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Managing Marketing: The Power Of Experience

Meredith_Cranmer

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Meredith Cranmer is Co-Founder and Managing Director ANZ at Because Creative Experiences, B&Ts Experiential & Promo Agency of the Year 2019. After working for the company in the UK, Meredith opened the Sydney office with a focus on creating exceptional brand and customer experiences for her clients. She discusses and tries to clarify the confusions that often arise in the space between Public Relations, Events, Sponsorship and Experiential. 

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today I’m sitting down with Meredith Cranmer, co-founder and managing director ANZ at Because Creative Experiences, which was B&T’s Experiential and Promo Agency of 2019. Welcome, Meredith.

Meredith:

Thanks very much, Darren. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Darren:

Because of what? Sorry, it was the obvious question.

Meredith:

Because we’re delighting, we’re surprising. The great thing is ‘because’ is a real action word so in terms of being able to make things happen – because why not. Originally we had a big B and a big E—brand experience—cause and effect and like all clever marketing people we realised that being clever is more about being simple so ‘because’ is where we’ve landed.

Darren:

You’re actually the founder of Because in Australia aren’t you?

Meredith:

Yeah. I worked for the London agency for 5 years and wanted to get closer to New Zealand and had sort of mentioned one night drunkenly to our global founder that I wanted to start an agency one day. Before the words had fallen out of your mouth you’re moving to Sydney, doing a 3-year deal, taking out a massive loan, and starting a business. I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur; I consider myself probably a business owner and creator.

That was my path into starting a business but we had no footprint at that time for what Because Australia was going to look like, what taking an independent, experiential agency global actually meant. Naivete is a wonderful thing. That was 2011.

Darren:

Blind optimism and enthusiasm.

Meredith:

Totally, and I really loved what we did and I loved our clients and I still do. I was lucky that it was a time that all the Brits were exiting London for Australia because Australia wasn’t having a global financial crisis; that was everyone else’s problem.

So, I was fortunate there were a few key people that I had worked with who had moved over here who, whilst they couldn’t get me business (no person gets your business you always win it by yourself) they were able to open some doors. But the first year was a hideous year.

Darren:

That’s a really good distinction because it’s amazing, as a pitch consultant, the number of agencies who go, ‘thanks for that business’. And I go, ‘No. No. No, we only open the door, we create the opportunity’. It’s still up to the agency to actually win the business.

Meredith:

Totally because you can always fluff it. Or you can be like the underdog and have such a great pitch that you know when you’ve landed it.

Darren:

But still you’ve won that piece of business even though someone else has opened the door. But experiential, it’s such a competitive market or category and in many ways struggles with differentiation—do you agree?

Meredith:

I’d say so because what we’ve got is land grab territory that everybody’s in on. You’ve got your niche specialists and then your big global agencies that do experiential too and they have a two-person department so therefore they do experiential. I’m not taking away from that but it’s quite an established channel and discipline and the set of marketing around it that goes with it and having a deep understanding of that, having done not just 100s but 1,000s of campaigns, I can see how it would be confusing for people buying experiential.

But only when it goes wrong with an agency do you understand that they didn’t know. They had a couple of great case studies but the people working in that business, that’s not their core expertise; they’re actually an above the line agency, that’s what they believe in.

We come to it from a specialist point of view that we always believe in that live moment. Now, that live moment extends to the before during and after and all the amplification that comes with it but that’s our point of view on the world and I think it’s really important to stand for something.

Darren:

So, Meredith, just expand on that. I have to tell you when a marketer starts talking to me about an experiential agency I will ask them what they actually mean. And they’re often not really sure; they’ll say events or something else. But give us a sense of the perspective Because bring to what it is. What’s the category? What is it that you do?

Meredith:

Well, it could be an event. It could be an experience. It could be a sponsorship activation. There is a delineation between sampling as well.

Darren:

Shopper marketing.

Meredith:

Totally. I believe that it’s all brand experience. Brand experience is its own thing and that gets confused with customer experience. But I think experiential will usually have that live moment of human interaction and experience. You could argue that anything is experiential these days; you could have experiential advertising and things like that but for us it’s that live, creation of a moment that’s emotionally-driven.

If we look at sampling, most sampling is just putting a sample into someone’s hands as cheaply as possible whereas as soon as you add some layer of human engagement and emotion it can become something else.

Darren:

I’m smiling because if you look at the sampling at places like Costco and those big stores it’s almost the emotion is gluttony, greed.

Meredith:

How many bits of cheese on a stick can you get at once?

Darren:

Or how many times can someone go back or push in on someone else.

Meredith:

But change that into an engagement and I think about Costco and a lot of founders who do their own sampling and they would be talking about story and their product and the identification of why this product is absolutely right. As soon as the engagement, relationship, conversation becomes more tailored then that sampling experience can turn from something very one-dimensional where we just push cat food one day and cheese on a stick the next day to something more meaningful.

Darren:

But public relations companies are very heavily into experiential.

Meredith:

Yeah, that’s interesting. We don’t work agency to agency. It’s traditionally not great business; double handling fees and also a live environment. A PR agency I spoke to recently said we can do anything 0 to 100 people but as soon as it gets over 100 people we’re not skilled at creating those types of events.

We’re talking about 1,000s of people participating in a colour run type of experience or we do big double-decker bus bills for a touring experience or something like that. They just don’t have the production type expertise. Yes, some PR agencies do some great experiences, particularly influencer activation and more and more experiential is moving into those smaller, immersive, high impact events with influencers activating them so we can spread the message far and wide.

There is lots of overlap but it’s understanding that a PR agency is going to come at it from that PR point of view. So what are you buying and what point of view are you looking for?

Darren:

And when you say that point of view you mean they’re probably looking at creating an experiential event that will get additional coverage.

Meredith:

With a news headline, yeah, exactly.

Darren:

Like giving out Tim Tams in Martin Place.

Meredith:

Because no one in their right mind would say that Martin Place is a great place to activate unless you want to reach the media.

Darren:

You’re right outside Channel 7 studios.

Meredith:

Exactly. You tick Martin Place for another objective. You’ll see certain styles of activations that PR agencies will do but are they dabbling in immersive technologies? Probably not. Are they at the forefront of experiences? Probably not because their KPI is to get that earned media.

Darren:

You mentioned a moment ago how you worked for Because in London. And you went there from New Zealand? And now you’ve had the business here for how long?

Meredith:

It’ll be 9 years this year.

Darren:

So, what would be the biggest differences you see between the U.K and Australia in the approach to experiential?

Meredith:

I think it’s far more aggressive in the U.K. Every other week there’s another residency, another pop-up, another immersive experience. I just think the landscape is so hard to get cut-through with media. The point of market entry for media in the U.K is arguably more expensive. It’s cheaper to get on TV here. You can get good household penetration. That’s one thing—far more competitive.

I think there are lots of great creative ideas here. But I see people here saying, ‘I love that but it’s just a bit too risky for us’. Or they’ll buy a pitch concept from us and then run with something completely watered down or conservative because there’s a worry that we’re pushing it.

It’s almost like you get selected for pushing the boundaries but when it comes to it there’s a real scardy-cat-ness of failure, which is a shame because this is a great country to do experiences in.

Darren:

That’s an interesting observation because it’s not just in experiential. I’ve heard that from so many different agencies of all different types. That you get selected because you’re pushing the boundaries, you’re creating new things, you’re innovative, all of the things marketers say.

Meredith:

But I want to see someone else do it first.

Darren:

Agencies have also observed in the pitch process you’re often talking to the most senior people in marketing and that the implementation then gets handed down to the middle or junior marketing level where there is a natural conservatism.

Meredith:

Yeah and experiential marketing can be hard work at times and we’ve all got limited hours in the day. What I see is the marketers who are winning experiential here are doing it a lot; they understand it and what it means for their business. They’re not dipping in and out of it.

They’ve got a clear view of what experiences don’t work at each type of event. Social amplification, photo mechanics; not every single person wants to do a hash tag at events unless it’s Coachella so let’s not try and do it at some really conservative event. People do select for being innovative.

I also see that there’s not enough test and learn and measurement budget. This is going back to my time in the U.K. where with some of our clients we’d arbitrarily have to put 5% of the budget away for measurement. And that measurement would either take place in-house by the client or they would work with a 3rd party research agency.

That would happen more often than not. Do I see that happening here? Not so much, which is a shame because we end up marking our own homework. From a principle perspective that’s not great. As the investment continues to rise we should be doing more even if you’re using your own data and company to do that.

And testing and learning; o.k. we’ve come to year-end, we’ve got $50,000—let’s do something where we take away those KPIs and the KPIs become about ‘let’s learn something here that we can build on’. I don’t see that happening here so much. I don’t think that’s having more budget; it’s an appetite to view innovation as an investment. What if we fail? Well then we’ve learnt something.

Darren:

Is that potentially driven partly by budgets are often broken up into tier 1, tier 2, tier 3? The old above and below the line as it used to be called. And that experiential, for a lot of marketers, is seen as ‘this is our campaign and here is our experiential budget’ so they’re not really thinking about it in the way you’re talking about it

Meredith:

Potentially. I think that comes down to having an understanding of strategically what we can deliver against for them as a business. And brands that understand the role of experience; you might be a digital-first brand so it’s really important to show that you do human experiences, show that real human face to your brand.

Yes, being a silo and a small bucket but also really understanding what might be different marketing mixes for you.

Darren:

We are doing some work in the U.S with a very large experiential agency. And they said almost all their clients are now moving towards retainers because experiential has become so strategically central to their strategy that they’re not doing this event by event; they’re actually planning out a whole year. And then replicating that year on year to look at and measure incremental improvements from those activities.

Is that something that is in a very large mature market in the U.S or does that occur here as well?

Meredith:

I think it does occur here just on a smaller scale. Clients are at the mercy of living and dying by their quarters, their month by month numbers. It takes a real investment in brand building to clearly walk the walk and not just talk the talk on that. Absolutely, there are brands in this market that take it as seriously as that.

Also they know their economies of scale. We’re already spending millions on it so why don’t we look at it annually? There are cost savings there and perhaps we can produce better value from not working on a project by project basis all the time.

Darren:

When we talk about global marketers and the shift away from the global campaign to doing more on a local basis there needs to be a recognition of the differences between market by market doesn’t there?

Meredith:

There does but that experiential tool kit—we as an agency make a lot of them for different markets. I think that comes down to having strong global and local market insights feeding into the planning process of it. And then also giving the local markets enough flexibility within the idea to execute it right for them.

The alcohol guys are so much further ahead in understanding how you create global concepts which can be rolled out that looks the same in London as it does in Taiwan but with slight local nuances. Because people are people.

Darren:

But there are cultural differences.

Meredith:

Of course but those global ideas need to leave enough flex for the local teams so they’re not being dictated to 100% to the letter.

Darren:

Alcohol; the experience is the consumption of the product. In that way it lends itself to amplify the brand experience doesn’t it?

Meredith:

Yeah, exactly. We do a lot of work with energy providers. Energy is completely intangible but it is all about making an emotional connection. It’s fundamentally quite hard with a utility to do that but we need to make sure that there’s top of mind awareness so that when people are looking to change energy providers that they have a positive association with that brand.

That real brand love when you’re talking about a utility—we’re not asking people to flick on a light switch and show us the energy. Experience marketing has moved a lot away from that taste and touch to show me different ways of experiencing that product.

Darren:

Utilities are interesting because there’s been some great experiential innovations. There’s an energy company that’s allowing people to trade their energy and now there’s one that will allow you to subscribe. They’ve come up with a subscription model; you subscribe to your power and they give you a monthly fee so you’re paying a wholesale price for energy.

Meredith:

A friend and ex-client of mine, from British Gas and Heineken U.K runs Energy Express in New Zealand (he was the founder) and it’s exactly that concept. For a small fee you’re part of a club and you can access rates at the rate they buy them at from the wholesale energy market.

That direct to consumer model but for energy.

Darren:

Exactly. In many ways the marketing paradigm is going back to thinking about the product or the offering and not just trying to bolt on an experience on top of it but to go back to the heart of the company.

Meredith:

Absolutely so when you call the call centre is it a positive experience? Do you get through straight away? When we talk about brand experience it really is about that whole customer journey but frankly that’s quite frightening for a lot of marketing people because where the marketing people sit they don’t have the say over all of those touch points.

We can talk about improving the customer experience but the reality is that’s often in the little bit that you make and control. Where we win when we work with clients is understanding the different departments. This often happens organically; you start working with this team over here and they’ve got similar objectives and we’re doing this event here—how about we plug in this loyalty scheme over the top of it?

Then we start getting this single-minded experience so we can deliver against it. But what you’re talking about is absolutely brand experience.

Darren:

When we started this conversation and were talking about brand experience I hadn’t yet made the connection with customer experience because almost every business is talking about enhancing customer experience.

Meredith:

It drives me bonkers because I sometimes read those things and I think I’ve got to skill myself up on that and then I realise we already do that.

Darren:

It’s not labelled customer experience because it’s seen as a function of promotion rather than product, placement, pricing and all the other Ps that come under marketing.

Meredith:

Correct or that it’s just a digital thing. I see customer experience documents and I think that’s great that’s the user journey and I don’t want to bill it or focus on that one sector but really everything is a chance to have an experience and the smart companies focus on that rather than just the campaigns that go over the top of it.

Darren:

I always use to laugh at the companies that would spend millions and millions on advertising, especially services companies; we’re all about service, all about you, and then you phone the call centre and first of all you’ll be on hold for 45 minutes and then when you’ve got through to someone they say ‘no, we can’t help you’ and they put you on hold and then the call will drop out.

Meredith:

Yeah, 100%. Yet, outwardly, we’re talking about those messages saying we’re great at this or that but did you ever call your own customer service line? Start with some of the basics. I work with numerous SMEs—friends who have businesses—I say just focus on what that customer experience is like; is it good at every touch point? Get your nana to call up.

When you fill out the form online does someone call you back quickly or is it set to an out-of-hours—your going to have Zen Desk on your website but it’s not going to be manned most of the time that people are online. Also within your employees as well. We do a lot (experience marketing) with employee engagement and employee experience now as well because I 100% believe if you can’t win with your 40,000 employees what hope do you have over here.

If you’re a bank and most of your employees don’t bank with you it’s not really a great start is it?

Darren:

Exactly. If they’re not using the service why should anyone else? And they are the face.

Meredith:

Judging by the type of briefs we’re getting through there are a lot of companies that are saying let’s harness the power of our own employees as ambassadors. They are influencers; everyone’s an influencer now. We always have been with our friends and families but if we’ve got 40,000 people in our company let’s get them to lead our charge. It’s 1 + 1 = 3 in marketing but it hasn’t always been like that.

Darren:

But you pointed out quite rightly that marketers are often charged with customer experience but they’re never given the authority or the influence to actually influence the customer experience because marketing is not really marketing it’s actually the marketing/comms department.

Meredith:

And they send out some information every now and then. I’ve got friends who write for the intranet—that’s truly what they feel their deliverable is—what a wholly untapped potential that you’ve got people who could oversee a lot of it from start to finish. But I guess it’s just the siloed nature of things.

Darren:

The marketoonist, Tom Fishburne, had a great cartoon; the CMO had a lever—this is how we want you to build the customer experience. The CMO asked what is it? ‘That’s your comms budget. You can either pull it or push it back (spend more or less money)’. And the CMO goes, ‘well what if it doesn’t work?’ ‘That’s o.k. we’ll just cut the budget’.

It’s a bit frustrating isn’t it when it’s all reduced to a comms budget rather than an experience budget? Marketers, when they come to you to talk about developing a brand or customer experience, what are the types of things you’re looking for in their brief or problem or opportunity that really makes an exciting opportunity?

Meredith:

Does it lend itself to an experience (the type of category)? First of all, looking at the brief, can we deliver on the objectives? Some people come to us and say we want a virtual reality campaign because we do VR and AR.

Darren:

So, they’ve already jumped to the execution.

Meredith:

Correct because they want a shiny new thing or maybe someone’s told them internally.

Darren:

Like someone turning up and saying I want a TV ad.

Meredith:

Exactly. So do they understand what their problem is? Are we the right fit for them as a business? Can we genuinely help? I would say clear purpose and understanding of their objective. For me sexy clients (Nike, Adidas) but it doesn’t need to be sexy categories which lend themselves really well to experience marketing. It can be tricky to communicate things.

We’ve done stuff for Cancer Society talking about the symptoms of bowel cancer, very specific things, putting a message through to drive action to get people to a GP. So is there a real understanding of the problem? Can we help?

And the fit and desire of the team as well that you’re working with. That’s very important. Are they really passionate about what they do and why they might want to be moving into this space? And a really good briefing (every agency will say the same thing). A couple of years ago I went to a briefing out on the Northern Beaches. They’d hired a huge room and it was a full immersive briefing with the most amazing Ted style talk to get it going.

And we walked out of the room really wanting to work on it. We were actually going to solve some problems and it was so inspiring. It must have taken them a lot of effort to get the agencies in the room and do an interactive presentation but that stuck with me and my team for ever after.

Darren:

As a prime example of how to do it.

Meredith:

Yeah and if you think about employee engagement and your agency’s engagement you’re going to make them want to work their socks off for you. Every agency works hard but do they believe in your mission? Have you got a clear mission? When we look at a brief we might go oh that’s juicy.

Darren:

How important is it for them to have very clear and measurable objectives?

Meredith:

Not wholly important initially but we need to get back to that because the business will have a KPI. And whenever we have clients who say we haven’t got a budget—red flags. You do have a budget assigned so then I’ll try to force a hand. How many increments of whatever we need to sell more of? Where are we going from here? To help them tease out what those objectives are.

People often don’t do it because they don’t know how to approach or put a line in the sand –this is what we think it will be—can we work it out together? For me the business problem is the most important. Is there a problem we can help solve and then we can work those things out.

Some people just avoid writing the KPIs because it is quite hard to write specific objectives sometimes. And sometimes it’s o.k. to just want to learn what this means for our customer. Some people love going down to their experiences. The Australian Open is on at the moment. It’s a flagship of all the central activations. Clients love seeing their brands coming to life in the real world; real people interacting with it. There’s something magical about that.

Is that a KPI for you just to see the brand come to life out of this digital world—that’s fine. But making sure that there’s a mix of those hard KPIs as well as the softer ones. That can be a reason why we want to get all out trade teams down there and show them what we’re all about. We want to give them a feeling of what our coffee brand is or whatever it might be.

So, yes, having specific KPIs and objectives—very important. Do we get those all the time? No.

Darren:

And what’s the difference between not getting them and getting them?

Meredith:

A good agency will help you work through them. They’ll be pushing for those. We want to have boardroom level conversations. We don’t want to have these small snippets of budget—the offcuts at the end and it’s kind of o.k. if we don’t really deliver something. If your agency is managing you well the outcome should prove that we should get more budget to do this.

I want to show success so that we can grow our business so you can grow yours.

Darren:

Business and marketing success.

Meredith:

Yeah.

Darren:

A lot of this also comes into sports and entertainment sponsorship and the activation of those obviously falls in under this.

Meredith:

And again that’s where overlap happens and I can see it’s confusing for people. I always say we’re not a sports sponsorship activation or a music one. We create experiences and if the platform you’ve got sorted is the Olympics well then it’s up to us to do that.

You don’t need to be a specialist in all those. There clearly are specialists in those but you can see how with the fragmentation of that market that clients are looking for agencies outside of sports sponsorship because they also know their customers, whilst they enjoy sport, are fully rounded people who are not just into sports so how are we going to extend that experience into dealerships or our employees.

Again there is lots of overlap but for me it’s better to be platform agnostic. If it’s right for you to do the colour runs, if it’s right for you to do the agricultural shows or the baby shows then that should be it.

Darren:

So that must mean you find yourself working a lot with other agencies and other companies. What’s the secret to collaborating, from your perspective, with those other companies?

Meredith:

Sticking to your knitting I would say. And be mindful of what you’ve been brought to the table for. For example with one of my clients we are shopper activation/ promotion. Now we sit alongside an experiential agency. Clearly we’d like to be doing that as well. But it’s not our role; we’re here for the clients. It’s being mindful of that and the capacity in which they’ve employed you.

Darren:

That’s quite unusual. If you’re an experiential agency and there’s another experiential agency there could be an argument—why not consolidate them?

Meredith:

Could be. If it went to us that would be great but playing nicely. We all have egos and we’ve got to be mindful of that. Clients don’t have the time to sort out the squabbling. The pitch I was talking about with that amazing briefing; we had to pitch against another agency and that agency was tendering for 3 pieces of business within the same piece of business and the client said they were really glad we just pitched for what I put you forward for and you did such a great job of it we always wanted to work with you.

And that was a good lesson in know why you’ve been put on the table.

Darren:

Play to your strengths.

Meredith:

Exactly. If there is an opportunity to grow the pie with that client through trust and understanding–clearly we all want to sell cross services especially once you’ve got a good relationship with a client.

Darren:

It’s a real struggle for a lot of marketers trying to get agencies working together. Maybe as you said it’s sticking to what you’ve been asked to do but perhaps part of it is marketers are not particularly clear in why they’re appointing an agency and what they’re appointing them to do.

Meredith:

Yeah and also communicating with the other agencies that we’ve brought onboard to do this for us. This is how we see it fitting. It’s also leadership. If they are the conductor of the orchestra or is it the media agency or the creative? Is there a lead agency function or is it going to be led by the client? Are they the conductor? Some of that not playing nicely comes down to not great management; understanding the parties and the posturing and things like that and cutting out that behaviour.

Darren:

The agency will look at the client’s total budget and what’s my share of that pie?

Meredith:

Totally.

Darren:

There would be a certain amount of pressure to maximise your share of budget.

Meredith:

Of course. It’s really hard because we all just want to grow our businesses but you do have to keep thinking what is right for the client. That might not always get you thanks in the short term but for the good clients who stick with you it does pay to be true to your word, your discipline and the value you create.

And if it’s a case of saying you’ve only given us a hundred grand for this, we actually need an extra 50 grand and that’s when we can deliver. It’s also being honest; we can do it for you but it’s not going to be as great. It’s having those conversations—rarely is it going to be we need less money.

But it’s having the balls to say that if you give me that 20% more this is what it’ll do rather than just take the money ‘oh they didn’t give us enough’.

Darren:

But there’s quite a bit of cynicism about that. Often people will say there’s never enough money for the agency.

Meredith:

I agree but if you’ve done your numbers, especially if it’s one-offs—they’re really hard to manage. Whereas if you’ve got a client where you’re doing quite a few repeat activations then you start building an asset base, you start understanding who the influencers are, then you can start getting some economies of scale around planning and things like that as well.

It’s hard when it’s disparate planning. Often it’s campaign related. That does come back to that question around is it something that’s looked at as a fundamental in our plan. In New York the budgets are crazy—what they spend on experiential—it’s huge.

Darren:

In scale.

Meredith:

But also their share of the pie.

Darren:

But the best agencies seem to work very hard to prove value as well.

Meredith:

Correct. We say to clients that we will match their 3rd party investment dollar for dollar.

Darren:

So, you’re putting your performance on the line.

Meredith:

Yeah, correct. Not a lot of people do that.

Darren:

Interesting isn’t it?

Meredith:

At times I think we move so quickly in our world that people looking back—their world may have moved on to something else that’s more important. Things turn really quickly.

Darren:

It’s not unusual because we even have these conversations with media agencies who will say that a client, at a time when the agency is trying to debrief them on a particular media investment they’re already talking about briefing them on the next one without integrating any of the lessons or insights that have come out from the previous.

Meredith:

100%. My team were going through an evaluation of a repeat activation last year and they said ‘oh, we actually implemented our learnings—this was the outcome’. Clients move around just like agencies and having consistent client relationships and trying to keep that thread alive—what worked and where do we continue.

Those continuous improvements, those small increments that over time deliver the big performance. Everybody is looking for a disruptive campaign. The reality is most of the time it’s about building on things and learning and making sure you’re continuously learning and improving.

Darren:

And that way you build more longer term productive relationships and get better return on investment.

Meredith:

And it’s far more enjoyable for everybody involved to be able to pick up the phone to their agency and say ‘we’ve got this problem, I’ll just shoot you an email’ –it doesn’t need to be this long briefing. They’ve already done all the great on-boarding. When you get to that sweet spot, and that’s across any discipline of agency, it’s a wonderful thing but it does take time, investment and consistency from both parties to keep nurturing that relationship.

That would be my hope that experiential starts to have those consistent relationships because that’s when we can perform.

Darren:

Unfortunately, I’m still not clear how I define with my clients what an experiential agency does, because everything is an experience.

Meredith:

Call it ‘bring to life brands’. Connect you with your customer.

Darren:

It’s going to vary from client to client and category to category because of what they need and who they think can deliver. And as you said, the big problem is there are so many overlaps; holding companies that have bought agencies with businesses that work in every part, we’ve got others that are like sports sponsorships that have gone into activation as a natural extension of that, we’ve got shopper marketing specialists that are working in experiential around shoppers.

Meredith:

Totally but it’s taking that step back with that strategy piece. We’ve done one where we had to unpack everything they do in the live environment, unpick it, look at where it sits and what it’s trying to achieve and retrofit a strategy around what they’re currently doing and have a bit of an exit plan for that.

You work as a pitch and procurement consultant and it’s rare that you’re going to find the right fit through a pitch process. It’s only going to be when you work with the agency that you see do they genuinely understand our business? The other thing is clients might come for one thing but there might be so many other things that agency can do before, during and after that event so what more can you get out of it.

Darren:

But that’s a part of our job; elicit from the client what it is they want to achieve. The categories seem to be shopper is clearly defined, sponsorship activation, events—they’ll come down to the execution or the context rather than thinking about it in a more holistic way.

This is what I need. Like I said before, walking in and asking for a TV ad—well is TV the best solution for you? Apparently, no one wants a TV ad these days even though we still see TV ads launched every other week.

Meredith:

Correct. That understanding of what you’re trying to achieve; it’s always going to come down to chemistry and creativity isn’t it? How do you feel you can work with these people? It goes back to the holding company thing. Do you just want to interface with those two people in the room and you’re happy that the two people who are going to deliver it, you don’t even know who they are?

This could be for a campaign that’s live in market for 100 days with high risk written all over it because you’re a risky category at the moment. If clients aren’t going to do due diligence on who they’re working with in the live environment and whether they really do what they say they do. Because anybody can have a flashy show reel—you’ll know this from your side of the fence.

Darren:

But everyone can do everything.

Meredith:

Totally. We do a lot of things with technology—we always have. All of the things that have gone wrong over the 10 years I’ve worked at Because, when we talk about the things we got wrong it means we’re going to get them right for you.

Darren:

Because you’re learning from every one.

Meredith:

We’ve learnt and because we’ve also invested in it. We’re not just talking about VR, we did that years ago and we know how that works. If you’re looking for who you’re going to select make sure they really do have a deep understanding because it’s one thing to do 3 or 4 campaigns for a couple of clients a year; it’s another thing to do 100s.

Darren:

Meredith Cranmer, it’s been a pleasure talking to you but we’ve run out of time.

Meredith:

Thank you very much for your time.

Darren:

Just before we go I’ve got a question for you. From your own personal experience what is the very worst brand experience you’ve ever had?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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