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Bringing alcohol brands to life using experiential marketing strategies

Increasingly, alcohol brands are stepping out of the TV screen or advertising hoarding and off the supermarket shelves into the real world. They’re realizing the importance of directly engaging with people via experiential marketing strategies. Quite simply, the power of experience is helping alcohol brands stand out in a crowded marketplace by bringing them to life, letting people taste them for themselves and live their brand values. Executions range from themed pop-up bars, to live brand experiences, to permanent immersive distilleries, like the one gin brand Thomas Deakin is currently building in Manchester.

On both sides of the Atlantic there have been a variety of wonderfully creative experiences launched within the past few months alone. To prove it’s about more that just Guinness, Dublin’s Open Gate Brewery launched an Experimental Taproom in London, bringing a taste of the broad range of beers it now produces to the UK capital. Meanwhile, during the spring, Captain Morgan rum took Londoners on a nautical adventure to an underground paradise: the Lost Lagoon.

Across the pond, Bacardi-owned Grey Goose partnered with some of New York’s leading bartenders to open an immersive cocktail and shopping experience in JFK International Airport in the lead up to Christmas. The pop-up also featured a Grey Goose Ferris wheel, adorned with mini “chalets” containing Grey Goose Christmas cocktail recipes. Travellers pulled a lever to open the chalet door and could then photograph the recipe inside.

One of the most unusual took place in Oakland, with Bulleit whisky showing how next-generation technology can enable the future of cocktail experiences. 3D printing was used to create an entire bar apparatus where guests enjoyed drinks and bites that were also 3D-printed.

It’s certainly impressive that increasing numbers of alcohol brands are pushing the boundaries of creativity with the aim of delivering exciting, unique, and immersive experiences, but this alone does not determine to what extent their target audiences are engaged. And frequently they fall down in terms of execution. Here are seven factors to bear in mind to ensure your alcohol experience delivers on its promises:

Avoid queues

Manage the flow of people into the experience carefully to reduce queuing, which can be frustrating, and make sure people are kept engaged and entertained if they are waiting.


Whether you’re just out to give people a good time ‘occasion’ or are taking them on a journey, make sure your audience clearly understands what the experience is about and what is expected from them. This will ensure maximum brand love.


Don’t try to pack too much into an experience or there’s a chance it will lose focus and confuse the audience. Concentrating on developing a small number of highly relevant and on-strategy activities very well supported with simple creative messaging will have more impact.

Guidance and support

Make sure you have strong signage and well-trained brand ambassadors on hand to communicate key messages, help get people involved and engaged, answer any questions, and offer key support and guidance to make sure everyone is happy and feels special.    

Cost vs complimentary

Strike the right balance between what you’re offering free and what guests will have to pay for. Ideally, make as much as you can complimentary, and if you are going to charge, make sure you’re delivering great value so that your audience doesn’t feel ripped off or that they can get a better deal elsewhere.


Make sure there are plenty of options for your guests to share their experiences via social channels for their benefit, and thus significantly increase the reach of the activation.

Capture feedback and measurement

Aim to capture the details of as many of your guests as possible and ask for feedback about the experience to inform future campaigns. Taking their details and asking permission to use their data on entry and requesting feedback on exit can work well if properly managed.

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Experiential activations that prioritise social over ‘IRL’ experiences create purgatory, not pleasure

It’s a sunny weekend and I’m standing in a queue inside a Brooklyn warehouse. There are dozens of people around me…waiting. My boredom is palpable, closely followed by irritation and disbelief — compounded by the realisation that I will have to go through this repeatedly, should I wish to get value out of the experience.

You might assume that I am lining up for food at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but no, I am attending an (expensive) event known to be one of the many “Insta-worthy” experiential activations that pop up across New York City.

Don’t get me wrong, at the end of most queues there is a bit of pleasure – the fun and creative inspiration that the significant hype has promised. But once I reach that moment, I am briskly ushered through by zealous brand ambassadors trying to alleviate some of the congestion behind me.

During my 90 minutes at the event, I estimate that I experienced 10 or 15 minutes of “the good stuff.” So, less than 20% of my experience was enjoyable. As a marketer who creates and delivers live brand experiences, I felt short-changed.

Experiential activation missing the point

This experiential activation made me think, “When did the ‘IRL’ experience become a by-product of the pre-promotional hype, and when did this hype become the priority? When did the paying customer become less important than the social observer?”

The doomed Fyre Festival is a well-documented and unfortunate example of this, and it’s impossible to ignore the fall-out. Two anxiety-inducing documentaries have been produced, countless court cases remain unsettled, and numerous people’s lives have been turned upside down. All because an actual event failed despite a highly effective social media, influencer, and PR campaign. This is a prime and radical example of when a brand gets so wrapped up in selling an idea that they neglect the important process around its delivery.

Back to Brooklyn. At this warehouse event, all that seemed to matter was the ‘Instagramability’ that would make the event appear to be a roaring success to those “watching at home.”

But what about the people who did attend? Surely, if given the choice, most would have opted for 100% genuine enjoyment? For real-life moments of surprise, delight, and entertainment. The stuff that makes experiential marketing great versus a social performance that is all smoke and mirrors. I think consumers want and deserve both. Brands need to create dynamic social media moments and an enjoyable IRL experiential activation.

From my experience, there are seven key considerations involved in creating memorable moments on and offline to avoid IRL purgatory:

1) When social commentary is a key objective, consider what people will post during a bad IRL experience as much as how they’ll respond to your promotional posts.

2) At each stage of the event planning process, before finalizing decisions, keep in mind what the experience will be like for the attendees. Get non-biased advice on concepts and don’t be idealistic about whether something will work.

3) Keep the consumer journey front of mind and remember that it doesn’t end once an attendee posts a photo of your event. Momentum, entertainment, and service are all essential elements of an experiential activation. Think about how your event will keep delivering on these elements, even after it’s over.

4) Try to predict what may go awry and have a back-up plan. Then, have a back-up plan for that back-up plan. If queues become unruly despite your best efforts, bring out free drinks or snacks to keep consumers busy and happy.

5) Don’t have unrealistic expectations of your audience. Take my recent experience in Brooklyn, for example: if people are known to become impatient waiting in line for their morning coffee, why would an event be any different?

6) Don’t expend all of your creative energies and resources on the ‘big moments.’ Along with paying attention to day-of details, be sure to have a pre/post event strategy. Some of the ‘surprise and delight’ moments should happen during the lead up to or after an event to make the overall experience amazing.

7) Finally, learn from the masters: when in doubt, think about what Disney would do.

Sarah Priestman is president of Sense New Yorkexperienti

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83% of US & UK consumers say brand experiences build trust

Some 83% of consumers in the US and UK believe that the best way to build trust in a brand is to experience it firsthand, according to a new study.

The Value of Experience report by Set Creative, for which 1,000 consumers were surveyed, also reveals brand experience drives sales, with nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of people saying they are more likely to purchase a product if they’ve participated in one.

The growing popularity of events among consumers was also revealed, with almost half of those surveyed (44%) admitting to increasing their time spent at live events over the past two years. Some 40% also said they’ve upped their spend on new experiences over the same period, with this figure rising to 62% among affluent milllennials.  

Read more about the survey…

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Hidden talents: Inside Sense’s Production Team

Although very much acting behind the scenes, the contribution Sense’s Production Team makes to campaign success cannot be underestimated. Production Director Ben Quarrell and his team’s influence permeates throughout each project.

“We’re involved from the very beginning to check that initial experiential concepts are feasible, affordable and environmentally sound, working closely with the creative team to make sure whatever we’re proposing can be practically executed in the real world and will engage with the target consumer,” Ben explains. “We then continually liaise with the account management team to ensure what is finally delivered is of the requisite standard, does the creative concept justice, and meets the demands of the client’s marketing strategy.”

This involves specifying and sourcing the most appropriate, sustainable, highest quality, best value materials and products for each campaign from a raft of carefully chosen preferred suppliers. “All our suppliers adhere to our own stringent quality and sustainability standards. Each also has their own idiosyncrasies and strengths, and it’s important to ensure the right ones are selected to create the most engaging campaign possible,” says Ben.

From the creative team’s designs, which develop from initial black-and-white sketches through to coloured drawings and, frequently these days, 3D renders, the Production Department works with its suppliers to create the necessary detailed technical plans. These need to be highly accurate with no room for error to avoid problems during the build phase and ensure each brand experience performs as agreed with the client.

The live nature of experiential campaigns means stringent health and safety is paramount to protect the general public and Sense’s team on the ground, and this comes under the production remit. “We write all the health and safety documentation for our projects and ensure that our campaigns adhere to all relevant regulations,” says Ben.

There is no typical day for the Sense Production Team, with variety being the norm. “That’s why I love the job,” says Ben. “On any one day we can be working across numerous campaigns. We could be in a campaign kick-off meeting working out deadlines, finalising budgets, etc. On the same day we could be costing up a pitch, making the final preparations before a campaign goes live, sharing technical details of another that need to be signed off, or working with the creative team on a concept.”

The Production Team also needs to be on the ground when a campaign launches to monitor the brand experience insights and ensure every technical element functions as it should. “This is really exciting,” says Ben. “It’s great when something you’ve been working on for weeks or sometimes months comes to life and you see just how much people are enjoying the interaction. Exactly how many of us are there depends on the size of the campaign. We often have several running at once, and I’ll be managing some projects myself as well as guiding the team on others. There’s certainly never a dull moment.”

So what are the most exciting campaigns Ben’s worked on recently?

“With experiential increasingly becoming a key component of campaigns and our constant push to create more engaging experiences, our activations are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated taking the Production Team to new heights,” he answers. “Two campaigns spring to mind that have really pushed the boundaries.   

“First is the Coors Light Ice Cave campaign, where we brought the TV ad featuring Jean Claude Van Damme to life in the real world. We had to chill down and modify a touring structure to zero degrees and make it look like and feel like an ice cave with a night club inside, then tour it across five locations over two years. It was essentially a standalone live event. Everything from licensing with the council through to managing the technical immersive elements of the ice cave experience needed to be taken care of.”

Ben’s second choice is the current SEA LIFE interactive brand activation campaign that Sense designed and is running globally for the aquarium brand.

“The complexity of this lies not just in the interactive technology that’s being used, but in the detailed product design required to create a standalone attraction that isn’t manned and that children need to engage with,” he explains. “This could be getting them to test their strength as a crab or sucking up food like a seahorse. So there are the complexities of the various games, but also the technical and language issues of creating something that would work across every site in the world.”

In some instances Ben’s team were working across 12 languages, and he says it’s certainly been one of the most challenging projects he’s ever worked on.

“The great news is that it’s going well,” he says. “Thanks in no small part to the in-depth planning process that we worked with the whole Sense team to deliver. We’ve had some great feedback about how interactive it is, how much visitors are enjoying the experience, and how well it’s working for the client. It’s so rewarding when you put smiles on both clients’ and visitors’ faces!”

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Pop-ups: How brands can turn one-night stands into long-term relationships using brand activation

Pop-ups, your opportunity to have a one-night stand with a brand. Walk around the dark, twisting streets of Soho and you’re bound to bump into one. Brand activations are everywhere nowadays, each one promising something immersive, something memorable, and something shareable. The challenge for brands is how to turn those one-night stands into long-term relationships. How to get people to text back in the morning and not just disappear forevermore.

With investment in experiential marketing campaigns growing rapidly in recent years, pop-ups have become an increasingly popular activation for brands looking to attract new people to their brand or tell a new story. Pop-ups don’t just appear in city centres. You can find them everywhere. Festivals, expos, markets, county fairs. North Face even built one up a mountain. The challenge for brands is making sure a pop-up delivers more than just press coverage and a pretty picture. Do they drive commercial results? Do they result in online sharing and word-of-mouth fame? Do people hang around the morning after the night before?

There’s no magic bullet solution for making a successful experiential pop-up. A long-lasting and meaningful impact is achieved through a combination of factors:

Experiential strategy

For most brands, integrating different channels under one overarching brand strategy is usually a good idea. Integration helps drive saliency which ultimately leads to sales. Pop-ups are no different to any other channel. A good pop-up should take a key brand proposition and brand activation strategy, and bring it to life in a live environment. This doesn’t mean literally building a physical version of your latest TV ad. It’s got to work as an experience first and foremost.

Take the classic Lidl pop-up from a few years ago. The supermarket chain built a five-star restaurant in Stockholm called Dill, which provided a fine dining experience and was a huge success, selling out for weeks. The twist was that every ingredient used at Dill was sourced from Lidl. Dill was a physical manifestation of a brand proposition: “Budget food doesn’t mean a compromise on quality.” Experience and strategic thinking came together to produce something that worked underneath an overarching brand strategy. 


Many brands invest time and money ensuring their pop-ups tell a full and immersive story. For super-keen brand fans, this level of detail is important. However, for the majority of visitors, the message a pop-up is trying to communicate needs to be more immediate. Take Lidl and Dill as an example. If visitors took only one thing from Dill it was quality (which is later associated with Lidl).

A message doesn’t have to be communicated literally. It can be signalled through more subtle, sensory means, such as atmosphere. The lighting level, the smells, the sounds. Everything about a pop-up comes together to produce an experience. A good pop-up should convey a brand message in two seconds as well as it does in two hours.

Take Benefit’s Roller Liner Diner (RLD) in LA. Through it’s wonderful pinkness, the RLD was immediately feminine and fun, with additional nods to the worlds of fashion and art. With several experiences available as part of the pop-up, Benefit managed to instantly communicate the essence of its brand while leaving more for people to discover.


In order to deliver the most impactful pop-up experience possible, production should never be compromised. Brands are never so closely scrutinised as at their own pop-up. People judge brands much more rationally in a live environment and it’s not just the sexy details that matter. The quality of the seats, the number of toilets, the queue for the bar, everything comes together to deliver an impression. Always try to avoid a production budget ruining the quality of your experience.

An American pop-up that’s gone above and beyond with production value in the last few years is Refinery29’s 29Rooms, a celebration of culture, style and creativity to promote Refinery29’s various media channels. The production team didn’t miss a trick which created stunning social content. Nothing was left to chance in their mission to create a great impression.

Brands don’t need a production budget the size of Refinery29’s to create an amazing pop-up experience. The devil is often in the detail when it comes to creating something truly memorable.


Another reason why production value is so important is the increasing pressure on pop-ups to be amplified online. Social reach is not a bolt-on. It needs to be built into the fabric of a pop-up from day one. It’s almost impossible to control people’s behaviour in a pop-up space. Brands can’t direct people towards the social areas of their pop-up. Everything needs to be photogenic. The quote on the wall. The way the products are laid out. The brand ambassador’s uniform. It all adds up.

Take method’s slow fashion store from last year. The space ran for two days in October 2018 and generated excellent social results. Rather than relying on anything too sophisticated, the slow fashion store was simply a beautiful space. Social media sharers are more creative than brands sometimes realise. Give people nice surroundings and they’ll do the hard work.

method also used influencers in the form of Millie Mackintosh and Jasmine Hemsley to promote the pop-up on their social profiles. Influencers are a great way of reaching a specific audience through the buzz they generate on their own accounts and in the press.


Finally, brands should never underestimate the importance of a pop-up’s location, whether their immediate surroundings or the town they activate in. A pop-up in a church conveys a different message to a pop-up in a small unit in Shoreditch. The space a pop-up occurs in is another way of immediately conveying a message about a brand. It’s why festival-based pop-ups remain so popular. Nothing communicates fun and escapism as well as an amazing festival experience. Outside of festivals, in order to reach the right audience, the correct city or town should also be chosen. Not all pop-ups have to take place in Soho or Shoreditch!

There’s no one thing that makes a pop-up better at delivering long-term results for a brand. Great results come from several disciplines crossing, such as a strategic and creative thinking and production that doesn’t compromise. When everything is on point, brands can experience the full benefits of building brand experiences that make people want to stick around more than just one-night.

Vaughan Edmonds is Planner at global brand experience agency Sense, which has offices in London and New York.

This article first appeared in Chief Marketer magazine.

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Playing the game: 10 tips for a successful toy brand experience

FAO Schwarz reopened its doors to experiential last year with a theatrical retail experience, Carton Network is due to launch a hotel hosted by its adored characters this summer, and a fully immersive Toy Story-themed hotel will open its doors in 2021. Take note: the big players in the toy industry are maximizing brand experience like never before, reimagining what’s possible with technology and leveraging a tribe of ‘kidfluencers.’

In part, this is due to the rise of toy brands as entertainment franchises – companies such as Hasbro Inc., Mattel Inc. and The LEGO Group have shifted from being ‘just’ toymakers to becoming licensees, studios and fashion houses.

Toy brands today encompass a world of entertainment that is better sampled through real-life interaction, play and technology, in order to capture the attention of Generation Alpha – whose influence in big household purchases is set to outrank previous generations.

So, what should you keep in mind when planning an experience for toy brands?

1)   Think like a kid. Your creative should be led from a child’s perspective. Ask yourself, what role can you play in their ever-evolving and enchanted world?

2)   Never allow a dull moment. If an activation includes a wait, it should be a joyous part of the experience, not a chore. Disney World encourages guests to download a new app whilst waiting in line, to access quizzes and interactive family games – ‘turning wait time into play time.’

3)   Enhance character connection through technology. There’s something quite magical about seeing your favorite characters appear in the real world, and AR provides the gateway experience to facilitate this. Disney Animation, in partnership with National Cinemedia, recently invited children to play ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ to reward them for be patient.

4)   Consider a voiceover screen. Google Assistant has rolled out a new skill that allows kids to talk to the Wiggles via voice commands, taking them on all sorts of adventures. A recent MIT Media Lab study discovered that children find autonomous technologies such as Google Assistant friendly, trustworthy and smart. Ask yourself, could this level of direct engagement with characters be incorporated into the experience?

5)   Embrace the rise of ‘kidfluencers.’ After all, 22% of U.S. kids get their toy envy from online influencers, accordingly to a Hotwire study.

6)   Learn from in-store toy brand experiences. The American Girl Rockefeller Plaza store engages guests during multiple touchpoints throughout their visit – via an American Girl Salon featured inside the space. Dolls can be ordered online for collection, created in-store via a virtual interface or sent for a full pamper treatment at the in-store “spa.”

7)   Don’t forget, parents play a role. The Toys that Made Us Netflix series is testament to the power of adult nostalgia. Don’t underestimate the opportunity for kids and adults to play together – rather than just observe.

8)   Allow no barriers to play. Data capture can be key to a big brand toy experience, but try to diminish obstacles to hands-on play. Walmart launched a website called Toy Lab, also dubbed “America’s Best Toy Store” to help children learn about products through video demonstrations, allowing them to select their favorite toy for their holiday wish list – an excellent data play.

9)   Appoint an all-star front line. Parents love it when someone else entertains their kids. Be sure your staff has experience working with children and that they can embody the values of a toy brand.

10)    Boring will result in brand failure! There is no worse sin for a toy or game brand than to fail to be entertaining. If you can infuse your work with a childlike sense of joy and wonder, then you will not only entertain the kids but inspire their parents. A perfect example is Fatherly’s The Playroom, which meets both needs via a packed entertainment activity schedule and creative spaces.

Kateland Turner is senior account manager at the New York branch of our sense experiential marketing agencies.

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Experiential and event marketing rise in popularity in the US

On the back of the IPA’s Bellwether report for the fourth quarter of 2018 showing that experiential was the only discipline experiencing growth in investment by UK brands, two US study shows the discipline is also increasing in popularity across the pond.

Surveying more than 1,000 brand marketers in the US, the Event Marketing 2019: Benchmarks and Trends Report found that 41% saw experiential as their top marketing channel. This was up 32% ear-over-year and ahead of content marketing (27%), email marketing (14%) and social media (6%).

Some 62% of respondents also said that they plan to increase their budget for live events in 2019, by an average of 22%, a rise of 39%.  Meanwhile, 85% believe live events played a major role in their companies successfully meeting their business goals, and 77% believe live events will be increasingly important to the success of their brands in the coming years.

The report also found that 89% of overperforming businesses put a high value on live events, with 84% of them saying that they have strong support from leadership when it comes to experiential marketing.

A new report by also revealed how important experiential marketing is becoming in the business-to-business space. The 2019 State of Experiential Marketing report surveyed over 700 industry professionals across Fortune 500 companies, agencies and vendors.

It found that 92% of brand-side respondents believe integrating experiential marketing within the overall sales and marketing funnel is imperative to their success. What more, 67% of B2B brand-side marketers anticipate a growth in events/experiential budget in the next 18 months, a 17% rise from 2018.

Plus 75% of B2B brand-side respondents agree that experiential has proven to be the most successful tactic of their brand’s various marketing strategies, a 14 percent increase from 2018.

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Dear brands, here’s our 2019 wish list. Signed, agencies

In 2018, we saw a rise in the experience economy, and many issues coming to the forefront, specifically around gender and environmental impact. We have made a lot of progress, but in 2019, we have a few other “asks” for brands, including an increase in courage, honesty, diversity and sustainability. Can we get there by January 2020? Here’s a plan for how we might do it. Together.

More courage

This year, we want to see brands being braver and taking risks in the rightway by building a clear set of principles, which reflect their audience – and then standing by them.

Yes, there are risks. Two-thirds of consumers will buy or boycott a brand because of social or political position, Edelman revealed last year. But, having courage in your convictions will gain consumer respect and firmly put you on the radar of others who share your beliefs – or admire your courage. In an increasingly vanilla landscape, adding the right kind of flavour to your campaigns will help you cut through the clutter.

Bravery also drives creativity, as Burger King’s Whopper Detour campaign proved in promoting its app’s order-ahead function. Initially seeming to encourage people to go to McDonald’s, it used geo-tracking to offer those within 600 feet of one of its rival’s restaurantsa Whopper for a penny. The result? Top spot on the App Store.

Greater honesty

A demand for more brand authenticity last year meant those that made an impact in the real world reaped the rewards. Whether this was driven by purpose or simply involved giving something back to customers through a great creative experience, it helped brands build closer connections with their audiences. Inevitably, it resulted in some brands peddling faux authenticity, which consumers can usually spot a mile away. This year, brands should take authenticity to the next level and embrace its true foundation: honesty.

We’ve seen a rise in brands positioning themselves towards a societal trend. Under the guise of purpose, brands are getting involved in the same narrow range of conversations. These are noble gestures, but they don’t set brands apart. It’s time for brands to look at themselves in the mirror, and be honest about the role they play in people’s lives, then push the boundaries of creativity to become more valuable, either by improving their product or service, giving something back, or both. Solving a problem can produce exciting, successful marketing – it’s a strength to be different. As the old maxim goes: “When the world zigs…zag.”

Deeper diversity

Big strides were made in 2018 with inclusivity in marketing. Shutterstock found that 74% of marketers make use of more diverse imagery in their campaign material, a significant improvement from the 57% recorded in 2017.

A great example of brands adding to the conversation in a creative way last year was the “Highlighting the Remarkable” campaign by writing instrument company Stablio Boss, which literally ‘highlighted’ women appearing in its ads’ photography.  It featured women overlooked in history such as Edith Wilson —the former First Lady of the United States who ultimately assumed her husband’s presidential duties after his stroke

Brands also need to take direct action, following the trail blazed by Fenty Beauty, one of the first make up brands to outwardly promote their colour range, as well as make up for men, through its ‘Beauty for All’ message. Other good examples include EasyJet’s video campaign, which inspired more girls to become airline pilots, a move designed to combat gender stereotyping.

Smarter sustainability

Finally, it seems that sustainability has hit the mainstream, with the rise of influencers such as Zanna van Dijkand Healthy Chef, not to mention that this month has been designated “Veganuary” by some, while the rented clothing industry is also growing. Meanwhile, last year people really started to take plastic waste seriously with the help of David Attenborough’s now iconic Blue Planet series.

We need to act together as an industry. Let’s push our vendors and clients to be more sustainable. Let’s put the emphasis on recycling and using recycled material, reducing production and collateral and cutting sample wastage. Many of these acts will actually save agencies and their clients’ money!

Sarah Priestman is the president of Sense New York.

This article first appeared in Campaign USA.

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Sense launches guide to measuring the effectiveness of experiential marketing campaigns

Many brands and agencies still struggle to measure experiential. Sense’s new book Real World Impact outlines how experiential marketing CAN be successfully measured and it shares learnings and updated techniques from 10 years of applying the agency’s measurement technique, ‘EMR’ – Experiential Measurement and Research.

“Experiential measurement techniques are evolving, and since our first guide in 2008, measuring over 80 campaigns has developed our expertise and learnings, which has allowed us to refine our approach even further,” explained Sense MD Nick Adams.

Experiential marketing has been growing in popularity over recent years, both in the UK and globally. Second only to online marketing, investment by brands in experiential has increased year-on-year in the UK for several years in succession, according to the quarterly IPA Bellwether report. What’s more, a global study by Freeman in 2017 revealed that half of chief marketers plan to spend at least a fifth of their budget on experiential in the near future, compared to less than a third who did so when the research was undertaken.

Calls have been made to develop a standard experiential marketing measurement tool, but Adams, whose agency assesses the success of every one of its campaigns, believes this is the wrong approach. “If someone ever tells you they have a formula or ‘automated model’ figured out for measuring experiential, be sceptical. Scrutinise it closely, for while you can apply such things to other forms of marketing, brand experiences are much harder to pin down,” he said.

Real World Impact advocates measuring each campaign individually against a set of criteria relating to the original objectives of the activity. It sets out in detail the key steps that need to be taken, including understanding the campaign, establishing performance measures, and gathering and analysing key data. The process forms part of Sense’s proprietary EMR service, which has been developed and refined over the past decade.

“We’re lifting the lid on EMR for the first time because we think it’s important that marketers realise that experiential can be measured effectively if approached in the right way,” said Adams. “This is vital to the success of future campaigns as well as for the continuing development of the discipline.”

Real World Impact – A Guide to Measuring Brand Experiences in the Real World is free to download from the Sense website.

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Is it time for a brand to take an anti-technology stance?

Britain has an addiction epidemic. I’m not talking about drugs, alcohol, gambling or even caffeine. This addiction is far more common. Most people reading this article will be sufferers. 

We’re addicted to our phones. Countless articles have been written that have covered the subject flippantly, however, the problem is genuine. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is characterised by an inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. How many people have an inability to consistently abstain from their phone; can’t recognise how much time they spend swiping and scrolling on their screen; or even crave various apps on a regular basis?

The statistics are damning. According to a study by Ofcom, 78% of people say they couldn’t live without their smartphone, with the average person checking their phone once every 12 minutes. What’s more worrying is the sentiment towards phones and technology. Two-thirds (67%) of 18- to 34-year-olds say they feel the need to take a break from technology however, this age group are also the least likely to be able to alter their behaviour. Young people want to change but they can’t. 

The frustration towards technology is beginning to become a tangible movement. Neo-luddism is the philosophy that opposes modern technology and has started to attract supporters. The anti-technology stance has seen a number of recent, successful innovations. You Had To Be There is a series of no-phone parties that have been a hit in the US. Yondr creates secure, neoprene pouches to help organisers keep people off their phones at their events, with the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Alicia Keys and Chris Rock requesting them at their shows. Bashful is an app that locks people out of their smartphone at allocated times, allowing them to focus on more productive, meaningful activities in the real world. It’s sad that it’s come to this, but it makes sense. People value the benefits of technology such as increased connectedness, but don’t want to be slaves to it. With technology companies genuinely designing their products to be addictive, the arms race that followed was inevitable.

With a large section of society frustrated by their own subservience to tech, the opportunity for brands is obvious. So many have followed the crowd, jumping on the bandwagon of creating an online presence without questioning whether they need to. In April, Wetherspoons shut down its social media accounts, directing its customers towards its website and pubs. The pub chain recognised it was wasting money on creating digital touchpoints for its customers. In the spirit of brand experience innovation, they realised it’s their product, that pubs, that are the only touchpoints that mattered. Brands that have a natural real-world frontline where customers interact with them would do better to invest more in improving this human experience than building artificial digital channels.

Brands can still promote the benefits of technology that customers value. “Bringing people together” is a concept a pasta sauce brand has as much right to talk about as a swanky tech start-up. It would be fantastic to see a brand going a step further: taking an anti-tech stance and being the organisation that pledges to free people from their tech addiction, something that many in society want but are unable to do. Investing in tangible, campaigns in the real world that bring people together while utilising innovations such as Yondr would be the obvious place to start.

Neo-luddism is here to stay. There’s no doubt that recent technological advancements have had an immeasurably positive impact on human progress, but they have come at a cost. The brand that backs the neo-luddites whilst promoting technology’s values of connectedness could have a major strategic advantage over the coming years.

Vaughan Edmonds is a Planner at global experiential marketing agency, Sense UK

This article first appeared in prestigious marketing channel WARC.


Whether it be Festivals, Trade Shows, PR Stunts, Installations or Pop Ups to name a few, we believe brand experiences are one of the most powerful forms of marketing to impact consumer perception and attitude towards a brand. They can create real behaviour change when born out of a deep consumer insight allied to a compelling idea. And it’s these fundamentals we look to get right whatever the live, virtual or hybrid task in hand.


Sampling is all too often perceived as an unsophisticated, somewhat ‘blunt’ marketing tool. Over the last 16 years Sense has pioneered a set of strategic principles which underpin our unique approach to sampling and which are highly measurable from both an ROI and consumer behaviour change perspective. We will happily guide brands through the myriad of sampling channels and products available so whether it’s mass face to face sampling, in offices, digitally, at home or just a strategic framework that you are after, we can provide a blend of tactics to fulfil both brand and sales objectives.


With many clients now focused on activating in channels more closely associated with a sale, our heavyweight retail experience closes the loop on a typical shopper journey by encompassing the moment of truth in store. Be it prize promotions, shopper toolkits, key visual creation, path-to-purchase communications, category strategy, B2B campaigns or Amazon optimisation, our goal is to create forward-thinking retail experiences that deliver demonstrable brand value. We aim to make ‘retail fail’ a thing of the past for ambitious brands looking to thrive is an ever-competitive landscape and believe our streamlined team is perfectly placed to do this.


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