How We Holiday: A Look Back at MAG’s Holiday Activations & Events

Elf

Similar to Buddy the Elf, the michael alan group is a big fan of celebrating the holiday season. Throughout the years, the MAG team has found this time of year to be exciting and special for targeting consumers. There seems to be an extra bit of jingle and happiness in the air making activations and participants more interested and engaged. Looking back or “TBT”ing, the michael alan group has executed some very holiday-esque programs to spread cheer. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites!

The Flatiron Ugly Sweater Happy Hour

During the holiday season, everyone attends at least one ugly sweater party if not two! We took this idea and paired it with our Flatiron 23 Days of Holiday Cheer program two years in a row. Our first year consisted of a live event complete with judges and a runway for contestants to strut their stuff and showcase their sweaters. Passersby stopped in their footsteps to clap and root for the participants. The winner was selected based on the creativity of their sweater and their answer to a random holiday question. Photos of the event and winner were featured on social media outlets for all to see. To mix it up a bit for the following year, we worked with Café El Presidente to throw an ugly sweater happy hour. This removed the competitive aspect and focused on bringing New Yorkers together for some music, food, drinks and the opportunity to spin the custom Flatiron prize wheel. Once again, everyone enjoyed themselves as they celebrated their love for ugly sweater parties.

Elf

ION Gingerbread House

The holiday season would not be complete without the mounds of candy, chocolates and sweets we indulge in. One of our favorite sweet-filled campaigns was the ION Gingerbread House. For this event, we created a large-scale gingerbread house complete with all REAL ingredients such as graham crackers, icing, gummy bears, candy canes, etc. The whole house was edible! Well it was… until we sprayed it with preservatives. 🙂 Fun fact, each gummy bear was 5 pounds and if you dare to ask –contained over 1,600 calories. Talk about a sweet treat.

The edible house was placed on a flatbed and toured around NYC targeting media agencies. Agency representatives were encouraged to climb on board and create their own tin of goodies. Participants took lots of photos outside of the gingerbread house to share with their family and friends. The ION team also stopped by to thank reps and wish them a great holiday season and Happy New Year!

Elf

Union Square Partnership Photo-Op

Smiles are big and bright during the month of December due to all the festivities, lights, goodies, giving and upbeat singalongs. To create smiles with our friends at the Union Square Partnership, we assisted with launching a holiday greetings photo op. The photo experience was complete with a custom holiday themed background, hand-held props and of course, a complimentary print-out keepsake. Consumers of all ages happily participated in snapping their photo and sharing it on social media. To top off the event, we passed out branded Union Square cookies and fresh hot chocolate.

MAG Holidays

Don’t be fooled, MAG always puts aside some time to plan their own holiday shenanigans. Each year we host a few traditions including a Secret Santa swap and donations to New York Cares through their Winter Wishes gift-giving program. And of course, the calendar year wouldn’t be complete without the annual MAG holiday party. These have been known to feature MAG Libs, specialty cocktails, karaoke, and custom videos produced in-house dubbed The Real Employees of MAG. All of these activities not only bring the team together to celebrate the holidays but they also allow us to reminisce over another successful year together.

From all your friends at MAG, we wish you a joyful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year!

Elf

Giving & Gratitude: Our Thanksgiving Recipe For Success

…plus a look at other brands who have thrived by giving back!

Next year the michael alan group will be celebrating its 15 year anniversary. When we started the company there were just 3 of us, subletting a corner of an office, bartering our services for all of our start-up needs, everything from our logo to legal incorporation. My hope and dream was to be where we are today, listed among the top experiential marketing firms in the country. Doing great work for great brands. Most important though are the people behind the projects. An amazing group of creative, resourceful, and professional individuals who arrive at work every day to design and produce things that haven’t been done before. For their dedication I am extremely thankful, and we do what we can to show it.

We created a day called #MAGunplugged. It’s a chance for the entire team to turn off the phones for the day (for any clients reading this, not to worry, we have Project Managers in the office manning the fort) and take some time to appreciate each other. We do this every quarter, each time doing something new and relative to the season. This past Fall we went apple picking which resulted in about 25 bags of apples, 5 servings of apple spiced donuts, and 2 cases of wine from the onsite winery.

The crew of The Michael Alan Group poses with the apples they gathered at an orchard during MAG's annual Unplugged day.
The MAG team poses with their haul of delicious apples after spending the day at an orchard unplugged from their phones.

We also take #MAGmorale quite seriously. While I can’t expect everyone to be happy ALL of the time, I do what we can so they’re happy MOST of the time. Whether it’s our own MAG prize wheel offering things like $100 Amazon gift cards or an extra day off, or ordering in lunch on a rainy day. .

We also give back to others as well, having instituted #MAGvolunteers. Each year we pick a different charitable cause to support. Whether it’s volunteering at the Bowery Mission, or sponsoring and serving food at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, it’s especially rewarding when serving our own community here in NYC.

 

An amazing group of creative, resourceful, and professional individuals who arrive at work every day to design and produce things that haven’t been done before. For their dedication I am extremely thankful, and we do what we can to show it.

Giving and gratitude go hand in hand, especially as they relate to marketing campaigns in general. How a brand speaks to its customer base, how they choose to thank them for their loyalty and support, and how they choose to give back, clearly plays a significant role when it comes to their brand messaging.

Everyone knows the story of TOMS, for each pair of shoes you purchase, they supply pair of shoes for a child in need. To date they have provided more than 45 million pairs of new shoes to children in need. Even more interesting thought is how they have since helped in so many other ways:

  • Through TOMS eyewear purchases they’ve helped restore sight to over 325 thousand people in need.
  • Through TOM’S Roasting Co they’ve helped provide over 175,000 weeks of safe water to people in need.

40 million women across the world give birth each year without the help of a skilled birth attendant. So with the purchase of a TOM’S bag, you’re helping support the delivery of safe birth kits, training for skilled birth attendants, and healthy delivery for new born baby and mom.

Lastly, nearly 1 out of every 3 students, aged 12-18 in the United States, reports being bullied. By purchasing a Stand Up Backpack you’re helping prevent incidents of bullying through training of school communities, and training of Crisis Counselors, both of which result in improved safety, academic performance and well-being of middle and high school students.

There are countless other success stories demonstrating how brands find their own unique way to give back. Take Tide’s Loads Of Hope. As their site states, “ten years ago, in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Tide created Loads of Hope: a mobile laundromat developed to restore a sense of normalcy and dignity through the basic comfort of clean clothing for those in the midst of chaos. Since that time, Tide has helped renew hope for nearly 45,000 families across the country affected by natural disasters, from tornadoes in Missouri to flooding in South Carolina.”

As we celebrate thanksgiving this weekend, most of us will be surrounded by friends and family, and inherently feel what we’re grateful for. In a perfect world, every day is an opportunity to take a minute to stop and appreciate all that you have. But that’s not always possible. We get caught up and sidetracked with both personal and professional hurdles. At least there’s one day, appropriately titled, that forces us to stop and do so. Take a minute this weekend to let someone know how special they are, and maybe even take a minute for yourself as well.

I’m going to go now, my kids are in the other room screaming at each other, which is probably a good time to tell them how much I love them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marketing To With Millennials: Why Experiential Marketing is Extremely Effective With This Audience

The M word. In today’s marketing landscape, everyone is trying to crack the code to reach the coveted millennial audience, a group that comprises ¼ of our entire US population.

Millennials continue to mystify brand marketers and agencies alike as they defy conventional consumer behaviors of preceding generations. Their media consumption habits (aka cord cutting!) have turned traditional advertising models upside down. So how are brands successfully answering these challenges? By creating experiences. Here’s a look at why experiential marketing is a key factor in any millennial marketing media mix (say that ten times fast!).

 

They care about themselves, their bodies, their carbon footprint and their impact on the world. This emphasis on quality means that they must experience a brand personally in order to value and evangelize it.

It’s Personal

Millennials require a personal connection to a brand. Pervasiveness is no longer enough to make a brand relevant. This generation was raised to be independent thinkers, to not follow consensus, to make their own decisions… and these ideologies are reflected in their brand loyalty and purchase habits. My generation (yes, I’m old) bought cereal because of the prize inside the box, this generation buys cereal based on which companies use non-GMO ingredients and donate a proceed of their profits to charity. This generation is too smart. They are bombarded with brand messaging and sponsors everywhere they turn, so it’s imperative they are discerning. They care about themselves, their bodies, their carbon footprint and their impact on the world. This emphasis on quality means that they must experience a brand personally in order to value and evangelize it.

Erin Mill appeared on the panel “Multicultural Marketing to Millennials” at the Horowitz Research Multicultural Marketing Summit.
Erin Mills’ on the “Multicultural Marketing to Millennials” panel appearance at the Horowitz Research Multicultural Marketing Summit.

 

It’s Social

Rule #1 in the Millennial universe? If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen. The best marketing programs leverage social media during every aspect of the campaign. Experiential programs provide an organic life-cycle during which to achieve this. They engage audiences online before an event during the pre-promotional period. During the actual event, live experiences create compelling content, which can be shared online instantly. Finally, the content created can also be repackaged (sizzle reel, infographic, influencers, earned media) and put back online to continue the conversation after the event.

Lyft's fuzzy pink mustaches made for perfect photo props on board Comedy Central's Broad City RV.
We focused on these methodologies about millennials when we created the Broad City RV to help Comedy Central promote the second season of the hit show.

 

It’s Accountable

Millennials expect to have a conversation with the brands they adopt. And that conversation is not just between the brand and the consumer, it’s between EVERYONE! The third party aspect of the brand conversation is now the biggest. Millennials value what their social circles are saying about your brand far more than what you’re saying about it. Experiential provides the opportunity for that conversation to take place live, with product discovery, trial & feedback all occurring in real time. It’s a valuable chance to connect with an audience firsthand while also learning about how consumers react to your products. This positions you to be accountable to your audience – responding to their needs and wants.

Ultimately, millennials want to be marketed with, not at. They wish to be part of the process & dialogue. Consider them a collaborative audience and allow that to shape your next millennial marketing campaign!

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 planning an experiential campaign certain to capture millennial attention.

4 Key Qualities of the Best Brand Ambassadors

At MAG, our Account Execs plan extraordinary activations; often juggling multiple campaigns at a time. Our design team doodles endlessly, bringing ideas to life daily. And Dug, the office dog, may soon master “Rollover.”

But none of this work would be worth a dime without our remarkable crew of Brand Ambassadors. From facing early mornings to braving wild costumes, our BA’s dive directly into project execution, delivering fine-tuned messaging and experiences directly to consumers.

Over the years we’ve worked with some of the best around, and we’ve learned just what elements make our Brand Ambassadors top-notch. Here are the qualities we expect in each of our BA’s:

Dependability and Independence

First and foremost, any Brand Ambassador MUST be punctual and prepared for the role they will play. Even the most organized activations can quickly turn chaotic, and we expect all of our BA’s to execute their duties independently should a manager need to temporarily leave. These qualities also go hand-in-hand with professionalism, and we ensure all of our BA’s act responsibly and courteously at all times.

Enthusiasm and Energy

Nobody wants to sample a s’more from Negative Nancy or pose at a party with Gloomy Gary. A major part of being a Brand Ambassador requires being friendly, approachable, and ready to eagerly introduce consumers to a brand. We certainly don’t expect (or advise) anyone to channel their high school cheerleading days, but an outstanding BA consistently maintains an air of positivity and liveliness. It’s your time to shine, Happy Harry.

Brand Ambassadors dressed as modern "milk men" while serving milk and cookie shots and assisting employees with filling their cookie bags.
Just some of the wild costumes MAG’s Brand Ambassadors may wear. Here, our “milk men and women” serve delicious treats at the Twentieth Television Milk and Cookie Bar.

 

Adaptability and Resilience

If there’s one thing everyone in events can agree upon, it’s that ANYTHING can happen. While a manager or account exec will handle any major complications, there are several obstacles that can arise that Brand Ambassadors must calmly and effectively address. Between wild weather changes, spikes in foot traffic, or a flux in supplies, a day as a BA can often be grueling, and the best of the best can handle it all.

Charm and Spunk

All other characteristics aside, the secret ingredient to a fantastic Brand Ambassador is simple: personality. We never hire brand-babbling robots (and not strictly because of their incessant malfunctions). Consumers want genuine conversations relevant to a brand, and our BA’s are unique individuals from a variety of backgrounds. That’s why, at MAG, we handle staffing in-house via a dedicated Staffing Department, and, because we know our BA’s well, we can promise to provide the most charming, spunky, and best fitting Brand Ambassador for any target audience.

Interested in becoming a Brand Ambassador? Sure, we’ve boasted about our fantastic crew, but we’re always welcoming new faces and we’d love to chat! Email our Staffing Coordinator, Marivic, here. (Tip: She’s a BIG Broadway theatre fan, so don’t hesitate to mention your favorite show!)

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 selecting the perfect staff for your next activation.

E2B: The Increasing Prevalence of Experiential Tactics in B2B Marketing

In looking at the evolution of experiential marketing, technology & entertainment brands were pioneers in the space. They represented the early adopters.  CPG also hopped on the bandwagon very early, recognizing there is no parallel for the ability to put your product directly in someone else’s hands.  Today, all brand categories recognize the opportunity to reach their consumers via experiences.

But what you may be surprised to learn is just how many companies are turning to experiential for their B2B marketing objectives. Companies are really valuing its role in introducing, strengthening or repositioning a brand among their clients (retailers, media buyers, distributors, etc) not just their consumer base.

Here’s where we’ve seen experiential marketing exploding:

Agency Activations

Want to get face time with ad agency executives to promote your media opportunities? So does everyone else. Many of our TV network clients turn to us to design experiences that cut through the clutter, especially during Upfront season. What’s more, we often bring these experiences right to the agencies themselves, affording ultimate convenience to the agency execs and thereby receiving a consistently high turnout.

A team of Brand Ambassadors poses during an Agency Activation for ION Television.
We brought ION Television’s trade tagline (ION Delivers) to life in a very real way, when we created a mobile shipping center that we permitted right outside of media offices. We emailed shipping notifications to desired executives and hand delivered packages to our target audience.

 

Trainings

Did we catch your eyelids getting heavy just now? It’s true. Training events have a bad reputation. People generally envision undergoing hours and hours of presentations in a windowless, fluorescent-lit meeting room. A lot of our clients are combatting that by creating immersive learning experiences that involve non-traditional venues, unexpected content & speakers and far more time doing, than listening.

Erin Mills participates in a panel at a train-the-trainer event for Microsoft.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel during a train-the-trainer event for Microsoft, which explored how a ballet instructor, personal trainer, management coach and experiential marketer (A.K.A me) approached training.

 

Trade Shows

More and more brands are realizing that their presence at a trade show does not need to be limited to a booth on the show floor or conventional sponsorship opportunities. Of course, the birthplace of this notion was Comic-Con but it’s now spread to even the most conservative of trade events. You can work with host hotels to sponsor amenities for out of town guests, partner with a ride-share app to provide free rides to and from the convention center or bring a food truck onsite and surprise conference goers with breakfast and coffee. The opportunities are endless.

Conferences

The Poken Media Wall brought NEXUS '15 attendees event content in an instant and provided an innovative and unique way for everyone to network.

Brands are finding ways to make their own conference content far more engaging. A few years back, we helped bring a flash mob to the annual AARP convention. No one saw that coming! And thanks to all of the incredible technologies emerging in the event space, brands have countless opportunities to digitally and socially engage their audiences. Event apps, Instagram vending machines, touch screen EVERYTHING! We’ve even come across a virtual trade show environment, where you can attend as an avatar and never leave your desk!

Just last month, we worked with TraceLink to produce NEXUS ’15, a thought leadership conference for the Life Sciences industry. Utilizing Poken’s Near Field Communication technology, attendees received custom USB devices that enabled them to collect contact information, white papers and conference content in an instant, simply by touching devices to one another or to touch points onsite.

The best part about “E2B”? A savvy program can include a consumer element and a B2B element all at the same time. For example, a food truck can visit ad agencies one day and a street fair the next day. This creates a more affordable solution for brands since their respective teams are splitting the production costs, yet reaching two audiences. We believe this type of cross-departmental planning will only increase in years to come. It aligns messaging, shares resources, improves ROI and at the end of the day… isn’t most B2B marketing ultimately B2B2C?

To learn more about “E2B” by way of M2A2G, give us a shout!

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 injecting experiential into your B2B strategy.