The A-Z of Experiential Marketing: O for Old Principles

Posted by: The A-Z of Experiential Marketing on November 6th, 2013 IN Experiential marketing


Since in the last post on our series, the A-Z of Experiential Marketing, we focused on ‘new’ and the benefits of experiential in communicating whatever that ‘new’ may be, we thought we’d turn our attention this week to ‘old’ and celebrate some of the fundamental principles of marketing and communication that in our opinion will never be outmoded.


We live in a 24-7 age, the world never sleeps.  We embrace change and have come to expect brands to keep delivering on an unwritten promise of innovation.  People talk about new ideas, new thinking, new ways of working, new technology.  New is hot, hot for consumers, hot for profit and therefore hot for marketers.

But we’ve seen many campaigns dive-bomb under the weight of “the new” – ideas, approaches and technologies taken on because they are fresh and en vogue rather than because they work for the brand or the target audience.  So how do you keep with the times and stand out by embracing the best bits and leave the rest to someone else?  In our opinion, stick to some good old-fashioned principles and you won’t go far wrong.

Know your audience

The oldest principle in marketing – get under the skin of your audience and know what makes them tick.  Clearly we are not in the business of teaching grandmother to suck eggs but understanding consumers, their choices and motivations is not always as straightforward as it used to be.  It’s an old principle but we need to apply new rules.  For instance, do you know quite how digital savvy they are?

  • Are they avid App users?
  • Are they gamers?
  • What is their preferred platform – Smartphone, tablet, etc?
  • Are they second-screeners?
  • What social media channels do they sign up to?
  • What content are they currently consuming?
  • What are they sharing?

Perrier answered these questions when it cleverly tapped into the mindset of its younger drinkers with the Secrets Place campaign, celebrating 150 years of the brand.  Identifying the audience as digital savvy with a penchant for gaming, the surreal and the absurd and with a big appetite for adventure, Perrier created a series of exclusive parties, all accessed via a digital story in which they played a part.

In order to get your consumers to talk about you and endorse your brand, you need to know what, how, when and where they are consuming and sharing their media. Working out what content will then promote sharing among that target group is the next challenge.

Tell a story

For most of us, an early childhood memory will feature or even be based around a favourite story.  Bedtime stories have been part of global culture for thousands of years and many traditional stories crossed continents and oceans and bought cultures together hundreds of years before we could share at the flick of a button.  We remember these stories because they made a powerful connection with us at the time and this is what, as marketers we must continue to strive for.

Stories help us to put things into context and are catalysts for all kinds of emotions.  So, as marketers we can use them to appeal to heads and hearts.  And people will always want to know what happens next – something that helps us to stay in touch and create multiple touchpoints.

Creating stories that will create great, shareable content isn’t always easy and is still an evolving art.  Here are some pointers that might help to keep you on track:

  • Be true to your brand
  • Create connections through characters
  • Pepper your story with personality
  • Have a beginning, middle and end
  • Maintain some intrigue – pave the way for the next installment


Be true to the brand

If you want to create a story that talks to a specific audience then it is imperative you know who you are and what you want to say.  We have seen campaigns come and go, that tell a fantastic story or tap into the nature of a key audience but that ultimately don’t lead back to the core brand essence.  People have a great time, they enjoy the experience and they talk about it, but they don’t mention the brand and they don’t feel a connection with it – which is what experiential is all about.

This all sounds fairly obvious but putting it into practice is not always straightforward.  In our experience success can be down to the dynamics of the client/agency relationship and to how deeply we can get into the brand DNA.   Here are three old principles that we think help:

Let your agency into your world  

As marketers you are the brand guardians (and, let’s face it, in multi-agency situations, there can be many chiefs) but don’t be so guarded that the experiential agency is left out in the cold on really getting under the skin of the brand.

Get the tone of voice right  

The tone of voice is how the brand expresses itself across all of its marketing platforms and channels but in experiential and live marketing getting it wrong or right can make more of a difference than anywhere else.  It can lead to subtleties in execution that make all the difference and really create emotional engagement.  Again, it’s about letting your agency in so that these subtleties are understood.

Be a part of the process  

Once you’ve let your experiential agency in, they key is to trust them.  They are the experts at bringing brands to life and creating magic moments of engagement with your target consumers.  But the best campaigns come out of truly collaborative planning so be a big part of the process – you’ll enjoy it!

It’s all in the detail

In Kate Gunn’s recent post on the art of logistics she explains why good planning and smooth operations are vital to the success of experiential marketing campaigns:

“A key reason people turn to experiential, rather than traditional events, is because they can create a deep connection with an audience through well-choreographed experiences. You can transport them, involve them, excite them and leave them with a clear idea of why the key event message is important and what their next steps are.

But an imaginative experiential approach will be severely compromised if delegates are exposed to poorly-timed handovers or behind the scenes activity, they should be taken along for the ride and be able to enjoy the experience.”

If you want to engage people with experiential marketing, you have to cling onto the old principle of planning, and planning well.  Yes we have plans A, B, C and D – because we want to make the experience as seamless as possible for attendees.  Clear, well researched plans and contingencies, good delegation of tasks, great links with suppliers and a perfect understanding of timescales are just some of the ingredients for a successful campaign.

Experience is they key to seamless and detailed execution and you’ll want to know that your agency team has this in spades.  It means they’ll have learnt from years of planning and creating live campaigns where every second leaves an impression – wrong or right – on the consumer.   No matter how great the big idea is, it can live or die in execution if the detail is not right.

many small light bulbs equal big one

We love working in a fast-paced world where innovation is expected and new ideas revered.  We love that technology changes how we work and what we can achieve for our clients on an almost daily basis.   But it is important to hold onto the old principles that have always stood firm and been fundamental to the conception and execution of a great campaign across all marketing platforms but never more so than in experiential where the memory and impression of a fleeting live moment can last forever.

Want to read more of our A-Z of Experiential Marketing posts? You can now download and keep A-N as a PDF ebook.

Or select another of the posts from the series to view online:

Audience | Brief | Content | Digital | Engagement | Fun

Global | Hindsight | Insight Journey | Knowledge | Logistics

Mobile | New | Old | Product Launch | Q&A | ROI | Social Media

Target Market | User Experience | Venues | Word of Mouth | X for X Factor | Y for Youth | Z for Zeitgeist

a-zilineupebookDownload our ebook!

You can now download the first part of our A-Z of Experiential Marketing series as a ebook to keep for reference or read on the daily commute!
We are well on our way to Z, but in the meantime click here to get hold of the A-N ebook!

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