Paul Den's EMS Diary Part #1

IMG_3282 (1).jpgPaul Den (left) is partner and co-founder of specialist brand experience and engagement marketing agency, Banter and is over in San Francisco for the 2018 Experiential Marketing Summit alongside 3,000 agency and client-side experiential marketers from 27 countries. Den is bringing exclusive updates for Campaign Brief readers, featuring the very best of the conference.

Are there enough marketing teams that encourage cross-disciplinary thinking? Do brands truly understand their real-world strategy as much as their digital one?
 
Mark Twain once famously said "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco". At a windy ten degrees and just three weeks shy of summer, the only thing colder I've experienced so far, was the disgruntled hat-wearing, gun-slinging Donald Trump supporter I sat next to on the plane ride in.
 
Luckily for me, the Experiential Marketing Summit has been nothing but full of warm delegates all here to learn from marketers that truly love engagement marketing. So far, I've been able to hear from global experience leads at the likes of Samsung, Under Armour, IBM and Clif Bar.
 
You're probably reading this and just thinking, "Can this guy just get straight to the point?". So here goes...
BRICKS AND MORE-TAR
I'd been tasked with using at least one pun. Quota ticked.
 
As more and more brands put e-commerce at the heart of what they do and the truth in 78% of millennials choosing to use disposable income on an experience over a product, brands are facing this paradox by using bricks and mortar in untypical ways. Like West Elm launching boutique hotels for people to experience their products first hand: West Elm Hotels.

But when it comes to best in market, the team over at Samsung are breaking the mould.
 
Zach Overton, the VP of Experience at Samsung talked to the brand's bold approach in creating a retail store, without the retail. In New York's iconic Meatpacking District, Samsung launched Samsung 837, an experience-led tech playground focusing on interaction, not transaction. A space where rather than being part of culture, Samsung are creating the culture. I could ramble on, but the truth is that this video should do the talking: Creating the Flagship of Tomorrow. The proof is in the pudding with 790,000 visitors over the store's first summer. The biggest stat of all however was that a staggering six in ten people shared their experience at Samsung 837.
 
Zach in his impassioned presentation talked to Samsung's 'One/Some/Many' approach in considering the power of engaging on a one-to-one, one-to-some and one-to-many level, with a clear focus on injecting PR, content and social thinking into everything they do. The real discipline it appears Samsung has had, is to not stray from their purpose to ensure everything they do has a cultural lens with their product at the heart of it without actually selling product and simply making people experience it. This little piece they did at Cannes last year is another proof in the pudding: Samsung x Punchdrunk Theatrical VR Experience.
 
A big take out of all of this is that It's clear that Samsung are taking their real-world strategy as seriously as they do their digital one. We see this a trend that will continue as more and more brands broaden and deepen their engagement marketing strategies.
 
A HELL OF A LOT MORE ASSISTS
Given I'm in GSW territory and Under Armour spoke about how they've used Steph Curry, I thought it was fitting to use a basketball analogy to explain this next trend.
 
It's becoming increasingly clear that where once event and experiential marketers often sat on the side-lines without breaking a sweat waiting to be subbed in when budget was un-allocated, experience marketers are now at the forefront of marketing decisions, to ensure that the marketing of a product is as authentic as the experience of using it.
 
That's exactly how Under Armour see things. They made a statement today with a talk around the power of brand experience, by bringing out a cross-disciplinary team of their leaders who look after events and experiences, social, content and PR.
 
It's clear that teamwork is becoming everything and that where an idea starts is never where an idea finishes. Under Armour have continually put their athletes at the heart of what they do, showcasing their athlete roster in Michael Phelps, Jordan Spieth and Steph Curry. They've built an easily replicated engagement marketing model integrating PR, social and content into a plan with experience at the heart of it. It's clear Under Armour see the power in a similar model to Samsung with mix of retail activations, intimate immersive events and large-stadium experiences with thousands of fans.
 
Kelly Walton, the Head of Global Experiential Marketing referenced their relentless focus to make experiences with a balance between the heart of the athlete and the heart of the brand. In doing so, it would be easier to ensure that earned coverage could clearly result in real brand visibility, versus simply PR about an athlete. If you've got nine minutes to spare, you can see how Under Armour brought Steph Curry to Asia: 2017 Steph Curry Asia Tour.
 
When it comes to teamwork, reaction is key. Sure, you can plan for greatness and that's exactly what Under Armour do. But what they've also been great at is maximising moments in the moment. Because after all, engagement marketing is often live and live can be exhilarating.
 
When a young South Korean school kid happened to make a freakish half-court shot, Steph saw it as a golden opportunity to get the kid to change his pair of Lebron James Nike to Steph's GSW Under Armour kicks. This humourous yet beautiful moment captured the attention of media with Under Armour doing their bit from a content perspective to give the moment every chance of winning the game. Check out the moment here: Steph in Seoul.
 
A big take out all of this is the power of cross-disciplinary thinking, baking all the trimmings into an idea, not just bolting them on at the end.
 
Speaking of trimmings, I just had an exhibitor ask me if I'd like to put my face on a marshmallow. Probably enough to set any diabetic on the straight and narrow.
 
Until next time,
 
Paul.

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