Archive for the ‘Experiential Marketing’ Category

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I THINK IT’S CATCHING ON…

January 18, 2012

Slowly but surely, our collaborative platform for creating interactive experiences that tell client stories is bubbling to the surface in our industry, finally following trends long seen emerging in Europe since the mid-2000s.

Progressive, high-end magazines such as EVENT DESIGN and EVENT MARKETER sponsor industry shows that focus on that transition – and of course, EXHIBITOR’S Gravity Free Design Show remains for me, the Piece de Resistance – although every year I dream of attending and have not made it yet!

And what about PCMA- long the innovative leader on the meeting planning side?  Back in the 80s, the original CLC’s CMP certification program was based on the PCMA “Professional Meetings Management”; that 1985 First Edition was my own study guide when I became one of the first five CMPs in Minnesota. Today, they’ve made the leap, taking risks, experimenting with integrating digital tools, learning lounges, and changing up that old general session in their last couple national conferences.   Industry trades are a-buzz with the result of their efforts and I sense a critical mass is gathering.

The glimmer of hope came last year when our first CRV Experience garnered not only local, national and international press as well as five ISES Star Awards, but in the background, I have continued to worry and fret about the 20th century thinking that permeates our industry and keeps it mired down in ineffective general sessions and theme parties.

So I was uplifted yesterday when I attended the roll-out of the new sales and marketing efforts of Meet Minneapolis.  They have capitalized on the wave of the future; their market research and marketing plan was impressive-geared to opportunities to move forward.  Their redesign of the website clearly reflects a welcome change.  I’m looking forward to their Annual Meeting in March and to the Meeting Planner’s Seminar in April where the focus seems to be grounded in Creating the Experience.  I left that meeting charged up – committed to being a more active partner supporting their efforts.

And this morning’s Strib added icing to the cake with two feature stories.  Although the first was a report on the comeback of boating in Minnesota, its sub-theme caught my eye.  The show touts a new attraction – an indoor marina, complete with 20 boats “moored” at docks and a waterfront patio with food and live music.  The show producers certainly understand – they have created an experience that puts their Minnesota audience in the midst of a familiar dream – if only they owned a boat!  And they’ve added to that experience an opportunity to get wet with a Flow Rider ride that allows low body surfing, board surfing and wakeboarding in pseudo-waves.  Finally, amidst the lake/river illusion and the Parade of Boats, they have recreated a marine service center right on the floor.  “Fred’s Shed”, an interactive learning center offers tips on installing boat electronics, engine maintenance, upholstery repair with local marine service mechanics on hand to conduct the seminars. This is good stuff!  Although today I am not a boater, I may just have to attend that show – to learn from what they did and witness the energized crowd they will capture.

Finally, there was the “Tres geek” success story of Ralph Lauren as they embrace tech-driven digital marketing strategies- from 24-hour touch-manipulated storefront windows to iPhone apps to 4D events to a strong presence on the internet.  They too, understand.  To be relevant to shoppers, they need to be able to talk to their customers in channels where those customers spend their time.   As Ralph Lauren embraced high-tech interactive experiences, they joined Nordstrom and Tiffany’s and reaped strong sales in an industry that generally did not do so well.  A 14% plus increase in sales and 18% increase in profits is cause for celebration.

Yes, I think the world is catching on!

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IT KEEPS ON GIVING…

March 15, 2011

The March Issue of BIZBASH Chicago featured yet another gift we have received from the CRV EXPERIENCE this past summer. Yes, we knew BIZBASH was including us in an article, but what a surprise to open the magazine yesterday to “14 MOST INNOVATIVE MEETINGS…New ways of thinking are revolutionizing content-driven events, and such gatherings are experimenting with new formats, technology and strategies-and seeing their ingenuity pay off.”

And there we were, right after the TED Conferences and along with Oracle, NTEN, SAP, The Cable Show, Cisco, IBM’s Lotusphere, and several other innovative companies that are working hard to escape the bonds of old thinking to bring the meetings and event business into the 21st century. 

Each of us took a different approach, but oh, the wonderful experimentation that was represented in that article!  Just look at the results this group accomplished:  Building attendee engagement, Getting Green-Long Term, Integrating Social Media, Bridging Live and On Line Conferences, Curating Conference Content, Managing Noise, Integrating Mobile Technology, Boosting On-line Interaction, Engaging Exhibition Layouts, Connecting Buyers and Sellers, Luring More Exhibitors, Sparking On-Line Content, and Streamlining and Tracking Content.  I am sure there is not a good producer or designer in our industry that has not wrestled with these very same issues.  How many of these concerns have you encountered in your own world of meetings and events? And how have you dealt with them?

Yes, it was a spectacular “high” to be grouped with this awesome list of industry-leading events, but more importantly, what fabulous brain food for us as our thoughts are slowly turning to CRV 2011 to bookend the journey Boston Scientific is taking this year following the launch of CRV last August.  It reinforced our initial thinking is on track, and sparked new thoughts about how we can best keep that interaction between employees and leadership moving forward. 

Over the last several months, I have often used this blog as a platform to air my passion about innovation, interactive meetings, social learning, and how to address new thinking about adult learning through good event design, experiential marketing and the birth of a new meetings and events industry that has risen from the ashes of the old.  

So although the recognition of CRV 2010 is a very fulfilling “high”; the gift we received from Bizbash was much greater:  More good ideas to stimulate our movement forward in this very slow process of changing our world.  There is more to this industry that the WOW of a pretty party!

Check out the whole article. Anna Sekula, the author says it best:

“When choosing the events to include, we looked at organizations that are pursuing these new avenues, and that are seeking long-term solutions beyond gimmicks and one-off experiments to build bigger brands and relationships with attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other partners.  With tangible results, each of the 14 gatherings highlighted demonstrate how such options are setting the stage for smarter, results-driven meetings.  They also help prove the power of well-produced meetings and their value in a larger business context.”

That succinctly sums up the purpose of my own life’s work and why I continue to describe CRV 2010 as the Pinnacle of my own 40-year career in this business.

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DAY OF INFAMY; DAY OF HOPE

December 7, 2010

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and changed our world as we knew it.

Thirty-two years ago today, I was in Honolulu, standing in front of the Sheraton Waikiki watching a sea of Japanese – just arriving on the daily 747 from Tokyo-walk to the hotel from Kalakaua where their buses had dropped them.  We joked that we were witnessing the second invasion of the Japanese-this time as tourists, immigrants, and future business leaders whose influence would be more lasting than that day in 1941 when they staged their surprise attack and launched the Pacific Theatre of WWII.

Since today is also my older sister’s birthday, December 7 is a date that does not slip by unnoticed for me; and today is no exception.

As I was reminded of Pearl Harbor (and Pearl City and my favorite hang-out, the Pearl City Tavern) and that day I witnessed the crowd of 300+ Japanese tourists slowly moving en masse up the side street, blocking all traffic, I was suddenly struck with another thought.

I was in Honolulu December 7, 1978 on a site visit with my BFGoodrich client…waiting for Dusty Rhodes to pick us up for a meeting to finalize the BFG incentive program  that included a one day “experiential marketing event “– the first ever BFGoodrich “Buying Opportunity” for dealers.

A new idea; a gamble; a shot in the dark with no knowledge of how it would turn out; simply a gut feel hatched between the client team, our account executive and me…that changed MY world long before Events became an industry.

In February, 1979, as part of the “Great Life” dealer incentive trip, we instinctively engaged the BFG dealers on the lawn between the Sheraton and the Royal Hawaiian and that afternoon, they were motivated to buy sufficient quantities of TA Radials to finance the entire annual incentive program for a year – including the diamonds they won, based on points earned on purchases-as gifts for their spouses!

Back then, it was proof that Motivation 2.0 worked and was the beginning of a reroute in my career from incentives to performance-improvement meetings to interactive product expos that emerged as our point-of-difference in Carlson’s Meetings Division in the 1980s and led to Carlson’s first attempt at Event Marketing in the early 1990s…and eventually led me to leave that corporate world and launch Creative Events in 1993.

The pioneering journey took 15 years of trial and error with no supporting industry to tap into to learn how to do it, why it worked, or how to do it better.  We simply instinctively continued to build on past experience –with results improving little by little throughout the years.

So why then am I surprised that as the industry was born and grows up, it is taking what seems like a lifetime to move from adolescence to adulthood?

It was 37 years between the Day of Infamy and that first BFG inspection trip where we witnessed the “second invasion” of Honolulu by the now-friendly Japanese.  We marveled that day on what a significant change had occurred in such a short period of time!

So, I guess that means, I should have patience – it may take the events world 37 years as well to accept the power of experiential marketing and move forward with us into the 21st century.  Instead of the Day of Infamy, I should look at today as a Day of Hope!

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LESSONS LEARNED Pt 3 EXPERIENTIAL DESIGN

November 21, 2010

And now, some final thoughts on experiential design.  Over and over again, the importance of the Shanghai Expo to our event world is conveyed by various designers in various trade publications.  They communicate the same message – a message that has resonated with me and has driven me forward to improve my own skills and the experiences I create for my clients. Here are just a few more excerpts from EVENT DESIGN, October 2010 issue:

Each tells a simple story throughout the pavilion…

…meld architecture, media and message throughout…

Unique story telling…whimsical, interactive, artistically crafted…

The little gems discovered along the way are more memorable than the “over-the-top” elements

Use of building surfaces and advanced lighting technology to create art…building surfaces (became) a communication medium

Move from interactive to immersive

Unique storytelling …360 degree projections…floor, ceiling and surrounding walls

A different way of thinking won

Unify the exterior and the interior

An affirmation that there is no better medium to communicate a message than through design

Design plays a significant role in communicating ideas

The designer brings a story to life to deliver a message

You need a well-defined storyline and you need to use all parts of the experience:  the media, graphics, structure, space, and circulation through it in service to the messages that you want to communicate.  If you have a clear storyline and have everything support the few clear messages you want to communicate…

It’s not so much about the technology or materials; it’s about putting design in service to interpretation

High-level projection is everywhere and levels the playing field. It brings it back to content.  It is not about shiny technology…the resonant experiences were tied to emotional communication, not necessarily to technology.

For me, that sums it up.  The world of experiential design has spoken.  It’s time to put away for good the theme parties and pretty events without purpose of the 20th century.  For now, save that for the social customer, although I predict they, too, will migrate to more personally meaningful events as time goes by.  Our industry is growing up. We provide a means to an end, and should not think of ourselves as the end by itself. Are you ready to join me in the exploration of this evolving world and its contribution to the New Economy of the 21st Century?

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KEITH GOLDBERG’s LESSONS LEARNED

November 20, 2010

And now some excerpts taken from Goldberg’s report in EVENT DESIGN October 2010.  The pavilion descriptions definitely reflect effective rules we might all do well to embrace!

OLDER FOLKS DIG (THE RIGHT) TECHNOLOGY.  Interactive touchscreens delivered content in such graphic, intuitive ways that a child or senior citizen could get into it.

THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL IN MARKETING IS THE NARRATIVE JOURNEY – those that embraced the expo theme of “Better City, Better Life” by creating journeys that reflected the progress of their own cities were rewarded  with buzz throughout the visitor audience.

INTIMATE STORYTELLING IS KEY TO CREATING COMMUNITY – and Chile did it best!

SIZE DOESN”T ALWAYS MATTER. It was inspiring to see an unexpected and smaller exhibitor step up and leverage technology to tell its story.

KIDS EVERYWHERE ARE SELF-CENTERED (IN A WONDERFULLY CHARMING WAY, OF COURSE)

THE HOLOGRAM MAY (UNFORTUNATELY) NEVER DIE …despite being an unreliable technique that often does not work.

OVER-PROMISE & UNDER-DELIVER IS NOT A WINNING STRATEGY. Don’t let this happen to you.

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND…BUT A PAVILION CAN BE.  Saudi Arabia created a desert island with rooftop oasis with a 3D/360 degree theatre the size of two football fields and people waiting in line for up to 8 hours for the privilege of seeing it..proof that if you build something people want, they will come.

CAPTURE HEARTS AND MINDS…AND BUTTS..”dwell time” is partly dependent on level of comfort…whatever you can do to integrate comfort into the experience always pays dividends.

KEEP THE IDEA BIG AND THE EXECUTION SIMPLE …as did Belguim with their “iceberg in two blocks, separated by a crevasse” to demonstrate climate change.

EVERYONE LOVES A PANDA and World Wildlife Fund with their panda logo did it well

DELIVER ON YOUR PROMISES. Poland promised an experience to meld its folk heritage with its position as a modern nation and through integrating its established exterior look into a design that enabled technology, media and theatre to bring their story to life – did just that.

COOL MATERIALS DRAW A CROWD. Just look at Spain’s pavilion with its wicker panels adhered to steel and glass to suggest the flowing lines of a Flamenco dancer’s skirt.

YOU ARE DEFINED BY THE COMPANY YOU KEEP- Just as our parents taught.  In the event and exhibit world, it is important how you are positioned in the minds of customers as well as “on the floor”.  In Shanghai, Iran and North Korea were virtually connected – with not much to show.  Lines were short and that may be the real insight gleaned.

BE AUTHENTIC as Canada so skillfully demonstrated.

RETRO NEVER GETS OLD – as China proved with the flying saucer-shaped Expo Culture Center.

EVERY MASCOT IS A DESCENDANT OF GUMBY – and the official mascot of World Expo, “Haibo” caused Ken to wonder “What happened to Pokey?”

IF YOU HAVE HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE, USE IT.    And China did. After  dictating size and height parameters to the rest of the world, they broke their own rules –and built bigger, and beautiful for their own pavilion.

And the parting comment from Keith was that perhaps the most powerful part of the experience in Shanghai was touring with thousands of people from very different cultures…all waiting in line together…all surprised and delighted by similar things…moved by the same stories…and were happy to share these moments with each other…Face-to-Face.  Live.

So much food for thought from his insights. Thank you Keith Goldberg and EVENT DESIGN for sharing.

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LESSONS LEARNED

November 20, 2010

I have spent most of my free moments of late immersed in photos, videos and commentary from the Shanghai Expo.  I thought I was getting my arms wrapped around the hows, whys, and why nots, as my list of ideas inspired by the commentary from US visitors continued to grow.

But experience designer Keith Goldberg’s article in Event Design Magazine jolted me into a new perspective when I read his introduction to lessons he learned in Shanghai:

“I can’t help but draw a parallel to the legendary “White City” built for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Just as its expanse and majesty heralded the coming American century, the grandeur of the World Expo in Shanghai (and the efforts made by exhibitors to impress their Chinese hosts) heralds China’s modern-day rise…there is no more amazing window into how our world has progressed and changed over the years…you also realize what hasn’t changed is the motivation of host countries and exhibitors to put forth their best efforts, tell their stories in engaging ways, and create the kind of community that leads to relationships (a/k/a commerce).”

Like Goldberg, I am a history buff, so the US/China World Fair comparisons hit home immediately and pointed out that I was so engrossed in the detail that I missed a very important overview – that feeds into Lenderman’s “Brand New World” and his theories regarding the developing hypermarkets of the BRIC and their influence on our world of the future.  (see blog October 20, 2010).  Once again, I was jolted out of the safe world of US superiority in innovation/creativity/power over the last century into a whole new world – where unless we adapt, we will be left behind.

And more important, I was so focused on the details of the “how” that I failed to pick up on the more impactful “why”.   Oh yes, I was looking at the broader “trends” communicated over and over that pertain to my professional world – that of experiential event design – but I was shutting out the global impact of the phenomenon itself – and shutting out that nagging comment I heard in my first exposure to Shanghai a month or so ago…that comment about the American Pavilion being “underwhelming”. 

Lots of big thoughts here – but the reality is none of us can afford to continue to do over and over again what led to success for us in the past.  We need to keep engaged in the world and what is happening around us – and let our human curiosity for how does that work, what’s next, how can I do it better, guide us towards improving what we have done before.  A lesson we seem to have to learn over and over again – while we “rest on our laurels” and pontificate about how our experiences allows us to know what’s best, the rest of the world will pass us by.

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EXPERIENTIAL DESIGN

November 15, 2010

Over the last several years, I have gradually lowered my expectation of benefits I would reap from the monthly ISES meetings, as educational efforts seemed aimed towards the lowest common denominator within the audience.  I surmised that was a natural result of what I felt was using conferences such as The Special Event and EventWorld as a place to line up chapter speakers by sampling “industry leaders” seminar content .  Since most have for years been underwhelming and generally ego-driven show-and-tell pretty pictures, I learned to attend for the networking, and occasionally, was pleasantly surprised  with a new venue, a service or a quality topic and presentation from a guest speaker making his rounds from chapter to chapter.  That approach saved me from being disappointed, and I tried not to think about the impact that national approach to chapter education was having on “dumbing down” the quality of events coming from ISES members. 

That assumption seemed to be reinforced as I looked at “Special Event” magazine.  Twenty years ago, I poured over articles, reading it cover to cover for what I could learn to make me a better event planner.  Today when it comes, I thumb through it quickly for new products and any mention of local MN members, then file it away – knowing if I don’t, I will never come back to it, as it generally holds little of interest in terms of event approaches.

So I was ecstatic last week to be part of the audience that welcomed Kris Kirstoffersen to our November chapter meeting.  I knew I had made the right choice between Pink and ISES when Kris began with the premise that event design is not décor and then jumped right into a progression within ISES that tracked events from party planner to WOW factors to reveals to appealing to senses to creating an experience to what we are really all about – telling a story that stimulates thought and delivers a message.  To recognize that  progression, understand, reinvent a company, and do exceedingly well through the recession should be a signal to all-particularly those companies that view themselves as designers, yet suffered through the down-turn in the economy. 

The message last week reinforced what I observed and experienced, supporting my premise. Those of us that strive to tell the client’s story and view our contribution in this industry as part of a customer’s marketing strategy have had two very good years.

And best of all, I didn’t have to forego Daniel Pink entirely when I chose to attend ISES instead of the AchieveMpls lunch at the Depot at the same time. MinnPost.com ran a feature on what Daniel had to say.  I expected the message he conveyed, as I have heard him speak, am an avid fan, and have digested all his books. But it is always nice to hear someone you admire tell you that Minnesota is uniquely positioned to make the educational paradigm shift because “you have an enormous tradition of creativity from the arts community, and a tradition of non-ideological problem-solving. “   The column author, Beth Hawkins also shared that the presentation based on “Drive: The surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” included similar themes he presented at the idea forum TED – so I am off to take a look right now.

  In the end I will not only get a Pink fix, but my faith that ISES may indeed make the transition from early days event planning to the world of experiential messaging has been reinforced. Kudos to the 2010 MN ISES Board.