24/09/14

Experiential Campaigns as Brands

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In my previous piece I explored the potential for multi-channel reach that lies behind the majority of experiential campaigns. This argument was really just a robotic way of saying something far more simple and sexy – if a little more contentious too:

“Experiential campaigns are their own little brands”.

Now, I wouldn’t say this is entirely axiomatic of all potential ideas, but it can serve as a helpful thought experiment. For a few years now, idealistic advertising types have been aspiring to create “ideas worth advertising”, rather than “advertising ideas”.  On the face of it this appears to be a call for “really, really, really good” ideas – which we’d all like I’m sure – but actually this goal can technically be achieved without any strenuous intervention from the muses whatsoever. Basically, just come up with an experiential idea.

The reason this sort of works is because experiential ideas tend to be “factual things” as well as “communications”, whereas other types of advertising tend to be just “communications”.  If you have a “factual thing”, then it has an independent existence, and so can be advertised.

So, bingo.  There’s your advertisable advertising idea (though I offer no guarantees that it will be worth advertising of course).

Once you have it, then what?  Well, you can just treat it like its own little brand and try to make it successful, by asking yourself the usual questions. How can you promote it?  Drive people to it?  Get people to have a relationship with it? How can you make it self-sustaining?  How can you expand it? Etc.

This all sounds quite fun (to me anyway) – but be careful!!  The rules of advertising advertising are not the same as advertising the mothership brand that this is all in aid of (i.e. the client).  That’s because of your idea’s unique dual role – being simultaneously its own brand, and a piece of communication.  It should be saying something clever and persuasive about the mothership brand through its very existence, and since that is the ultimate point you don’t want to dilute it with additional complexity.

Real brands you advertise with subtlety, “advertising brands” you just advertise with a shovel. So your support of the idea has a very simple goal – just let people know it exists.  After that, it will start to do its work whether people get involved or not, because even though it’s a little brand, in truth it’s a communication masquerading as one, and this remains its primary job.

So much for my ambition to simplify my reach argument.  Still, as an alternative way of looking at your campaign, this can be helpful, and at the very least break your thought patterns to help you create something a bit different.

24/09/14

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