A note from our Señor Frog, Eric Murphy, on experiential marketing and the guest experience. Trust him, he's an expert.
Thirteen years ago when Pop2Life was born, experiential marketing was merely a blip on the radar for most brands, aside from a few that were very early in the game, but we bet on it in a big way, and today it’s pretty much part of everyone’s marketing strategy. [Pat on the back for us!] Brands realized that merely writing a big check to have their logo slapped on an event is not nearly as valuable as writing a big check to create an experience of their own that they can control 100 percent. But, it’s time to take it one step further.
Just as experiential marketing is reaching critical mass among major brands, I believe there is a major shift coming that will change the paradigm dramatically.
This new way of thinking will be counter-intuitive to most marketers and will likely draw some naysayers. However, I would argue that the naysayers will be naysaying because it will require some knowledge and risk tolerance that currently does not exist inside most companies. But, if approached the right way, with a longer term strategy in mind, experiential marketing can go from an expense line item to a revenue line item. How?
By charging consumers for the experience [insert gasps here].
It is time for brands to take the plunge and produce their own events that can generate revenue and offset marketing costs. Of course, this is easier said than done, as it requires a different kind of event (as a business) expertise that has to be melded with a brand’s marketing strategy. While this may sound like a risky and scary proposition, think about the alternative that exists today.
A brand spends six or seven figures to become a “title sponsor” of an event or pays for the opportunity to have an activation at an existing event. The problem is you are competing with the other 10, 20 or 30 brands that have paid for the same thing, at the same event. Furthermore, you are at the mercy of the event. You get no say. It’s their event, not yours.
You just have to hope that the right audience shows up and that the overall experience is worthy of your brand. Sure, there are many established events with tremendous equity (i.e. Coachella, SXSW, Comic-Con, VidCon, CMA Fest) that might make sense to be a part of, and that is definitely the path of less resistance but, with the right partners, you can be the master of your own domain!
Okay, so let’s talk about the elephant in the room: charging consumers to engage with your brand. [Insert additional gasps here].
Think about it. It’s really no different than a consumer paying for an event that you wrote the big check to sponsor, but where you got no say in the content or execution! In fact, I would argue that it’s MORE offensive to go to an event that is littered with sponsors that are merely laid on top of the event if they pay the right price to be there. That’s not authentic! That’s blatant. It’s just your job (or the job of your brand experience agency) to create and execute an experience that’s worth paying for.
The only reason most brands will push back on this “marketing model” is fear (and the worry that creating and producing their own event or tour is not in their wheelhouse). “We’re not in the event business, we’re in the ______________ business,” they say. The good news is that experiential marketing budgets can act as an insurance policy as the event is developed (and grows) over multiple years.
In other words, if there is a revenue shortfall in the first one or two years, there is a budget to make ends meet until the event becomes profitable.
You were going to spend the money anyway! Why not invest it in something you will OWN and grow according to your brands vision and on your terms? Once the event is established, it becomes its own profit center, achieving the brands EXACT marketing goals while making money. Need I say more?