#Experiences: Brands for the ‘Gram

Paul Paliga


I’ve been working in the live event space for nearly a decade now, and there is still nothing quite like pulling off a successful event. I don’t think you can ever place enough importance on the human connection and energy in a buzzing room.

In the Information Age, so many brands are struggling to break through today’s digital noise to make personal and emotive connections with their audience, and there is no better way to do this than an event. Particularly for brands looking to target Millennials (and their disposable incomes). However, it can’t just be any old event that gets this generation into a room. The right event must be engaging and visual. It has to tell a story. It has to provide an ‘experience.’

It’s no easy task, but it’s one we recently took on. Our approach? We took the plunge.

You can read more about the branding, approach, and challenges of our most recent production here, but today I want to talk to you about why experiences, pop-ups, in-person activations – whatever you want to call it, are more important than ever.

Let’s turn back the clock 15 years in a time before LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and even *gasp* Facebook took off. Compared to today, digital advertising was in its infancy with pop-up ads and flashy website banners as the primary way to get eyeballs on the brand.  And conferences, networking happy hours, and other sponsorship booths were critical to generating leads. Cue the advent of the smartphone and massive social networks took the world by storm, and brands pivoted to meet people where they were, in their social feeds. However, within the past 5 years (really since Instagram took off in my opinion), there has been a renewed focus on developing in-person interactions.

Back to Instagram. The app’s rapid adoption led to a digital community where individuals are now driven to share where they are and what they are doing. That is a very wordy was of saying people now seek out those ‘Instagrammable’ moments.. Brands are now looking to capture this lightning in a bottle by purposely building Instagrammable experiences that will get them into the feeds of their target audience. It is a fascinating interaction because to the user, the brand is secondary to the cool picture/video. Because the brand is secondary for the user, this has allowed a lot of smaller brands to make splashes on social media by creating an amazing customer experience that people want to capture and share on the platform.

A great recent example of this is Splashtown USA from local D.C. distillers Cotton & Reed. The upcoming distiller and bar cultivated their own Instagram-moment  on the 4th of July by building a waterslide in front of a brand new No Kings Collective mural on 14th Street. Combining the patriotic holiday with mural and a waterslide, catapulted the business into local instagram feeds, drastically growing their reach and creating a memorable first impression with the local comunity.

Another company making this pivot is Viacom – which is investing large ad dollars into ‘experiential marketing’, and experiencing brand recall rates higher than nearly any digital ad campaign.

It’s important to note that Experiential Marketing has a high barrier of entry, with event budgets ranging from the tens of thousands to multi-million dollar productions. Marketers are having to make the hard-sell that the higher brand recall, in-person interaction, and positive posts on user accounts are more than worth the higher ROI. However, building lasting connections with a customer is always the goal for brands, and nothing beats the personal touch of an event.

In today’s marketing world, developing innovative experiences for customers to enjoy and interact with are more important than ever, and we were excited to plunge into this world with DefeatDD, and look forward to the next challenge!

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