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Elevating Experience at the Experiential Marketing Summit

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The state of the brand experience industry (hint: it’s good!)

A version of this blog originally appeared on freemanxp.com

People matter. This simple but true statement was the rallying cry at this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit in Denver, CO. It doesn’t matter what content you produce, engagement tactic you use, or cool tech you engage with if your brand experience lacks that human element.B-to-B or B-to-C, at the end of the day, all marketers are trying to create a lasting connection with other human beings.

Last week, the Mile High City played host to 1,500 event professionals looking to learn, connect, and laugh together. Once again, Event Marketer led the way with deep insights and awesome parties. So what were the other buzziest topics among the eventprofs at EMS this year? Here are our top five must-know topics from your 2016 Experiential Marketing Summit:

Experiential Marketing Rocks

Let’s face it – our industry is ­cool. The innovative programs showcased throughout the keynotes, sessions, and Ex Awards prove that brand experiences are where it’s at within the marketing mix. It’s wonderful to have an entire conference dedicated to elevating and celebrating our channel, and we saw that come to life big time with a few key initiatives: At the top of the list is the release of the awesome new book by Dan Hover and Kerry Smith, Experiential Marketing, outlining the very best in best practices within our space. Later, the 2016 B-to-B Dream Team took the stage for a standing-room-only power panel, highlighting innovators in our industry. Finally, we heard from multiple presenters how events can become a “content factory” for a brand — driving the content strategy throughout the marketing mix for the year.

Goldfish Edge Ahead of Humans

Goldfish now have a longer attention span than human beings. They beat us by one whole second, Adam Harter of Pepsi says. Why? We are living in a world of explosive change, Harter explained during his keynote, with 95% of the world’s data generated in the past three years and a projected 100 billion+ connected devices in the next 10 years. The good news is that our behavior is also changing and adapting faster than ever in the history of the human race. Now it’s up to brands, events, and experiences to keep up with that sprint pace. In order to do so, Harter says, we must lead with design and play with “fringes” — in short, never stop innovating. That’s something Under Armour takes seriously, as Beth Malafa explained: The only thing that gets you fired is doing the same thing twice.

Want to Be Boring? Market the Middle.

Going hand-in-hand with our short attention spans is our now innate human desire to want to be WOWed. That’s why Peter McGuinness of Chobani urged all marketers to never market the middle during his keynote. It’s boring and bland, he said, and does nothing for your audience. He reminded us that everything is an event, everything done well is an experience, and even the tiniest experience can make a huge impact. The B-to-B Dream Team power panel agreed, reminding marketers to remember the human beings we are trying to reach — and to make our experiences interesting, engaging, and wow-worthy. Kathy Gaddie of Cisco explained that when you design for your audience, and take them on an emotional journey, you can change culture over the span of a single event. That requires everything BUT the middle.

The Power of Partnership

As we lean into brand experience as a platform for innovation, the need for strong partnerships becomes a priority. B-to-B Dream Team member Greg Schneider of Dell explained that by homing in on a few key partners, and really going all in with them, his team is able to push the boundaries of what they thought was possible. And as we see more and more traditional advertising agencies get into the experiential marketing space, and the lines separating who does what begin to blur, powerful partnerships begin to arise that benefit the brands and ultimately our consumers. And at the end of the day, that’s what we are all striving for.

Cracking the Code of Measurement

Data and measurement continue to be among the biggest challenges event marketers face, as the sheer volume of data can at times seem too overwhelming to extract valuable insights. It’s the blend of the digital and physical worlds (what McGuinness referred to as phigital) that is causing the data to proliferate — and it won’t slow down anytime soon. While this data and measurement can be a tough nut to crack, marketers are starting to make headway. Each of the B-to-B Dream Team members touched on some of their proprietary processes to do just that, while SAP’s Mike Trovalli indicated how he measures the success of his events (booked business) and also how he uses insights from his data to determine which events to keep and which ones to cut.

Do you have any EMS insights to share? Tweet us at @FreemanCo.

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