Experiential Marketing: Fall Into It

The jackets are out, leaves are changing colors, and Starbucks is pumpin’ the pumpkin like it’s going out of style. Let’s take a look at some experiential activations that we’ve seen draw great crowds and great press this time of year.

Getting Schooled … in Experiential

As kids return to school this month it got me thinking. How do professionals (no matter the industry) educate themselves and stay ahead of the latest learnings and trends within their respective careers? So, whether you’re a prospective graduate or a seasoned executive, I’ve outlined my top six resources for “getting schooled.”

Experiential Marketing: Just Getting Started

I read an article recently suggesting Experiential Marketing may have hit its peak.  Personally I think we’re just getting started.  While the various methods we use to execute Experiential may alter and adapt, the media itself, and the benefits it holds, seem as strong as ever.

Internal Events: A Look Inside

While we are an experiential agency at heart, we’re increasingly tasked by our clients to help produce their internal events as well. Here are some tried and true practices we believe help make employees and attendees walk away feeling even more proud of what they do and where they do it.

Hot Town, Summer in the City

As a brand looking to spread awareness, the heat of a city summer can sometimes be a deterrence. But not to worry, we’ve got you covered like SPF 50.

Location, Location, Location … and Popcorn

Finding the right venue for an event here in New York City can be harder than finding a job, an apartment, or even a date. Ok, maybe that’s exaggerating a bit, but it’s still not always an easy task. Part of being a full-service production agency is being able to help clients navigate this process (of finding a venue, not a date).  Offering up the venue is one thing – following through on things like in-house AV requirements, venue capacity, nearby hotels, and of course, availability, can quickly add pages to that venue deck.

In the case of CNN’s “The Movies”, we were fortunate that our client recently relocated their offices to Hudson Yards, so deciding where to execute the event was a little easier this go around. 

As you may be aware, Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the United States by area. It’s New York’s newest neighborhood and home to more than 100 shops and restaurants, offices for major brands and organizations, significant public art and cultural institutions including The Shed and The Vessel, as well as 14 acres of public plazas and gardens.  And if you haven’t tried the milkshakes at Kith, I suggest doing so immediately (after you finish reading this blog post, of course).

One of the many reasons we were excited to work with CNN again is that this would be the first experiential activation of this kind at the venue. Being first to market on anything carries its own weight, especially in the event world. As if there wasn’t enough pressure to execute flawlessly before, this factor certainly weighed heavily on us, in the most exciting way possible.

Happy to say the event was a huge success. We had thousands of visitors, live shots from CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, and even guest appearances from Austin Powers and Cher from Clueless.

Below are a couple shots from the event. There’s even one with yours truly and Akeem, from Coming to America.

MAG CEO Jonathan Margolis poses with CNN The Movies stars.

See? Told you so.

As everyone’s aware, venues themselves can vary as much as the weather forecast on event day.  There’s really no way I could cover it all here, but what follows are just a few things that come to mind when deciding where to activate:

  1. Indoor vs. Outdoor
    This particular event required a decent amount of space, as we had the structure itself as well as signage around its perimeter. We opted to tent the top using a clearspan so we could protect against rain and give it a popup feel but not lose the natural light. Outdoor events are always more fun and visible, especially if we’re open to the public.

    CNN The Movies Pop Up Video Store Experience brought foot traffic to Hudson Yards in NYC

    CNN The Movies Pop Up Video Store Experience at Hudson Yards in NYC

  2. Foot Traffic
    How busy is the venue without any special events going on? Is the activation visible to passersby who may not wish to enter or engage in the experience but still wish to see what’s happening?  As we know, not everyone has the time (or desire) to engage in the activation, but we still want to make a quick impression, even if it’s just to share tune-in info.

    Inside CNN’s “The Movies” throwback video store


  3. Utilities
    It takes a lot to power an event, literally. Are things like electric and Wi-Fi readily available or will they need to be brought in? It’s obviously easier when things like this are available and easily accessible. Fortunately, Hudson Yards has Wi-Fi throughout the venue, as well as power and parking nearby.

  4. Star Power
    With venues, as with many things, sometimes what’s new can quickly get old. Have so many events been executed here before that consumers (and press) already lost interest after reading the release? In the end you want a venue that offers just as much excitement as the event itself.

After years of being onsite at activations across the country, it seems people often show up at an event not always realizing just how much goes into planning it.  I suppose the same holds true for a Broadway show or new restaurant opening in your neighborhood. Perhaps a future blog will focus on some of the more behind-the-scenes work that’s not always visible to the naked eye.

For now, I’ll say congratulations to the team here behind the CNN event – Rachel Jenkins, Linda Rhodes, and of course Lenetta Pesotini, as well as everyone else from MAG who pitched in to help. And to our good friends CNN, thank you for entrusting us with helping to raise awareness of “The Movies.” We’re already looking forward to the next one.

MAG on the Move

Moving sucks. 

Least that’s what you tell yourself as you begin to relocate your offices after 6 years.  The amount of “stuff” you accumulate as an event production company is pretty incredible, think storage wars on steroids. In the walk back to my desk as I was packing up I passed a stormtrooper, a box of stuffed animals, an assortment of wicker baskets, and signage from a network that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist anymore. 

Then there’s the personal belongings. The ceramic plaque your kids made you on Father’s Day, or the picture from that family vacation you took almost 10 years ago (also reminds you to change the pictures of your kids more often). There’s NDA’s for clients that never materialized, and contracts with clients that changed the shape of your career.  There’s thank you notes from interns recognizing and appreciating the attention you showed them during their brief time in your office, and notes from colleagues that have moved on and took a moment to thank you for helping them get there. 

Welcome to the new home of MAG.

The more I think about it, moving doesn’t really suck, it’s perhaps the best opportunity to figuratively start something new. Each year (or if you’re like me, each week), you think about what you want to accomplish, both personally and professionally. Moving gives you the opportunity to throw away what’s not important, so you can make room for what is.  It’s a new place to get your coffee, a new view from the conference room, and for some of the team here, a new place to walk your dog when you (and your pet) could use some fresh air. 

Perhaps most importantly, moving can be a true sign of growth. Not every company makes it, and as a business owner perhaps I remind myself of that way more than I should. So personally, I’m beyond excited to be part of a company that’s growing both in terms of size and stature. Moving to a new space, with new furniture, and yes, even a new phone greeting (sorry Kevin), only further demonstrates the company’s strength and opportunity.  

Those views, though.

We’re fortunate here at MAG that since the acquisition, we’ve seen many upgrades. A new IT system, cleaner policies and procedures around HR and Finance, and now a completely remodeled space that we can call home for at least the next 10 years.  We now have offices across the country, and soon internationally as well. Our client list has grown, along with our capabilities both here at MAG as well as across the entire group of companies under the BDSmktg umbrella. 

As I took the last picture off the wall I thought back when we started all of this almost 20 years ago. I could not have done it without the support of so many amazing clients, colleagues and partners. It was certainly a dream to one day sell to a larger organization that could help us grow in ways we couldn’t do on our own.  I’d like to think of our new office as a new beginning for MAG, where we will welcome new team members, new clients, new capabilities, and new excitement for all of us.   

5 Experiential Marketing Trends To Watch in 2018

At EventTech 2017, we saw the nation’s leading experiential marketing specialists offer their insights into how the new year — 2018 — will change the industry. Naturally, our own Erin Mills was a featured speaker.

In her presentation, Erin demonstrated that experiential marketing firms are going to spend 2018 leveraging new and developing technologies to generate B-to-B conference and event content that’s more democratic and more responsive than it’s ever been before.

Here’s how…

A Friendsgiving Dinner Story

So every year around this time I get a friendly email from my digital designer reminding me that my Thanksgiving blog article is due in a week.

Her gentle nudge also pushes me to perhaps reflect deeper than I normally would on a Monday morning.

But I love it, I really do.

I love thinking about all the good in this world, and, more importantly, the good that’s around me.

Closest to me are my friends and family. Equally as important though is my business, and the team here that keeps it fun and successful.

Last week we held a “Friendsgiving Dinner.” Let’s just say, I’m sure everyone in the room wouldn’t mind if it became a monthly tradition. Besides the homemade dishes, rows of crockpots, a dessert table, and (many) bottles of wine, there was an overwhelming feeling of happiness and togetherness.

When I was pushed to make remarks (I should know by now this is going to happen and perhaps prepare something in advance next time) I said how lucky we are, or, dare I say, I was, to be at a place where people want to be in a room together, share a meal, and, more importantly, share a laugh.

I know we’re not the only company that shares these values. One only needs to look at a “Best Places to Work” list and, alongside benefits and office atmosphere, is high company morale and team building activities. But, for every agency that takes the time to instill these values, I’m sure there are plenty that don’t.

I know it’s hard sometimes to find time to step away from the day-to-day and do things that matter. In a perfect world, we would have that Friendsgiving meal here every month. But all of us lead busy lives, and our roster of clients and projects keep us pretty busy here as well.

So maybe it’s not a lunch with co-workers. Maybe it’s a walk with a friend, a good deed, or even a monetary donation. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone made an effort to do just one extra nice thing this holiday season? Can you imagine that?

This year our holiday gifts will once again have a pro-social element tied to them, we’re already planning next years “MAGVolunteers,” and when the office manager announced that we received this year’s Winter Wishes from NY Cares, I’m proud to say within minutes they were all snatched up.

It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a start, a step in the right direction. I’m looking forward to so many things in the year to come – health and happiness, an even stronger year for the group, and other ways to do our part in making the world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving.

End the Neglect! Marketing to Generation X

Ah, yes, Generation X.

Born between 1965 and 1984, this crew came of age through two great economic disasters, the housing crash, the death of job security, and the rise of divorce. They grew up during America’s longest war and, in their adulthood, have seen the emergence of an even longer one. Sandwiched between the black-and-white Baby Boomers and Millennials, Gen X is a wash of gray — neither hippies nor hipsters, neither tech natives nor old fogies. The Boomer worldview was defined by the end of WWII; the Millennial worldview by 9/11 and the digital revolution. But what defined Gen X?

Even that name — Generation X — is wishy-washy. Isn’t X just an undefined variable?

Because of the vague, transitional nature of Gen X and its relatively small population, experiential marketing companies often overlook the generation in their discussions about strategy.

But no longer.

Today we discuss the top 10 most important things for experiential marketing firms to remember when targeting Generation X.

1. They’re Worth Your Time

Generation X includes everyone from ages 32 through 53. It’s the most influential living generation. These are our decision makers at both the professional and political levels. They wield more spending power than Boomers or Millennials and they are the most inclined to use that power.

2. They Buy Toys

And not just for themselves. In 2017, Generation X is the parental generation. The youngest pole of this generation is now entering into parenthood; the eldest pole is getting ready to ship their kids to college.

Remember: if you’re targeting kids, you’re targeting their parents too. Every sale to an under-18 is a sale to a Gen Xer.

3. They Buy The Good Stuff

As professionals and parents with money to burn, Gen Xers put a premium on quality. They want to know that a brand is reliable, that a product is hardy, and that media is sophisticated.

Remember: Mad Men wasn’t written for Millennials.

So experiential marketers need to put products in Gen Xers’ hands — show them how smart and tough the goods are.

4. They Care

Although they aren’t quite as liberal as Millennials, Gen Xers prefer brands that do good work outside the marketplace. Experiential marketers would be smart to go pro-social with this demographic. Giving and helping goes a long way.

5. They Can’t Be Fooled

Generation X learned skepticism the hard way. These folks have been through two impeachments. They gave the world grunge music and modern marketing. They are today’s power brokers and executives. They don’t fool easy. They give trust to those who earn it.

So don’t try to win them over with glitz or glamour. Show them your true colors and they’ll respond. Gen X has a history of loyalty when it comes to authentic, transparent brands.

6. They Work Harder Than They Play

Here at the michael alan group, we believe in marketing to people where they live, where they work, and where they play. But when it comes to Gen X, we prioritize where they work. Because Xers are in their prime professional years and they know it.

When we market to these guys, our first questions are: Where is their office? How do they get there? And what’s the first stop after work?

7. They’re On Their Email All The Time – And Also On Social

The only thing that works harder than a Gen Xer is a Gen Xer’s Outlook account. But email isn’t the only digital platform where these folks live. Believe it or not, Gen X spends more time on social than Millennials. Sure, they don’t care for Snapchat much, but Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have them riveted.

Experiential marketers would do well to tap into these information streams, but they should also do so with care. Smart, busy, and thoughtful about their tech use, Gen Xers expect quality shares. And they’re intentional about what they post themselves. So if you’re sharing, make sure you’ve got value-add content. And if you’re encouraging Xers to share, ask: how will this share give the poster a digital hero moment?

8. They Love New Tech

As technology natives, Millennials don’t need to try very hard to stay up-to-date on the latest tech developments. And Boomers are less likely to mind being out of the loop. More than any other generation, Xers have learned to learn when it comes to new tech and they are the most intentionally devoted to staying current.

That’s why we like to draw the 30-50s in by dangling new gizmos in front of them — AR, VR, 360, and whatever new tech has emerged by the time you reach the bottom of the page. All of these technologies should come into consideration when planning an experiential marketing stunt for Generation X.

9. They Put The Message Before The Medium

Despite their interest in new tech and their attachment to email and social, Generation X is uniquely situated to consume messaging across all sorts of media, traditional and digital. Paper, plastic, silicone — it’s all fair game.

This is part of why Gen X is generally neglected in conversations about marketing strategy: all media strategies work on them. Xers are comfortable in the digital world, but also know how to open a newspaper without tearing it in half. So don’t be afraid to mix up the media.

10. They’re Natural Influencers

When it comes to influence, Millennials entering adulthood are looking to their Gen X brothers and sisters for guidance. And Boomers see their Gen X children as their

link to all things new. While Millennials define what’s hip, Gen Xers define what’s good. This generation controls your prestige and your staying power. Marketing to them isn’t just about winning their loyalty, but also about turning them into evangelists.

That’s why we’ve found experiential marketing to be the best way to reach Generation X. It’s the only marketing medium that gives targets the opportunity to interact with brands face-to-face. There can be no question that it produces the highest quality impressions.

Photo credits: The Epoch Times, Space Invaders (CTRPhotos/iStock); roller skates (StockPhotosArt/iStock); TV dinner (Ednam/iStock); Apple MacIntosh (Public Domain)
The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about building a campaign targeted at Generation X.