While many eyes are focused on the Republican National Convention this week, another one, with a greater marketing angle, kicked off last night in San Diego. Over the years, ComiCon has become a showcase for entertainment companies, gaming companies and just about anyone else who wants to reach their fans to have some sort of presence.
Last year, experiential marketing agency RedPeg created a massive, 10,000-square-foot playground for fans to re-enact sequences from the gaming title.The agency is back this year with an installation for SquareEnix (and others). Marketing Daily spoke with the agency’s new president, John Piester, about the state of experiential marketing.
Q: What’s the role for experiential marketing in today’s climate and how has it changed?
A: Experiential was known as one-to-one marketing, where it was a very personal engagement that could get consumers not just excited about the brand, but educate them about the brand. With the help of social media, it’s really about creating memorable experiences that are sharable now. When we’re creating experiences for brands, we’re thinking about it as how is that experience going to be memorable enough for the consumer that they’re going to want to share it.
Q: How do you determine that shareability?
A: We have a formula that’s meant to help predict analytics before you go into a program. We can prove what the ROI is going to be before we go into a program that we can take to the brand. It goes into taking into account people’s ego and vanity marketing and how easy we’re going to make it for them to share that experience. Even if they share it, we don’t want that to be enough. We want it to be sharable to the point where everyone in their social network is going to want to comment on it.
Q: How has that formula changed over time? Or how will it change as technology changes?
A: In the experiential world, you have to stay at the cutting front-edge of technology. Every program is different, you have to take into account and individual target audience and the individual form of technology that they’re using the most.
Q: As you move through that, how has it changed what you do, both in terms of sharing and the social web, and the development of what you create?
A: It’s made measuring things in the experiential world much easier because you have now that ability to go in and track what is happening with the content you’re creating. Seven or eight years ago, experiential was all about impressions. How many people are seeing the brand at an event and seeing locals. Now it’s much more hard data that can be related back to what the return is.
Q: In terms of creating your own installations, how has technology changed those things?
A: Brands want to be cutting edge, they want to be able to use the latest technology out there. You have to consciously evolve that so that when you’re showing up at an experience and action, the displays and way you integrate technology into the experience is going to be a direct relation to that brand.
Q: How do you determine if a technology is right for a brand?
A: Each brand is different and each brand’s target audience is different. If you’re dealing with a brand targeting Millennials that is tied to their devices you have to make sure that technology is incorporated into that activation. Whereas other brands that have a different target audiences could get lost in that technology. It’s really trying to match the level of the technology that you’re using to match what the consumer that is going to be coming to that event and experiencing that product.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you see in the experiential marketing world?
A: I just think it’s a huge mistake if they’re not thinking the experience all the away through. Experiential has become a form of media, and it’s user-generated, sharable moments that we create through this experiences. How are you using that content and how are you making it easy for the consumer to share it across their network? I’ve seen a lot where experiential is driving some cool stuff, but they’re not giving the consumer the opportunity to tie it back to the brand in a way that’s authentic and make them still want to share it across their network.
Q: What’s the biggest trend in the experiential marketplace?
A: We see a lot of marketers not focusing on new customers. [Instead,] we see them focusing on the customers they already have. It’s, “How do we take care of the people that are loyal to us now?” Because at the end of the day, those people are going to bring new people into the mix.
Q: What’s the pressure of creating something for an event like ComiCon?
A: It depends on what you mean by pressure. It’s a given that you’re going to have an audience. You don’t have to worry about driving people to the event. But that being said, at ComiCon, like a lot of other types of festivals, there’s a lot of clutter. There’s a lot of different sponsors doing a lot of different things. There’s pressure to stand out and there’s pressure to be the talk of that event. You have to come with compelling ideas. If you’re a repeat sponsor or presence at that event, you have to evolve what you’re doing. You don’t want to show up year after year with the same thing. You want to be new and exciting and the talk of the event.
[This interview has been condensed and edited.]