The last time a client called to tell me they have several months to plan and execute a project was … never. Just like the news cycle, which veers from one event to the other at breakneck speed, so too does the marketing business, which is increasingly called upon by clients to plan and execute experiential events on a short deadline.
While ultra-tight deadlines are not ideal, in the experiential marketing business, they can happen. These experiences, when done well, can create a lot of buzz around a new product or a new business launch. Social media allows brands to share the live interaction in real-time, and for consumers to relive it after the fact. So, the pressure is on to get it right.
With 65 percent of consumers purchasing products or services promoted at event and experiential programs, according to data from Event Marketer, the competition to stand out is steep. And with the often short timeframe clients require, the potential for problems is very real. Whether it involves an art gallery display in SoHo or ice sculptures in Boston, experiential marketing can be daunting in its detail and planning.
Whether the deadlines are long-term or short, there is just one thing you need to keep in mind when planning an experiential marketing campaign: What you do in the first few days of a project will determine the outcome of the event.
I’ve worked on projects that had to be executed in tight windows, some of them in two weeks. Surprisingly, I’ve found that often pressure can bring a concept quickly to its core mission and make the planning process as efficient as possible.
In order to leverage and manage pressure to deliver the best brand experience possible, and even pull off a two-week deadline, I’ve created a list of six key elements that a leader can implement in order to be successful.
- Respect the deadline: Experiential marketing involves inviting people and coordinating schedules at a high level. It isn’t like a brand launch, a product plan or a software rollout. With those campaigns, the deadlines can be negotiated. Not with experiential marketing. You can’t move the Super Bowl. Be hyper-conscious of deadlines.
- Define your core elements and team: In the first day of a project, the director must create the buckets that need to be filled logistically and creatively. Those buckets will define the core elements. From there, find the people who will own each element and get the job done. This means tapping resources to bring together the right mix of the best people. Ensure they have permission to re-prioritize previous assignments to be dedicated to the deadlines.
- Workshop: This goes beyond brainstorming. At a workshop, you have to be more directed: You can’t consider every idea if you want to hit a two-week deadline. Your team needs to quickly identify the unique parts of the production, then answer key questions about the mission, the brand goals and execution of the experience to deliver on the narrative.
- Create a narrative: Every experience demands a narrative. A high-pressure project begins with a single, clear document that tells the story of the experience and its goals. The project plan follows the narrative.
- Create a board of expertise: Once you have the narrative you can move quickly. In order to do that and remain coordinated, identify a core group of people that will be available for quick check-ins and quick approvals: There’s no time for a 20-person brand team at the client to debate key decisions. That core group should include team members expert in key areas including design, site selection and production.
- Do your job: That includes staying out of the way of the leaders you’ve selected. Micro-management can kill an experiential marketing campaign. Let your core team execute. You’re there to troubleshoot, protect the narrative and ensure everyone else is doing their job.
This should all take place within the first week. Sometimes, this kind of pressure can be positive. And sometimes it’s necessary to capture the speed of today’s consumer sentiments. Though a two-week turnaround is not ideal, it can still be plenty of time to launch successful experiential marketing campaigns.