Five do’s and don’ts inspired by the Experiential Marketing Summit

Having taken a few days holiday prior in Las Vegas, in itself essentially a giant experiential marketing zone, I arrived at the Experiential Marketing Summit in San Francisco in a great headspace to be positive and receptive to the tsunami of cases, insights and unbridled enthusiasm that our American counterparts tend to bring to the table. I was even prepared to set aside the finance side of my personality and just soak up the positive vibes from work that we would have no show of securing budget to pull off in New Zealand. As it turns out, that wasn’t actually necessary for the most part, which leads me to my first take-out:   

1. Don’t moan about small New Zealand budgets – While there were some multi-million dollar behemoths, many of the best campaigns we saw were executed on budgets that brands in New Zealand do have available to them. For example, Budweiser’s attention-grabbing Beer Garage at SXSW. While the exact budget wasn’t disclosed, the indication was that the total cost was well under NZ$500,000. Not tiny by any means but also far from out of reach for larger brands in our market. 

2. Do believe you can achieve scale in the New Zealand market – Much like the budget point, many campaigns that were held up as shining examples didn’t involve millions of people being sampled to or passing through an AR/VR experience. The Budweiser Beer Garage welcomed approximately 2,500 people per day during SXSW, easily achievable in New Zealand in environments ranging from events like Fieldays, Taste, Armageddon etc to shopping mall activation spaces.

3. Don’t be shy – If you’re willing to spend a decent chunk of change bringing an experiential idea to life, don’t be shy about amplifying the hell out of it in social and other media. From full-blown experiences at high profile events like SXSW to more “run of the mill” sampling activations, there was not a campaign on show that didn’t invest seriously in paid media to extend reach and engagement exponentially beyond those present for the live experience. Whether it’s creating awareness of a new flavour or building cred by showcasing a cutting-edge brand activation, ultimately this spend is critical to generating (and proving) ROI.

4. Do be more real – While we often talk of there only being two degrees of separation in New Zealand, of our celebrities being “real” and approachable, and so on, few brands make the most of the possibilities this offers. For the most part our brand + celebrity “partnerships” have not really moved on from transactions that result in someone wearing a logo and/or spruiking a product in a TVC that proves why acting is best left to actors (anyone picturing Richie and Gemma out for a run right now?) Under Armour and Cam Newton’s collaboration on the C1N shoe development and marketing is a great example of how a partnership can go way beyond this. Of course plenty of money is changing hands, but it’s also clear to all and sundry that Newton is getting much more out of the relationship than just an enhanced bank balance, and investing much more in it than a wooden performance in a TVC. That can only be good for its credibility, impact and potential longevity.

5. Don’t get arrogant but do feel good – Despite the aforementioned underwhelming use of public figures, for the most part, just as in the case of our traditional advertising output, New Zealand brands and agencies can hold their heads high in the experiential space. Activations that have received kudos locally such as K-Bar’s pop-up store and BCITO’s ‘Not Your Average Shed’, as well as those that have garnered global attention like Mountain Dew’s Skatepark, stand up well against celebrated and award-winning US work. Importantly, so do what we might consider the more “typical” activations that spring to life every week at local events, shopping malls and so on.

  • Jeremy Hunt is a director at Brand Spanking. 

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