Experiential Fun With Food

There’s a lie that people have been telling for a long time. A devastating, pernicious lie. A lie that betrays youth and deeply detracts from the happiness of adults.

That it’s wrong to play with your food.

After much internal debating, we at MAG have decided to come clean, and tell the world the truth about playing with your food. That it’s fun. That it’s delicious. And that people will love you for letting them do it.

So the next time you’re cooking up an experiential marketing event, consider these ten ways of reminding people that food was meant to be fun.

The delicious s'mores evoked memories of summer camp, with each served hot and made to order.

1. Play Gourmet

The elevation of simple foods to the realm of gourmet is always a great way to surprise and delight. For example, when USA Network asked us to promote the launch of their first competitive reality series, Summer Camp, we knew we’d have to find a yummy way to bridge the gap between adulthood and childhood. So we turned our favorite camping cuisine — s’mores — gourmet. That meant caramel-glazed marshmallow and cocoa spread wedged between warm gram crackers and served small plate style. Man, that was a good day.

2. Pun Like Crazy

Get out your thesaurus and rhyming dictionary. Or just study up on homonyms. Quality punning is essential for blending bites with brands. And it makes eating all the more fun, because you’re not just eating food — you’re eating an idea. Like when we asked Silicon Valley tech engineers to enjoy some poached eggs, leave their jobs, and sign on with Bigcommerce.

3. Check the Calendar

We have deeply-set associations between foods and times of year. But when people are feeding themselves, they don’t often have the opportunity to play with those associations. So we recommend that you do what we do: take those seasonal expectations and turn them up to eleven. Like when we traveled a massive gingerbread house around town for ION Television. This holiday season activation featured 54 pounds of brown sugar, 30 pounds of shredded coconut, and 15 pounds of icing. Not to mention the enormous gummy bears.

4. Speaking of Enormous

Always remember that as much as people love food, what they love even more is really, really big food. We can say that with confidence, based on our experience serving a massive wedding cake in Times Square to promote the second season of WeTV’s Bridezillas.

Brand Ambassadors dressed as modern "milk men" while serving milk and cookie shots and assisting employees with filling their cookie bags.

5. Long Forgotten Flavors

A little nostalgia goes a long way in this business. And if you can find a clever new twist on tastes from the past, well, that’s the sweet spot. We can tell you we sure had a delectable time promoting 20th Television during the 2015 upfronts, when our 50’s-style milk men and women delivered milk-and-cookie shots to agency staff.

6. Dressed Down Dining

Come to think of it, 20th Television really has inspired some of our yummiest work. For another upfront season, we brought a buffet dining experience directly to agencies. But we ditched all of the usual buffet fare and replaced it with candy. Lots and lots of candy. Undermining traditional dining expectations has always served us well. So next time, you’re looking for a way to catch consumers by surprise, consider turning a meal on its head. And loading it up with sugar.

7. Make Them Work For It

There’s something tastier about earned deliciousness. That’s why we recommend giving consumers the opportunity to win their food. That was the philosophy that motivated us to install smoothie bikes in agencies during NBC’s Green Is Universal initiative. Executives jumped at the chance to hop on our bikes and blend their own pedal-powered smoothies.

8. Color-Coded Cuisine

Never forget that way the food looks matters just as much as the way it tastes. Color-coordinated foods offer a must-seize opportunity to draw the eye and reiterate the client’s branding. That’s why the gourmet popcorn arrangement in our MasterChef Junior mailers was carefully color-coded orange, white, and chocolate brown. That’s true brand cohesion — from kit to kernel.

9. Play the Theme

Put all of these suggestions together and you’ll have the secret of playing with food: theme. The best way to fuse fun and yum in your experiential marketing campaign is to combine form and flavor in support of a single idea. Like when we activated on behalf of USA Network’s Sirens. Our ambulance-style food truck made “emergency stops” in New York, Chicago, and Detroit, where EMT Brand Ambassadors treated consumers to a… hearty menu entitled, “How To End Up In An Ambulance.”

10. Remember Our Best Friends

Finally, we can’t claim to be real radicals without recognizing that humans aren’t the only ones who deserve to play with their food. Dogs deserve to have fun too. That’s why we teamed up with Rachael Ray to serve her Nutrish animal food at a bespoke bar for dogs.

So the next time you’re serving food at an activation, remember to fly in the face of the established order and play with your food. And invite your pets to do the same.

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 get creative with the cuisine at your next activation.

Building a Brainstorm Part One: Researching an RFP

Welcome to our three part series on pitch ideation. During this trilogy, we’ll walk through the ways in which experiential marketers can work as a team to cook up inventive solutions to client challenges. Later on, we’ll explore techniques for brainstorming, but before we get to that, we’ll begin with the prep. Here are our top 10 steps for researching an incoming RFP.

1. Use It or Lose It

This strategy is listed as number one for a reason. There’s simply no better way for wrapping your head around a new brief than to use the product in question. Reading about it isn’t enough; we want to play with it, watch it, listen to it, eat it — whatever the client’s recommended means of consumption.

Actually using the thing is a great way to springboard your understanding of why this product exists and what consumers are going to love about it. It might also inspire insights into how consumers will interact with the product on site at your activation. So it’s especially important to focus on the details. What does using the product make you feel? What makes it memorable?

For a new album, you might take note of catchy lyrics. For a TV show, you might want to track character quirks and recurring locations, props, and activities. When handling a physical object, what’s simple and delightful about using it? When handling an app, observe the layout, the experience flow, the color scheme, the functionalities — all the small details that make this app dynamic and unique.

2. Stare At the Target Till You Go Cross-Eyed

Once you know what you’re selling, you’ve got find out who’s going to be buying. Some RFPs will include elaborate sections profiling their targets and giving them cool names — most will focus on age, sex, ethnicity, region, and income. It’s your responsibility to do the detective work of finding out what makes your target tick.

As detective work goes, this can be a walk in the park — sometimes literally. You don’t need to hunt down and stalk your targets; they’re all around you. They’re your parents, your siblings, your children, your spouse, your neighbors, coworkers, or bosses. They’re the people who grab the Corn Puffs while you grab the Cheerios, the people who steal your parking spots, who serve you lunch, who — you get the point.

If people-watching isn’t your thing, get online and read what they read — or what they write. You’re not only looking for their opinions about your product here; you’re also looking to discover what sorts of movies they watch, cars they drive, and politics they align with.

The better you understand them, the better you’ll be able to sell to them.

3. Nerd Out

Having gotten a tight closeup on the product, it’s time to pull back and get a wide view of what this is all about. What is the product’s context — what’s the history behind it, the ecosystem in which it exists? What does Wikipedia have to say? What are the terms of art?

Developing a broader understanding of the field will not only help you to better appreciate the product’s purpose, but it will also elevate your interactions with your client and targets. Because you’ll know the history and speak the lingo.

4. Size Up the Other Guys

Now that you know what you’re talking about, it’s time to learn about the other major players. The goal here is to discover the client’s positioning — why this product exists, what sets it apart, and why consumers ought to choose this product instead of another. It’s important to get a sense of both the competitors’ strengths and their weaknesses, so that you can hone in on what to play down, what to play up, where to defend, and where to attack.

Competitor websites, literature, and ads are great for this stage of competitive analysis, and so are articles and reviews that articulate consumer perspectives.

5. Keep Up With the Joneses

The competitive research you’ve just done was about your client’s competition. Now it’s time to find out about your competition. What sort of activations or stunts have the other brands in this space pulled off? You’ll need to understand what those other experiential marketers were doing if you want to put them all to shame.

You’ll also want to tune into the things that have worked in the past, so that you can use your competitors’ discoveries as your starting point. This is especially true if you’re planning to exhibit at an annual convention where there will be plenty of data on what previous brands have done to break through the noise.

This is a great time to start a romance with Google. Photos, sizzles, feature articles — these things will all help you better understand what you’re up against.

6. Prepare for Life Undercover

Part of understanding your client’s positioning is understanding their voice. What kind of copy do they use — is their language flashy and set in sans serif or do they prefer a conservative tone and a Roman font? Are their ads composed of a few long takes or do shots cut quickly? What are their brand colors and what do those colors communicate? Does the brand emphasize youthful innovation or mature reliability?

The deeper you wade in, the better a job you’ll do speaking for and even to the brand. On the receiving end, your client may feel most comfortable with a proposal that looks and sounds like it was written by one of their own. Alternatively, if the RFP’s indicated that the client would like to make a dramatic shift, then it’s important to have a deep understanding of what it is they’re trying to distance themselves from.

7. Analyze the Types

While experiential marketing is a growing field that attracts new brands every day, for many of your clients, this will not be their first at-bat. So before you lead them back onto the field, it’s good to get into some post-game strategic analysis: how has this brand activated before? What’s worked and what hasn’t? What sorts of activations do they like? Maybe they lean toward digital activations, immersive engagements, or stop-and-stare stunts. Maybe they like to get cute or maybe they like to play things edgy. Do they put a premium on hired talent? Do they go mobile?

Just as with Step 4, this process will allow you to get smart about what previous strategies you’re rejecting and what you’re utilizing. You can recycle and reshape what worked; diagnose and treat what hasn’t.

8. Give ‘Em the Third Degree

By now you’ve got a good a great sense of what this product is all about. But we’ve been working in the realm of theory and, as we know, experiential is all about getting hands-on. A great deal of good can come out of real life engagements. That’s why we recommend that you interview fans, users, or experts. Your goal here won’t be to gather large data sets, but rather to glean a few individual perspectives.

Talking to real life targets and specialists can often reveal important information or demonstrate that the things you thought were important aren’t really.

Advertising a TV show? You might know the plot, but real fans often reveal surprising favorite characters and reminisce about particular moments. They can also tell you why they’ve stopped watching or what keeps them coming back.

The same goes for techies, pet owners, world travelers, and sneakerheads. A short conversation can offer insight into what sort of event could make their weekend, what sort of premiums they’d value most, or what they need to hear from a new brand before converting.

Again, you don’t have to reach out into the ether to have these conversations — just call up a friend or family member who fits the demographic.

9. Don’t Draw A Big Picture – Draw Five

You’re swimming in knowledge now, so it’s time to sift, sort, and compartmentalize. Take some time with a whiteboard, flashcards, or post-its to start identifying patterns and themes. It’s a rare product that only has one way in. After all this research you’ve probably got a wide variety of angles to work from.

Consider what you’ve learned about the brand from interviews and articles, and what the brand says about itself. Consider the context and history around the product, and the qualities that set this one apart from others. What you love about it, what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. And use that information to identify and label discrete ideas and questions.

All told, you should start seeing a few different directions in which to head. In future installments, we’ll see how this categorizing of information will make for great brainstorm facilitation.

10. Buy a Poncho

Of course the final step to wrapping your head around a brief is to bring in the team. So warn the office that a storm’s coming!

Next month, we’ll get into the details of how to make that brainstorm a successful one — from filling the room to briefing it. And later we’ll cover our top 10 rules for inspiring top-flight ideas. Stay tuned!

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 brainstorming ideas for your next experiential campaign.

Diving Into Data: Making Experiential Marketing Count

As important as it is to knock the socks off consumers, it’s all the more important to knock the socks off your clients. And the quickest way to your client’s socks is often with the delivery of data. Today we’re going to explore the five reasons why your experiential marketing event needs data collection and the five best ways to pull it off.

Why Collect Data?

Tangible ROI
We’ve been in this business a long time, which means that we’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the awesome power of experiential marketing — again and again and again. There’s no substitute for creating face-to-face relationships with consumers, for turning the brand-curious into brand-evangelists. Still, it helps to have something tangible to show for ourselves — hardcopy that proves the value of our work. That’s where consumer data comes in.

Lead Generation
Clients love data because data means leads. No matter what your client’s vertical, the one thing we know for sure is that they’re in the business of selling something. Whether it’s a product, a service, or even an ideology — they need consumers to buy in. Handing over leads for future sales is the number one way to show your client that you have their best interests at heart.

Social Media Influence
The other great thing about delivering data to your client is that it empowers them to grow their social influence. It’s important to collect data that enables brands and attendees to connect online and continue the conversation. Followers and friends don’t only make your client’s brand look good, but they also snowball to improve every facet of your client’s business. Whether the brand’s next post is a product launch, a press release, or a call to action, the data that you deliver will ensure that it’s seen, liked, and reblogged more than ever before.

Event Feedback
The clients aren’t the only ones who benefit from data; play your cards right and you could be getting some helpful feedback as well. The expense and magnitude of our work means that we don’t have the luxury of product testing or quizzing focus groups. Unless we’re activating across multiple markets on different dates, we only get one shot. That’s why it’s so important to learn from each event so that —when sixteen years rolls around (happy birthday to us) — you really know what you’re doing. Collecting data provides the opportunity to pose a few well-chosen questions to event attendees that will help you better understand what worked and what can be even better.

Future Event Audiences
If all goes well, this event will be one of many on which you and your client collaborate. Which makes it all the more important to grow your audience for future activations. Collecting data from this event’s happy customers empowers you to deliver a larger audience the next time around.

How to Collect Data

With Giveaways
Nothing’s free — not for you and not for the consumer. If you want the consumer’s data, you’ve got to make it worth their while. That’s why the most effective data collection strategies are the ones that offer cool stuff in return. Consumers can hand over their information in exchange for quality premiums and downloadable content. Promising the delivery of coupons is an especially great strategy because it provides the consumer with value and also increases the likelihood of future sales. Or, if you’re of the go-big-or-go-cry-in-a-corner school of thought, then you can always take the raffle route: enter data-sharing consumers into a sweepstakes to win a car, a trip, or a small Caribbean island.

As Registration
Here’s another way to frame the give-something-to-get-something approach: consumers can share their data in exchange for the opportunity to experience your event. Ask invited guests to RSVP on a dedicated lander or have walk-ins sign in with a cheerful brand ambassador.

Nobody really wants to hand over their data, and, in a technological environment where so many transactions are instantaneous, consumers are going to be doubly impatient with long questionnaires and inefficient entry interfaces. That’s why it’s important to invest money in quality data collection apps and to invest time in perfecting your ask. Determine which data is most valuable and how you can acquire it with the fewest possible inquiries.

Via Social
One way to cut down on the time it takes to hand over data is to keep things simple with social media engagement. Consumers can follow the brand on Twitter or like them on Facebook in exchange for your value add — whatever that is. You can always follow up on social after the event with digital sweepstakes or giveaways in exchange for a more comprehensive data share. What’s great about this strategy is that you can harness it to amplify your event: for instance, ask consumers to share branded photo booth pics on social. Now you’ve got data and reach.

With Surveys
Finally, it’s important not to underestimate how much people love to give you their opinions and how valuable those opinions can be to both you and your client. That’s why it’s worth considering collecting data after the event as part of a survey. In addition to generating leads, you can deliver scarce, valuable product feedback to your client while also conducting an internal review of how your event faired.

The power of data collection is not to be underestimated — it’s good for you, it’s good for your client, and it’s great for your relationship. So we’re going to keep exploring it in the weeks to come. Be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming article on the best apps for getting to know your target.

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 capitalizing on data collection at your next event.

Event Marketing Upgrades: Swag Edition

Welcome to installment number two in our series exploring event marketing upgrades, where we focus on small changes that make big gains. In this edition, we’re diving into the world of promotional products and highlighting the go-to swag consumers love.

Swag to Brave the Elements

When planning an outdoor activation, weather will always be a beast to predict. While there are a number of ways to outwit Mother Nature (e.g. fans, tenting, outdoor heaters; perhaps we should draft a blog about it), these preparations can also guide your giveaways. Which products are best for the battle?

1. Cold Weather: While we certainly don’t see many brands setting up shop on blustery streets, there are a brave few who make it happen. Branded hats, gloves, or scarves are a unique giveaway that can be useful and fashionable. Another crowd favorite? Hand warmers.

2. Hot Weather: There are hot summer days, and then there are HOT summer days. To relieve sweaty consumers, take a look into branded ice scarves. Simply soak in water, place around the neck, and enjoy as cooling magic ensues. Paper or battery-powered fans are also a surefire success.

3. Wet Weather: Temperatures can be predicted with relative ease, but a cloudy sky can turn stormy in a matter of minutes. Never fear! Any brand can be a hero by giving away ponchos. And, if the budget allows, branded umbrellas will save the day on more than one rainy occasion, making it a solid investment for those extra impressions.

Small Business Saturday lands on a chilly November day, but that didn’t stop American Express from activating. They promoted their “Shop Small” campaign by distributing branded hats, scarves, and mittens to appreciative attendees at the Today Show.

Swag to Save Tech

For as often as we encourage attendees to tweet, post, snap, and share, we ought to treat their phones to a little TLC. And that’s precisely what this swag sets out to do.

1. Charging Up: Dying batteries are a frequent foe. Ensure your guests have the juice they need (and in the nick of time, no less) with a branded portable charging pack. There’s a wide array of designs and capacities fit for an event of any kind.

2. Tricking Out: Phone accessories are always a popular promo, and their longevity can pay off far beyond the event. Plus, the product selection keeps growing. Adhesive wallets, selfie sticks, styluses, stands, sleeves, and, now, VR goggles, are just a few of the branded items attendees enjoy.

3. Cleaning Up: Eyes are surprisingly adept at ignoring just how filthy cellphone screens can become. That’s why branded screen cleaners are a win-win. Consumers will pause to assess their screen’s condition, and, presto, they’ll already have the perfect tool to swipe away the mess.

Swag to Pamper the People

Tom and Donna of Parks and Rec had it right: “Treat. Yo. Self.” While event marketers can take this mantra to the Nth degree in any aspect of an activation, we find it especially effective when considering what attendees will take home.

1. Hydrate/Caffeinate: Environmentally friendly and endlessly useful, branded drinkware is always a hit; water bottles, travel mugs, tumblers, you name it. Pro-tip: Partner up with a local coffeeshop or smoothie joint and offer a promotion for consumers to get their first fill for free.

2. Simple Essentials: You might be surprised by the number of very common products that make for very popular giveaways. Our top brandable picks? Sunglasses, breath mints, and lip balm.

3. Rest and Relaxation: Swag and zen rarely land in the same sentence, but, we assure you, one can certainly lead to the other. Relaxation will look different for every brand and every guest, but some popular products for treating attendees include branded yoga mats, sleeping masks, coloring books, or chocolates.

To promote the Season 3 premiere of MasterChef Junior, MAG partnered with Endemol Shine and took drinkware swag to the next level. Gourmet hot cocoa kits were delivered to previous contestants and influencers, including Mom Spotted.

Practically any product can be branded nowadays (trust us, we’ve tackled some wild work), but novelty isn’t always the way to win with consumers. Giveaways have the power to save the day, spark excitement, or simply deliver a moment of rest, and brands should consider the impact they’re aiming for. While these items have been proven valuable time and again, we always take a deep dive into an array of options to ensure we’re sending attendees away with swag they love (and swag they’ll love to use again).

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 the swag your consumers are sure to enjoy.

An Experiential Ode to Valentine’s Day

Some love to hate it and some hate to love it, but Valentine’s Day is nevertheless upon us again. While many couples are off to smooch over a fancy meal (as some singles are eyeing the next day’s discounted chocolate), we’re here to celebrate the center of it all: L-O-V-E, love.

We’re thrilled to celebrate all forms of love (just check out last year’s bridal shower bonanza), but we especially enjoy when experiential gets to show its sensitive side. Here are some of our favorite activations, a mix of MAG-produced and others, where romance was the star of the show.

WE tv Operation “I Do”

As the saying goes, “First comes love, then comes marriage.” And that second step is precisely what MAG helped produce for five military couples. To promote the launch of WE tv’s Wedding Sunday programming, the big day became a big event in Times Square, complete with a post-ceremony reception, a military “arch of swords”, live performances, wedding cake, and “Just Married” pedicabs whisking the newlyweds away.

Heineken #DateInABox

Valentine’s Day can be a very sneaky holiday, and reservations fill up fast. In 2014, Heineken came to the rescue with its social-media campaign, #DateInABox. Frantic boyfriends could tweet the hashtag at @Heineken_US to request a prearranged date for two. They then received a red, glittery vault, with the surprise date waiting on a certificate inside. The catch? To reveal the vault’s code, gentlemen had to post a picture on Instagram, declaring their love (and forgetfulness).

Alice & Olivia “Get Into Our Pants”

Love isn’t merely fun dates and big weddings. When MAG partnered with Alice & Olivia to promote the brand’s 10th anniversary, the messaging took a more provocative spin on romance with the slogan, “Get Into Our Pants.” To deliver this cheeky tagline, brand ambassadors took to swanky NYC lounges and discreetly “dropped” branded condoms for consumers to find.

Wilkinson Sword’s Smooth Valentine’s Day

You typically wouldn’t associate razors with Valentine’s Day, but Wilkinson Sword UK found the perfect connection by wishing women a smooth Valentine’s Day. The brand’s installation featured an oversize male face covered with unruly “stubble”. Upon closer inspection, however, consumers discovered each hair was instead a stem, with a red rose hidden within the wall. As couples swooned and walked away this floral surprise, they simultaneously gave the install exactly what it needed: a flawless shave.

Air France Instant Wedding

Often the beauty of love is fueled by surprise (we’ve all seen this adorable proposal video, right?). Well, what could be more surprising than an instant wedding? When MAG partnered with Air France for their Instant Takeoff event, staffers caught wind of an engaged couple on-site hoping to win the trip and elope in Paris. In full experiential marketing fashion, an impromptu wedding was produced on the spot, and Air France instead sent the newlyweds away on a romantic Parisian honeymoon.

In Case of Love at First Sight, Break Glass

Valentine’s Day tends to cater to couples, but in 2014 the Flower Council of Holland turned its attention to lovesick singles. In Paris, the group celebrated by installing 1,500 red boxes mimicking emergency boxes (those you might see holding a fire extinguisher) throughout the city. These boxes, however, carried a single red rose with the message “In case of love at first sight, break glass.” While we aren’t certain if these sparked any long-term love, they were a delightful surprise for many and hopefully won a few lucky people a first date.

Whether you’ll be snuggling with your sweetie or simply going about your day, the michael alan group wishes everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

And if you catch wind of any amazing candy sales, be sure to let us know.

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 igniting romance at your next activation.

Live Streaming 101: Sharing Events With Social Media

It sounds oxymoronic to describe live events as being accessible anywhere at anytime by anyone, but, with live streaming, they really are.

We’re not just talking about live streaming webinars or big-budget multi-camera events here. Live streaming of that sort has been around since the 90s. It’s social live streaming that’s going to change experiential marketing forever, and so it’s social live streaming that we’re here to blog about.

Products like Facebook Live, Youtube Live, and Periscope make it possible to grow event audiences exponentially via web promotion. By streaming video live, they empower us to maintain of-the-moment urgency, and, by incorporating feedback features, they enable us to interact with absent audiences as immediately as we interact with in-person attendees.

Given its power, social media live streaming has become the favorite marketing tool of major global corporations, entrepreneurial stay-at-home moms, and a whole host of brands in between.

So we’re here to share some of our institutional wisdom on going live.

Where to Live Stream

Where? is perhaps the most important question a brand can ask when going live. Since Livestream.com popularized this technology a decade ago, the live streaming vertical has grown into a dense ecosystem of competing brands that inspire lengthy pro-con lists.

As with live events, so too with live streams: we’re strong believers in meeting our targets where they work and where they play. That’s why we recommend taking advantage of technologies like Facebook Live, Google’s YouTube Live, and Twitter’s Periscope. While other live streaming platforms like Meerkat and Twitch have developed devoted followings and stellar technologies, there’s just no competing with the value of easy discovery and pre-existing audiences that exist on what we like to call The Big Three of social media live streaming.

Facebook Live
Last February, Dunkin’ Donuts became one of the first brands to go live on Facebook. Their valentines cake-and-donut-making event drew 21,000 views in 13 minutes. A month later, Facebook announced that people were watching live streams three times more than pre-recorded video.

Facebook’s brand appeal needs no explanation. But we’ll give one anyway.

Facebook is the world’s most popular social network. It is the third most visited website in the world (Google’s in first, followed by its subsidiary, YouTube). Americans stream videos there more than they do anywhere else. With nearly 2 billion users logging in worldwide, Facebook offers one hell of a captive audience. Plus, most brands have already begun to develop robust Facebook followings, which greases the wheels for pre-broadcast promotion.

Users who have a history of engaging with your page will get notifications when you go live. And if you schedule up to one week in advance, consumers will have the opportunity to sign up for reminder notifications about the broadcast. Of course, you can also send in-platform invites just as you would for any other event.

Once you go live, viewers will be able to comment and post emoticon reactions in real time. If you’ve shared your location, strangers are all the more likely to stumble across your broadcast, and viewers may even decide to attend the live event if they’re in the neighborhood.

You can film for up to an hour and a half; Facebook recommends that you use at least 10 minutes of that time. Once it’s all over, the video saves to your page and Facebook’s analytics will give you information and infographics that measure things like views, comments, and moments of peak engagement.

Facebook’s API service allows industry professionals to elevate their broadcast, incorporating advanced technologies, special effects, on-screen graphics, and more.

YouTube Live
YouTube Live has played host to presidential debates, sporting events, and at least one royal wedding. If you’re going to post a video, it makes sense to do it on the world’s most popular video streaming site. Plus, as a subsidiary of Google, YouTube live streams get great SEO, which is more than can be said for Facebook.

Perhaps its search engine performance is meant to make up for what it lacks in promotional power. Unless your brand’s channel has developed a large subscription base, it’s difficult to compete with the native promotional powers of Facebook and Twitter. Still, YouTube’s shareable and embeddable links make it possible to harness the power of those social networks.

Those links also make it possible to use your live stream as a lead generator. By making your video undiscoverable, you can restrict access to consumers who provide their emails or complete other calls to action in advance of the broadcast. Or you can keep your video public to maximize reach.

Other YouTube advantages include its unique 360-video live stream capability and the practical life spans of videos post-broadcast. While other platforms keep recordings of live streams accessible after events have finished, those videos can be hard to find. Facebook and Twitter value the immediacy of content while YouTube puts quality first. YouTube’s first-rate content will be particularly easy to find after-the-fact and YouTube’s superior search functionality will guarantee your video practical immortality.

Periscope launched in 2014. A year later, Twitter acquired it for the low, low cost of $90 million. Today it boasts over 10 million users who watch 40 years worth of content every day.

While neither Periscope’s nor Twitter’s membership bases rival Facebook’s, it would be a mistake to count them out. Facebook has proven to be the world’s favorite forum for private networking, but Twitter is the internet’s agora for breaking news. In fact, sometimes the happenings on twitter are the breaking news. From revolutions to scandals to high profile debates — ideological and personal — Twitter has proven itself the ultimate forum for learning what’s happening now. Which makes it an obvious choice for live streaming.

Periscope and Twitter are well integrated so live streamers can choose to go public on either or both platforms. Content-creators can use Periscope’s sketch feature to enhance videos or fill dead time. Meanwhile viewers can comment and send likes.

Following the stream, Periscope provides advanced analytics that offer general viewing information as well as specifics about who was watching and for how long. As with the other platforms, videos will live on after the initial broadcast.

How to Live Stream

Once you’ve picked your platform, it’s important to make sure that you’re live streaming compelling content. As with any event, there’s really just one key question: what’s the value add? Every live stream should give consumers a unique experience of some kind — special access to a special event, something beautiful, something weird, enriching, or entertaining. You can enhance event live streams by bringing the digital audience behind the scenes or featuring exclusive interviews and Q&As. The key here is to tell a compelling story.

You can get literal about value add by offering give-aways. These can be physical objects mailed to lucky winners or digital content downloaded via exclusive links. The latter strategy can be used to generate leads: you can ask consumers to register at a landing page before downloading the content.

Hiring a celebrity to host the live stream can draw a larger audience and enhance the experience. Especially if your celebrity host is going to respond to comments in real time — that’s one of the best ways to make the digital audience feel as though they’re physically present. Usually, we have staff monitor comments and select questions for the host to answer. Depending on the platform you’ve chosen, commenters can hashtag their questions for easy discovery and hosts would do well to address commenters by name.

When events have dead time, do what ESPN does: cut to your talking heads — a branded news desk staffed by talent. They can conduct interviews, discuss the event, answer comments, and facilitate giveaways. You can also script these interactions, which makes for a nice breath of fresh air in the midst of an unpredictable event.

Some platforms offer additional time-filling capabilities. Periscope allows you to sketch on screen during live performances — a great tool for occupying dead space and also for augmenting keynotes and product demonstrations. With Facebook Live API, you can also instant replay, overlay on-screen graphics, and incorporate special effects. You can even cut to content being filmed by a drone.

Once you wrap, make sure to thank your audience, incorporate a call to action, and let them know about your next event. And don’t forget: all three of these platforms allow your video to live on after the broadcast. So make sure to post-promote your video. Then get to work planning your next one.

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 bringing your event to life, both in-person and online.

Kid Approved, Family-Friendly Marketing

There are two new people in the world! We are thrilled to congratulate our very own Erin Mills on the birth of her twins. Oakley and Sawyer came into the world on Thursday, January 26. To celebrate their cuteness (pictured below), we figured we’d take a moment to look at our favorite campaigns — MAG-produced and otherwise — that put kids and families front and center.

iSPY 20th Anniversary

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Scholastic’s hit book series, I SPY, MAG invited a gaggle of students to play a larger-than-life game of I SPY in Times Square. When the kids arrived, they discovered the twelve-foot tall, hidden-object-laden birthday cake that we’d built at the crossroads of the world. The special event was followed by a book signing and cake serving by Author Jean Marzollo. When the students returned to school, their library was 500 books larger.

Similac: The Mother ‘Hood

In 2015, this video took the parenting community by storm. In it, baby formula titan, Similac, takes the age-old but undying breast-vs.-bottle controversy head on by mocking parental judgmentalism in all its forms. Mom vs. Dad, Part-Time vs. Stay-At-Home, Disposable vs. Reusable — this video neutralizes every major ideological debate in parenting by making us laugh and putting the babies first.

Bounty’s Quicker Picker Upper Games

In honor of Bounty’s partnership with three-time gold medal winner, Allyson Felix, MAG challenged families to a virtual race against her. In addition to that green screen sprint, our Quicker Picker Upper Games encouraged parents and children to compete in a variety of cleaning-themed races and distributed more than a thousand rolls of Bounty to attendees. New York and Chicago have never been cleaner.

Evian’s Baby Campaigns

Mineral water stalwart, Evian, has had so much success with baby-oriented campaigns that it changed its slogan to match in 2012. “Live Young,” the brand now proclaims. Their commitment to cuteness began in 2009 when their record-breaking, YouTube-exclusive “Roller Babies” video scored them more than 25 million views in less than two months. In 2011, they released a video entitled “Baby Inside Me,” and, in 2013, Evian gifted us the video above, “Baby & Me,” which scored 50 million views in its first week. We’re equally grateful for the “Baby & Me” mobile app that followed, allowing us to share baby-fied versions of ourselves with friends, family, and, of course, clients.

The Modern Family Corn Maze

To drive tune-in to Modern Family, MAG invited families to enjoy immersive corn mazes at The Grove in LA and Union Square in New York. Once they’d made it through the labyrinths, more than 7000 consumers hung around our branded pumpkin patches to play Modern Family trivia, pose for goofy photos, and enjoy an augmented reality experience.

GoldieBlox and the Princess Machine

In February 2014, GoldieBlox became the first small business to air a commercial during the Superbowl network telecast. The video brings us three adorable toddlers who transform their girly toys into an enormous Rube Goldberg machine. The contraption’s purpose? To change the channel from a mind-numbing variation on the Beastie Boys’ “Girls” to a cartoon about a female engineer. The ad, which was created to articulate GoldieBlox’s commitment to promoting science and engineering among young girls, earned 8 million views in its first week. Plus an endorsement from Ellen DeGeneres.

Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus poses with the entire class from the United Nations International School.

25th Anniversary of The Magic School Bus

In order to celebrate the silver anniversary of its hit book series, The Magic School Bus, Scholastic asked MAG to produce a one-of-a-kind experience for local second-graders. We brought the kids down to Manhattan’s Pier 84 to witness the iconic bus voyaging down the Hudson River on a barge. The New York Aquarium’s Dr. Kafka teamed up with our MC — playing “Scuba Sam” — to offer the students a hands-on lesson about the creatures that live in the Hudson River. At the end of the event, we opened a treasure chest to reveal a huge collection of books and announced that the class would be going home with the complete Magic School Bus series.

We’re more excited than ever to dive into family-friendly activations now that our in-house focus group of newborns has grown by two. Whether you’re planning an event of your own or you’re here just-because, we’re grateful that you stopped by to celebrate with us.

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 your next kid-centric, family friendly campaign.

Experiential Marketing: What to Expect in 2017

To welcome in the New Year, we’ve put together our predictions for all the ways that experiential marketing is going to evolve in 2017.

More Innovation

If you’re having trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, you might be losing your mind. Or you might just be well read. In 2017, tech gurus are going to halve the gap between science and science fiction.

We’re already 3D-printing jet engine parts, and 3D-printed organs are beginning to reach clinical implementation. Virtual and Augmented Reality techs have become so advanced and so diverse that we recently published a clarification of which technology is which. Uber’s using autonomous cars and toddlers are coding robots. Meanwhile LG is prepping LED screens that you can roll up and stick into an overnight bag, and, in January, SpaceX will host a hovercraft race.

These innovations will continue to have a tremendous influence within the B2B event space as conferences and exhibitors explore new ways to wow attendees. We anticipate that brands will discover novel utilizations of augmented, virtual, and mixed realities. They will aim to cater to millennials with interactive and projection mapped displays. And they’ll break through the noise with disruptions that fuse the brilliant with the ridiculous.

But even more important than the New Year’s innovations in tech will be its innovations in format. In 2017, we’ll see the continued evolution and distention of the unconference.

The unconference harnesses the power of crowdsourcing to create collaborative sessions specific to the interests of participants. In 2017, more programming will be scheduled on-site and sessions will become a locus of conversation instead of presentation. Conferences will spotlight the personal strengths and needs of the attendees rather than the agendas of conference organizers and keynote speakers. We’ll also see new approaches to conference space as well — whether that means taking conferences outside or encouraging networking around interactive installations.

But for all the stylistic innovations we’re going to see in B2B events, content will always take precedence over form.

Inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, GitHub brought this interactive element to their user conference, GitHub Universe. Attendees were invited into the entirely white space and encouraged to decorate the room with colored stickers. Photo courtesy of Event Marketer.

Increased Branded Content

An event is only as good as the content it delivers. That’s why you’re going to be reading a lot about event capture in 2017. We’ll all be exploring better ways to transform live experiences into immersive offline/online combos that amplify the reach of campaigns exponentially.

Toward the end of 2016, the tech industry sent us a host of exciting new toys to play with in the New Year. To give Snapchat Stories some healthy competition, Instagram and Twitter launched “Stories” and “Moments” features respectively. Instagram also added an Events Channel that will collect videos from major events and put them in front of the users most likely to be interested. But perhaps the most exciting innovations came from Snapchat: in addition to offering improved metrics, Snapchat released On-Demand Geofilters, and Snapchat Spectacles. We also expect to feel reverberations from Pokemon Go, which popularized and gamified mobile-powered Augmented Reality.

In 2017, we’re going to see event planners exploring creative ways to harness these new technologies for improved content quality and reach. But the biggest shift won’t come from the megacorps, it’ll come from the little guys: Influencer amplification is going to become the new standard for cascading content because brands that partner with influencers are able to target consumers with near pinpoint accuracy. Influencers’ hyper-specific brand advocacy far outshines any messaging that’s crafted to resonate across broad, traditional demographics.

New Tentpoles

Even if we’re expecting broad-demographic strategies to phase out, don’t expect major tentpole events to disappear any time soon. People are still going to be watching the Superbowl in 2017 and Comic-Con is only growing. The same goes for SXSW, CES and Sundance. These have always been great places to activate and that’ll be no different in 2017.

But traditional tentpoles won’t have the stage to themselves anymore. Just as we expect to see influencers in the spotlight, we’re also anticipating that smaller events will be moving down-center. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for niche events that are seeing remarkable growth. The Summit Series will partner with any brand that shares its ideals. Likewise with the Aspen Ideas Festival. Athletic brands might do well to activate at a Ragnar relay race, women’s brands at The Yellow Conference.

The brands at these “tentpole boutiques” have been able to engage niche audiences face-to-face. Rather than promoting general awareness, they’ve focused on building deeper alliances with smaller communities.

From giving conference attendees the scheduling reins, to partnering with community influencers and boutique events, 2017 is going to be the year of getting personal. Your brand’s going to want to meet the consumers where they live, where they work, and where they play.

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 discuss where experiential marketing fits in your 2017 strategy.

360° Video vs. Augmented vs. Virtual vs. Mixed Reality

Wrapping Our Heads Around Other Realities

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality technologies are quickly gaining technical and popular momentum, as is 360° Video. And while the law of accelerating returns would suggest that ubiquity can’t be far off, these technologies still have the novelty to attract and wow consumers.

So if a brand wants to draw focus, align itself with innovation, and give consumers first-hand experiences that literally defy reality, they need to begin by picking the right alternate reality to work with.

Picking the right reality

When we’re determining which technology will best serve your brand, we like to begin with a question: Do you want to alter your reality or be transported to an entirely new one?

For instance, 360° Video headsets shut out our surrounding environment and transport us to locations that were shot in 360 degree video. Unlike yesterday’s videos, which only allowed us to look where the camera looks, this technology puts the user in control, allowing consumers to look into the eyes of the people on camera or turn around to see what they see. But in 360° Video you can only pivot around a fixed position.

Virtual Reality, which also shuts out the present environment and transports us elsewhere, goes a step further: it allows us to create computer-generated fictional worlds and interact with them as though they were real. Go for a stroll. Spill coffee. Slay monsters. The better the technology, the deeper and more realistic the immersion.

We utilized Augmented Reality technology during Microsoft’s CES 2016 activation to enable customers to virtually go in store and view merchandising solutions.

Unlike 360° Video and Virtual Reality tech, Augmented Reality devices don’t shut out the real world — they alter it. AR generates two and three-dimensional graphics and overlays them across your physical environment, as though you were looking through a graffitied window. Augmented Reality devices — which could utilize LED screens, mobile phones, or hi-tech glasses — might make your text messages seem to hover above your kitchen counter or they might reveal a zombie who’s also chilling at your bus stop.

Mixed Reality is like Augmented Reality 2.0. The visuals created by Mixed Reality devices blend more organically into the real world by creating spatially aware holograms that can intelligently interact with the objects around you. A little elephant can walk on your desk, robots can blast holes in the wall behind you, and everything can be interacted with using gestures, creating an even deeper sense of magic.

It’s worth noting that Mixed Reality is the emerging technology of the alternate realities. At the moment, there’s only one device on the market — Microsoft’s HoloLens — and it’s only available to developers. Luckily, we happen to know said developers.

Wait, so which one is the best for my brand?

Well, to begin with, it’s important to remember that you can’t go wrong. Because alternate-reality devices are still cost-prohibitive for most consumers, consumers are thrilled to interact them. And, for many of them, this will be their first exposure to these gadgets.

Still, different circumstances call for different technologies. To return to our springboard question: it’s all about whether your brand will do better by enhancing the consumer’s reality or by changing it altogether.

Consider your brand’s promise.
Brands that promise to enhance the daily lives of consumers might do better with Augmented or Mixed Realities, which elevate mundane experiences. For instance, a clothing brand might use AR to show consumers how new outfits would look on them or a Hollywood studio might elevate the traditional movie poster by merging a fictional world with our real one.

On the other hand, brands that promise to dramatically change consumers’ circumstances might go further with Virtual Reality and 360° Video. A travel brand can tease consumers with 360° Video of an exotic destination and video games fare especially well in Virtually Reality.

Consider activation logistics.
Because AR experiences simply layer onto the real world, consumer interactions tend to move more quickly and require a smaller footprint. By contrast, consumers who enter into a Virtual Reality world often need more time to get equipped and become situated in the environment. Because of the extra time, your footprint may have to account for consumers waiting in line. Not to worry though, because lines look great in activation stills and sizzle reels, and they can attract the attention of additional consumers.

If consumers need to interact with a real-world product or if the brand wants to capitalize on the activation’s real-world location, Augmented Reality will work best. For identical experiences across multiple locations, 360° Video and Virtual Reality allow brands a more tactical option. In this 360° Video activation, consumers could visit Australia from any activation location.

Consider activation prep.
360° Video must be filmed on location, whereas VR, AR, and MR involve programmers and designers crafting the visuals with ones and zeroes. Some Augmented Reality experiences require static objects or images in the real world to trigger the alternate-reality event. We can fabricate these objects or select an activation location to act as the trigger.

Consider post-activation.
360° Videos can live online after an event. Users can watch them on YouTube or a brand’s website and even adjust the camera view for the full 360° experience, just as if they had been there on activation day. By contrast, for any of the other technologies, we’d capture video of consumer interactions on the day of the event. For instance, consumers could share video of their personal walkthrough of the Virtual Reality space.

Whatever the tech you use, we always ensure that it’s socially shareable, so that your activation continues returning dividends even after you’ve paid the bill.

Uh… I thought this article was supposed to make things simpler…?

True simplicity comes with the mastery of complexity. We’ve only scratched the surface here for each technology’s radically different budget, timeline, and feasibility considerations.

But you shouldn’t be worrying about all that anyway. That’s why we didn’t even bother talking about motion tracking, haptic feedback, or the virtuality continuum. We have experts in all that so that you don’t have to be one.

If you’re looking for guidance on how best to harness the power of alternate-realities to enhance prestige, amplify awareness, and drive sales, then all you have to do is ask.

(And here’s a handy-dandy link we put here for just that purpose.)

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 explore implementing experiential tech into your next activation.

Favorite MAG Moments of 2016

What better way to round up a year at the michael alan group than to ping the crew and find out their favorite moments. Without further ado, here are 2016’s top moments, straight from the team.

“When our office finally agreed to push the Keurig aside to get the real deal. I think everyone agrees that having a coffee pot in the office really upped the ante. I’ve actually seen people standup & cheer when they hear someone just brewed – and yes, when I say people I’m talking about myself.”
Lenetta Pesotini, Account Manager

“When we tried to get pancakes at IHOP on International Pancake Day but there was a really long line and so we went to a diner across the street and still got our delicious fluffy pancakes. New York City is incredible in that way, sometimes the destination you are heading is not always where you end up but usually it is just as good or better!”
Heather Hamilton, Account Executive

“In the Staffing World, once in a blue moon, there’s a day when multiple activations fall on the same date. One of those this year was Thursday, June 16th. Besides activations in Atlanta, Chicago, DC, and LA, we also had three major ones in NYC which had a total staff of 130 working at simultaneously. So, the fact that it went pretty painless with the clients happy & the majority of the staff stepping up their game, it became one of my favorite MAG moments of the year.”
Marivic Tagala, Staffing Manager

“Getting a peak behind-the-scenes of the Tim Burton MoMA exhibit when the MAG Art Department attended the 99U Conference in May.”
David O’Neill, Art Director

Work Family

“My favorite MAG moment of 2016 began as a somber one… it was the morning after the election and a group of us were huddled in the conference room. On my way to work that morning, I felt very alone as I grappled with the unexpected outcome. But when my colleagues arrived, and we all assembled together – I was reminded that I am surrounded by a work family who shares in my fundamental beliefs and aspirations for our future. And for that, I felt truly blessed – and part of something very special.”
Erin Mills, Chief Operating Officer

“I love cracking open a new book, and it became even more fun when I was surrounded by coworkers diving into the same story. MAG Book Club was the best! Something I’m hoping to read in the coming year? Weird Ideas That Work by Robert I. Sutton.”
Melanie Slattery, Graphic Designer

“The Mountain Dew GUTS Aggro Crag! If you thought NYC had GUTS…This years Mountain Dew Aggro Crag Nickelodeon GUTS throwback challenge proved just that! An exact replica of the famous Aggro Crag mountain was erected in NYC and competitors of all walks of life came, conquered, and competed against one another over an epic match of king of the hill! My favorite moment of the event was seeing how all competitors celebrated atop the Crag, whether losing or winning, exemplifying great sportsmanlike NYC conduct! It was an unmatched competitive and celebratory moment in my 2016!”
Mark DiConzo, Project Manager

“When a bunny showed up at our food truck event!”
Molly Appel, Account Executive

Wedding Bells and Birthday Surprises

“When my fantastic co-workers threw me (and my co-brides in the office) a surprise bridal shower complete with a fathead of our my fiancee and a custom prize wheel. When we pitch that people really love prize wheels, we mean it. It’s all about the prize wheel.”
Elizabeth Jones, Senior Vice President

“Attending Eva’s wedding and seeing her walk down the aisle! Just one of three beautiful MAG brides that tied the knot this year!”
Rachel Jenkins, Account Executive

“When the office surprised me with an Apple Watch for my birthday.”
Jonathan Margolis, President and CEO

“Scheming up and sending out a fake brainstorm to surprise Jon with his gift.”
Eva Chung, Operations Manager

A Merry Celebration

“Definitely the MAG holiday party because it’s always fun to see your team in an environment outside of work. Secret Santa reveals were great because just when you were on to something and you thought you knew who, you’re always wrong! Everyone’s poems were ON POINT and of course the food and drinks were also bomb. :)”
Melissa Mach, Junior Account Executive

“Being a part-time MAGger, I really loved being with everyone at a holiday lunch because I don’t get to hang with everyone as much as I would like!”
Betsy Margolis, Special Events Coordinator

“Secret Santa! Getting cute notes and presents left on my desk.”
Devendra Singh, Graphic Designer

Last, But Never Least

“When Eva introduced us to Butterfinger cups. Life changing stuff.”
Amy Spielholtz, Senior Account Director