Blog: Welcome 2017 - the year of the sensory experience

Fran Elliott, director of experiential and events at Momentum Worldwide, takes a reflective look back at 2016 to see what can be learned regarding experiential and brand experiences.

Fran Elliot, Momentum Worldwide
Fran Elliot, Momentum Worldwide

This year, eh? This year! From Bowie to Brexit and Olympic rings to super-moons, it’s been a big 12 months for pretty much everything, everywhere, all the time. But whether you spent 2016 worrying about the Trumpocalypse or crying because you watched fluffy stuff being eaten by scaly stuff on Planet Earth 2, one thing was surely uppermost in your mind every delicious day of this crazy leap-year: experiential marketing.

Join me to run screaming down memory lane for a look at what we’ve learned.

Good: Big doesn’t mean better

Experiential marketers are always being pushed for scale. But we’re increasingly seeing more value in switching out a ‘one to many’ approach for something a bit more ‘one to few’ at our events. Why would you want fewer people to be part of your experience though? It’s simple: desire. When you go for mass reach, really all you’re doing is diluting the experience into something small and anodyne that’s at best mildly interesting to a lot of people.

Create something smaller, beautiful and exclusive and you capture imaginations. You get the wave of PR from the event itself, plus FOMO-driven word of mouth from all the people who would have loved to be there. These events have the power to fire a campaign into life by making people crave exposure to a brand or product – and that should be the role of good experiential work.

That leads us neatly to…

Bad: Who cares about the audience?

The best social media agencies know you fish where the fishes are. And not just if they’re working on the Angling Weekly account. They understand who they’re talking to, what content they like and the channels they use to engage with it. They segment and target to make their message hit home.

So why does experiential marketing so often seem to target no-one at all? Perhaps it’s another problem of tilting at mass awareness. Attempting to engage thousands of commuters flowing through Waterloo at rush hour guarantees most of them couldn’t care less about your activation – in fact, you’re probably annoying them. But when we’re slaves to OTS numbers, they all count.

We should work harder to get to know our audience and create live moments that give them something of real value to their lives. We should always aim to reach them when they’re most receptive, not just where’s most convenient. And we should figure out what the work is supposed to achieve and measure it accordingly.
That might lead to some hard conversations with clients who want quick fixes and blunt metrics, but what are we here for if not to do the right thing, not the easy thing?

Bad: Jargon

Buzzword bingo is a fast-paced game in our industry. We love an obfuscatory neologism to bamboozle lollygaggers who just aren’t hip to our marketing jive. But one term has soared highest above the peaks of Ad Land events language this year: ‘multi-sensory experience’.

All experiences are multi-sensory. Even reading this blog: your eyes rest on the screen; a finger flicks your mouse’s scroll wheel; the office stereo tweaks your ears; your nose wrinkles at the whiff of a microwaved lunch. Our available senses are engaged all the time. We should focus on emotionally layered
experiences, not on the sensory inputs we’re hoping to trigger. Put anyone saying ‘multi-sensory’ in the stocks.

Good: Truly creative production

This is a subject close to Momentum’s heart. It’s always inspiring to see a piece of experiential marketing that has gone the extra mile to make sure all the little details make it from concept to execution – they’re the bit of work you remember, and that make a big audience impact. To deliver our hugely awarded campaign for Tomb Raider, Survival of the Grittiest, I spent a cold, windy night up a cherry picker with a seamstress, precisely positioning stitched lettering on eight costumes atop a human billboard. We could have fudged it and gone for ‘good enough’ but we believe small compromises always add up to create fatal flaws.

And if that had happened, we wouldn’t have won buckets of Lions. Yes, that’s the sound of our own trumpet being blown. No, we’re not sorry.

But what does 2017 hold? More awesome work from everyone working in events, obviously – we’ll all get there by really focusing on our audience and creating gems that delight the few to engage the many.

Have a good Christmas, you lovely makers, thinkers, doers and producers. See you in the New Year.

Comment below to let us know what you think.

For your daily hit of news from the brand experience community, weekly brand and inspiration updates or your monthly trend download, register and subscribe to Event and our bulletins.


Have your say

Only registered users may comment. Sign in now or register for free.

Follow us

Latest Event Jobs