Q&A with Anthony Coppers, Founder & Head of Innovation, Gradient

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The AW360 team sat down with Anthony Coppers, Founder & Head of Innovation at Gradient, a creative agency with experiential marketing at their core, to discuss how this company is optimizing human connections for their clients, in particular, by creating meaningful experiences in intimate small environments.

Q: From your perspective what is the state of experiential marketing in 2019?

Experiential marketing in 2019 is all about optimizing the human connection between brands and customers. At this point, we can’t solely rely on beautiful design and a pretty Instagram pictures if customers leave experiential events feeling disconnected, without any real human interaction. Experiential marketing is evolving into something more meaningful — where interaction with brand experts should be the norm, and where brands empower the people representing them to inspire and motivate customers. At Gradient, our primary mission   is to optimize human flow and create meaningful connections between brands and customers.

We’re also starting to see a change in the way we face some design challenges, like the provisional aspect of activations. This year we’re witnessing some activations that are long-term, designed to be used at different locations. This is obviously convenient for our clients from a budget standpoint. The trend we’re seeing is from temporary to durable activations.

Q: Tell us about your background and how you developed your passion for experiential marketing.

I’m Belgian-American and art runs in my family. I’m the son of two photographers and the brother of an artist. I founded Gradient in 2010 and from the very beginning our focus has been on creating experiences that are powerful, market-defining and engaging. We use a holistic approach to everything we do with human connection at the very center of all the different aspects of experiential marketing.

Q: So how do you feel Gradient separates itself in a crowded sector?

Gradient is a creative agency with experiential marketing at its core. We work with a lot of fashion, luxury, leisure and entertainment brands that want to break through and create significant connections with their customers. We instigate moments of “whole brain” integration with lasting impact so that our clients and their brands perform at their best. Some of your recent clients include Alexander McQueen, Variety, Tiffany & Co. and Beam Suntory.

Q: You mentioned several times about the importance of creating ‘human connections’ with brands and customer experiences. Why do you feel human connection is in such short supply? What’s taken us to this point?

Younger generations are growing in a digital world, where most of their interactions occur through smartphone screens and wearable technology. Our relationships and the way we communicate with each other has been drastically altered. This trend has impacted brand-consumer relationships, resulting in where we rarely see the human aspect of brands. But in spite of all this digitalization, people still crave meaningful interactions. It’s part of our DNA, and it’s why human connection has become a luxury.

Q: So, how can experiential marketing humanize brand-consumer connections?

The best way for brands to humanize these connections is by investing in their own people, the ones who interact directly with customers. It’s a dynamic process that involves different marketing channels. If you connect with consumers at a more personal level, they will leave the experiential event as evangelists of your brand. The recipe is simple and can be borrowed from traditional brick-and-mortar stores: if sales associates are seen more as ambassadors and inspired, consumers are not only encouraged to buy but they leave with a more positive opinion about the store. Similarly, if brands invest in experiences where brand experts are not just trained but inspired, attendees will also be inspired to purchase the brand or product being promoted.

Q: If you could offer one piece of advice for creating brand activations what would it be?

Nothing impacts consumers like small, intimate environments where they can interact one-on-one with brand experts. It all comes down to the emotion, which is the most powerful tool marketers have.

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