the growth is being driven by its ability to make a physical and emotional connection with consumers who live in an overcrowded media marketplace … The growth of digital will continue to fuel even greater growth in experiential in coming years as brands continue to use digital and real world experiences in tandem.

As more experiential campaigns crop up, what will it take for brands to get cut through?

The big thing a brand can really nail is a sense of authenticity, so it’s seen by the consumer as a facilitator or partner in the great experience they are having, not just someone trying to sell to them. That’s easier said than done. Having your event talked about is an important factor in getting cut through.  Social amplification is one way, but brands should think about what works best for their event and target market. PR, word of mouth and traditional media channels are important too …  I am really proud of the work we recently completed for Mini. It wanted to communicate the size of its Countryman four-door vehicle by creating an experience in shopping malls and pedestrian areas. We turned the Countryman into a stop motion video booth, where passing groups of friends and families could create their own outrageous stop motion video and share it on Facebook.

What are the big do’s and don’ts when it comes to social amplification of events?

Our guiding principle is people share what they like, so we focus on creating content that’s about guests enjoying your brand and event that will make their mates jealous. 

Is your business possible because brands are recognising the power of sharing? 

In the digital realm, the holy grail is having consumers create user-generated stories about the brand … With brand managers constantly under pressure to justify the return on their spend, we add value by helping increase the reach of their experience. Instead of saying, ‘we engaged with 250 opinion leaders at this event’ a brand manager can say, ‘we engaged with 250 opinion leaders and they shared branded photos and status updates with 25,000 of their friends’.  

How do you market your own business?

As a B2B provider in a small market segment, the best marketing is to deliver quality service for market leaders, and word of mouth will follow. For the international growth phase of our business we will be investing in additional online B2B marketing resource. 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

I read Geoff Ross’ book and adopted one of his mantras, which was “Bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like crazy”. Building new businesses and new software products is incredibly risky and time-consuming. You can muck around forever analysing and thinking about what could happen, but I believe the key is to take the risk, make a commitment and then work like crazy to make it a reality. 

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