Paul Den's EMS Diary Part #2

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 8.49.24 am.jpgPaul Den (on the marshmallow) 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.
In case you didn't get to read Part #1, you may be wondering why my face is on a marshmallow. I am still too. But all I can tell you is that this is where the world of brand experience technology is heading.
Before I move on from this sweet little bit of branding, I just need to clarify something for the many people who've urged me to get a manicure after seeing this picture. Rest assured, those are not my nails. And in not wanting to channel Larry David, I pleaded the fifth on this nail-biting issue with the random person I met who was holding it at the time I took the picture. 
As we near the end of the summit, I thought I'd share two more trends that have come out of what has been a whirlwind few days.
What's becoming increasingly evident is this unique paradox around consumers wanting to be closer to brands than ever before but their cynicism, lack of loyalty and sheer volume of choice getting in the way of forming intimate relationships with brands.
And this is where the brand experience space is playing an increasingly vital role. Not only has there been a 5.4% YOY uplift in experiential spend, but a recent eMarketer study revealed that people are attending experiences to fulfil one of four main needs: Release, Belonging, Identity and Enrichment.
Mike Mitchell, the Director of Trade Skills at Lowe's Home Improvements led a session to showcase The Upskill Project. After discovering that the average American spends 20 out of 24 hours inside, Lowe's saw an opportunity to make being inside more active. In turn, they would give people the chance to grow in confidence to enable their inner DIY ninja.
Over a 29-city, 22,044-mile tour, The Upskill Project offered people the chance to share a real fear for an impending project inside their home and have Lowe's come to the rescue. Lowe's staff went into the homes of people around the country, standing side-by-side with the home owners to help them easily digest and learn the craft DIY skills so they could complete the renovations they once feared. The blending of an integrated content and experiential approach meant these home visits could be captured as how-to/explainer videos to help empower those with similar fears around the country. Taking the store to the people is certainly one way to build greater trust and intimacy.
It didn't just stop there. Lowe's ran DIY workshops inside their stores as well, to create enrichment and help people feel a sense of identity. You can learn more about the Upskill Project here: The Upskill Project.
The really clever thing about all this is having experience at the heart to create that intimacy and form a genuine emotional connection by instilling confidence in those without it.
Whilst the campaign proved to be effective from a sales perspective, Lowe's talked to a ROP, not an ROI...a return on purpose. They see this as having short-term and long-term benefits for their business and brand.  
Ultimately, what we can all learn here is to think about how we can put experience at the heart of what we do to overcome the cultural challenges around trust. It's not just about experience in-store either, but bringing that experience out-of-store so that there's authenticity throughout all touchpoints. 
We talk a lot about the experience economy, but what about the economy of an experience?
Over the last few months, Event Marketer have been collecting data from 1,200 consumers and 500 leading global brand marketers with an intent to understand how both marketers and consumers view the space.
One of the biggest trends that came out of this study was this big and growing opportunity around using experiential as a business model. What we're talking about here is creating experiences that drive a marketing outcome and a business outcome, by charging people to attend. In doing so, you're not only tapping into the rise of millennials wanting experiences over products, but you're creating something of greater value. Providing the value exchange is tipped in the user's favour, this strategy does work.
What this trend is also causing a shift in is brands using the space strategically, not tactically. Thinking long-term with cost amortisation, capital expenses and partially self-liquidating programs in mind. 
At Pitchfork Festival, Bai (an infused-water brand) set up a space to charge people to have their hair braided. The brand had identified an opportunity around dwell time and a need for self-expression amongst the core festival demographic. Simple but effective.
Stella Artois has run a series of sold-out Michelin restaurant event tours charging people upwards of $150 USD for a meal perfectly complementing the brand's brew. It all comes down to simply making sure that what you're giving people is worth far more than what they're willing to put in.
When Contiki brought a pop-up Robot Restaurant to Sydney a few years ago to promote their new Japan tour, Japan Unrivalled, they charged people $50 a pop and with only 600 tickets on sale. Tickets sold out in three minutes. What was most surprising was a staggering 10,000 people registered to buy tickets. That's a lot of people wanting to pay to essentially be part of an advertising campaign: Robots Unrivalled.
U by Kotex recently set up The Period Project, a brand-experience led retail store in the heart of NYC. They called it the world's first Pop-Up Period Shop. When it came to creating a piece of culture, this idea was born out of a Tumblr post from a girl named Sarah who shared a vision which probably at the time would have felt like a pipe dream. U by Kotex made it a reality. You can check it out here: The Period Project.
A big learning and opportunity from this recent study is for brands to identify strategic opportunities in which culture and commerce can intersect to create something that people will genuinely pay for. If brands can get it right, they'll offset some of their marketing spend but more importantly, drive effective brand and business outcomes.

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