Best Practices In Experiential Marketing -- Making Brands The Event

We have a saying at our agency that goes, “Don’t just take brands to the event, make brands the event.” The first time you read it, it can feel like the sort of silly too-clever marketing lyricism that most people roll their eyes at when it comes from anyone but Don Draper. But the truth is, there’s a good deal of sincerity behind it. Today’s consumers — call them millennials, if you really, really have to — value doing over owning. That is a conclusion reached time and time again by esteemed publications and universities alike.

While the previous generation dreamed of mortgages and picket fences, today’s “twenty-somethings” are content to rent while dreaming of Coachella and World Series tickets and treks across the globe. Whether you believe that these young Americans are getting out there and doing all of these things just to get a cool picture for Instagram, it’s hard to deny that there’s something really great about a generation of consumers who so highly value a life full of doing. But for brands, it means that it’s no longer enough to market and sell a product; you’ve got to offer an experience.

Plenty of very smart folks in our industry have figured that much out already.

Take, for example, Budweiser. In 2012, right near the apex of the music festival craze in the United States, the centuries-old beer brand announced a massive partnership with Live Nation and Jay Z to create a music festival. The product, the Budweiser-branded Made in America Festival, launched in Philadelphia to roaring cheers from 75,000 consumers no doubt pumping Budweiser-branded wristbands in the air to their favorite songs by Hova. Ron Howard was on-site to direct a film about the event, which featured a multi-generational lineup of world-famous talent – Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Pearl Jam, Run-DMC and more.

For fans in attendance, the chance to see Jay Z join Pearl Jam on stage for a live-band rendition of “99 Problems” was something on which you couldn’t put a price — if Budweiser hadn’t offered it to them for a reasonable price, that is. The City of Philadelphia later attributed at least $10 million in economic impact to the festival. Now in its fourth year, Made in America has certainly garnered millions more in awareness and brand loyalty to Budweiser for its many satisfied fans. 

This idea of “making the brand the event” is one that another beverage company, Red Bull, has all but seared into its DNA; and you know it, whether or not you know that you know it. The Red Bull Signature Series covers so much ground and means so much to action sports fans that it’s silly to try to cover it all here. Red Bull is so engrained in the space that entire sports, like Red Bull’s Crashed Ice circuit, would barely exist without involvement from them.

More importantly, though, Red Bull has embraced the shared brand experience in another uniquely of-the-moment way: You can watch its content from practically anywhere. The brand controls the means of distribution and offers an arsenal of broadcast and streaming options to fans at home across the world, allowing them to join in on the adrenaline-and-taurine-fueled fun from afar. Later this month, when some of the world’s greatest skateboarders descend on Detroit for Red Bull’s Ryan Sheckler-helmed Hart Lines event, you’ll be there if you want to be. Simply tune in via Red Bull TV on May 15.

That’s probably the most important part of making a brand the event, offering the consumer something they can’t get anywhere else. Jay Z gets it, Red Bull definitely gets it. And because they do, consumers get a lot out of it. So, next time your brand is considering sponsoring an event platform, whether existing or newly created, don’t just bring them there, bring something to the table. If you do, you won’t just be selling consumers a beer or a burrito, you’ll be making your brand part of something worth remembering.

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