It happens every time I’m in Las Vegas… A certain kind of culture shock. A sense of the audacious, over-the-top, silly American opulence of that place. The insistence by everyone and everything to top whatever else vies for your eyes.
That was the backdrop for this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit, where we had the honor of presenting for the first time. We invested more in this year’s EMS than any year prior, not just financially, as a first-time sponsor, but also in terms of time. Time to craft, hone, practice, re-write, test and execute our presentation.
It could be said that your perspective changes when you’re not merely attending something, but, rather, participating in it. I know it changed our perspective, and that pinpoints exactly what makes the best Experiential Marketing campaigns. Customers don’t just view Experiential Marketing, as with so much other forms of marketing and media, but they become a participant in it. And this year, we were co-creators, active participants, at EMS. On the field, not just at the game, so to speak.
As a participant, three key moments stood out to me:
The “Industry on Fyre” opening session, which included Fyre Festival’s Andy King, made famous by the Netflix documentary. For all that was valuable about that session (“Content isn’t king, it’s a brutal dictator” – great quote by the Motive team), Andy was the highlight. Knowing about the Fyre Festival disaster was fascinating enough, but seeing and hearing Andy firsthand brought it to reality. “I was holding four live all-hands meetings a day.” That’s practical, and I’ve since thought about it as a successful method for controlling other big, fast-moving projects.
The Zappos Keynote with Tyler Williams, Head of Brand Aura Marketing, was my key inspiration session. It wasn’t that I walked away from it with specific, actionable tactics – the other sessions were geared more toward that. It wasn’t that it sparked ideas that I’ll bring to my next pitch either. It was that Tyler spoke to a way of doing business and life that we see too rarely. Zappos has mastered it. I became a Zappos fan during that presentation, and the session served as a helpful reminder that, as Yvonne Choinard of Patagonia has said, “Every time I do the right thing, it makes me money.” Let’s all take that to the bank.
The Closing Session with Ryan Mortimer, featuring Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, was also stand-out. One of the most clearly crafted and expertly led sessions that I saw at EMS, and it was good to go out with a “cheers!” on the event. Hearing some of the thinking behind the SXSW activation – where Michelob Ultra Pure Gold hosted a peaceful, meditative event in a crowded, noisy environment – that sort of thing speaks to me, maybe more so in a place like Las Vegas than anywhere else.
Other things that surprised me… Ripples imprinted my face in the foam of a pint of Guiness – loved it. Two Dudes Photo updated my headshot for me, and I attended one of the expo “Brain Dates” – I’ll do more of that next year. That was a good thing.
Reflecting on my year as a contributor, as more than an attendee, I saw opportunity for Experiential Marketing as an industry to bring our collective best to EMS. Evidence would suggest that we pour all of our energy into our clients and their projects, leaving little leftover. I think the industry can take a page from its own book and create a series of true experiences at EMS, genuine, multi-sensory, immersive learning modules, and not just a series of seminar sessions. PowerPoint and sizzle videos should not rule the day. No matter where you look in Las Vegas, there are lessons on going big. I hope we can learn that together and take it to Chicago in 2020.