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3 Trends from the Experiential Marketing Summit

When you put on an event for experiential marketers (talk about meta!), it had better be big and bold. This year’s Experiential Marketing Summit certainly delivered.

With 2,000 marketers, tons of new ideas and hot technologies, and more than 80 amazing programs taught by top-notch thought leaders, attendees were inspired, energized and maybe a little overwhelmed. We’re helping marketers make sense of it all by boiling down the takeaways to three trends.

I caught up with one of the speakers, Dave Brull, vice president of global accounts at Kubik, who shared his favorite event moments. I also asked how he’s seen experiential marketers using these trends to create more engaging events and experiences.
It All Starts with a Story
Some of the most talked- and tweeted-about EMS moments revolved around storytelling. Helen J. Stoddard, head of global events at Twitter, brought the conversation to the forefront with her Thursday luncheon keynote.

With humor and her own personal #DuckSweater stories, Stoddard hit the nail on the head:

She emphasized that your message and story have to be clearly defined first before anything else for your event. Brull said he couldn’t agree more with Stoddard: “People remember a story. They won’t remember a widget, but they’ll remember the story behind the widget.”

Stoddard also talked about the importance of telling YOUR story.

Put another way, Brull says, “when it comes to the story you want event attendees to remember, you have to brand your story and make it your own.”

No More Products on a Pedestal

In Brull’s session with Jane Culcheth Beard, head of tier 1 events at Hewlett-Packard, they shared how HP has adopted a storytelling philosophy and reinvented its approach to live events. As Brull explains, “It’s no longer about putting products on a pedestal — it’s about putting products in ‘natural habitats’ exactly like customers might experience the brand in their everyday lives.”

For example, at the National Retail Federation Annual EXPO, HP integrated its products in a retail-like environment — just like customers would experience in a real store. Brull says this approach gave “HP ample opportunities to tell compelling stories of how their products are being used to do great things.”

Brull noted that this shift has been primarily driven by many organizations embracing content marketing, which often also includes a larger push to a storytelling approach.

And that’s a perfect fit for the exhibit and event world. As Brull says, “we should no longer think about only showing what a product is and what it can do, but instead creating an event or exhibit experience that helps audiences understand how our products do bigger, better and more wonderful things.”

Be Human

Stories resonate best when they’re about what your audience wants, not what you want. During the Friday luncheon keynote, Alex Amado, vice president of experience marketing at Adobe, reiterated the importance of listening to the customer and putting their needs first.

Because one of the primary goals of events and trade shows is to make connections, Brull says, “we have to think about what stories are going to drive people to action.” Otherwise, without that human connection, as Stoddard said, it’s meaningless.

Brull says you’ll know you’re successful in making a human connections by “listening with your eyes.” “Everyone talks about metrics and measurements. But if you listen with your eyes and look to see if people are enjoying themselves, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing.”

Brull summed up why all these storytelling topics trended at the summit: “Compared to information which anyone can provide, telling stories makes an emotional connection, and gives our attendees a powerful memory they'll hopefully remember for a long time.”

And aren’t those connections one of the biggest reasons why we all love experiential marketing?

Learn how HitLights customers use LED lighting to create experiences at trade shows and events.

About HitLights

HitLights delivers LED lighting solutions for event exhibits, displays, signs, theater and film productions, and manufacturing. CEO Bin Yu formed the company through the Louisiana State University Business Incubator Program in 2010. Since then, HitLights has grown to become a major player the LED industry. Customers come to HitLights for quality products, helpful customer service and creative solutions.

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