Experiential is a technique, not a channel

In an omni-channel world, planning campaigns media first is restricting brands’ marketing options, especially within the increasingly important discipline of experiential.

Domino's Pizza Watch

We’ve grown used to discussing marketing disciplines by referencing the physical format in which they’re delivered – their channels.

A TV campaign is naturally on TV, print is in a magazine, digital is online, social on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

Brands often begin with a campaign by choosing which media channels to exploit, then brief the matching specialist agencies accordingly.

That’s why you’ve probably sat through multiple brainstorms around your (or your client’s) omni-channel strategy debating “how will we use [insert latest hot new ephemeral geo-fenced live-streaming video social platform]?”

This approach has never worked for experiential (causing great confusion), simply because the discipline’s activations can take on any form you wish.

They represent, in effect, an absence of channel, which is why the channel-focused approach can make briefing experiential very difficult, since it has no pre-set format upon which to hang the expectations of a prescriptive brief.

Recently, however, the fragmentation of media, combined with more sophisticated custom targeting has seen the nature of client briefs begin to change. We have moved away from a media first, idea second approach, towards one where it’s the idea that comes first, and the media second.

This is the perfect approach for experiential, because it leaves the brief open for a full range of relevant possibilities to be explored, resulting in more effective campaigns.

For instance, when Shell came up with the innovative idea of creating the world’s first soccer pitch powered by players’ movement, we imagine that they had to think idea first.

Rather than taking a media-centric approach, they focused firstly on their primary business goals (being seen to be innovative, eco-friendly and people-focused), without worrying how these goals would be achieved.

When we consider an omni-channel strategy, we can learn a lot from Dominos’s highly regarded Pizza AnyWare initiative. The pizza chain has continuously expanded the variety of ways that impatient and hungry pizza-lovers can place their orders.

Customers can voice-order using the Siri-like app Dom, by tweeting or texting the pizza emoji, and while driving home in a compatible Ford. After ordering, they can track their pizza’s arrival time via the Domino’s smartwatch app.

Taking these lessons on board, the approach to briefing for great experiential, when starting from scratch is simple. Keep the brief focused on the business problem, and media neutral.

This open approach will allow agencies to deliver a strategy and creative that is truly unique to your circumstances.

By Hayley James, account director at real world marketing agency Sense