Here is the full transcript for episode #7 of Talk Experiential: #7 Brand Positioning and the Future: What is the Role of Experiential Marketing?.
#7 Brand Positioning and the Future: What is the Role of Experiential Marketing?
JOEY: Welcome back to Talk Experiential podcast number seven. I am lucky enough to have award winning creative mastermind based out of Los Angeles, Brock Marlborough. He has worked for many amazing agencies such as MKTG, Mosaic, and also started his career with Red Bull. He is now the head of experiential for Uprising Creative. Uprising Creative is an integral (sic) creative and production company, focused on quality and experience with a few offices around the world. Brock is an award winning senior creative and production leader with extensive expertise on both the client and platform side. He has been an integral part of the most innovative experiential campaigns the last couple years and that’s what we’ll be chatting about on this next episode.
Well, I want to thank you, Brock, for jumping on Talk Experiential podcast. Really appreciate you jumping on.
BROCK: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
JOEY: Awesome, one of the reasons why I wanted to get you on our podcast is just from the experience that you’ve had. You’ve had quite the season — different companies, event companies — and I thought you’d be a great fit to chat about and throw some value out there for our listeners.
JOEY: Why don’t you tell us a little about your background and we’ll start from there?
BROCK: My background is rooted in music. There was a point in time in which I thought that I was going to go work for — or at least I wanted to go work for a record label or a management company and really have a career in music. One of the ways that I had identified of being able to get there was through live event production, and this was especially the case where I grew up in a small town, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. There wasn’t a ton of opportunity there for, really any career in music like the coast would have, or even some of the bigger cities in the Midwest. So I identified early on that if I could get my foot in the door as a stagehand, a production assistant, just essentially be in the room, that I could potentially parlay a more traditional event production background or experience into something a bit more meaningful in the music history.
I started by working with brands on their live events — ones that focused on music — and really more or less got my break with Red Bull, in that respect, doing a lot of just general music and live concert production related stuff for them in St. Louis and around Missouri. And from there it took off a bit and I was able to learn that side, learn the brand side, that experience with Red Bull put me in a pretty unique situation to where I could speak the brand lingo and knew how to navigate that world but also could produce, which I’ve found isn’t all that common. It obviously exists but it certainly is a pretty good lane, I felt like, to be in. And so, I more or less parlayed that into producing big shows for brands like Bud Light, continued on for Red Bull quite some time and learning and perfecting how to put on a great show and also develop and market a brand along the way.
JOEY: That’s awesome. Your background is phenomenal. It’s crazy. I think Red Bull is the leader in a lot of these things, right? With just taking a different approach of just the experiential. You’ve been into this industry for a while and just how experiential marketing has grown over the years and now it’s almost mainstream that if you’re not doing anything on an experimental side, or that human engagement, or having that experience, or even tying it into a traditional — It’s fascinating that some brands don’t even get it.
BROCK: Yeah, even at that time, when I was first — I hadn’t heard of that word, “Experiential,” until seven or eight years and it was kind of the cool flashy word that I think people were just using three or four years into me getting my feet wet. But yeah, you have to have it. I’m sure we’ll talk about that more later but it’s crazy that any brand or anyone would be developing a marketing strategy without including that.
JOEY: Right, absolutely. So now, with what you’re currently doing, what’s your focus? Are you the creative side or the more production side of experiential?
BROCK: It’s both, really. So, I run the experiential department at a company called The Uprising Creative and my job is to identify brands we want to work with, identify opportunities, and lead that process for my team from pitch to execution. So, everything from — like I said — going out and winning the business through the successful production of an event.
JOEY: Cool. And when you go after these clients, I guess, what type of clients do you guys focus on and then two, how do you take that idea and turn it into real life that they can actually see and something that you guys could produce?
BROCK: Generally speaking, I think having worked at some bigger agencies and Red Bull, I saw — Your production staff and your creative staff typically — and just bigger agencies and brands — get siloed and really just focus on their side of the street, so to speak. So, I’ve always had and continue to have an interest in the people, myself included, whoever is coming up with the idea is going to be the one with a strategy or the campaign or whatever that may be, he’s going to be the one that’s actually making it come to life, producing it. Because I’ve found that a pretty substantial disconnect in a lot of the — industry-wide, working on both sides of the fence and being [00:06:50] and even just having a lot of friends in this industry. Some of the biggest headaches with projects that cause from that handoff from creative to production. And when you have people that are fluent in both, leading the charge and coming up with the ideas, in my opinion, it’s such a smoother process. So, that’s what we’re really trying to push here and that’s what, career-wise, I’m after, is being a part of both and making sure that the transition from an idea to a tangible product or an event or a campaign is as smooth as possible.
JOEY: Got you. Well, I know that one big project that you’ve worked on is the Bud Light campaign. I’d love to just chat about that a little bit. Being here in Denver, our listeners have heard — I’ll probably butcher it but they created this huge Bud Light campaign that was based in Crested Butte, Colorado, flying people in. It was just phenomenal. Where did you stand, what was your role, and let’s chat about how that whole — turn into fruition and even the ROI side of putting a campaign like that.
BROCK: Yeah, first of all the scale was crazy. I was the first — I was brought in as a freelance producer, the lead producer under the VP of production for the agency that I was working at and I guess the easiest way to describe that event as a whole was creating a South by Southwest, if you will, from scratch. We went into Crested Butte, Colorado and for two days took over the main street, all the shops along the street, we put big festival sized stages around the town — We essentially transformed that entire town, hotels, every store front, every business into a part of the experience and worked really, really hard and did some really great innovative work to tie all of that together, to tie a common thread between everything we were doing in that town. And so, my role in that was leading a team of junior producers and vendors and all the partners necessary to take this really, really, really ambitious and fun idea and bring it to life.
JOEY: And it’s phenomenal. I’m still blown away by it. I believe we talked about this our last calls. I was at an event marketer summit event that had the guys talking about it. They even had the mine map of how it all works out, and it was even phenomenal — I mean obviously there’s big budgets but they are also playing just the viral side of it, just getting people excited about it. I saw private jets were Bud Light — were branded. Everything was branded Bud Light, but just putting on an experience that literally just blows people’s mind. You guys had some of the craziest acts that were on site. How did a company like that even manage the scale of it? Was it one overhead company that ran it or was there a lot of little — or was it a partnership with some other vendors?
BROCK: Yes, it was — The company that I was working at is called Mosaic and that was the lead agency. We obviously had specialized vendors and fabrication, and event technology, audio visual lighting space, but it really all came from one company, and I think what most people would consider a fairly small production team. For something of that size, we really had about seven people that went on to produce that entire event. Yeah, it was wild. And I think what put me in a great position for that particular campaign was my music festival experience prior to that and being able to handle and navigate a large music festival. The size, the scale, all of the small details that come together to make those giant experiences great and consistent. And I used that on the production side to help out with bringing to life, because that’s really what it felt like. It felt like a massive, extremely interactive music festival. It was much more than that but from the production side, that is one of the easiest things for me to draw parallels to. For the size and scale and food and beverage service and transportation of people, it had a lot of similarities.
JOEY: Got you. Well, if you break it out like that, it obviously seems a lot more manageable too. I guess when you’re looking at it from the outside, looking at just the scale, I remember you guys painted the roads blue and then dealing with municipalities just with them not happy that the paint couldn’t come off, or things like that. I’m sure you had a fun time with that as well.
BROCK: Yeah, I won’t — Out of respect to everyone involved, I won’t talk about anything with the city. They were great. All of the residents and people that worked and lived there were extremely hospitable and honestly we couldn’t have done any of that without them. Overall it was a great experience.
JOEY: Awesome. So, I guess that another question too is, you being in experiential for so long and just seeing — Where do you see it going? Where do you see brands going with the live event side and interacting with consumers?
BROCK: Where do I see it going? I think more than ever, there’s a focus on technology and digital in that space, and low hanging fruit, to answer your question [00:13:04] a VR in 360 video. But I think there’s an increased emphasis on technology. You can produce a much smaller event or campaign and if marketed, promoted, and integrated into the digital space correctly, can reach so many more people than you would be able to even just three or five years ago.
BROCK: Emphasis on the technology and digital side of things.
JOEY: Awesome, and is that something you guys are producing now — tying in a lot with a lot of your programs that you’re currently pitching?
BROCK: Yes, definitely. The Uprising Creative is a [00:13:53] fully integrated shop. We have full, top to bottom, start to finish capabilities in digital and interactive, experiential, video, and design. We’re really able to do our best work when we integrate two or more of those. So, if we have a really cool experiential project or campaign and we’re able to support that with some of the amazing digital work that we do, it benefits everyone involved — client, the consumer. It allows us to be more creative and deliver a better product.
JOEY: Got you, cool. For you guys, what do you guys like to focus on? Is there certain industries or brands that you like to go after?
BROCK: Not particularly. I think anybody that’s looking to not do more of the same is who we’re interested in. Anybody that wants to approach a project with us as a partner and not just a vendor of sorts, is who we want to work with. We don’t have much interest in just repeating what someone did last year or staying the course, so to speak. We enjoy challenges and problems and having to be innovated to any degree for any brand, any product.
JOEY: Got you, cool. That makes sense. Just with the ever changing world of repeating yourself, especially at Creative Agency, not to just keep copying the same thing. Obviously they probably come to you guys for that main reason, for something new, for something changing.
BROCK: Yeah, and as individuals in a company, we pride ourselves on only putting forth ideas that we know we can do really well. That doesn’t mean that we’re not ambitious in terms of coming up with new and exciting things or something we may or may not have done before. But, I do see a lot of — Going back to that drop off or at times that disconnect between creative and production, I think that’s even more true on the digital and technology side of things. Making sure that we’re developing an idea or a concept with the general feasibility of that idea in mind and that we’re not selling something in that we have to come back a month later, after four weeks of R&D or searching and tell a client or a partner we’re working with that it just isn’t feasible. Having those capabilities and those type capabilities and those type of individuals and that experience in-house just makes everything better for us.
JOEY: Cool. Another fun question I always like to ask is, what brand out there do you see that’s doing really well, that’s doing the right things? And then, I guess another — I’m throwing you on the [00:17:21] and then one brand that you see that could use some work?
BROCK: That’s kind of a tricky question.
JOEY: I know, sorry.
BROCK: No, no, it’s okay. I think — I don’t know if I can answer either, to be honest with you. I think it might be better if I pass on that question all together.
JOEY: No worries. No worries.
BROCK: I will say though — I will say I really — and I won’t get political with this but, I’ve really enjoyed especially and with recent political events and the state of the world and the country, not just specifically the United States, I will say that I’ve enjoyed and respected and hope to continue to see a greater focus on brands playing a role in society, outside of their product or what they offer. A great example was — You know this past weekend you had a lot of brands step up to the plate and donate, offer services, support — I think I’m sort of talking in circles on this one because I’m trying not to talk about anything specific but brands that take responsibility in the greater good of society and humanity, and using their power, their influence, their financial resources to make the world a better place, even when it’s not just in service of their product or what they offer.
JOEY: Well, and for our listeners too, we’re recording this right between the Super Bowl and what happened last week. Obviously we don’t need to get into political but it’s the banning of certain folks the president has done and bringing up brands coming to the plate. It’s going to be interesting, even just the Super Bowl. I haven’t seen any of the commercials, I almost like the commercials as much as the Super Bowl, just as a marketer. But, just seeing what is going to happen with some of the brands. There was one brand — I think they’re going to pick — They have a 60 or 90 second spot during the Super Bowl and it’s a little controversial but it’s an interesting world that we live in now, just with technology, with social media — No matter what side you’re on, I think it’s really exciting because people are actually starting to engage and talk about their mind and hopefully have better conversations on how to make the future better. It all ties into what we’re talking about, too. How can a brand position themselves, one, to be supporting a certain side of things — but it’s almost like a balance, on a political side, managing a brand in this type of political setting?
BROCK: Yeah, it can be very difficult but I think the last five days and continuing on through the Super Bowl — and I’m sure there will be many more opportunities in the months to come — I think there’s a lot to learn from what’s been happening and I think you’ve seen, even just look at this past weekend. A lot of really big brands let the world know where they stand and a few of them really benefited from it. And it seemed genuine and not just in an effort to further their mission, so it was great to see. I know it’s not really — doesn’t really pertain to experiential marketing or some of the technology we’re talking about, but I think holistically, it resonates with people and it means a lot to people, and that will go as far, if not further, than a great event, at times.
JOEY: Right, and I think with this podcast too, it is talking about those brands on, one, “How can we stand out?” There’s all different ways of promoting who you are and actually putting a stand for something, but I think it’s an exciting time right now, just watching this all fold out and see what these guys are going to do and who’s going to be doing the right moves and who’s not going to be doing the right moves. But yeah, it’s definitely going to be interesting, for sure. Another question, besides the Bud Light thing — that could be one — what’s been your favorite program that you’ve worked on and that you’ve seen a really good success on, if you can speak about it?
BROCK: Yeah, I can. It was for Bud Light. I don’t know if I have necessarily a favorite one because I love different things about a lot of different campaigns or events, and they all mean different things to me. But in the last couple of years, I think which is topical for this week, or relevant, rather, was the Bud Light Super Bowl commercial from 2015, I believe it was. It was a life-size fully playable, Pac-Man game that we did in downtown Los Angeles. I don’t know if you had caught that one or not.
JOEY: I’ll have to grab that video and put it on our website when we post this, for sure.
BROCK: It was — yes, it was basically continuing the theme of the, “Up for whatever,” campaign for Bud Light, in which we were setting out to test the limits of consumers and Bud Light drinkers’ spontaneity. And for this one, we built a massive fully-playable Pac-Man game in downtown Los Angeles where an individual was Pac-Man and could run on the board, actually play the game in real life, as the individual, through a beautiful set that we built that was a large scale replica of the game and through some really awesome custom technology that we developed to allow that individual to interact with the game board. That person alone, as opposed to the other ghosts we had on the game board, the people filming, and producers such as myself. It was a really technically challenging and fun experience.
JOEY: That’s awesome. Was that just specifically for the Super Bowl, or was that for — did that last longer?
BROCK: No, it was just for the Super Bowl slot for Bud Light.
JOEY: Oh, so it was actually a commercial, as well?
BROCK: Correct, yes.
JOEY: Okay, cool. Awesome.
BROCK: We premiered on — I think a couple nights before the Super Bowl, premiered on Jimmy Fallon.
JOEY: I’m going to have to look back at that. I probably remember that. But yeah, that’s exciting. And you pretty much produced that one?
BROCK: Yeah, so I was the executive producer over the set — the actual game board, what people were playing on and the technology to play the game. Yeah, and when I say that, too, I mean my work was only as good as the partners I had on the fabrication and the technology and the AV side, and I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with some of the best in their respective industries and do some really fun and innovative stuff.
JOEY: Oh that’s great. That’s awesome. And I guess another good question would be — This podcast is for brands and agencies but for a brand — Say you’re a young brand or you’re trying to even think about experiential marketing, where do you begin, how do you even turn that idea — I know we talked about it a little bit earlier, but how do we turn an idea into something that can be ideal? And what are the things that they should be thinking about, if they do want to start a campaign or even be at an event?
BROCK: I think the easiest way would be — And if you’re just talking about in the context of one event or one campaign or one experience, I think the greatest benchmark and the greatest metric is, “Would I want to go to that on my own if I didn’t have to be there and I wasn’t involved?” From a work perspective, would I get out of my house, pay for a cab, whatever, to go to that on my own? Is it fun? Is it cool enough to attract someone like me, a friend — to me that’s the easiest answer. If you can’t be like, “Yeah, I personally would be interested in that,” you can’t expect anyone else to be.
JOEY: Got you.
BROCK: And granted, I’m not representative of everyone my age and demographic but if it doesn’t interest you and you can’t at least start there and build upon that, it’s probably not going to bode well with whoever it is you’re marketing to.
JOEY: That’s a great benchmark, actually. I’m in a similar boat. I almost would — being in event world and being around people, I almost would rather not be at an event, just because when I go to an event —
BROCK: Yeah, same here.
JOEY: — I’m sure you do it. You turn into that production mode. You’re like, “They’re doing this.” I don’t know how that works. Man, I was at Super Bowl last year and it was phenomenal. It was my team that went Super Bowl 50, but I was looking at all the production like how half time worked out — I actually got into their Facebook somehow too. I just learned how they work but that’s an interesting point that you put. If it’s not cool, what’s the point of it? Especially someone with a creative mind like you, going to these events.
BROCK: Yeah, if you can’t convince yourself or it isn’t inherently interesting to you — Also, I’m fortunate that I’m oftentimes either in the same age grouping or very close to the age of individuals who we’re trying to reach, so I simply have to ask myself, “Would I be excited about this?” and it usually goes from there. It hasn’t failed me yet.
JOEY: Awesome. And do you attend other events like [00:27:53] or just to go?
BROCK: Yeah, absolutely. It’s great inspiration. It’s awesome to see what other people are doing. You take a room full of the top producers or creative minds in the country and the world are going to do everything a little bit differently. And to be able to go and see how people would approach this or that or the cool new type of technology or way they’re doing something is always inspiring and makes me better at whatever I’m doing.
JOEY: Right. Very cool.
BROCK: Yeah, I mean look, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some fun stuff and work with some great people, but I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t think that there was always somebody or many people out there doing cooler **** than I am. I’m sorry I said [00:28:50] at the show but cooler stuff than what I’m doing and to not go and experience that as a fan, a [00:29:00] consumer would be a miss.
JOEY: Right, absolutely. Well it’s fun — I think, just talking to you, you’re someone that always wants to grow, too. So, you always want to see what else other people are doing and get that idea of what can happen. I think too, some brands need to market to certain areas. I had another conversation on another podcast. Just the Millennials, focusing on them a little bit, with their bite-sized content — Snapchat, 15 seconds, that’s all you get. How do you turn a campaign — and this might be a repetitive question but I guess how can you turn something in a live event, something that’s really quick that you can really draw their attention. I guess, have you done anything — the Millennial type of focus?
BROCK: “Up for whatever, Whatever, U.S.A,” was for Millennials 100 percent.
JOEY: Got you. That’s it.
BROCK: Yeah, and I had hats off to the creative minds, the creative directors and such that worked out really honed in on how, what channels to deliver, even down to — like you said, the duration length, like 15 seconds. It seems like every time you wake up, you have less and less time to reach who you’re trying to reach through Snapchat or whatever else that is. It’s difficult. It’s a pretty crowded room in that regard so it can be tough, very tough.
BROCK: I guess another way to answer your question is — And I may have misunderstood that question but, we kind of joke around here, especially with the work that we do and the VR and 360 video space, I think it applies to digital and sort of that bite-sized content that you’re speaking of. I think it works both ways. If it sucks in real life, it’s going to be even more boring or less interesting in VR, on Snapchat, on whatever quick, Millennial-focused platform you’re looking at, especially with content. If it’s not interesting in person, it’s going to be even less so on the internet.
JOEY: Right. No, exactly. Especially, I think too, is some of the brands — Also picking out what events they want to be at. There’s the way of just activating at an event or doing it on your own. Like Super Bowl, I almost think it’s way too crowded, unless you’re just going after — you’re a Pepsi or Coke that can do something like that. For small brands, I don’t know how much makes sense to even be in that crowded space.
BROCK: Yeah, the same could be said for South by Southwest.
JOEY: That’s true. That place is nuts.
BROCK: Yeah, breaking through the clutter. Really difficult.
JOEY: Right, very cool. Well Brock, it’s been great having you. I know we’ve talked about a few things here, some great campaigns that you’ve done — a little bit on the political side but I really appreciate you jumping on and I think hopefully I can bring you on down the road, kind of a follow up. That would be great.
BROCK: Yeah, I’d love to. Thank you very much for having me. It’s been a pleasure, great conversation, and I look forward to hearing this episode.
JOEY: Awesome. Well, thank you.
Listen to the full episode here.