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Experiential Marketing 2.0 - Shaping the Agency of the future Featured

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Experiential Marketing 2.0 - Shaping the Agency of the future

There is something strange going on in the world of communication. There appears to be a belief that, in an increasingly competitive and ‘over-communicated’ world, to communicate better you simply increase the volume and say it more often - and on a larger scale. But is bludgeoning the consumer really an effective way to go? Isn’t the very essence of effective communication rooted in one’s ability to really cut through and connect the brand’s proposition to the needs of the consumer - in a compelling and creative way?

There was a time when the communication component of the marketing mix was relatively simple: generate AWARENESS; create INTEREST; stimulate DESIRE; and, trigger ACTION. The AIDA mnemonic was the marketer’s communication model which integrated seamlessly with the proverbial 4 ‘Ps’ of marketing. Within this model, each part of the agency world played a unique role: Ad Agencies were, and remain, brilliant at generating awareness and stimulating desire; PR companies added to the mix creating interest through choreographed editorial and generating news; and, activation agencies worked tirelessly with the retail trade in the ‘below-the-line’ space to trigger action.

But all that changed with the onset of the digital revolution, the impact of which is immeasurably greater. Undoubtedly it will be even more profound than the industrial revolution on the way that business is conducted.

Despite a history that can be traced back to the medieval guilds, the role of brands and branding within the business environment is essentially a 20th century phenomenon. Evolving out of a ‘product-driven’ era, the need to differentiate products to increase competitiveness, gave rise to the ‘science of brand positioning’; the birth of the value proposition; and the rise of advertising and other forms of communication (and agencies). This so that they might reach out to consumers to achieve the winning AIDA formula.

During the latter half of the 20th century, brands grew in significance to become icons and marques which began to define the user as much as they defined themselves. These were the halcyon days of iconic advertising which helped shape and position these brands.

The 1980s could well be defined as  the first  ‘Era of Hedonism’ as the ‘Baby Boomers’ rose to the top of the food chain in terms of disposable income and status, and they wanted to tell the world who and what they were about. The crash of 1987, following on from Black Monday on 19th October 1987, ushered in an ‘Era of Pragmatism’ which ran into the 1990s. But this era was defined by a strong underpinning of ‘globalisation’ following the tumultuous events of 1989 with the fall of Communism (as epitomised by the destruction of the Berlin Wall).


American brands and the American style of marketing began to dominate as the world was introduced to the power of Global Brands.

The arrival of the ‘Digital Era’, characterised by platforms such as Google and Facebook and Apple’s tools and applications, caused a complete re-evaluation of the marketing landscape and the marketing tool-box, as one-way communication could now be replaced by two-way dialogue. The mass consumer was being turned into a potent combination of ‘empowered individuals’ and ‘concerned and committed communities’.

Overlapping with the birth of the Digital Age was the growth of ‘experiential marketing’ as a kind of hybrid of ‘below-the-line activations and event marketing – a potentially potent mix with consumer involvement at the centre, but with its impact limited to the number of participants at the event or activation.

The digital revolution changed all this overnight, as it both enabled and encouraged the participants to capture and share such brand experiences, creating viral waves of interest which could move around the country, indeed around the world, as fast as any piece of breaking news. The digital revolution gave experiential marketing the rocket booster to become a global force and to effectively redefine the communications landscape by being able to address the whole AIDA process from a brand relationship perspective. Perhaps, given the dynamically changing landscape, it is not surprising that so many of the World’s most successful and desirable brands, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Coca Cola,  are built on a foundation of strong two-way relationship, increasingly nurtured through experiential marketing.

If technology became the enabling, liberating force, it took an unusual combination of the realisation of changing demographics and economic pressure, to cause marketers to reassess their approach to brand building and communication. The tectonic shift in the global economic landscape in favour of the dynamic growth of the ‘emerging markets’ (while the traditional ‘westernised’ markets stalled) brought marketing focus back onto the importance of the youth and young adult market, the very people one could reach most effectively via the digitally enabled, exploding and continually evolving ‘social network’.

On top of this, the aftermath of the 2008 global economic recession effectively slashed marketing budgets and placed increased emphasis on marketing delivering results. In such turbulent times the efficacy of traditional forms of communication is being continually challenged, creating the gap for increased experiential marketing; but this also requires a step-change. It has to be experiential marketing 2.0 for the ‘what-if’ world of the 21st Century that can deliver on awareness right through to action!

Today’s savvy, and often cynical, consumer wants more. They want to know how the brand behaves (and is seen to behave), how the brand engages with and around consumers, and how the brand engages throughout the total value chain. It’s no longer sufficient for Brands to be of iconic status. Winning brands need to be involved in meaningful relationships with their consumers and their communities. In this situation it is questionable as to whether a traditional agency perspective equips one with the holistic thinking required to deliver ‘experiential marketing 2.0’.

The agency of the 21st century will need to be able to live the brand with the marketer and with the consumer through a succession of user-based, designed, participative activations that will be actively and voluntarily shared throughout the social network - gaining increasing momentum as it travels. It is contended that the agencies who understand that communication needs to be continually re-invented through experiential marketing 2.0, will set the benchmarks and set the pace.
The winning agencies will understand that the brand experience is far more powerful and sustainable than the brand’s image and that it should: inspire and encourage sharing; create a community of interest; create content that generates conversation; leverage technological breakthroughs; and, adopt and create new marketing tools.

Brands need to be experienced in all relevant places along the total value chain and that means that the experiential agency needs to be able to excel in handling all manner of platforms, be they in media, new media, shopping areas, virtual and physical communities, internally (staff/distributors/agents/franchisees), and launches.
Over the years, advertising and public relations agencies have received more than their fair share of criticism, notably when the debate inevitably shifts to the issue of effectiveness compared to great, award winning ideas. We need to move beyond what really is a non-discussion, because all ideas should be both great and effective!  The conversation needs to shift to what is great communication. It’s our contention that great communication will always be built upon great ideas that not only have the capability to break through the clutter, but to actually build a relationship between the brand and the consumer. Any agency that can grasp the nuances of and deliver experiential marketing 2.0 is best positioned to build and nurture the winning brands of the 21st century.

Koo Govender is the VWV Group’s first female CEO in its 30-year history. Formerly the Corporate Marketing and Communications Director at M-Net, Govender took over the reins at VWV Group in September 2013.


Koo’s combination of business and marketing acumen coupled with her experience with high profile events and stakeholder relationship management is unrivalled. At a time when VWV Group expands into new markets and launches new platforms like those offered by VWV Massive - the division that uses music and entertainment properties and platforms to achieve client brand objectives - she brings a unique perspective and has all the right credentials to lead a strong organisation like VWV Group.


Govender, who has worked at the MultiChoice Group for 22 years, developed a real sensitivity to different markets during her tenure, and has an unqualified depth of understanding when it comes to holisitic marketing and consumer market segmentation.


Govender is a passionate and proven marketer with an outstanding record of accomplishment. During her career she has won various Loeries and Promax Awards for on-air promos for the Group and was the first Chairwoman of Promax SA, the world’s premier body for promotion and marketing professionals working in electronic and broadcasting media. She has been a semi-finalist for the Most Influential Woman in 2010: Media category – CEO Magazine; Finalist for 2012 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards – CEO Magazine; and is a regular judge for awards likes the Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year and CEO Magazine Women of the Year.


A spiritual person, Govender’s life is directed by her philosophy that “life is not only about success but about significance and living your true potential”. Married and a mother of two, she has travelled extensively, has performed many motivational and guest speaker engagements on Women Empowerment and Mentorship, is a golf enthusiast and enjoys interior decorating.

Website: www.vwv.com

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