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The new ground rules for experiential marketing: Seema Sood

Experiential marketing has been the new kid on the block for the longest time, so much so that it has begun to grow old and withered without going through its youthful phase. For the past two decades, this space saw a lot of fancy words created to mark its differential space - BTL became B2B and B2C before becoming Activations and then experiential to direct to home etc. Now it’s out there scouting for newer terminologies. And the stark reality being that ground work more or less stayed the same kisoking to cantering, to activity in school and RWA to meets to events to conferences of varying nature. The scale became bigger, but innovation was relegated to the back seat. 

Today, many experts have opened dime a dozen agencies for handling Below the Line communication agencies. Where there is money there is activation. Most of the clients will have one or two mainline agencies, but at least half a dozen BTL agencies vying for the same lucrative pie. Many people have joined this bandwagon naturally in the desire to create a difference, yet there is little new that is happening here. 

As a part of this teeming and running over the brim space, I am seeing a rising need coming in the future. Hitherto unknown and unexplored spaces are opening up for understanding and it is no longer enough to take the brand to the consumer. It has become imperative for brands to make a relevant and significant change for the interactors. It is no longer about the brand, but about what the consumer needs and sees in the brand that is engaging him and interesting him. It is going to be critical, going forward to wear the consumer garb before we plan, work or execute an activation brief. 

Though the pie is shrinking , and ROI is the most important aspect that conversations float around yet, the dreams are about reaching far and deep and that at costs that eat into the quality of the delivery. Labour has always been at the short end of the stick and here too it takes a beating. We forget, peanuts beget monkeys, and our best efforts should be to work on skilling and improvising. Such a great opportunity for marketers to finally add invaluable value to mankind and not just ‘brandkind’. 

Slicing and dicing the market matrix comes easily together to brand kings. The nuggets of gold reflect in the indepth understanding of people who consume a variety of products daily. Yet, there is a lesser focus on bringing the brand alive in direct conversations. What is relevant to a brand in that the mass marketing arena may, in reality, be need to be completely differently interpreted in the face to face interactions. It’s this critical understanding and focus on output that will add a layer, currently, missing in several ground initiatives. 

There is an elephant in the room that needs to be tackled too. Digital has become the big boy, youthful and interesting and the biggest cheapest medium in the market to engage and reach. But what it lacks currently is mass access, and language is still a barrier in smaller towns. If the platform can be used in addition to plans on ground, its potential will unleash a very heavy market need and push from a pure ROI perspective and long term relevance and conversation purpose too. 

Going forward, it will be soon critical to function on the purity of personalisation. It will matter very much as to what we say, to whom, when, where, how and why. The more we are engaging individually, while still keeping the mass in mind, will show how this will reach and stay in the minds that we touch. It will be the only medium that can and will have the power of personal touch. Who has never liked a personally handwritten card in comparison to a mass mailer? 

The key to the plan will always be to focus on business problems and solve those, rather than only create dramatic brand interactions. The engagement works harder, better and with clarity and focus when it solves the issue the brand or organisation is grappling with. The bang for the buck comes with solutions from a unique and fresh perspective that builds and corroborates the standing of the organisation and the product in sync with brand promise. None of the three, I feel, is separable and this strong combustible combination will be the determinant for success of the acts and engagements that we plan and deliver. Brands need that, companies desire that and products thrive on it. 

All the above are created in the arena of simplicity, relevance and impeccable delivery based mechanisms that not only map and measure, but also clearly create scalable engagements in the long term. Till the solutions have these inbuilt, it will not be able to stand the test of time and, therefore, be a memorable experience. The quiet strength of ideas are of sustenance and longevity. Once we answer that, we have the best model available for taking the story of the brand forward for the right people. 

It’s amazing how we can actually strip the details down to create a roadmap and how the dramatic theatre of engagement then becomes a journey of powerful communication...then be it one to one or one to a billion! 

(Seema Sood is Chief Executive Officer at QiCom Brand Solutions, an engagement agency working towards creating ground breaking realities and part and parcel of brand life span.)

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