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April 18, 2006

Thinking outside the box

Your exhibition stands presents a great opportunity to create a great brand experience. But are you making the most of it?

Arguably, a live event can deliver your brand more powerfully than any other marketing medium. It can provide a real brand experience that allows delegates to literally live the brand. In fact, it is the growing popularity of experiential marketing that is taking the events industry more and more into the consumer spectrum. Backing up this trend is a recent study by HPI research that states: "89% of marketers believe experiential marketing is second to none at getting brands close to consumers."

If designed correctly, events will engage an audience both emotionally and intellectually. "This combination ensures that a brand is differentiated and understood by the different audiences," says Jeremy Garbett, joint managing director at events company Jack Morton Worldwide. "It is why we describe our business as experiential communications."

Ian Irving, managing director at brand experience agency Sledge agrees, saying:

"We live in an experience economy where customers expect brands to offer the same kind of experiences that characterise the other things they do in their lives. They are no longer passive, suppliant recipients of messages. They are self-confident participants. So marketers must cater to these needs."

TV's new marketing body Thinkbox wanted a live branded experience that would change the way advertisers' perceived television. Sledge was commissioned to generate the content and to create and produce the brand experience. Held at Olympia in London, an intensive three-hour conference programme was created. This was repeated three times a day in bite-size chunks so that people wouldn't have to take a whole day out of the office and audience energy levels could be kept high. The event used many different techniques to communicate information, from a huge panoramic screen to gallery spaces in which guests wearing wireless headphones could watch video presentations to panel discussions and meet the experts in discussion areas. Feedback was very positive from both journalists and attendees.

Meanwhile, Jack Morton recently created a highly distinctive brand experience for Adidas. "They wanted to do something different to the usual clothing launch in a showroom with a PowerPoint presentation and a brief catwalk show," explains Garbett. "Instead, we created a 20-something house share complete with six housemates all modelling the clothes. Buyers were sent house keys and an invitation to visit. Bedrooms were created to reflect the entire product range where the 'housemates' tried on the gear for the buyers. Adidas found that by giving buyers a unique, memorable and appropriate experience of the brand, buyers understood immediately what the range was about and who might buy it."

The great thing about brand experiences is that they don't start and stop at the event itself. As Irving explains: "A successful live brand experience is a catalyst sitting at the heart of a consumer engagement strategy that helps spread the brand message by creating a 'fan club' of brand ambassadors who share their experience with friends and colleagues, encouraging further engagement and a virtuous circle of marketing activity."

Thinking experientially like Thinkbox and Adidas will help you get more from your events programme, not to mention the breadth and depth it will add to your overall marketing strategy.
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