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April 4, 2008
By: Anon

IT WORKS: Hugh Robertson

“Experiential is not a ring-fenced discipline and includes all media if it is relevant to a live interaction between a brand and its customers. TV, PR, Posters, DM, etc, can all be used as either part of the live event itself or in the lead up as a pre-event marketing campaign, or to maintain dialogue post experience. In fact, many large-scale experiential campaigns are now demanding considerable marketing expertise support in the form of tactical radio, DM, instore, on-pack, etc, which are implemented to augment and drive the experiential activity.

“Will the experiential industry’s lack of definable metrics be its downfall? No. Leading experiential agencies such as ourselves are tackling the issue of evaluation by developing bespoke tailored research for each campaign along with specific benchmarks agreed with the client at initial proposal stage. The addition of an independent market research agency to subsequently conduct the research further authenticates the evaluation model and provides clear levels of accountability. The key word is ‘flexibility’ because evaluation models must be able to accommodate all the unique variables that experiential campaigns increasingly consist of. A ‘one-size fits all’ system of measurement simply won’t work.

“The wider issue here is that experiential marketing, just like many other media, such as sales promotion, will never have a 100% fail-safe method of evaluation. In fact, as traditional media fragments and the number of channels continue to proliferate, evaluation is now a key issue across the entire marketing industry not just the experiential sector.

“To that end, RPM warmly welcomes the Marketing Communication Consultants Association’s (MCCA) Metrics Group, consisting of leading academics, brand owners and a few industry heavyweights. The Group has been set up to address the issue of measurement and evaluation across all marcoms channels and will be releasing its initial findings along with a plan of action in early 2007. We hope that it will be a breakthrough for the wider marketing industry, not just the experiential sector.

“As for presenting a unified front, in November 2004, the Live Brand Experience Association (LBEA) was launched to represent the experiential industry. Less than two years later, it disbanded. If the LBEA was originally created to genuinely promote experiential marketing as a stand-alone discipline, it needed to include clients and suppliers as well as agencies (which it didn’t). If, however, the LBEA was originally created to purely cover agencies’ interests, the MCCA, IPA and PRCA already do this, which is a key reason why RPM never joined it.

“If experiential is going to take its rightful place as a strategic marketing discipline, it needs to recognise that a stand-alone stance will be to its disadvantage. All disciplines must unite as a collective to further all our mutual interests, and for this reason RPM stands behind the Marketing Communication Consultants Association (MCCA) of which I am a board member.

“The industry needs to continue to demonstrate that it is as accountable and measurable as other media. If anything, in the short term we might need to work harder in order to change outdated perceptions. As part of this, we must publicise effective case studies to demonstrate to clients just how powerful and strategic the medium is.

“Best practice will also be an ongoing issue and trade bodies such as the MCCA will play an increasingly important role in this. The industry is becoming more high profile with each passing month and as a collective we must practice what we preach and clearly demonstrate ‘best practice’ in all areas.”

What is your definition of experiential marketing?
“Experiential marketing describes the point of engagement between the brand and their consumer, which if executed correctly has the ability to generate short-term behaviour change and build an emotional connection that creates a profound relationship and ultimately a rational response to brands and product purchase.

“What experiential isn’t, is a cold impersonal ‘free sample’ offered in a local supermarket aisle that barely touches upon a customer’s sensory recognition and is forgotten as soon as the checkout appears. Experiential marketing is so, so much more than that.”

Hugh Robertson is managing partner at experiential agency RPM

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