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brands at work

Immersing the audience

Martin Fullard talks to Brands at Work’s Karen Kadin (pictured right) on digging deep to create impactful experiential events

Experiential events have more than proven their value and are now a major component in the marketing mix. Events, it can be argued, have even overtaken traditional communications in their effectiveness. Where traditional marketing mediums can leave off at raising awareness or making an impression, experiential goes beyond to build a bond based on tangible interaction between audience and product, service or message.   

“Experiential has become a ‘catch all’ often associated with consumer- facing PR stunts and brand activations, but it most certainly can and should apply to corporate meetings, conferences and events,” says Karen Kadin, managing partner, Brands at Work. 

“Experiential simply means that: to create an experience. It’s about engaging the senses and tapping into emotions in a way that a more didactic or one-way communication cannot.

“The opportunity lies in creating brand-to-human connections, delivering on brand promises through actions rather than just words. It doesn’t passively engage an audience in a one-way show, it involves them in the narrative.”  

Is there a risk that these events can come across as gimmicky? Kadin says: “An agency (nor client for that matter) must not get carried away with the temptation to pull maverick stunts. That’s an exercise in vanity that may win awards but might backfire for a brand if it is lacking in authenticity. We must stay true to the brand, its identity, values and promises – and imaginatively bring those dimensions to life for the audience at hand, be that internal or external. Through sensory immersion and audience involvement, we can go far beyond the superficial understanding of a message to connect on a deeper level that changes behaviours and mind sets.”

Kadin offers an example of how her agency found a solution for a client. She explains: “One large pharma corporation came to us with a challenge to deliver an experience that would change their field force’s selling behaviours. One of their newly launched products was revolutionary and should have been flying off the shelves, but it wasn’t. 

“It turns out their sales force was fixated on the innovative science behind the product and was delivering a data-driven story to the market rather than connecting on an emotional level with their healthcare practitioner customers. We could have just put someone on stage at conference to say ‘be more patient-centric’ but you know how the saying goes ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ You can understand a patient’s condition on an intellectual level, even hearing stories that might pull at heart strings, but our use of disease simulation technology, dramatic storytelling immersion and disruptive theatrics ensured everyone walked in the patients’ shoes. 

“This experiential approach was emotionally jarring in a way that a patient video or perhaps even keynote would most likely not have achieved. Why? Because they were forced to consider; ‘what if it was me?’ It’s fair to say not a single person left that experience selling the same way ever again. Every conference should be experiential; otherwise you are just talking at your audience.”