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March 31, 2009
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Jez Paxman::A review of Shaz Smilansky’s book Experiential Marketing




The strategic director of experiential agency Live Union offers his thoughts on the recently released publication.

Experiential marketing had a difficult upbringing. For too long, as an industry, we were poor at defining what we did, slow to promote our successes and content to sit outside the marketing mainstream. Yet despite all this, the inherent strengths of experiential marketing and consumers’ desire to engage with brands that ‘do’ rather than just ‘say’ is driving the sector forward.

Shaz Smilansky’s book Experiential Marketing is a sign of the sector coming of age. It is the first handbook to be written on how to create and implement experiential marketing, and it does a great job of setting out the fundamentals.

New challenges
One of the biggest barriers to brands embracing live experiences has been a wariness of the process. Brand managers find producing an ad or a DM campaign fairly straightforward; it is after all a procedure they have experienced many times before. In contrast, experiential marketing, throws up a whole host of new challenges, such as:
– How do I book space at a railway station?
– How does if fit with my other marketing activity?
– How do I measure it?
– What are my health and safety responsibilities?

Shaz’s book answers these questions. Billed as a practical guide, it gives a fantastic framework for how to create live activity. The acronyms she uses to guide you through the planning process are undeniably useful for anyone creating an experiential campaign for the first time.

More detail
The book introduces many interesting experiential case studies from around the world, but left me wanting more depth and colour to help bring to life the excitement and emotional connection that they achieved. There is definitely a need for someone to write a book that showcases, in more detail, the brilliant live experiences that are increasingly sitting at the heart of marketing campaigns.

The chapters on gauging effectiveness and evaluation are a comprehensive riposte to people who believe that this form of marketing isn’t accountable.
I do think though that the 1:17 ratio that the book uses for the average word of mouth generated by an experiential campaign should be clarified. It should be made clear that this can vary widely, both up and down, depending upon the quality, depth and amplification of the experience.

Required reading
Recruiting people who understand experiential marketing is a big challenge for agencies and this book should be required reading for graduates looking to work in the sector. It will also be hugely beneficial to clients who want to understand more about the medium.

Everyone in the experiential marketing sector should be grateful to Shaz for taking the bull by the horns and writing the first comprehensive guide to experiential marketing.

Jez Paxman is strategic director at Live Union


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