Archive for TRDOM

Areas of Agreement

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Unity and alignment are powerful forces, and when they can be harnessed they can drive great accomplishment.

I think about a personal collection I am very proud of, a set of posters from the Second World War, posters made by, in part, my grandfather who was the creative lead of the Sheldon-Claire Agency at that time. They were made to encourage participation in the war effort, and each instills an emotional connection, elicits a personal commitment, and builds energy to achieve the goals of the times.

We are not at war, and the stakes are not as high.

Yet, despite being 70 years old and related to a heavy topic, the posters used techniques similar to what we use today in modern marketing. For instance, they are short and sharable (almost tweet-able), use engaging story-telling methods, and each has compelling imagery to resonate with the audience.

WP_20140703_14_12_42_Raw (3)One series is entirely devoted to “This is America…Keep It Free.” These purposeful images and messages created a vision of what was at stake, clearly defining the problem and how to solve it.








WP_20140703_14_11_56_Raw (2)Another “The American Way Works” reminded the reader of what it was that made America unique.









WP_20140703_14_12_04_Raw (2)Another, with a more direct call to action, showed the impact and significance of the reader’s work as they “Produce for Victory”.









Most important, all focus around “areas of agreement” that everyone – from labor to management, men and women, different ages, races, and backgrounds – could identify and agree with. This was very intentional; developed to make everyone feel part of the effort; to represent the collective that America is; and start from an undeniable place of unquestioned agreement.

A common ground was important then, and it is important today. As any team works to deliver a multi-faceted, multi-objective, and multi-stakeholder experience, there will be times where not all agree on all aspects of the undertaking. But there will always be “areas of agreement” from which they can work.

Look for, develop, and start from these “areas of agreement”. It is from these that conversation, consensus, and cooperation can grow; that alignment can be realized; and impactful experience marketing achieved.

The P’s of Event Marketing

Event teams can adopt a classic marketing model to focus efforts and achieve their objectives.

In early 2013, Harvard Business Review posted an article titled, “Rethinking the Four P’s” suggesting that the classic marketing mix model1 (product, place, price, and promotion) should be retooled to better address the needs of B2B marketers. The article was based on a five-year study of more than 500 B2B marketers worldwide, and suggested a model that explicitly emphasized more “current” commodities such as solutions and value.

4p_smallThe “Four P’s” durability over time is arguably due not to its rigidity, but to its flexibility. It often expands to six or more P’s, folding in such concepts as people, packaging, positioning, process, performance…the list goes on.

The “P’s of Event Marketing” defines parameters that can be used to ensure that all aspects of event strategy, experience design, and execution support core marketing objectives and are aligned with broader marketing strategies.

The P’s of Event Marketing include the following elements: Place, Purpose, Pride, and Promotion. At a glance, these may seem more similar to the original Four P’s of Marketing than they actually are.

Sense of Place –  sense of place for an event marketer is not about geography or venue. It’s about “owning” the space as if it was yours, your office or your “home”. When the audience arrives do they get the feeling that this is your place or just a venue you rented that you will be leaving soon? Does it feel like an executive visitor center, your ideal game room, your best research facility, or lobby to your global headquarters? Is it unique, organized, and special? It should be.

In designing a live event, you need to craft a place for experiences, conversation, information sharing, influence, and dialog that is worth the time your audience will carve out to participate. This may sound slightly esoteric, but it just might be the “secret sauce” that makes live events such an effective and desired component of the marketing mix.

The objective is to ensure that the question “Where am I?” is answered firmly with “at ____”, not just with “at a _____ Event”, or worse “a conference”.

A Clear Purpose – A sense of purpose, not generically but with regard to serving defined audience segments, is an important criteria for attracting attendees and delivering an experience that resonates. It is critical to understand Purpose in terms of what strategic marketing initiative an event needs to support (lead generation, product awareness, perception change, revenue generation, community.)

It is equally important to design the experience with a sense of purpose tailored to each audience member, with the increased levels of personalization and participation that event audiences have come to expect.

Purpose can – and should – change over the course of the event – from initial awareness to considering a purchase; from arriving to learning to departing – so the purpose may need to change over time as well. Different messages entering and leaving, on day one to day last.


pridePride – Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising, and nothing says “You don’t need to care” more than saying “I don’t care.” The pride and passion of the host needs to shine from every corner and mountain top. How the temp staff greets the audience, how the cables are laid and how clean the venue is, how fast the social media comments are responded to. Pride is contagious, as is the lack of it, and as events are one of the most engaging live experiences the audience may have with a Brand, they need to feel the pride.


Cross Promotion – Traditional B2B marketing has evolved to a more Person-to-Person approach, a truism has emerged – inside every commercial business or technical decision maker is a consumer. Further, consumers are often fans of the products they buy, a state of engagement those who market to commercial buyers should look to achieve.

The art is in the mix of primary and secondary message, ensuring that the reasons the audience is participating are meet, and adding some unexpected, relevant cross promotions.


Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Global Events and Production Studios team.

The Secret Sauce – Fans


Who will stand in line for hours to buy the latest device or see opening night; invest their time and money to be part of the experience; or support what they believe in to boundless levels?

A fan will.

Sport teams, entertainers, and even politicians have known the power of fans for years – they bring a level of engagement, loyalty, and advocacy that transcends that of a simple supporter, customer, or attendee. They bring a sense of community and excitement that can be contagious. Fans embody the best of the “after I buy” side of consideration. This is why corporations sponsor stadiums, events, and products; why consumer marketers celebrate fans and the role of loyalty programs such as frequent flyers and fan clubs.

Experience Marketing” highlights the experience that a loyal customer or fan has. But there is room in the Event and Sampling areas of Experiential Marketing to incorporate fans as well.


BMW developed an “Owners’ Lounge” on the second level of their booth at several Auto Shows. Presenting your BMW car key gave you access to the second story, and literally the opportunity to “look down” on all the other car brands at the show. Seemingly at odds with the traditional objective of a tradeshow booth (leads and awareness/interest building) they segmented the owners from the prospects, allowing for separate but equally relevant experiences while also celebrating the owners in a way that inspired prospects to join their ranks. They also moved customers to fans by recognizing and celebrating them.

Far too often the loyalty and advocacy side of the sales continuum is forsaken during prospecting and awareness activities. Making fans a central part of your audience, content, and experience planning can change your perspective for the better. Successful Fan Strategies should include:

  • Identifying your Fans – Everyone has fans. Some maybe more obvious than others, but even the driest of products and services have a segment of buyers/users who are more avid than others. If you truly don’t, consider shutting your doors or (better yet) developing your fan base.
  • Empower them – Who better to amplify your messages than your fans? They can share content, access, and unique experiences.
  • Incorporating them – Include them in content and event activities as more than case studies and endorsements. Let them host their own tracks, content, and online channels. They are likely doing it anyway.
  • Engage with them – Take lessons from musicians who literally bring fans on stage to perform or simply dance. Let them be more than a reference, let them be excited and exciting!
  • Celebrate them – Via social media, recognition programs, and experience marketing activities.

As with all experiential marketing, the objective of the program needs to remain clear – is the event the business; or should it drive the business of the host organization? If the event is being used to drive the business of the host, then fans of the host are more important than fans of the event.  They are BMW fans, not fans of the auto show. A User’s Group or Owner’s Lounge celebrates loyalty to the business, whereas Alumni Lounges and Badges celebrate loyalty to the event.


Presentation at CEMA Summit 2013 | “Be a Fool – Innovate”

In July of 2013 I had the honor to present “Be a Fool – Innovate” at the CEMA Summit 2013. That presentation is below.



Be a Fool – Innovate


It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Everything changes and nothing remains still… you cannot step twice into the same stream.



These two perspectives on change paint a very accurate picture of the challenges faced daily by experience marketers and event producers. Change is difficult, and yet it is constant.

We see it all the time in the simplest of things. The final version of a deck, an idea, or a business plan is released after weeks of work, only to be revised the next day. This is not the result of the plan being incomplete or the developer incompetent, but of the constant state of change we live in.

For annual events and repeating experiences, the constant state of change is a challenging force on both maintaining legacy expectations and determining when to introduce new concepts and experiences.

For instance, “bright shiny objects” come and go. They either incorporate themselves into the “norm” of events, or burn out and fade away. Sustainability, for example, has become a normal and included part of most programs. Audience Response Systems (once the technology that would change the world) not so much.

Surviving or not, rarely is an emerging trend so unique that over time it continues to require the same separation and specialty that it enjoyed in its early days.

Currently “virtual” events and social media are such items – connecting to, but not fully integrating with, the in-person experience and living for the moment of the event rather than always on in full support of the core objectives.

Often target audiences are audiences all the time while they are attendees for only a short time. They visit the company web site regularly, so why have a separate site just for the event? They come to your primary social media channels, so why additional channels to monitor just for the event?

The degree to which measurement is effected by change is in direct correlation to the amount of time that has passed. This is one reason comparing results of a program to the prior year is far less accurate than comparing them to a pre-event base line. It is hard (at best) to isolate the impact of other influences and changes on the audience over the past year. It is much easier to understand the impact over the few days of the experience.


It is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is but the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our business people, our every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.

Isaac Asimov


So the weight of planning should be more firmly on the front foot than the back. History and legacy, while important and at times more comfortable, can set boundaries and barriers that at best prevent full response to a current reality, and at worst anchor the experience in the past.

No, this is not easy.

There is a delicate balance and finesse required to introduce new ideas while maintaining and learning from history.

Placing priority on

  • clear objectives rather than lessons learned,
  • experience design rather than improving tactics,
  • the audience’s needs rather than the hosts,

will all point in the right direction.

By placing the objective, experience, and audience first, the question moves from “what to do” to “how to get it done”. Answer the question “what relevant problem am I solving?” This is where the magic occurs and obstacles become opportunities.This is the job of the experience “janitor” or event caretaker.


Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.

Daniel Burnham


In May of 1893 – a short 22 years after the great Chicago fire destroyed much of the city, the Chicago World’s Fair opened and ran for 6 months. It was anything but a small plan.

CWFAmong its amazing accomplishments was its 25 million visitors, at a time when the population of the US was only 100 million. Mr. Burnham had envisioned a city of all white buildings lit with – at the time – an uncommon sight, outdoor lighting.

To complete in time what was to become known as the White City, he needed to remove the obstacle that painting the roughly 100 buildings presented. The traditional method of brushes and buckets weren’t fast enough, so rather than change the experience and the design, he challenged his crews to develop something new.

And they did. The result was spray painting. This new technology directly allowed the vision to be realized and changed the world at the same time.


82 years later survival drove another world changing innovation.

kissThe rock band KISS, whose live performances drew thousands of avid fans, was unable to replicate their magic in the studio. Yet albums were needed to reach more fans. They just weren’t as exciting in the studio as on stage.

So on May 16, 1975 12,000 fans gathered at Cobo Hall in Detroit to see KISS in concert. The performance was recorded live for an album called “Alive!”

At that time, live recordings were considered an “illegitimate” method of producing an album and usually only done to fulfill record contracts. “Alive!” went on to sell 9,000,000 copies making it KISS’s number one album of all times, and rocketing the band to worldwide fame and fortune.

To many, the album’s ability to capture the concert and live performance experience, as well as the music and words, was what made it so magical.


The best way to predict your future is to create it!

Abraham Lincoln

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay


Even when the solution appears as obvious as spray painting was for Daniel Burnham, or a live album was for KISS, it can still be hard to introduce something new, much less get it accepted.

New technologies are a bit easier, as they tend to bring their own “magic” with them. The first moving pictures show and the first Ferris Wheel both débuted at the Chicago World’s Fair and were the bright shiny objects of their time, quickly drawing audiences and interest.

It’s important to remember that in both cases there was an objective, experience, or audience at the core of the innovation.

muybridgehorseThe first moving pictures taken by Eadweard Muybridge in 1872 were to resolve a popular debate of the day – Leland Stanford (governor of CA and founder of Stanford University) wanted to determine whether all four feet of a horse were ever off the ground at the same time while trotting. Muybridge’s moving images proved they were.

ferrisGeorge Ferris built the original Ferris Wheel, as the centerpiece of the Chicago World’s Fair to rival the experience and attraction of the 1889 Paris Exposition’s Eiffel Tower; the Ferris Wheel was the Fair’s largest attraction and lives to this day.


New ideas are much harder to introduce.

Machiavelli goes on to say:


Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

Niccolò Machiavelli


The vested interests of “those who have done well under the old conditions” will run deep and strong. They can appear overwhelming and impossible and will take familiar forms.


The first is the Laws of Science. The “it can’t be done.”

This may appear related more to technology than ideas, but it is really an attempt to reject an idea using an often unfounded scientific argument. Yet when coming from the mouth of authority, it can be difficult to challenge.

Thomas Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’theory of evolution, and the person to coin the term agnostic, said “Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.”

Ask Darwin, da Vinci, Galileo, Kiss, and others who brought new ideas to bear. Even Machiavelli’s book The Prince was banned by the Catholic Church and placed on the list of prohibited books.


The second way “those who have done well under the old conditions” will resist is the Laws of Legacy. The “it has never been done before.” This is often the most dangerous law, as legacy is the greatest weight on innovation.

As deciding not to decide is a decision, given that the world is constantly changing, legacy equates to “going backwards” while standing still.

John Locke said, “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”


The final way “those who have done well under the old conditions” will resist is the Laws of Society. The “it isn’t allowed.” These often appear as an attempt to stop an idea when other barriers have failed. They can be “laws”, or mandates, policies, etc.

For example, recently The New York State Automobile Dealers Association pressed for the New York legislature to pass a law preventing the sale of automobiles directly from the manufacture. All cars would have to be sold via a dealership.

As Tesla is the only direct to consumer car company of significance at this time, this was labelled the “Anti-Tesla” Bill. This was really less about Tesla and the idea of electric cars, and more about the idea of direct sales. The bill failed and Tesla continues to move forward with this new and disruptive idea.

Resistance will not always come easy to recognize, or in this order. Nor is answering each a requirement to innovation.


Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.

Samuel Johnson



What was true for Daniel Burnham in 1893 and KISS in 1975 is still true today – the best innovations meet a need.

Their value comes not from itself, but from the objectives it serves, experiences it improves, resolves, or addresses and the audience needs it fulfills.

These were not solutions looking for a challenge (pushing a string), they were solutions to specific challenges (pulling a string).

They are easier to accept because they were not mandated and they served to inspire others.

A detailed planning review (Audience, Objectives, Message, Environment, Media, Measurement), and an effective marketing/communications plan (TRDOM) should enjoy the respect of being applied to each experience no matter how often we hear “we know our audience”, “we have always done that”, or “we don’t have the time.”


What challenges does your experience marketing face?

  • Budget predictability: consider trigger budgets and capacity events
  • Attracting audiences: again, consider capacity events, custom pricing packages, and online content
  • Proving business value: conduct pre and post event surveys focused on objectives and change and develop closer links to core business online assets including web sites and social channels
  • Measuring business impact: implement on site, actionable diagnostics instead of relying on post survey questions.


The vast majority of human beings dislike and even dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and madmen.

Aldous Huxley – Author Brave New World




Marketing is…

…one half of an unfinished symphony.

Whether marketing communications, product/solution marketing, experience marketing, brand, advertising, demand generations, social media, or anything else, the balance of the melody is “sales”.

“Sales” is in quotes because this word is also incomplete when it stands on its own.

“Sales and marketing” is a “complete sentence” containing an objective and a verb (you decide which is which – it works either way). The complete story requires a need (organic and/or generated), a solution (functional and/or emotional and/or aspirational), and a method of connecting these two.

Are the Apple stores (drop a dollar in the “Apple is over used as a case study” jar) “sales” or “marketing”? Yes, they are. When you attend a tradeshow, are you being sold to or marketed to? Is the special offer via an email sales or marketing?

The classic sales continuum starts with “awareness” and journeys to “advocacy”. Each is touched by marketing and sales activities. Some of the steps have been considered more “marketing” (awareness, interest, consideration, loyalty, advocacy) and others more sales (preference, purchase). But this may not hold as true today as in the past (if it ever really did).

The distinction may best be considered as in the mind of the person being “marketed” or “sold” to. Some look to avoid the sales process, investing time researching and learning on their own, while some jump happily into the sales experience as soon as they decide (on their own or via external influence) they indeed have a need to fill.

The stereotype is that the car buying experience is to be avoided; yet many flock to the Apple store (another dollar) for training and workshops and “just looking around” that often result in the purchase of new software or accessories.

Some are more motivated by the functional differences of the product or the price; some want an account exec or sales associate to work with them through the process. They want to be “sold” to.

Others are more attracted to the story, the message, the meaning, they may be quick to advocate and/or associate themselves with the solution. (“I’m a Cadillac guy”)

So if the distinction is in the eye of the recipient, so is the definition.

At best, sales or marketing is the emotional, functional, and aspirational experience that offers solution to “my need where, when, and how I want it.”

At worst, it is a manipulative interruption that upsets and annoys.

When are sales/marketing successful? When they are:

  • Targeted | Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant | How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires? Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Differentiating | How are you different from other solutions, alternatives? What makes you stand out?
  • Orchestrated | Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured | How do you know you are reaching your objective?

Just like music, a limited number of notes (7 in music, a few more in sales and marketing) can be combined into endless songs, both good and bad.

Different as a Differentiator | The Value of Differentiating

Can you increase the value of something simply by inventing a story about it?

Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker set out to answer this question with a simple experiment. They purchased roughly 200 items from thrift stores at an average cost of $1.25, invented stories about each, and sold them on eBay for nearly $8,000 – a 30x plus increase.

The results are published in Significant Objects (available on Amazon) and show the power of stories to perception and value.

“Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively.” — Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker

The addition of a story is certainly one important aspect of the changed value, but the objects took on another change that likely contributed to the value shift as well.

Each item became special and exclusive by being part of the experiment. Instead of buying a simple wooden apple core (originally $1 from the thrift show), it is now “Object 45 of 50 – Significant Objects v3” and sells for $102.50. It is different from all other copies of that wooden apple core.

While not fully exclusive, a different Apple, the one that makes computers, software, and consumer items, offers very limited (and therefore close to exclusive) access to its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Tickets to this event are limited to a few thousand, despite demand likely in the tens of thousands, and tend to sell out in a couple of hours. Yes, hours.

Simply attending the events makes you exclusive, increasing the value. When was the last event you produced an event that sold out in two hours? Often the industry leans towards “early bird” pricing to attract ticket buyers – not very exclusive for the attendee.

Many Kickstarter (@kickstarter) projects offer exclusive Limited Edition rewards to attract early supporters with special colors, versions, or experiences. These differentiate higher levels or earlier support with more exclusivity.

Items do not need to be exclusive or limited to increase in value; simply being different can be enough. Differentiation is an important element of successful marketing regardless of availability (exclusivity). In the Significant Objects collection there is a brass boot and porcelain shoe, number 3 and 4 in the top 10. While similar, each has a different story making it stand out from the others.

Several years ago JavaOne (@JavaOneConf) experimented with higher-priced packages that offered reserved seating and name badges with a special indication. Access to content was the same and anyone could buy the package at any time, yet a surprising number of these “special” packages sold. Attendees were looking to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

NetSuite (@netsuite), at their 2012 SuiteWorld event, updated the “attendee ribbon” concept with a series of buttons allowing the attendees to self identify, differentiate, and identify others in a creative and expressive way.

Why does different and exclusive matter? Because being or having something special makes you feel special. In some cases, folks are willing to pay (extra) for it.

How does your experience marketing make the audience feel special? What are they getting that makes them feel exclusive or different from the crowd?


Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.