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matt grey

The not so new, but powerful tool every marketer needs

By Matt Grey, director of business development EMEA at INVNT

I’ve always been a fan of live experiences – this is what probably led me down the career path I am on today. There’s nothing quite like having a face-to-face conversation with someone who shares a similar interest to you, listening to a top speaker in the flesh, or being able to get involved in a participatory experience that has been designed especially with you in mind.

This is demonstrated by the launch of Accenture Interactive, which according to The Drum, its chief executive referred to as an ‘experience agency’ at Advertising Week in New York earlier this month. Furthermore, WPP’s decision to position their newly formed VMLY&R as a brand experience agency – and the fact that more and more brands are choosing to activate their products and services in a live setting, highlights that it’s no longer just event professionals who see value in the medium.

Events are definitely not new. However, they have undergone a bit of a transformation of late, and they are now a recognised element of the marketing mix. They allow brands to cut through the clutter of modern life – think constant distractions thanks to tech, our ‘always on’ mentality and hectic schedules – and regain consumers’ trust through experiences that are curated to reflect their wants and needs. While the ‘experiences over things’ statement that has been circulating for a few years now is still pertinent today, this month a report released by Clear, a division of M&C Saatchi Group also points to the value of live event marketing when it comes to building brand trust. 

The survey found that 52% of those 34,000+ people surveyed in the US, UK, Germany and China never take anything brands say at face value, meanwhile 32% feel that the gap between the brand promise and actual brand experience (as in, their interactions with a brand across various touchpoints) is getting bigger. One of Clear’s top five tips for closing the gap? Making human connections count. In other words, brands need to facilitate more real, physical engagements for their customers.

The art of unearthing the right brand story

Just like events, storytelling has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Events plus storytelling, then, equals a highly potent form of marketing known as live brand storytelling.

This is about recognising that every brand, regardless of its history, product and service offering, or the industry that it plays in, has a good story – or often multiple stories – to tell. As we can see from the Clear report, brand authenticity is key today. We need to acknowledge that these stories must be told in ways that appeal to and foster trust among a brand’s target audience.

Telling a brand’s story effectively and in an authentic way not just once, but several times over isn’t always easy. That’s why at INVNT we’ve created a strategic and creative methodology known as INVNTion™. Working in close collaboration with our clients, we leverage the process to firstly identify a brand’s key messaging – which as we all know – can be multifarious and complex, pull out those that are most relevant to the target audience in question, and weave them together so that we can demonstrate a compelling narrative.

This process allows our teams to ideate, design and then execute brand experiences that move people emotionally, engage them intellectually, and transform them into brand advocates, as they become immersed in a brand in a manner that they’ve maybe not experienced before.

Engaging not only attendees, but their networks too

These days, the most effective advertising and marketing campaigns are truly multi-channel, with the same messages communicated across platforms – albeit tailored to each respective medium as required. These days it’s not uncommon to see a brand launch their latest product with a multi-million pound out of home (OOH) and digital campaign, and a live brand activation, which is the focal point, or it at least plays a highly prominent role. It could be a press launch, festival experience for consumers, or a big reveal at an annual leadership conference.

Interestingly, according to a recent Harvard Business Review Analytics Services survey, those respondents who have seen their revenue grow by 30% or more over the past two years have been choosing to focus on events the most.

While multi-channel campaigns are key, we’re all in an interesting place where digital and social have almost come to rely on live events. The most effective brand experiences are those that extend far beyond the confines of the event itself. When brand stories are told with authenticity, companies gain the trust of their guests, who feel inspired and compelled to share those stories with others. They’ll often whip out a trusty smartphone to capture the experience in real time and post it to their social channels or send it to their friends as a message. This is not only beneficial to the brand, it’s incredibly empowering for the attendee as they embark on their own journey of becoming a ‘citizen journalist,’ sharing their unique experience of an event with the world.

Extracting, and then telling, a brand’s story in an authentic way, where consumers don’t feel as though they are being sold to but are engaging in two-way dialogue with a brand isn’t easy. When the right research into the brand and its audience is conducted, coupled with strong creative and production talent, live brand storytelling success can be achieved. At the end of the day, people want to actively, not passively engage with one another and a brand, which is why live brand storytelling not only remains today – its status has risen exponentially. Marketers, and also those in various other industries, have come to recognise just how effective it is at helping them achieve their goals.