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#6 Craft Winning Experiences for Sport Brands (Show Notes)

 

Jian Shokouhi on Talk Experiential

Jian Shokouhi on episode #6 of Talk Experiential.

JOEY: All right, first off we have Jian Shoukouhi, hopefully I didn’t butcher that too much, knowing you for about, what, six years now? Jian has been in the experiential marketing industry for many years. I believe since — a long time. In 2007 you started the industry. Thanks for joining the podcast.

JIAN:  Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. And the last name is Shokouhi.

JOEY: Shokouhi.

JIAN: I won’t hold you to it.

JOEY: Okay.

JIAN: I appreciate you having me on, and yeah, it’s been since 2007, technically. But I’ve had some dabblings in experiential before that, to kind of lead me towards the direction of a career path, I guess. Just some little touch points here and there.

JOEY: Awesome. Well, why don’t you quickly just tell me a little bit about how you got into this industry and we can kind of jump into it.

JIAN: Yeah, absolutely. So, I really didn’t know what experiential was, to be honest with you, when I first — to get into towards the event side of things. I knew I wanted to just be in marketing and really, sports was kind of my passion and I was completely outside of sports after I graduated from college and decided to go back and get my Master’s. That was my avenue of getting into the sports realm. I was doing some volunteer work for a small agency in Denver and I met someone who asked me to go down to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is down in San Antonio, Texas, which is actually going to be — They play on NBC every year at the beginning of January and I thought, “Why not? It’s just a chance for me to go down and get some experience,” and I really loved it. We went down there and I got to see the inner workings of an event from a large scale and be a part of that and I came back to Denver after that and I ended up going and working for the Broncos and doing some sales, and really what stuck with me was being at the game and working on game day and being in that event operations mode, versus the sales side of things. I kind of gravitated towards that the most.

Fast forward, the same person — her name Tanya Kesmodel, who I owe a lot to actually. She ended up going and working in Chicago for an agency and I was the one who was working with her at that U.S. Army All-American Bowl game. And we kind of circled back around and I moved out to Chicago and started working with her on the U.S. Army account, and that was where I first got into my full time experiential gig.

So, just a few little moments and opportunities that I took advantage of first, really gravitated me towards the experiential side and being in that event marketing, so to speak, avenue. So, the rest is history. From 2007 is when I went to Chicago and I have been in a couple agencies since.

JOEY: Awesome. I’m trying to figure out what year we met. I think it was 2010 when we started working together.

JIAN: Yeah.

JOEY: But we’ve done a ton of stuff together. A lot of Adidas programs and I think we were in out in Austin, Texas. I think we did that a couple years. Austin and then what’s the other town called?

JIAN: It was College Station.

JOEY: College Station, right.

JIAN: Yeah, it’s definitely 2010. That’s when I moved back. I moved back to Colorado from Chicago and really my main client that I worked on was Adidas. I had done some Ford and some AT&T stuff early in 2010, but primarily Adidas. I think that’s where you and I kind of hooked up and started working together from there.

JOEY: Yeah, awesome. From your experience, just in the experiential market, you have tons of — Focused on the sports industry. Actually, it was funny. I was actually hanging out with Kelsey the other day. We had coffee and she was telling me about the Broncos [00:05:05] you guys did. And you guys were pretty much — What, we got Peyton Manning? And that whole department was over with. That’s what I got. Got Peyton.

JIAN: Yeah, she came definitely after me. I was in more of the Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton kind of time frame. I knew that just hitting the phones for sales didn’t really speak to me as much as being at the game and working on game days and being in that environment in the event and making stuff happen. There’s a couple people that kind of followed in that same footstep.

JOEY: Nice. Thanks. Well, that’s probably a great stepping stone, too. You’ve gotten experience from an organization like that, seeing how it works from all different angles, and then also working with brands that want to spend some serious money and to get to that target market. Obviously there’s traditional marketing from Coke — I guess that’s not a very good example because they can do it in different avenues. But, why don’t we talk about some of your experience with experiential marketing, activing a brand [00:06:26] at a sports arena or an event. What are some of the tips that you could give just having a brand get out there, I guess on sports level?

JIAN: Yeah, it’s tough because you’re fighting for attention. Not only is the actual game itself going on or whatever venue you’re particularly at, but it depends on where. I have a few examples, just in terms of — Where I really got exposed to that was when I was doing — The U.S. Army was my client and ultimately what we were trying to promote through experiential marketing was recruitment and it was a very interesting dynamic of where we would go and the sponsorship deals that they had through NASCAR and NHRA and different activations that we would take through experiential and it was more of a touring asset, where it’s not only a sponsorship of the NASCAR car itself or the team — where we had a lot of hospitality and trying to get all these influencers to kind of be the voice for the brand with in the local marketplace — but it’s also a matter of you trying to go out and help with recruitment through different activations and experiences, so we would go to a big NASCAR event.

NASCAR is notorious for leading the sports world in marketing. They were the first ones, in my mind, to lead with the sponsorships and lead with attaching it to an athlete or a specific team and people would really gravitate towards that and you’d really find those brand loyalists, so to speak, based on who their driver was and that’s what products they were using. So, we would go out and it’s trying to separate yourself throughout all the clutter that’s there at a particular sporting event, whether it’s NASCAR or if you’re going to an NBA All-Star Game. I went to several of those with ADIDAS and I’m currently working on a project right now where you have to set yourself apart and you have to make sure that your brand sticks out amongst the rest, because there are all these other brands that are competing for eyeballs and content and everything else. Ultimately it’s dollars, that you want to drive people to an apparel, or from a recruitment standpoint for the army, you want people to buy into that. So, it’s trying to find that unique avenue for people to experience your brand and make it memorable. With the advent of social media and everything else, I’ve seen that as — That actually gets your brand out even further for the people who aren’t in your footprint or at a NASCAR race or at All-Star Weekend. It allows people to kind of see what’s going on and be exposed to the brand too.

JOEY: Right. Well, and you brought up a good point, NASCAR, probably like you said, one of the number one places where a lot of experiential marketing came out — a lot of the sponsorships. The one thing that you said is the brands — how you stick out as a brand. Is it really knowing your target market and getting into their heads and creating some cool experience or, I guess, where do you even begin to dissect that to create an experience?

JIAN: Yeah, I think it’s definitely its target market. You need to — A brand is going to tell you, as a marketer, “Here’s my target demographic. My age range is this, male/female,” — or if there’s influencers that are involved that can help drive that, drive the brand, and I think what that does is — That’s kind of step one. And then what it does is it helps you indicate and determine what types of events you want to go to or if there’s sponsorship deals that are included in that, let’s find the right sponsorship deal that makes sense for the brand or the right event that makes sense to the brand. If I’m a brand that is more along the lines of an urban youth model lifestyle type of brand, that’s what I’m going to, I’m not going to go pinpoint a food and wine festival to go an activate at, you know? So, I think that in the simplest form, it’s just finding out who that target audience is, what’s the right fit for the event, and then creating just a cool and memorable experience for people to interact with. And you know what? You might engage somebody who’s outside of your target demographic but that could still have an impact with your brand, and they might go out and be that spokesperson for you, after the fact or to friends and family or put it up on social media and it kind of just reaches that target audience through a secondary approach.

JOEY: Right. Now, do you see a lot of movement with adding? I know some of the events that we’ve worked on but moving forward with going after clients, do you see that social media has to be involved with an experience onsite? Or does that just take it to a new level?

JIAN: I think it’s kind of a double edged sword in a way, but yes. Absolutely. I think now — I was actually just having a conversation with someone about this the other day. I think that experiential and social media really go hand in hand and just from a content perspective, we’re so trained with all of our social media outlets that it’s quick hit videos or quick content — People’s attention span is so small from what it used to be, just because there’s so much information and events that you can see through Instagram or Facebook, and now even more so with Facebook Live and Instagram stories and Snapchat. All of these things that allow people to get a glimpse of an event really is key for brands. And I don’t think that — They should just be constantly married to each other at this point. An event should also always have a social tie in or some sort of — I call it forced social. So, if you provide a mechanism, whether it’s as simple as a photo opportunity where people can share or if you provide more of an organic photo op. If you have a cool and engaging space or whatever your environmental design or your space is that’s going to make people organically want to take a photo in your space or at your event, then there’s two different social components but I think that it’d be silly not to include a social component or be thinking about social when you’re actually activating or designing or creating interactives within a space, for people to engage with the brand in, because inevitably, someone is going to take a photo and post it on Instagram or someone is going to take a video and post it on Facebook or Snapchat and your brand could be included in that, whether it’s purposefully or inadvertently. So, I think they have to live together, moving forward.

JOEY: Absolutely. Well now there’s so many different groups, Millennials — Like you said, Millennials have literally 10 seconds of chance to get a brand sold to them. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the spectacles from Snapchat.

JIAN: I have.

JOEY: I just actually picked one up today. It’s pretty cool. I’m still learning how to use Snapchat. I still have no idea. I kind of just missed the Millennial level.

JIAN: I’m so bad at Snapchat. I like that Instagram is basically — It’s essentially copying everything Snapchat did, so I think it’s more user friendly and in one place.

JOEY: Right, exactly, exactly. Well, I got these just to see if I can start learning, “How do you get into Millennial head of what they’re doing?” I guess if you do just look at Snapchat — I think it’s very confusing. It looks really easy to use but I don’t — Just to see people all day brushing their teeth and talking to people, it’s insane. And thinking that that’s where a lot of movement is going to be going — I’m not just saying Snapchat but, like you said, the 10 second audience — where do you see experiential marketing going with that type of small attention span?

JIAN: Yeah, I think it’s — Really what it’s starting to get into is — I just saw this term the other day — this snackable content. It’s more of just your quick little bites. When I say that I mean, your 15 second and 5 second videos and things like that, that are up on Instagram. The videos that we used to produce were long. I’ll call it long format, even though it was only two minutes long. It was a re-cap video after the event was already done. And now what you’re seeing is the ability to really promote and capture content and have people be a part of your event, pre-event, during the event, and post-event. So it’s kind of this full 360 to show and build that hype up about your event and then you can Facebook Live or throw some stuff on Instagram like little short videos or whatnot of actually your event happening. And then you have a recap scenario afterwards like that hype and say, “Hey, look what we just pulled off. This was awesome. We had this, and this, and this.” So it’s kind of extending the event, where most people, I think, in the past were, if you weren’t there then all you got to see was the post-event recap. Where now, everybody can be engaged in your event all the way through, from pre to post.

JOEY: Oh exactly. And if you’re not — And I think we’re not even using the event anymore just as the focal point. I remember — I believe you were on it. In D.C. we did a shoe launch. I think we had two weeks to do it. We stacked it with about 20 people. Do you remember that event?

JIAN: Yeah, I wasn’t directly related to that one but it was for the Crazyquick shoe launch, if I remember correctly, out in D.C.

JOEY: Yeah.

JIAN: Oh and it might have had ASAP Rocky as well

JOEY: ASAP, yep. So, something like that and I feel like that event — I think 75 people showed up for that entire event and 100 people were hired, the whole event. It was crazy. But, I think that — We’ve even done a few things this year with Justin’s Nut Butter — just seeing some video promos that looked like it was an event, but it was pretty much Justin walking around New York City, handing out Nut Butter to just random people on Times Square and doing a video from it. But using that content — Like you said, content is key. That’s where a lot of companies are going. I know Comcast — they’re buying up a lot of companies just for that content piece. Verizon is doing the same thing, Comcast bought NBC — So, I’m learning a lot more that that content piece is very key, but then tying that into an event or being part of a cool experience. I know your current company, Motive, they do a lot with the NFL and Super Bowl. But yeah, just tying those in together. Another question I had was, I’m sure a lot of your clients want to know the ROI at the end of an event, how do you focus on that — letting a client know how they did on a tour or how do you even approach it, beginning with the client?

JIAN: Yeah, I think it definitely varies client to client, obviously. And it depends on what is the gauge of success? I think that’s always the difficult part because, especially with experiential, there’s always an inherent risk in a sense. You mentioned earlier there’s like 75 people showed up to that shoe launch. Weather had a big part to that. It was raining tremendously. So there’s always a risk of, “Are people going to show up? Are people going to purchase my product afterwards and how do I track that?”

And so, when you start talking about ROI, it’s a matter of really just establishing that on the upfront with the client. Some clients will have a set ROI or a goal they want to hit, and it could just be, “Hey, I want to have X number of people at my event and I need to get X number of leads so I can contact them after the event.” Or, it could be sales driven, that if you have an event where you’re driving people to purchase something, whether it’s an apparel like with Adidas or something like that, how much of a spike are they going to see in store from your event? Just a very simple example is an autograph signing where you have an athlete or a professional soccer team as an example, or a European soccer team that comes over, where you see a spike in sales in team jerseys that particular day, that they can put a benchmark and say, “Hey, we invested X amount of money for this, but we saw a spike in sales that doubles or triples that of what the store did the previous year on this particular day.”

So, I think it really just depends on the client and it also depends on the familiarity with experiential too. Because I’ve also just recently even run into some clients where they might not have as much experience dealing with events and experiential or a touring model, where they might not know what the KPI or the ROI that they’re looking for is, and so we kind of have to establish that a little bit, in terms of, “How many samples do you want to give out?” or, “How much of your product are you looking — What’s going to be that benchmark? Are you willing to give out a coupon? So you can give a coupon to somebody who comes to your experience then that way it’s trackable. You can track that coupon, if it’s actually being used or thrown away, and you can see that sales spike come up.”

I think ultimately, as marketers, what we want and for the brands that we work on is driving sales, depending on if that’s the industry that you’re in. You want that sales spike and then you want to obviously cast your net out to people who haven’t maybe been exposed to your brand, if you’re an up and coming brand or if you’re trying to convert people from an Adidas standpoint — If someone is a diehard Nike fan and they’re always, “Nike, Nike, Nike,” but you want to give them a great experience that’s going to shift them to maybe purchase a pair of Adidas shoes, then that’s kind of a bigger return on investment and trying to get those people to really become loyal to the brand. Just try it. So, I think there’s several approaches to finding ROI and it’s definitely a client by client basis, but you’ve got to be able to not only adapt and work with the client who knows what their ROI is, and make sure that that’s feasible, but you also have to be able to make solid and sound recommendations on what an ROI should be, if a client doesn’t have that much familiarity with it either.

JOEY: Well, you just made some great points and I think this experiential marketing industry is very different than a lot of industries out there because, like you just mentioned, you’ve worked with many agencies directly focusing on brands, trying to activate their brand, but a lot of times, they come to you saying, “Hey, that looks sexy. I want to do that.” But, one, I don’t know where to begin, two, I don’t even know what we’re supposed to be getting out of it, but I think we need to be doing that. And I think learning a lot about all different angles with working with brands, is that trust upfront and putting things out in front. We have a lot of brands coming to us as well, which we don’t — We’d rather push it to an agency just because it’s not our forte and they’re being cheap, too. You really need to have that creative strategy. Our company is more of that execution side. But, it’s really laying down — Kind of like the 100 person or 75 person event, there’s multiple things that can go wrong and how can you make up for that, when you have a client yelling at you and it’s pouring rain? Well sorry, I can’t control that.

JIAN: Yeah, well that’s the risk I was telling you. As a brand, if you’re going to be working with an agency or just putting your money out into experiential, there’s got to be some knowledge of the risk that you’re taking, in terms of if it’s an outdoor event — the weather related — and, “What is my contingency plan?” And that’s mainly a strategy perspective of the agency and that is my job to come up with that strategy and make sure that we’re executing the best possible way we can for the brand, and that you try and avoid anything like that. You’ve got to be able to think on your feet in the moment. It’s huge, whether it’s a weather issue or people just aren’t showing up, what can you do to put yourself in a position to succeed?

I think that obviously when you’re onsite and in the moment and at an event, it’s just constant communication with your client that they’re up to speed and knowledgeable of the situation and working collaboratively to just figure out, “What’s our best plan of attack here,” in terms of, “Hey, here’s the weather situation, here’s the contingency plan, here’s what we’re going to probably have to make a call,” and they’re paying us as an agency to help drive that process and help and drive and guide them towards a decision because we are the experts in the experiential field, and that is our job. But, I’m a big proponent of over-communicating, especially in those situations with the client because you never want to make a decision without the client’s approval or feedback. I’ve been in several situations like that, where you’re put in a position where you might have to make a tough call and you have to be okay with that as a marketer and as a brand. Sometimes you have to make that call and it’s tough, so it’s just a matter of communicating and making sure that everybody’s on the same page and you just have to move onto the next one at that point.

JOEY: Right, I think that’s the key thing. Like I said earlier, I think it changes from a client relationship. It almost has to be a partnership and both parties need to trust each other that they’re going to both give — Because as you being an agency, you’re going to need certain things and communication to make sure things run smoothly for an event and having certain assets available up front. But over communicating, that goes from all levels. From the staffing onsite but also making sure that you’re thinking 10 steps ahead and, “What if this goes wrong?” but not freaking out, too. It’s managing that client onsite. It’s like, “Okay, we’re good. It’s okay. Let’s fix this. No big deal.”

JIAN: And running is not good in this situation.

JOEY: No, it’s not. And it’s funny. Our industry is a 24.7 gig because most events happen on the weekends, we’re in the office during the week, and it’s just non-stop. That’s why it’s nice to have some downtime here.

JIAN: Yeah, absolutely. That’s the exciting part though. To be honest, what keeps me going — and I say this all the time — is at the very — through all the hustle and through all the adversity and there’s no such thing as a perfect event or something is going to happen smooth sailing — I think that’s just in the experiential world. Something always comes up and you have to be able to adjust and be able to think on your feet and have a backup plan or think of alternatives and look at all of your options that are available. But, at the end of the day, when that event is done and you actually — It’s hard not to, but just take a step back and take a look at what actually just happened and what you’ve just pulled off.

And a lot of times it’s a great and very gratifying feeling of, “Whoa, we just actually pulled that off and it was awesome and everybody had a great time.” And I think an easy — I always tell people when they ask what I do, I say, “I’m the guy in the background if you go to an event that one, makes you have a good time, and two, dealing will all the stuff behind the curtain that you have no idea that’s going on.” So, it’s a matter of you have to make an event a good experience for the consumer, because that is an ultimate reflection of the brand who you’re trying to influence these consumers with, and if they have a good time, they don’t care about what’s happening on the backend if you’re putting out fires left and right or you’re making things happen on the backend so they can have a good time and they can have a great experience and be integrated with the brand in a way that they’re going to remember afterwards. So, it’s fun and exciting.

JOEY: That’s awesome.

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JOEY: You’ve been in it for a while, what’s your best and favorite event that you’ve been a part of?

JIAN: Oh, man.

JOEY: I know that’s a hard one. I’ve been asked that. There’s so many.

JIAN: I have been pretty fortunate to be at a lot of great events, big and small, and I think that I have a couple in mind that are my first — I mentioned NASCAR earlier and I am not a NASCAR fan but being able to go to the Daytona 500 and being down in the pit during that and more on the hospitality side, just kind of seeing that and experiencing it from a full 360 view of dealing with — I got a taste of sponsorship, a taste of hospitality, and experiential, and it was all combined in one full experience for these people. It was a really awesome thing. I think another one for me was a Derrick Rose event. We did a shoe launch for Derrick Rose, and this was more on a — I call it a smaller scale but I’ve been on a couple Derrick Rose events in Chicago. My very first one was for a shoe launch of his — his second signature shoe — and we had a couple photo slash autograph signings in Chicago but we had a secret event that we held out at a Boys and Girls Club, where we converted this gym and kids got to basically — They got chosen to play in a 3 on 3 game with Derrick Rose and his two buddies. Honestly, we put the event together in a pretty quick turnaround time but it is such a cool feeling and it turned out great and I think for the brand and the people in Chicago, it was just an awesome thing to pull together and that was a key moment for me working with Adidas. And another one, we had another shoe launce where it was in the United Center. That was great too.

JOEY: Yeah, I was just going to ask you about that one, because I think we helped out on that one, if that was the one you were talking about.

JIAN: Yeah.

JOEY: Because you had one at the United Center and then you had some small ones, right? Some just shoe launch autograph signings.

JIAN: Yeah, we had a — The one at the United Center — There was actually multiple agencies involved in that one just because it was so huge. That one was — There was a couple different components to that and it was — One, being in the United Center and really just having the access to that venue was just an awesome thing. And seeing the inner workings of that and building out a space and working with another agency, in terms of programing for Adidas, and creating this really cool experience for about 5,000 people, for local Boys & Girls clubs, and different charities that Derrick Rose is involved with and things like that. There was a PR component which we had our hand in. That was really the primary focus for us, was the PR portion of it and building out a space for the product launch and interviews and really creating an environment for the product showcase and then working with the other agency and Adidas to create the programing purchase of this halftime show-esque feel and in creating really from an audio-visual standpoint and what we were working with in terms of how that stadium looked and the programming part was really fun to be a part of.

JOEY: Oh, that’s awesome. I remember that. And I think you guys won an award on that, too.

JIAN: Yeah, the D Rose 2, the second one, we won an award for event marketer, actually. And then we actually just won — We also took an award for — We did a tour for Adidas, which was their first in a very, very long time, over the past couple years. So, there was a lot of very cool events that I have actually been able to be a part of. I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple of them but All-Star Weekends are always good and being able to — My very first All-Star Weekend was actually really good, and being part of jam session, that was kind of my foray into actually programming a day’s worth of events and things that were happening for the general consumer during the Fan Fest for All-Star Weekend in L.A., back in 2011. So, yeah, a lot of great experiences and definitely looking forward to more. I’ll be back down in All-Star this February and doing some things for some different brands, and so it’s really exciting. I think experiential definitely gives you an opportunity to see behind the scenes on whether it’s a sporting event or if you’re touring and you’re going to music festivals and things like that. It kind of gives you that behind the scenes access, which is really fun.

JOEY: Right. Now, do you see a lot of brands — I guess, do you work with a lot of the brands that just want to do these one-off events or do you work with a lot of them that, “Hey, let’s focus a whole year of getting to our target market and do a tour across the U.S.?”

JIAN: Yeah, definitely a little bit of both. I think my first taste of experiential marketing was definitely tour driven and we were doing a lot of events over — Geez, over 300 events in a year and we had big semi-trucks traveling down the road and then when I started working with Adidas, it became more of one=off experiences and one-off events and that was just the model that they wanted to do and they wanted to see whether it was a product launch or a PR event or autograph signings. The scale of the event was massive, in terms of a very — just a quick hit, low cost type of one day or a couple hours of an event to a massive event, like you see at an NBA All-Star weekend or the Derrick Rose shoe lines that we were just talking about. So, I think it really scales. I think right now I’m working on a little bit of both. The one-off events, those are fun because typically that’s going to be the biggest spectacle, in terms of production and you’ve got one shot to make it right and really put the brand out there. And with a tour, you’re looking at a lot of quick hit types of events, you’re bouncing around the country and hitting targeted events, so there’s a lot of — It’s more logistical, in that regard. So yeah, I’m kind of getting a blend of both now. I went from only doing tours to only doing the one-off type of events, and now I’m getting a blend of both. So, it’s good.

JOEY: And that’s great. You have so much experience on this with different levels. Do you have a lot of clients coming to you with that idea or, “Hey, just go execute it,” or is it more, “Hey, we really need help on making this come alive?” Which side do you typically work on, on that side?”

JIAN: Yeah, I think it’s — A lot of it is the concept to execution, to be honest. A lot of times, when a brand comes to us, they’re going to say, “Hey we want something that’s going to travel around to [00:40:19] and here’s a generally or broad guideline or scope of what we want this to be and it’s up to us to come up with ideas and narrow that down. So, if you have a particular event where it’s a one-off type of event, give us the overarching goal of what you want to accomplish. Is it a product launch? Is it to penetrate a market that maybe you don’t have as high of a reach? If it’s lower sales or something along those lines, then we obviously just have to have a brief come in and a little bit of a frame work, and then our job as marketers, whether it’s a one-off or a touring [00:41:13], is to give you a plan that’s going to accomplish what your goal is or what that ROI is, that we were talking about earlier. Whether that’s through a vehicle based tour or a particular venue and the programming that’s going to go along with it, and if there’s athlete integration or a music component, there’s all these different factors that mold our thinking and then our job is to flesh that out and make sure that we’re tracking and come up with the ideas and then make it happen.

JOEY: Right, and make that idea come to life.

JIAN: Yeah, that’s where it gets tricky. Sometimes it can get a little tricky. I think that the biggest thing is, is when you present any ideas, there has to be some adaptability and I think having a good relationship with the client and the brand, being able to present the concept — an overarching concept — and then make sure that you can execute that concept but there’s going to have to be some tweaks along the way as you start getting into the details and start actually building out what you’re proposing.

JOEY: Right. Well, and I think too, those ideas — fleshing those ideas out — One, I think that’s the most exciting part of this industry, coming up with what can make a splash, what can get you to that target market and have a call to action so one, you can track it on an ROI, but, like you said, the million different scenarios that can happen on top of that.

JIAN: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s the fun part. When you see an idea on paper and you actually make it come to life, that’s why we’re in the business. It’s the gratification at the end of the day of you’re making something happen from an idea to actual execution and especially when you see people having a great time at your event or being engaged with a particular athlete or a musician or an interactive that you’ve created or the environment that you’ve created, that’s what it’s all about. You’re creating — Your idea is coming to life and that’s really exciting for us, as marketers.

JOEY: Right. No, I agree. Being on all the different levels, the execution side to the creation. It’s a really neat industry that’s, I think, just growing substantially. I think more and more people and more companies are noticing it. But I think social media is a big aspect of that, as well.

JIAN: Yeah, absolutely.

JOEY: Where do you think it’s going, experiential marketing? I know I asked you a little bit about that before but where do you think the focus point will be in 5-10 years with it?

JIAN: Yeah, that is a very good question. I think you’re going to start seeing — I actually was just reading some articles today, in terms of — from a sports side of things. But, I think it definitely translates into experiential too, is the technology piece and with virtual reality really being pushed right now and there’s all of these different technologies that are being integrated into experiential, that really are going to put the consumer into different environments, in terms of what a brand wants them to be. So, not only from a technological experience perspective of — If I’m a consumer and I go to a particular event or into a pop up shop or something like that and I can experience some sort of technology, then I think that’s where it’s going to go, in terms of that virtual world. But also, like we talked about, the content on the flip side of that. There’s content and I think agencies are having to adapt to that more so than anything and, “What’s the next best thing,” and, “What’s going to make my brand stand out?” are the two biggest things. I think the touring assets, in terms of experiential, I think those are going to be there, I think we just have to find a way to get out of the norm a little bit, and maybe push the boundaries and see what that is. I don’t know if I know the answer to that yet, but it’s a matter of how do we tie in that technology to a tour-based model, or how do we tie in what that new and innovative technology into a one-off event where you have that moment for the consumer that’s going to be memorable.

JOEY: Right. Well, you nailed it. I think you’re right with the VR. I was actually having a conversation a couple of weeks ago, with a guy here in Denver. He builds this technology. He works with RFID technology and he’s actually wanting to connect with — This is just random but it kind of ties with experiential marketing. He wants to have glasses — like cups — tied in with RFID, so when you go to a beer festival or some type of liquor thing and consumers are trying it, well once they try it — One, it can be trackable. So, I think the ROI side is going to get a little bit more advanced or even having a camera on your footprints, instead of having someone just use a clicker, which I have an LG program going on right now that that’s what they do, just manually, whenever anyone steps into the footprint they have to track it. But, they have technology of just having a video camera on it and literally counting it automatically of how many people were there, maybe even seeing where their eyes went — I’m heading to — I go to CES every year in Vegas. I’m a nerd in technology because my family is in it. But, just seeing — It’s going to be pretty neat, coming up in the next couple years, of how it’s going to advance. And I think the big thing too, is how fast can it jump into it. I think there’s so many different aspects that you can integrate and create that experience together. There’s apps that can automatically pop up when you’re at an event or even if you’re in that footprint, it’ll pop up and do different things. Yeah, it’s definitely going to be a neat — It’s a neat time to be alive.

JIAN: Yeah, it is. It’s cool and it’s scary at the same time because it allows — You mentioned RFID. We use some RFID technology for a brand for the U.S. Army, actually. And it was very interesting to see and it provided so much data and this was almost — This was nine years ago that we were using RFID and so the technology obviously has gotten so much better over the course of time and it really gives you an insight into people’s habits. We’re seeing it right now, even on a digital and social standpoint. I was talking with someone the other day. I can look up a pair of shoes on my laptop but then when I go onto my Facebook page or my Instagram page or whatever, an ad will come up for those particular shoes. Or if I follow a particular brand on Instagram, then they’re going to have 10 other brands within that category being sponsored on my Instagram page so the advertising perspective of it and just the backend data that is being collected, I think that’s going to be huge from an experiential standpoint. It always has.

If you think about it from experiential, you always want people to register to come into your event or depending on what the brand wants, they want to be able to track habits and understand what the consumer is doing and what their purchase path is and that sort of thing. Because then they can cater their advertising and even to some degree, we use that to adjust events, from an RFID perspective. If you go in and you can see how many people are integrating or experiencing a particular interactive — Let’s say you have three interactives in your space and people are only gravitating towards two, if you can measure that, then you can say, “All right, that third interactive that nobody’s going to, what do we need to do to adjust that so people want to experience that too?” So, I think the data collection on the backend has gotten so robust over the years, that that is a major influence on how we, as marketers, not only cater to a brand, but how we cater our events, too.

JOEY: Right. Do you see a lot of — Just doing some of your current programs the last few years, do you see adding a technology component pretty expensive right now, or is it something pretty reasonable to put an addition to a campaign or an activation.

JIAN: I think it depends on the technology. There is some really cool stuff out there and I think that really what — You have to break it down into two components, it’s the hardware and the software for ease of understanding. “What is the physical piece that I’m going to have to buy? Am I going to have to buy just some VR headsets?” and then, “How much is the development of that software?” and most of the time, the development of the software is what costs more than the actual hardware itself.

So, there is some really cool things out there, in terms of what you can experience, whether it’s — we were just looking into some two way mirrors where you can superimpose things on a mirror if you stand in front on it or there’s these things that you can get into and experience, in terms of is it a vessel of some sort that’s going to put you in this virtual world. So, I think the cost is — It’s not cheap, you know? Technology is not cheap regardless, but you have to be able to invest in that to create that memorable experience. That’s kind of been the common talking point throughout this. And, I think to the flipside of that, is you have to find a balance of an analogue experience or an organic experience, meaning everything doesn’t have to be so tech heavy, but if there’s something that I can touch and feel and get my hands on or watch somebody doing something or I can actually try and mimic, that has a lot to do with being able to provide a great experience for a consumer as well, not just the technology component. So, finding a balance between the tech and analogue, is key right now. Maybe in the future it’ll go completely tech heavy, but I still think we’re kind of in that middle ground where you can layer in both and still provide a great experience for consumers.

JOEY: Right, absolutely. Well, and that — Like you said, that software piece is something that you definitely need to make sure you have that type of investment to put in, not do just — Use it wisely if you’re going to be putting an investment in or knowing that there’s — If we’re talking about VR, creating a baseline but then be able to change it up for different events and things like that.

JIAN: I think that’s a big thing, too. When you’re investing in something like that, it’s being able to — And as a brand, you have to be willing to invest in the upfront, right? But, if you own that or you license that particular software, which is typically the case, then you can always reskin it and find some efficiencies from cost savings. If I have to buy all the hardware upfront and I develop all the software upfront, well maybe I can just switch it either next year — as long as it’s still relevant — then you find some efficiencies there, in terms of the software development piece. You already have the hardware and you’re just changing the scope of what someone’s looking at, in a VR sense, or what someone is experiencing with the particular technology. So, there are some efficiencies, you just have to be willing to invest in the upfront.

JOEY: Right, absolutely. And I think that goes for any active — or anything that you want to do in experiential marketing, just because it’s not a cheap way of going. It’s not the cheapest — Throwing something together — For us, we get a lot of — It’s crazy, we get a lot of brands that come to us. “Hey, we want to do a quick street team.” “Well, let’s sit down and talk about this.” Years ago when I first started this, I was like, “Oh yeah, we’ll do that,” without any idea of if it’s going to work, and now we’re really focusing on, “All right, let’s make sure that you have that call to action. Putting four people at a street corner that’s busy with fliers, is not a good way of spending your money. Let’s rethink this.” I think that’s the other big thing too, is just knowing that it’s an investment but you’re really getting in these people’s worlds — these consumers’ worlds — that experience. All right, “Hey, let’s remember that Adidas. Hey, I’m going to buy Adidas now because I remembered that experience.” And I guess that’s obviously why companies are doing this more and more often.

JIAN: Yeah, I think there’s a diagram that my old boss, Chris Jacobs, sent to me and it’s really kind of stuck with me. And it applies in our world so much that — It’s a diagram that shows good, fast, and cheap, and you can only pick two of those, because if you want good and fast, then you’re going to have to spend some money to get that done. If you want fast and cheap, then you need a lot of lead time to make sure that you can build whatever you’re building or you have enough time to make it good. And if you want it — I think there’s just a lot of truth to that and being able to identify those up front, is key. So, from an experiential standpoint, we’re always going to try and do our best and put our best foot forward, and create the best possible experience for the consumer and the brand. But those are some good key components within our industry that help drive the thinking. And if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, then a little bit of lead time goes a long way, but if you’re willing to pony up and you have a very short lead time, then that really — because you’re going to be paying a lot of rush fees if that’s the case.

JOEY: Right, oh yeah. Right. Awesome. Well, it’s been such a pleasure chatting with you. I’ve learned a lot and really enjoy speaking with you about this technology and where it’s going. Yeah, thanks for coming on the show.

JIAN: Yeah. No, I appreciate it. It was fun.

JOEY: Awesome.

JIAN: Yeah, looking forward to maybe do another one down the road, so I appreciate it.

JOEY: Awesome. Well, I really appreciate it and thanks for — Have a great rest of your week.

JIAN: Sounds good, you too.

Listen to episode #6 in full here.

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