In the two short years since moving to Portland, I didn’t think Josh and I would be once again facing a huge life change; but here we are. Three years ago my father passed away suddenly, something I am only recently able to talk about with someone outside of my immediate circle. I don’t think you can ever really prepare for something like this and thankfully I was surrounded by loving family and incredible friends. While in the thick of grief someone shared a little advise, well many people shared advise, take some time to adjust and wait a year before making any dramatic life changes. My mother has faithfully stuck to this and has gone into each new chapter with a sure heart; we didn’t make it a year. Within six months we had made the decision to leave the company we’d been with for close to 10 years, saying goodbye the unique lifestyle we had know for most of our marriage. I am not sure what shocked our families more; that we were leaving the road, that we would no longer be working together or that we were moving across the county to Portland. We have made a home here; I found my dream job, Josh was working for friends of ours and we purchased our house.
Today we are faced with another set a changes, one by choice and one by force. Josh made the decision to pursue a new career that will allow him to be home every night and spend more time with Pippi and me….and his garden. This will be the first time he has worked in an office; from his early days of teaching, then onto field marketing and working as a full time truck driver, he has not known the perils of cubical life. As for me, upon moving I stayed in the live event industry and as you can image with our country in quarantine mode all live events are canceled. I am one of many who has lost their job due to these measures. So now I must decide am I also ready for a change, do I leave my beloved event world? How can anything compete with the pace and excitement of live events? Would I even fit somewhere else, working in these crazy circumstances breeds a certain personality, am I too much of an oddball to do anything else?
Taken my first week, love those little buses!
Now I sit down to work through resume updates and household budgets; while also trying to hold up my compatriots also effected. Change is good right?
One of the best parts about summer when you work in the experiential marketing field is the prospect of taking out new tours. So many programs launch as temperatures rise and the opportunity to be a part of events that draw people out comes. When looking at new programs there are a thousand things to learn about the equipment and how the actual shows will run. Something that is hard for new people to the industry, at least those who travel with the tours is that you also have to “live the brand”. The moment you step near that marketing vehicle you represent that brand; fueling, stopping at a rest area, even pulling into a hotel. You, as the road team you are part of the visible element for your client. This should be reflected not just in how you act but also how you present yourself.
Guests to a mobile experiential program don’t know and aren’t going to be understanding that you are “just the driver” or don’t work for the brand on display. It is crucial that you match the image clients to reinforce their message. One of the programs we currently work with is a high-end firm hosting training seminars. It’s key that anyone coming in sees us as a person they can engage with, that we are supposed to be there.
On the other hand we serve two roles when in the field. when setting up the truck or moving down the road we also represent our employer. You never know when a random contact could turn into a long term program. We are careful to look professional even when setting up an exhibit. Years ago we met a gentleman while setting up a trailer in Washington DC, that brief contact put my firm on his radar and a few years later he was a driving force to put a tour on the road. What he saw of us ensured that we would be the right choice to representing that brand on a national scale.
Living the brand goes deeper than that, it takes very little effort to be knowledgeable about the industry your client operates in. It’s as easy as taking a gander of PR Newswire a couple of times a week just to see what is going on with a client’s customers and their competition. This can help you talk the talk as you walk the walk.
During dinner a few weeks back we started to both bring up examples of times we have broken the rules. Looking back at our early days in promotional marketing, there were many times we joined crews of brand ambassadors handing out fliers and giveaways. Rarely did we have a permit to be there. To be frank it was a highly unauthorized promotion that led us down the path where we found MRA and started the adventures in marketing tours.
We drive the wrong way down roads, illegally park, take up handicap spaces, put up signs without permission. How often do you send out event staff as a field team to drive in traffic? On a recent call with city planners office some strange questions started coming up. About half-way thought the process I realized that she had at one time worked with a different firm who widely misrepresented their event and left the city with damage and cleanup. She wasn’t trying to get more permit funds from me but instead to make her local police and park employees aware. Maybe too often we view people in those positions as an obstacle versus a partner.
We recently had the opportunity to help out with some planning on tour run by our employer but outside of our client portfolio. They needed help to secure a year’s worth of tour stops in three weeks. This was a great opportunity to put forth a concentrated effort treat the contacts at locations like they were a preferred vendor, a partner. By expressed our excitement to be in the community and to use their facility. It was a striking difference, out of the entire list only one location said no. We were able to give the client exactly what they asked for. It has been a great opportunity to grow professionally from this and noticed immediately how differently it felt to work some of other vendors.
We wear a number of different hats within the company and it will be a long time before again seeing anyone as a road block versus a partner again.
We often make references to “Living the Brand”, which covers not just how you present yourself but also how you approach working on a new project. To create and maintain dynamic programing you will want to “know the brand” throughly and also have some insight into the industry. While we did extensive research about our German Headquartered client’s unique attributes, it was also essential to understand their American competitors. Had we developed the program with a narrow view there would definitely have been small elements we would missed that participants expect.
It is rare that you will be given the opportunity to reach new consumers who have zero exposure to your client’s segment. Whether they know your brand already, or at least some part of it, there are going to be expectations. Understanding how the competition approaches their marketing and programing allows you to not miss out on any triggers. But how do you find this info? The best place I have found to not only gather industry info but also what those top companies are doing is via a website called PR Newswire. This is a clearing house for organizations, PR Reps, and marketing firms to share press releases. There are also a number of research and statistical groups that contribute.
For example my firm has partnered with Target in the past to showcase products from specific brands via a “sampling” truck. While Target is a unique brand with some very distinct attributes it was necessary to also merge that with special features of the other brands. Not only was it key to see what the other product lines in the segment were doing that summer but what sampling events had been done at the specific location the new program planned to visit. Guests don’t get the full effect of a program if they don’t understand what is going on or how they are supposed to participate. By doing a little research we could shape the experience in a way that consumers would be excited to enter and hopefully come out with a full enriched impression.
With a jumping off point it’s easy to get started and also figure out what questions you should be asking. Checking this site or one like it should become a habit, knowing what is going on around your client puts you in the position to give them solutions before there is a problem. Keeping a program fresh sets you apart as a vendor, keeping the client happy.