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#2 – Activating Your Brand on a National Tour

Vincent Kirkwood, our guest on episode 2 “Activating Your Brand on National Tour.”

Joey: Welcome back to our podcast, number two. I am lucky enough to have a guest named Vincent Kirkwood. He’s with MRA Mobile Experiential. Thanks for coming on.

Vincent: Thank you, Joey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here and to share a little bit of what some call knowledge. [laughter]

Joey: Right? [Laughter]

Vincent: It could be debatable. [Laughter]

Joey: Well, he comes all the way up from Detroit, Michigan. So, how’s the weather up there?

Vincent: You know what? Today, it’s a beautiful day. We’re in the late September and the fall is coming. We’re around low 70s, sun shining, leaves turning. It’s a great day.

Joey: Awesome.

Vincent: Yeah, absolutely.

Joey: Awesome. Well, I’m based in Denver and it’s another hot day, which is nice, but it gets cool in the evenings.

Vincent: Yeah, yeah.

Joey: But it’s good.

Vincent: Well, we’ve got the leaves turning, now, so it’s kind of a sight to see. This is – I would say Michiganders, it’s probably our favorite time of the year, because everyone’s running to the cider mills and you’re having their spiced doughnuts and spiced coffee and all kinds of spices this time of year, so it’s an exciting time here in the Detroit area.

Joey: Nice, nice. Well, before the cold weather moves in.

Vincent: That’s right, that’s right.

Joey: The calm before the storm.

Vincent: That’s right, exactly. Exactly. It’ll be here before you know it, so we just try not to think about that white stuff that we tend to get a couple times a year. [Laughter]

Joey: Right? [Laughter]

Vincent: Yeah, yeah.

Joey: Oh, it’s awesome. Well, you’ve been – we’ve worked together for, what, the last couple of years? Like, the last three years? We met in Vegas, of all places.

Vincent: Yeah, we did.

Joey: And we’ve done, actually, quite a bit of work with you guys. There’s some cool tours. I want you to give us a quick overview of some of the – what you guys do and we’ll go from there.

Vincent: Yeah, absolutely. So, you and I, obviously, like you mentioned, we met in Vegas on the staffing aspect of some of our tours and you and your team have been fantastic in being able to staff some of these live brand experiences that MRA and myself help to create for our clients. And we can talk a little bit more about that. What MRA does is – it’s always hard to explain experiential marketing, but the best way I can explain it is that we create compelling live brand experiences by engaging our target audience, our client, our client’s target audience, and stimulating the human senses with some type of engaging messaging in a controlled and in an immersive environment, and that’s what we typically use as our custom vehicles to create that immersive and controlled environment. We like to create an experience that will integrate brand messaging, graphics, architecture, sound, technology, offering our clients a more meaningful interactive type of experience that they can then use to build their brand and build the loyalty of their customers, if that makes sense.

Joey: Absolutely, absolutely.

Vincent: Okay. Great. And, you know, we believe that when you do mobile right, we’ve been in the business now for about 25 years. We’ve been under new ownership for maybe the last five years, but we’ve become somewhat of an expert in mobile experiential marketing, and if it’s done right, there’s a lot of great things that – a lot of great benefits that our clients wreak by working with us. Our vehicles and our experiences and programs are used to increase brand loyalty. We generate a lot of awareness for our brands. We induce trial and we increase sales and, typically, I like to say we pretty much bring the product to our clients in some aspect, as opposed to having them go all around the world searching. We bring the vehicles right to them, the experience right to our customers and to your customers’ clients, so that makes us pretty cool, in my opinion.

Joey: Absolutely. Well, no, you’ve been a pretty neat company to work with, just with having that mobile aspect of actually bringing this experience, like you were saying, to an event. I think it’s so important for a brand to activate this way, just instead of just a commercial on TV or – they actually get to Experience it and understand what you guys do. So, I guess, how would a brand – I think we’re going to just talk kind of one-on-one almost, but how does a brand even start thinking about this? Where do they start?

Vincent: Yeah, that’s a great question. And a lot of people, they come to us and that’s what they – that’s their first question, like, “I want to do this, I want to do that, but I don’t even know where to start. What do we do? What can I do?” And we like to start with a process of, I like to call it storytelling, and I know that’s kind of been a buzzword in the industry lately, storytelling, however, storytelling is a great way to put it. What we’re trying to do is develop, with our clients, a visitor experience through and exploration of desired objectives, messages and themes that they’re trying to get across to the folks that they’re trying to reach. And we like to call that storytelling. Somewhat of a narrative through all of those explorations. And then, from storytelling, we get into, now we know what the story is we want to tell, so then we get into development. We pick the vehicle. We select which vehicle we would like to choose to go out on the road. What’s the best fit? Sometimes, here at MRA, we have – we’ve done programs all the way from smart cars. We did that in collaboration with Macy’s and Reading is Fundamental, and we use smart cars when we stacked a bunch of books on top as a topper and drove that across the country. And, you know, smart cars are probably the smallest, one of the smallest vehicles you could possible see on the road that’s even street legal. And then we went into – we do big programs where you have a double-expandable trailer, and on the double-expandable trailer is you have approximately 1000 square feet of activation space on the inside to sort of tell your story. So, development is very important. Sometimes it doesn’t take the large vehicle, and sometimes you need something smaller or a little bit more nimble that can fit into the certain locations depending on where you’re going. And all of that comes into the development process. And then, once you have your vehicle chosen, you have to design. You have to plan the exhibition. What is it going to look like on the outside? What is it going to look like in the inside? What are the modifications? What is the interior outfitting going to look like? How much technology is going to be used? Are we going to do more video walls or monitors, and things like that? So, the second stage to it, I would say, would be development.

Joey: Got you.

Vincent: Yeah. And then, after development, you would get into the planning stage. Where are we going? It’s one thing to have this beautiful vehicle built, but if you don’t have anywhere to take it, what good is that, you know what I mean? And that comes with planning, because you want to make sure that you’re in the locations that your market is, you know? There’s no point in being in a location and area where that’s not your typical customer. That’s not who you’re trying to reach. It might be a great event, but just because it’s a great event, doesn’t mean you’re reaching your target market. So, a lot of planning, developing a schedule system, identifying a route, the route objectives depending on the vehicle. If you’re in a double-expandable vehicle, a large vehicle, you might not be about to go the typical route. If I’m trying to meet you in Denver, Joey, with a double-expandable trailer, you guys got some pretty big mountains out there. [laughter]

Joey: [laughter] Right, right.

Vincent: So, we got to really develop the route, the schedule, to get to you. And then, lastly, assemble and train the teams in regards to planning. You’ve got to have the right fit out there. To give you a little bit of an example, we did a program back in 2012 for the Library of Congress, out of DC, and the whole point of the exhibit was to have – to make available the resources, to make known the resources that were available at the Library of Congress in DC. Now, a lot of people don’t get a chance to go out to DC. If you’re out in the west coast, or far south, you may not make it to DC. But there are still resources that are available to you in your home through the Library of Congress. And a lot of people didn’t realize that and understand that. So, the library decided to do a mobile tour exhibition that went around the country sharing the resources that were available to local libraries, local schools, and things like that. And then, getting back to the staffing aspect of that, we couldn’t just hire Joe Schmo of the street. We had to do an intense training where we took a team, a drive team, up to DC, and they stayed for weeks in the library and they did research and they went through the different systems that the library has to offer and studied that stuff. Josh was – Josh and Abigail are their names – and Josh was a former high school teacher in the history and social studies, while Abigail was a marketing person. So, we pretty much combined with the Library of Congress, until we combined marketing and education and created this tour and our team was trained specifically for that. Both had degrees, both were educated, and both had the experience that was necessary. And that, the library wanted. So, that’s important.

Joey: Absolutely. Well, I’m really glad that you brought up the training part. I mean, that’s – I think that’s such a huge piece of it, and making sure that everybody on your team is – knows every piece of it and being part, acting like they’re the Library of Congress onsite.

Vincent: Absolutely, absolutely. We try blend in, because we’re MRA, but when we’re out there, we’re really not MRA. We’re the Library of Congress. We’re Meijer. We’re Wild Turkey. We’re Sprint. We’re all of the brands that we represent out there. We’re not really representing MRA, but we’re representing them. I mean, we’re in full clothing, you know, Sprint clothing. Whatever the brand is that we’re representing, we’re fully immersed in that.

Joey: Right, right.

Vincent: And, from your perspective, you get that, because we worked with you on a lot of these tours and you provided the staffing and you get it. You send us the people that would be a good fit for the tours that we need, so that really helps. That really helps us stand out as a manager of these tours, managing these tours across the world, where our clients can see, “Oh, they didn’t just get the first person that was available. They have really put some thought into who was out here representing us on the daily basis.”

Joey: Right, right. Absolutely, yeah. Staffing, from what we do from a staffing end is I feel no different than a strategy side of creativity. Dealing with humans as a product can be difficult. [Laughter] Dealing with different locations and timing and different – the human aspect of it. But obviously, that’s something that you have to really integrate with whatever brand you’re working with.

Vincent: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, from a brand ambassador’s standpoint, we have to have a team, if you will, or a partner, to represent – to help us get those people. Because we can hire the full-time staff, obviously, but when you’re having – you need, say, “Hey, I need 10 people who can work with kids. I need three barbers. I need a DJ. I need – that’s when we have to have to have a partner, such as Air Fresh, to come in and be a trusted partner on getting us the quality of what we’re looking for.”

Joey: Right, right.

Vincent: So, kudos to your team for doing that.

Joey: Well, thank you. No, it’s been a pleasure working with you guys and it’s great working with agencies that know what they’re doing. There’s companies out there that come to us, that don’t really have that strategic piece out of it when you do activate. I think that’s another important thing we can kind of chat about and just throwing this together. And another thing I wanted to quickly chat about is kind of, as someone as a brand, or even an agency, thinking about putting a tour on the road, kind of what you’re trying – let’s talk about timing. How long does this take? What is the typical engagement of how we could even get my brand out on the road? And let’s kind of walk through that.

Vincent: Sure, absolutely. So, to make sure that we’re not jumping the gun on any of the projects that we’re pitching, or any of the projects that we are working on, we typically like to tell our clients and potential clients that we need 90 to 120 days to get it going. Now, that depends on a lot of things. One, be it the vehicle, and then two, be it what the interior outfitting is going to look like, because a lot of times you – we may have a client that might spend close to $500 000, $600 000 on the technology that’s going to be inside of their vehicle. Now, if you know anything about technology, you know that’s not an easy thing and a quick thing to do. It has to be tested and programmed and all kinds of things. So, if you’re putting $500 000 worth of technology into an exhibit, into a museum tour, it’s going to – it might take the whole 120 days. But, however, we’ve got other activations where we can do – where we do retail sampling. We have a program like Wild Turkey. And Wilk Turkey is the bourbon company. What they do is they do – they activate inside of a motor coach bus, and it’s pretty much like a mobile sampling room. And their interior included a lot of the wood interiors and the wood paneling and things like that. But not a lot of technology, because you’re tasting bourbon. It’s not like you’re – it takes two seconds to down a shot of bourbon.

Joey: [Laughter]

Vincent: So, you don’t have to have that much. You just have to have an aesthetic and a look and feel and a very warm and comfortable setting and that’s a lot of color palette, that’s a lot of material, that’s a lot of testing, but it’s not a lot of technology, so we had that thing going – I think it took us maybe two months to get that going and on the road. Two, maybe three months. But that was the whole – that was the planning, that was the routing, that was the choosing of the vehicle, that was the procurement, that was getting the vehicle here, that was prepping the vehicle, that was the teams flying back and forth from here to New York – Detroit to New York – to look at – just look at the material in real life, in real time. So, it just depends on the program. We can get programs out in 30 days. We can get – and sometimes it takes us the full 120. But we definitely don’t want to rush it because it’s important that all the right pieces are there, because if you rush something as important as this, and if a client’s dollars are being spent on something like this, we want to make sure it’s right, so we’ll be honest and upfront, you know, “This is going to take about 60 days to get out on the road, this is going to take about 90 days,” and we’ll collaboratively work together. And a lot of times, we’ve gotten stuff out of the road faster than what we thought. That’s always a good thing. But one of the things I wanted to mention to you, Joey, is that one of the reasons we take our time is because we’ve gotten calls from other experiential marketing companies, other managing companies that manage these kinds of vehicles and these tours, and we kind of have to bail them out. Maybe they rush the process, or something didn’t work the way they wanted it to. They didn’t get – and we didn’t even talk about this, yet, Joey – but the DOT safety driver logs and schedule reviews and equipment registration and licensing. They don’t have those things on the – some companies don’t go into as much depth as we do to make sure that we are covered when it comes to traveling across the borders to Canada, or traveling to certain areas where the – it’s a little bit more important to make sure that your regulations are in place. We’ve bailed out so many brands, so many companies on our end, because they know we know how to do it the right way. And we do not hit the road unless it’s done the right way, because this – not having the proper regulations and the proper licensing could really steer a tour off the road and our main objective is more time in front of customers, not on the side of the road, not working on other things, but we want to get into the face of our clients and our clients’ customers right away.

Joey: Right, right. Absolutely. It’s a big thing. And especially, the – you brought up some good points just with the safety aspect. I mean, doing something like this is not an inexpensive project, but it can be the most – it can be very effective if it’s done right, and there’s a lot of pieces in place to do it. And plus, you don’t want to rush these type of things when you’re really trying to create that experience. You can’t just throw something together.

Vincent: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely.

Joey: Well, and then plus, the other thing too is I guess handling events, like figuring out how do you go about what events you want to pick? Kind of target market? How you – I guess, the focus will be going at your target market, right?

Vincent: Right, right.

Joey: But then –

Vincent: Go ahead, I’m sorry.

Joey: No, go ahead.

Vincent: Well, you’re right. And that’s a collaborative effort, choosing the market and the actual location that fits the client’s need and fits the target market of where they are going to get the most impact from the vehicle that they’ve put this time and this money into. So, a lot of times, what we’ll do is we’ll sit down and have some conversations. And the venues change, venue prices change. It just kind of depends on the type of tour, so I’ll give you a couple of examples. We’ve gone to fairs and festivals with non-profit clients, culture and education, our culture and education department here at MRA. And the price may be, “Okay, this is a non-profit pricing. It’s $5000 to be at the New York Maker Fair.” The non-profit pricing. And then we turn around and have another vehicle that wants to come here and they’re not non-profit, and it’s $25 000, $30 000. If it’s in the budget for our client, we will make that happen for them, and we try to do our best to negotiate as well, so that we’re not just throwing a ticket price at them, “Alright, it’s going to be $30 000 to be here.” We fight for our clients to make sure that they’re getting the best bank. So, if they are paying $30 000, “What kind of social media presence are we going to be able to have? What kind of brand presence, at the gate, are we going to have? What can some of the executives and their families do to be included in these vents? What kind of takeaways or giveaways can we give out and what kind of branding can we have as a takeaway for the guests who are coming to this particular venue?” So, it’s not just like an, “Alright, it’s $25 000, $30 000. We’ll take it.” We really work hard to make sure that we’re getting the best deal and the best bang for our buck. A lot of our clients actually do a lot of sponsorship too, so our vehicle is coinciding with sponsorship opportunities. For example, our client Meijer, they sponsor a lot of big tin football games. And Meijer has a vehicle right now called the Sweet Ride and what they do is they give away products at tailgates from their actual Meijer retail stores that people can sample. And the hope is obviously that, after the game, they go in and think of Meijer when it’s time to get their next grocery item or what not. However, Meijer sponsors the games that the Sweet Ride attend, so there, you’re looking at maybe not so much of a ticket price or of a – I’m sorry, a permitting price, but there’s a relationship there. There’s some sponsorship there that’s already been negotiated and worked out outside of the vehicle, so we can just bring the vehicle right in, into a certain venue, the Michigan State – the University of Michigan football games. So, those events are really nice, because it’s almost like Meijer has sponsored these football teams, they’re catering to the Sweet Ride coming in. We can pretty much park anywhere we want. And those relationships are great.

Joey: Got you. It’s so key to create those too.

Vincent: Yeah, absolutely. And another thing is that we have – and then we work with some high end clients. We did a project with Rocawear, which is the brand that Jay-Z owns. And, a lot of times, he went to high-end locations. Maybe we followed him on a tour, or he just wanted to be at a large music festival. Those prices for permitting and to get into those site venues are upwards of $50 000. And, sometimes, we – our clients have paid that. However, it’s our responsibility to go through the city and to make sure that the permits are corrected and that the permits are on time and that they’ve been sent in on time and that we’ve gotten our correspondence back and we have the pass in hand and we have to come in in the midnight hours between noon and – I’m sorry, between midnight 3:00AM, to park on Time Square. A lot of people won’t take the time to do those kinds of things, but we have, here at MRA, the resources and the availability to work with our city government to make sure that we can get into places like at Time Square or the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles and high-end venues like that, so we kind of pride ourselves on making sure our clients have the best real estate when it comes to site venues and choosing a place to be represented.

Joey: Right. Okay. Good. So, I guess the other thing that I wanted to kind of talk about is, again, these guys are spending lots of money. I mean, this is a ton of money on the road. How do you track and how do we make sure that they have the right return on investment at the end of the day?

Vincent: That’s a great question, absolutely. And that is the overall underlying aspect of these multiple programs. We want to make sure that the visibility is there. So, when you talk about ROI, there’s a lot of different measures of ROI. One is the obvious, sales. Has sales increased over the timespan that this vehicle has been out on the road? And, to be honest with you, a lot of times that’s kind of hard to tell. That’s hard to tell right away. We don’t really know from one event what the resignation is with our customers and with our clients’ customers from that one particular show. But it will build some type of connection that can last a lifetime, as opposed to just this one time. So, a lot of that, we don’t see right away, but we may see it in years to come. One of the things we talked about with the Library of Congress tour is that the kids would come into the vehicle and they would see – they would use some of the digital resources that are available and they would look at the paneling and the screens and the audio visuals. And you would think to yourself, “Oh, they’re not – they’re looking, but they’re moving fast, blah, blah, blah.” But we understand that – and the research has been done that at certain ages, kids may not necessarily spend a lot of time on something in one particular area, but they grasped something while they were in there, whether it was 15, 20 minutes, or an hour, and then they’ve taken it with them and it’s held in their heart, and then, at the time, as they get older, that particular piece will come into fruition. And we don’t know that. We don’t necessarily see that right away coming in and out of the trailer, but we do believe that your culture and education vehicles have the ability to tug on the heartstrings of a young person and they take that with them. And then, as they progress throughout school and throughout their lives, those pieces stay with them and then they remember it. And that’s the goal for – more so for culture and education. And when it comes to a lot of the retail sampling, we want to – sometimes it’s not about necessarily the sales, but it’s more so about the interaction with the community. What is it that Wild Turkey or Meijer is doing in the community? Getting their brand out, getting brand awareness. A lot of that is Meijer gives away their items. If they’re giving out hotdogs or ice cream sandwiches on a hot summer day, folks aren’t paying for that. They’re giving that away. And they just want to be represented and understand that, in some of these communities, “Meijer is here, Meijer cares, and we want to be involved. We want to help. We want to be in the community and be seen and heard and we want to hear what you have to say about our stores and our product that we have available to you in these communities.” And then you’ve got the ones that are typically sales. You want to sell items, whether it’s B to B, B to C, you want to sell more medical equipment to hospitals and doctors and administrators. You want to push those products out. So, I think, depending on the vehicle, the ROI is different. The ROI is different.

Joey: Got you. So, it gets – and I know that we’ve been talking a little bit about different types of brands of how the retails and sampling can be different than just direct sales. It can be really about interaction with that community and getting that name out there. Like, “Alright, let me think of Meijer the next time I’m going to shop.”

Vincent: Yeah, exactly.

Joey: How about – I mean, how you done anything like a service-based type of product, or I mean, a service-based type of brand of activating and, I guess, what would be the focus on something like that? Would it be more –? I guess, Sprint. I know you guys do a lot with Sprint. What would be the focus with Sprint in these locations? Is it really just brand awareness and getting to know the phones and the service? Or is it kind of a direct sales type of thing?

Vincent: For Sprint, that’s a good example. It was a little bit of both. What we did with Sprint was we created a branded mobile environment for Sprint to really spread awareness of their fast LTE network. We did a 27 food tow-behind trailer with glass walls that creating an inviting look inside. And it had a stage platform for different branding opportunities. And then, in the inside of it, the visitors were able to interact with the newest cell phones that were available, tablets, and other things that were available in Sprint stores. And outside, guests could – they were able to relax under umbrellas. They were able to charge their phones, receive brand premiums. That was more so to build awareness. Now, there were opportunities that if you were in a certain area and you had a Sprint phone, you could for sure bring it to us, and we could either fix it on the spot, we could direct you to the proper store to go to. A lot of that was service, but you were also able to purchase cell phones right there. You were also able to change your plan. You were also able to learn a little bit more about the business plans, if you were a small business owner or a large business owner who was over that network for your company, or what not. So, with Sprint, it was service and it was sales. You were able to do a lot of things for your customers. We went to events like Arts, Beats, and Eats. A lot of events where – pretty much every event, cell phones are in use, nowadays. So, you were able to get information on the latest Sprint items, or where to go if you need some help, how to change your plan, or, “Do you have the best plan? Is your plan recent, is it old, is outdated, is it updated?” Those kinds of things. So, we saw some really great ROI on that. We were able to help and service a lot of the Sprint customers, as well as able to sell a few tours – I’m sorry, a few phones and tablets, and maybe probably pull away some of those other service providers and bring them over to the Sprint brand.

Joey: Right, right. Awesome.

Vincent: Yeah. We did it tactfully, though.

Joey: Right. Well, and that’s the goal. That’s obviously the goal of this.

Vincent: Exactly. Exactly.

Joey: Trying to pull them over. Let’s get on and talk a little bit more about brand loyalty and how, with a tour like this, what are some of the ideas of really trying – because, again, the goal is to build that experience and that excitement for a brand when you’re out there, but if you wanted to talk a little bit about how you can create more brand loyalty around these tours that you guys do?

Vincent: Absolutely. So, building brand loyalty, it – when you’re dealing with mobile tours and vehicles like this and you’re actually bringing them to a specific community, a specific person, a specific target market, these – you’re really becoming immersive. It’s becoming an immersive experience. And it does create deeper bonds and it fosters long-term relationships, because it’s not just someone trying to push you, push something at you. But it can become a tradition. It can become something bigger than just a one-time thing. I’ll give you an example. We did a program for Macy’s and it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. What we did with that was we created a – it was a double-expandable exhibit, and we had inflatables and tents and it was almost like a carnival type of experience that we created. And we would see thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people throughout the years that this tour was active. Now, in collaboration with this, it was with the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I hope you’re familiar with it, but Macy’s has a huge parade –

Joey: Yeah, yeah.

Vincent: Across, during Thanksgiving time, across the country. There’s one here in Detroit that’s pretty big, but the big one is in New York City. You’ve got families that have been going to this event for years and years. Every year, it’s a tradition for them to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or perhaps sit on their couch and watch it. But then, when you hear that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tour vehicle is coming to your town and it’s September and it’s July and Thanksgiving’s not here, you’re building the excitement. You’re building hope. You’re building excitement. You’re building up to something that’s going to take place in November. So, that’s just a small example of how you can create the brand loyalty. And, throughout the years and throughout the months in between, folks are going to – if you need some school clothes, you might go into Macy’s. If you need a new pair of shoes, you’ll go into Macy’s. If you’re Downtown New York, “Hey, we’ve got to stop into Macy’s,” because Macy’s has become a part of their family traditions through the Thanksgiving Day Parade. So, that’s just one example. But the brand loyalty is so important with these programs for the simple fact that these people are – the consumers are going to continue buying the same brand of goods, rather than going to the competing brands, if there’s something that’s different, if there’s something that they’re connected to that they are seeing and that they are able to touch and feel and have a sense of something, they’re going to continue to be loyal to the brand, as opposed to be going after those competitive brands.

Joey: Right. Got you. That’s a pretty big event you guys have done. That’s really cool.

Vincent: Yeah, that was huge. That was huge. And we’ve got some other ones too. We’ve got one that we work on with the Detroit Institute of Arts here in Detroit, and it’s one of the most beautiful museums, art museums, in the country. And we have a mobile exhibit for that. And what it does is it doesn’t necessarily have artifacts or art pieces, but it’s an immersive experience that allows you to be creative. It allows young people and adults as well to be creative. And, once they come out, they thought differently. And I think that’s what’s outside the trailer, “Think differently.” And that’s what they do. They go in and they think differently, and then they come out and they’re able to use this new sense of thinking for other projects and other aspects of life. But then, they always have that connection to Detroit with the DIA. And trust me, Detroit needs the positive influence.

Joey: [Laughter]

Vincent: That the DIA can provide, honestly. They really connect with that specific museum. And we do other things with the Smithsonian Museum and known museum brands and known educational outreach and all of that builds brand loyalty for sure.

Joey: Got you. Awesome. I guess, going back to these tours that you focus on, because it’s not just that we’re sending out a truck out there, it’s really creating this experience across the country. I guess, let’s talk about – I know we’ve talked about a few of these different tours that you’re currently doing. Is there anything that you guys can’t do? Or ideas? Is it pretty – I don’t know, thinking outside of the box?

Vincent: Yeah. We – of course, I’m going to say, “No, we can do everything!”

Joey: Right.

Vincent: “We can do it all!” But, to be honest with you, it’s very important that we do what we do and we do it well. I think that’s very important. I don’t think we’re trying to – we’re not trying to take over the world with this idea of experiential marketing. It’s not necessarily new. It’s been around for some time. It’s just a little bit more so on the forefront, with so many outlets and social media and traditional advertising and digital advertising. Experiential was one that can really hit home, because you can immerse yourself in it as opposed to just reading it or going across – scrolling it through a social media outlet. But I will say that we do what we do and we do it well. And the reason why I know that is because, if you look at the brands that we work with, the Smithsonian Museum, the Library of Congress, those are renowned institutions that provide only the best quality to its customers. The Smithsonian has a long history of building beautiful exhibits, beautiful museums across the country. And for them to choose us says something about the kind of work that we put into what we do. MRA is divided into several different divisions. You’ve got business to consumer, you’ve got business to business, you’ve got culture and education, and then we’ve got our medical supply device system and warehousing that is a separate entity. But if you look at the brands that we’ve worked with when it comes to B to C, you’ve got Wild Turkey, we’ve got Target, we’ve got Eppa Sangria, you’ve got Cole’s, you’ve got Meijer, you’ve got Rocawear. Those aren’t fly-by-night brands. Those are lasting brands that have – that do great things in the community and have great products and they trust us to put their brands out on the road and to represent them. And that’s what we’re about. We’re about representing our brands to the best of the ability, keeping the same level of service that they would give out in their stores. The Smithsonian, we can’t just design anything when you’re dealing with the Smithsonian. We have to work very hard and very meticulously to make sure that we’re putting out exhibits that represent the Smithsonian Museum. So, there is – we can do a lot, but we like to do what we do, and we like to do it well. We stick to the vehicle aspect of experiential marketing. We like the vehicle aspect, the immersive environment, where we can really get a hold of our customers and our clients’ customers and really immerse them in an experience, make it really custom. We like custom interactives that allow people, visitors, to create their own experience, making them more memorable and target branded touches. So, that’s what I like to use.

Joey: Awesome.

Vincent: Just personalize experiences.

Joey: Exactly.

Vincent: If we can do that well, I think we’re safe. I think we’re safe, there.

Joey: Right, right.

Vincent: Now, but don’t get it – when I say safe, we’re still working to be innovating in our niche. We’re still working to be innovative. We’re still working on the newest technology. We’re still working on the newest live branding events and ideas that we can share with our clients to move them forward and to be forwardly progressing in the mobile experiential marketing industry.

Joey: Right. No, it’s so key. It’s so key to really make sure it’s right across the board, emulating your clients, and you guys do an awesome job. It’s been –

Vincent: Yeah. It’s hard to get a second chance.

Joey: Right. [laughter]

Vincent: It’s hard to get a second chance, so we like to knock it out of the park the first chance we get.

Joey: Right. So, how do you –? You brought up another good point earlier, kind of integrating – you have these experiences onsite. How do you integrate what’s the best way to do it approach? Just digital advertising, social media? How do you bring that all to life together?

Vincent: Within the trailers, within the programs?

Joey: Yeah. I guess with – I guess that’s a twofold question. Yeah, within the trailers and I guess just outside of it as well.

Vincent: Absolutely. So, it’s always easy for me to use examples, if that’s okay.

Joey: Please.

Vincent: For Sprint, we had a – we called it a Twitter Wall. And what it was is it’s a large monitor on the back wall, and what would happen is, when the visitor would come and recharge their phone, or look at some of the new technologies, new phone technologies that are available at Sprint, they would be able to take a picture, use their own device and take a picture with the hashtag #SprintTour, and once they did the – once they did that, their picture would show up in the trailer, so for everyone to see, and then we would be able to print that picture out once they’ve hashtagged it and it’s up on the social media, they’re still able to get an actual printout of the picture that they took. So, everyone wanted – you’ve got selfies galore, nowadays. Everyone wants a selfie and everyone wants to take pictures and you’ve got all that kind of thing going on. So, we use that. We play into the social media, the Twitter, the Instagram, the Facebook, the Snapchat, on our tours. We like to integrate a lot of that social media, because it’s relevant. Without it, people are going to be – if we don’t have it, people are going to be looking for it. But we just want to find cool and innovative ways to include it in there, while still getting the information on the product that’s out. So, that’s one of the things we’ve done. Twitter Walls. We’ve done a lot of QR coding. We’ve done a lot of text-to-win, text-to-get, text-to-get-more-information. And a lot of it has been successful. It’s been really successful, because we’re now able to not just collect data, but share data on what it is that our message is, what is the message of the program that we’re trying to get out, whether it’s educational, whether it’s non-profit, whether it’s retail or B to B, using the social media outlets and collecting that information, we’re able to share it with others as we move forward from city to city. Another program that we did was – what did we do? We did the photo booths. So, for Meijer, we did photo booths. And I kind of talked about the Twitter Wall a little bit which is kind of like a photo booth as well. But you go in, and you take these crazy pictures and you scroll them down, but in there, you’re still hashtagging, you still have a website on your picture. Maybe a bit line or a shortened URL, so that you can, down the road, go and find out more information about the product, about change, about whatever it is, the purpose of us being here and where the location is. So, there are definitely ways to integrate the technology, integrate the social media, and we definitely try to do that on our tours here. One of the tours that we did was Aerie. Aerie was a tour for – it’s a brand of American Eagle. And we went to five different college campuses last spring, and when we got there, we did a lot – Aerie did a lot of promotion on social media prior to our arrival. So, we were tweeting, we had a spokes – a model spokesperson, excuse me. Iskra Lawrence, and she would be tweeting about the location, tweeting about the tour prior to the arrival. So then, when we got to location, we had a ton of young people and students coming to the bathing – we were selling bathing suits from American Eagle. And, to meet her, to meet Iskra, and to try on the bathing suits, and to get a gift with purchase, so you got a lead up of excitement through social media, you’ve got the actual event where people are tweeting. Once you buy, you tweet. And then, post-the event, you’ve got all of these students that are saying, “Thank you,” and, “We’re glad you came,” and, “Come back.” And then, I like to call it post-post, because now that some of the people who haven’t been able to see the vehicle, or it hasn’t gone to their university or their school or been in their community yet, they’re tweeting about it, and how are they going to try to get it to them? So, I like to call that the post-post engagement on the social media for an event. And that’s worked out really great. That’s worked out fantastic. Definitely gained followers through using models and different things like that. So, it’s been – it was a great campaign, the Aerie program.

Joey: Got you. Yeah, I know, I remember we were doing that with you guys the last couple of years.

Vincent: Yeah.

Joey: It seems like it’s been a great program. And especially, not just for the people that aren’t there, but you guys had such a cool setup, it’s like, getting that social media out there, like, “Wow, this is a really cool event!”

Vincent: Yeah. We got a lot of that. We teamed it with some – I mean, and this is – it’s a production. Aerie was a production. It wasn’t just a tour, or I’m sorry, just a vehicle. So, everything was complemented by the vehicle, so we would get palm trees to come in. We would order palm trees, about 10 or 15 palm trees came in. We ordered nail people to come – nail technicians to come and do nails. We had drinks that we gave away, as far as, like, smoothies – non-alcoholic smoothies. Water, Boss water. We spent time in the Hamptons and we had a DJ. And we really made the event immersive and a lot of fun for the people who were coming. So, when you’re having a good time in the summer and you’re on your phone, you’re going to take a picture, you’re going to tweet, you’re going to hashtag. And, in collaboration with Aerie, we did a really great job at that in gaining the interest of the digital space and the digital world via social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat. And we still had the trailer vehicle there. That was the anchor of everything else that we’ve done. And if you go online and try to find some of the Aerie photos, you’ll see how that production came to life and how great it was, but you also, not to forget, you see that anchor of a vehicle in the back there that kind of anchored it all. So, that was a really great time.

Joey: Oh, that’s great.

Vincent: Yeah.

Joey: Well, you’ve given a lot of great information, and I’m going to also have a lot on our show notes of a lot of the stuff that we’ve talked about and I definitely want to add on some of the tours that you guys have done, some pictures and some cool things, just so our listeners can see. Is there anything else you want to add, before we cut this, regarding thinking about putting a tour together and going down this route on experiential marketing?

Vincent: If I had to leave it with something, I would say, the mobile tour, it does a lot. The mobile branding experience, it does a lot. It builds brand loyalty. It created a personalized experience for your customers. But one of the things I would say is to be unexpected. That’s one of the words, one of the buzzwords that we use here at MRA, is to be unexpected. Don’t go into it with the mentality of, “Oh, we want this, we want that, and then let’s just do it and it’s going to be loved.” As we go through the process of building out and logistics and scheduling and staffing, we like to be unexpected. We like to do things that are unexpected and cool and innovative and new and fresh, because that is what’s going to stand out. You’re going to build the brand loyalty, you’re going to have an immersive experience, but we really want to have a lasting effect, a lasting impact, a positive impact, through our vehicles on our clients and their customers. So, I would just say, be unexpected. Don’t come in with the mentality of normality, of mundane, same. Kind of be unexpected and get ready, because if you work with us, we’re going to push you to the limit of being unexpected. And that just means we’re going to push you to the limit to just be all out there, fun, creative, get those creative juices going, and it’ll definitely play a part with the finished product. I’m guaranteeing that our clients will be pleased. Our current clients are pleased, and to that effect, your customers will be pleased. And that’s what we like to stay on here at MRA.

Joey: Got you. Awesome.

Vincent: Yeah.

Joey: No, that’s great. That’s great advice, right there. I mean, there’s so many things that could change, but – especially going after different demographics, like millennials. I mean, you almost have to think a different way when going after them. But things can change in a heartbeat, especially if you want to be on the cool side. The cool side can be hard, but fresh.

Vincent: Yeah. Exactly, yeah. Be on the cool side. I like that. I might start using it.

Joey: Right. That’s copyrighted, so – [Laughter]

Vincent: [Laughter] Yeah! “Be on the cool side!”

Joey: Right?

Vincent: Thank you. I like it.

Joey: Well, it’s been such a pleasure having you on, Vincent, and I think there’s so much more we could talk about. Maybe we’ll have you on again down the road here to talk about a lot of your experiences. I mean, you have quite the experience. And I’ll post that on our show notes as well. I’ll also add in your contact info, so if anyone wants to get a hold of Vincent, up at MRA, you definitely can get a hold of him on our show notes.

Vincent: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thanks, Joey. It’s been a pleasure and I hope I was able to share some good insight on this mobile marketing experiential.

Joey: Absolutely. Thanks a lot, man. I really appreciate it.

Vincent: Absolutely. Take care, Joey. Thank you.

Joey: Thanks.

Audio for today’s episode can be found here

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