Of Course We Fixed It

It’s not every day that one of us has to crawl under a counter to work on plumbing but believe it when we say there is no typical day on a marketing tour!  At a recent event we had a little tiny leak one a fixed coolerJ.  Had that drain failed during a show we would have quickly found a wet floor and can unhappy client.   Lucky for Team Van Gelder, Josh has the skills and patients to keep on top of all the moving parts.

Neither of us are strangers to a toolkit.  Abigail’s father was an electrician and plumber like many of his ilk the last thing he wanted to do when he got home after long days was to have to fix something.  Thankfully he taught his kids more than the basics and it’s that comfort that has made a big difference of tours, just a few weeks ago she rewired some speakers to custom fit on a new build.  As for Josh’s hand skills he’s just that, handy.  His love of learning to build things started in the Boy Scouts and has never ceased.  When still teaching he spent a summer off as a handyman.  Part of the lure of marking tours is the need for diligence in maintenance and there are always new problems to work through.

Living The Brand 

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.

Scofflawery in Field Marketing

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.

The Finish Line


For the last three years I have been taking courses from Southern New Hampshire University in pursuit of a Masters Degree in Marketing. While this probably should have been motivation to blog more, I found that there would be weeks pass by without the desire to share. Now there are certainly people who got through programs like mine with a heavier work and personal load I don’t feel the need to compare myself with others. I didn’t go down this path to find a new job or get a raise, nope I just wanted this. More than 10 years ago I graduates from Western Illinois University with a B.A. in Communications, yup I have a degree in talking. While I love my alma mater by no stretch of the imagination did I put in much effort, C’s get degrees.


So this time it meant more, I was still paying for my undergrad student loans but I am happy in my career. However there was just something missing, while I am good at my job I knew I could be better. Josh and I had discussed years ago that to be a more dynamic team one of us needed to have an advanced degree, one round of ro-sham-bo later and it was on me. I took some time to find that right program for me. I work full-time and a very unusual job at that, my hours are anything but 9-5. I needed a place that would let me do it at my own pace and possibly take time off, there are times when we launch a new program that there is little time for anything but work and sleep. This is how I found SNHU, I did call after seeing commercials but the conversations with my admissions advisor sealed the deal, they would be my university.


It’s been three years and MANY late nights cramming, you would think that after all this time I would not put things off. All the work and time did earn me a degree but that’s really what I see as secondary. There are so many projects and papers I worked on that opened my eyes to new avenues and ideas. Josh was a huge part of my progress, discussing ideas and pursuing things with me. We would spend hours talking about brands and different marketing techniques. We will never see peanut butter the same. It inspired in both of us a passion to do more in experiential marketing. Now we have debates about what a program could be doing, how we can make something better, or how we could us an idea in one the existing campaigns (you can bet we are looking at adding a Poke-element to all programs). I know that I look at every aspect of work differently now.

I also could not have done without all the people in my network. I can’t thank my family, friends, and co-workers for fielding all the random calls and emails. More than one time a passing conversation with a someone sparked an idea for a project or got me over a hump. My closest girlfriends were the frequent recipients of these random texts and calls. Oddly enough all of them are currently taking classes, following different paths. I felt so supported and encouraged. And I do miss it a little.

The Word Experiential 

One of the books I recent finished, via my library with Overdrive, was Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. It was a pretty interesting read, I enjoy scientific writings but had little exposure to neuroscience before this book. The text covered some of the types of hallucinations and what kinds of conditions can cause them. One of the terms that came up was experiential, how even though the person having the hallucination can be aware of it, they are still fully enveloped in the sensations. I found this interesting, “mobile experiential” is the term we use to describe our industry. This job is all about creating an environment to surround participants with a desired message.  We want you to experience the brand and leave with some kind of emotional connection to it.

How We Roll


As I have been working through the program for my masters degree I noticed two things about how the term “mobile experiential” is interpreted. First of all in much of the marketing world “mobile” refers to efforts seeking to make an impression via those delightful handheld devices we all have (well expect you Dave). The other stumbling block I ran into is that “experiential” is not a widely known avenue for brand marketing. Outside of sponsorship there aren’t enough firms that put on events. And boy can they benefit from connecting directly with customers.


While the end goal of each mobile experiential campaign might be different the opportunities it presents are similar. First you get the opportunity to put something physical and hands-on with your message. Secondly you are right there with customers, talking to them, hearing their feedback. This is especially effective when they are saturated in your message. The reason a brand would choose to put a mobile on the road is they see a need or have the desire to put something physical with their message.   How that program is shaped and developed is endless.

The Big Show

When it comes to actual tours, it is the folks in the field who have the real task of implementing these programs. Someone can design a great trailer, dynamic programming, and invite the right people but unless the person working that show that day is committed to the goals it won’t be effective.  Brands entrust to us to be the front line, the connection to customers.  My own firm takes into consideration a number of factors before pairing a team with a program.  This process seeks put the best possible skill set to match what the program goals are.  That can be kind of tough at times.  We have been passed over for projects we wanted because management saw us as a better fit for something else.  The same goes for anymore working as a contractor in this business, while you might be incredibly qualified sometimes a different person is just a better fit for the brand.


This is why we work so hard to make ourselves everyone “ideal”.  This is one of the reasons why I am getting a master’s degree.  Josh and I figured out years ago that to be the team that every brand would want one of needed a graduate degree.  Well I lost the round of Roshambo and here I am; one week from completing my degree.


I’ve got an Instagram, now what do I do?

I wanted to talk a little further on Instagram this week, why it might be the right tool for some self-promotion. While having a Facebook page is almost essential it might not longer the best way to get attention. Facebook serves as a more of a guestbook or holding space for all the other media available.


This is a mobile based, real time sharing platform gives users a way to combine visual and text to grab consumers. Originally designed to pick up where twitter failed in the image-sharing realm, there is now a whole new tactic to being a super user. What Instagram allows you to do is make visual statement and expand on it with text. For me I might post a picture of post a picture of some students inside of a museum trailer and in the text put something like “Students from @WestMiddleSchool are learning to Think Like an Artist with #DIAaway. Come see us @WestboroLibrary 2/14-2/17”. To create that text I needed to do a quick search to find out if the attending middle school has a twitter or Instagram account, I need to know the event hashtag and search for the event sites Instagram or twitter. In the end all easy steps if you want to create maximum impact.


Instagram primarily uses a square format but now also allows for wider images and helps a user with some simple editing along with pre-set filters. Each filter allows members to add to the overall mood you want to create. For a museum program with kids I want to make sure the image looks bright and colors bold.


Now that I have the image and text ready I will choose what additional forums I want this image to be shared on. This is exactly why Instagram is such a great tool, it creates content for other platforms. I would choose to share this image on the Facebook page that Josh and I have set up for our professional lives (not my personal page), the twitter feed for our professional lives, and possibly foursquare/swarm (this is a geotagging app that would make that image available to anyone looking at the location on one of those platforms). There are even further options as they fit your current needs. The benefits are that you are easily creating content to push out to whatever platform desired users are seeking. Using the hashtag and @user connection you helps a post to reach even further.


The complicated element of Instagram is choosing hashtags, figuring out the right ones to use takes some time. By searching some terms within the app you can hook onto what is popular and will fit your needs. Don’t hesitate to search via a tag you came up with then look at what other terms are used on popular posts. You’ll quickly be able to take part in the discussion.


**For my regular readers this post has a slightly different format, as it is part of my coarse work for SNHU.


Keller, K.L. (2013) Strategic brand management: building, measuring and managing brand equity. Pearson Education, Inc. Fourth Edition

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.


Streatfield, B. (2015, December 23). “Rise of a tech giant: the history of Instagram”. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/technology-video/12064686/Rise-of-a-tech-giant-the-history-of-Instagram.html



How Social are you?

How many different social media accounts do you have? I’m guess there are even a few you have forgotten you signed up for. I’m certainly guilty of this, checking out something new then losing interest as it fails to gain participants or just doesn’t appeal to me (and can someone please explain Snapchat to me). This really isn’t a problem, when Josh or I decided to quit a platform. We are our own brand yes, but few people look for us outside of this blog, instead we get found on those networks. There isn’t going to be a great deal of capital lost from Josh taking a break from Twitter when we aren’t on a business to consumer program. However a larger brand, let’s say my employer must be a bit more strategic.


There was a great deal of buzz around the marketing department when MRA decided to start an Instagram account. This would be a companion to their existing presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These other accounts are managed by multiple members of the team who coordinate and monitor the content. Instagram in an increasingly popular and powerful platform for brands. So why would you want to wait to join in? Well, one major reason to be strategic is time. Until an organization has a plan for who will manage and when content will be added, it’s best to wait. There is also the element of listening that must be attended to, who is going to then monitor this new account and interact with followers?


Winter is definitely here as Josh, one of our drivers, discovered yesterday! #MRAmobile #LifeOnTheRoad

A photo posted by MRA mobile experiential (@mra_experiential) on Dec 21, 2015 at 12:59pm PST


Another reason to wait and evaluate the usefulness of a particular platform, is having the right content. Will the managing team members be able to gather enough appropriate and engaging material to make the efforts rewarding. Speaking of reward, what can this particular platform give an organization, the return on investment. If one employee is going to be dedicated to only monitoring and managing social media accounts, what is that cost and the cost of tasks that must now be reassigned? Are these social interactions going to lead to new business? There are certainly a number of industries and business that won’t see any benefit from platforms like Facebook or Instagram. A mobile experiential firm is not one of those. Without the right combination of presence on media platforms we could easily look outdated to a protective client. Many firms seeking these kinds of services aren’t necessary going to find a vendor on Instagram but they might be engaged enough to make an inquiry.

Winter is definitely here as Josh, one of our drivers, discovered yesterday! #MRAmobile #LifeOnTheRoad

A photo posted by MRA mobile experiential (@mra_experiential) on Dec 21, 2015 at 12:59pm PST


By having a presence on selective social platform, firms like MRA can give prospective clients great insight into how we do business and what we provide. While Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all placed that MRA shares a mixture of information about their business and the industry, Instragram is becoming a place to get to know the people behind the projects.


**For my regular readers this post has a slightly different format, as it is part of my coarse work for SNHU.


Keller, K.L. (2013) Strategic brand management: building, measuring and managing brand equity. Pearson Education, Inc. Fourth Edition

Kumar, V., & Mirchandani, R. (2012). Increasing the ROI of social media marketing. MIT sloan management review, 54(1), 55.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.

Streatfield, B. (2015, December 23). “Rise of a tech giant: the history of Instagram”. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/technology-video/12064686/Rise-of-a-tech-giant-the-history-of-Instagram.html