We Felt the Feels at #EMSLive, and Here’s Why That’s A Good Thing


The energy was high at this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit hosted by Event Marketer. More than 1,500 marketing gurus gathered in Denver, CO to immerse themselves in the bustling trends and activations of the experiential marketing world, and the star of the show happened to be the one thing that connects us all – emotion.

We cried, we laughed, we cried some more. But more importantly, we connected with likeminded, creative individuals who reminded us that our jobs – our roles as experiential marketers – matter. We’re not just a group of people who play the same marketing game and speak the same language. We’re innovators; we’re artists; we’re the developers of events that, when done well, transform into emotional experiences that have the potential to change perspectives and provide genuine value to people’s lives.

Everything is an event; everything done well is an experience. ~Peter McGuinness, CMO, Chobani

Our knowledge arsenal was stocked to the brim when we left Denver. We learned more than we thought we would, and we even mastered our ability to cry discreetly in public. So the entire experience was a solid success. In case you missed out on the whole shebang, we put together 5 takeaways every brand and agency should be aware of:

1. Use consumer lifestyle occasions as your marketing platform


It all ties back to your target consumer. People experience things differently. Whether they’re cheering at a football game or attending a Beyonce concert, consumers react to stimuli in completely different ways. Millennials and Baby Boomers don’t appreciate the same things – what matters to one might not even exist in the mind of the other. Brands need to determine which lifestyle occasions speak to their target consumers, and they need to utilize those cultural platforms – like music, fashion, and sports – to their distinct advantage.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast. You have to get out there and live it and breathe it. So we made the commitment to be cultural experts.” ~ Adam Harter, VP of Consumer Engagement at PepsiCo

2. The Maker Movement is making big waves in the modern marketing mix

If you’re not familiar with the Maker Movement, don’t worry about it. I wasn’t either. Essentially, it’s a subculture of tech-savvy tinkerers who have taken the DIY trend to a whole new level. The initiative began ten years ago when a young fellow hosted a Maker Faire conference in San Francisco, and people have been raving about it ever since. Today, it’s a booming trend, one that more and more crafty creatives are jumping on board with, and it’s proving to be an inspiration to brands.

For example: Pepsi. You’ve heard of them, right? They did this super cool thing where they created an entirely new brand within their brand. They called it F!ZZ, and it involved mixing original Pepsi products (like Sierra Mist, Mountain Dew, and Pepsi) with miscellaneous flavor shots, foam, and food items (like cotton candy, gummy worms, and cupcakes). Yes, cupcakes. The activation was based on consumer’s love for “making things,” and the quintessential element of the Maker Movement – constructing something new with what you already have. Long story short, the people loved it, and it connected consumers to the brand in a way that was very authentic, emotive, and unique.

3. Experiential activations are powerful content creators

We couldn’t agree more. Experiential activations have seen a serious resurgence in recent years, and it seems it’s not slowing down. In an industry saturated by rich content, experiential strategies create unique, less traditional content pieces for brands that extend past the original event. A brand experience is a moment in time, but the result of the experience cultivates content that translates into all other marketing platforms, like television commercials, YouTube videos, blogs, website content, etc. This is music to our ears!

4. Story-doing is in; Storytelling is out


Actions speak louder than words – the good ole’ adage is especially relevant in today’s evolving marketing department. Talking about your brand and broadcasting its story for all the world to hear is no longer enough. With things like the Internet right at our fingertips, consumers are exposed to a constant stream of informational storytelling, and more often than not, a brand’s message gets pushed to the wayside.

Story-doing, on the other hand, eliminates the telling and amplifies the doing. Story-doing allows brands to hand over the controls to their target audience, giving consumers the creative freedom to individually translate a brand’s message and implement themselves into the story. It’s getting the people involved, it’s defining an ambition that echoes throughout their entire message, it’s creating emotional experiences for consumers, experiences that generate authentic conversations about your brand.

“A brand is no longer what it says it is. It’s what people collectively decide it to be.” ~ Jeff Stelmach, Sr. Vice President at Mosaic

5. Above all else, human emotion is the “holy grail” of today’s marketing industry

In his keynote presentation, VP of Consumer Engagement at PepsiCo, Adam Harter, challenged his audience to consider one question as it relates to their branding strategy – “Is it going to make chills run down your consumer’s spine?” Consumers aren’t interested in being sold to; they don’t care about sales or tactics or strategies. We’ve become trapped behind our cell phones and tablets, consumed by the constant flow of information streaming through our devices. So when a brand stretches its boundaries and engages consumers in an experience that triggers a genuine emotion, one that makes them feel something deeply, that brand wins. That brand wins hard.

Samsung figured out a way to make the promotion of their new video call center, Hearing Hands, a sob fest for consumers. I’d try to explain why, but my words wouldn’t do it justice. Just watch this video and see for yourself. If you don’t feel something after this, you’re a monster.

As the brand experience creators of our society, it’s not enough to host events just for the sake of hosting an event. The marketing mix is crowded, cluttered with average strategies that, in the end, fail to elevate a brand’s message. But if we can trigger a human emotion in the hearts of consumers, we’re one step closer to humanizing brands and changing behaviors.

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