Everyone loves buzz: creating it, reading it, being a part of it...and brands are no different. It's my job to give it to them. There are lots of ways to do this, but as experiential marketers we're big believers in creating incredible experiences that serve as a jumping off point for media, and that consumers associate with brands in an impactful way. Bonus points for events that creatively and authentically integrate product, and don't just throw a few signs on the wall.
But marketers often take the easy way out, relying on traditional paid media so that a definitive number of impressions can be included in a recap. It's safe, they know exactly what they're getting, and at what cost. There's no doubt that there's a place for this kind of media spend, but now that activation season is upon us, here's an idea: the best way to get attention is to do something attention worthy.
Our agency learned this firsthand, by accident. In 2011 we casually mentioned to the Wall Street Journal that we were going to create a suburban backyard on the Lower East Side on Manhattan and rent it out by the hour to people living in NYC who really missed their BBQs and sprinklers. This was just a thought. And then, the WSJ blasted it out, and it became very real. The buzz was immediate, so we produced the Timeshare Backyard and watched the media snowball: it made it onto the cover of The Age Australia, BBC ran it all over Europe, a roundtable segment on Fox Business News called it 'capitalism at its best', and it even made it into a few papers in Tokyo. We tied brands into the Timeshare Backyard for completely unique activations, putting product and branding in front of an audience in a natural and easy setting.
On the flip side, we've also gotten some pretty not-so-good buzz: when fans got a little too crazy during the Japanther set at our Rock & Roll Circus and security shut the whole thing down, it was written up as a riot by many news outlets. Unique as we want our events to be, we still have to make sure our corporate clients feel well taken care of, and this was definitely skating on thin ice. That event didn't go exactly as planned to say the least, but having the press wonder whether the show would even go on for the second night generated an interesting media conversation, and at the end of the day the brands were happy that they got to be a part of something arguably subversive.
Earned media is a bonus that can multiply impressions exponentially, and it comes from work that's disruptive in some way, re-inventing simple ideas that consumers respond to because they don't have to work hard to understand them. Consumers these days are so inundated with shiny ads and gadgets that often the most effective way to communicate to them with impact is to go back to the basics: a barbecue and slip 'n slide for rent in the heart of Manhattan.
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