Ministry of Sound's events & brand director: 'London is saturated with experiential – go to Bolton or Scunthorpe instead'

Andrew Akuffo on experiential marketing and how social media will move it beyond

Ahead of his judging post at The Drum UK Event Awards 2017, Ministry of Sound's director of events and brand, Andrew Akuffo, speaks to The Drum about how experiential marketing is the best way to contact your audience, how to track the ROI of live events and how social media will move experiential out of a saturated London.

What have been the biggest challenges that the events industry has had to contend with over the past year?

The marketing industry in general, always has a bit of a challenge when there is uncertainty in the market. People tend to think that it’s something that they can pause as they consider their options. But in actual fact, experiential is the best way to contact your audience and for them to have a tactile moment with your brand.

For me, it's the most influential method of communication that you can do. Rather than pausing and thinking about it, you should spend more on experiential in uncertain times.

What do you think are the key trends for events/experiential marketing right now?

Experiential should always be part of a larger mix that includes a multi-platform execution. People can get their social all right, they can do things in the digital landscape but they always do need that tactile moment with the brand’s base. It's about how you bring those things together and whether it's with technology or some other innovation of some kind.

You see a lot of VR at the moment, but one thing I'm conscious not to do is just jump on things because it's the bandwagon. If it makes sense for the end consumer then it has to tell the right story for your brand.

Another trend is diversification. One of the things that we are doing – and I think a lot of smart brands like Virgin do this really well – is taking the core proposition and core values and then transporting that on to new ventures that have the same feeling as the original products and same quality but with a new experience to a new audience.

MOS has recently launched a fitness proposition called Ministry Does Fitness. It's a lifestyle brand that has a physical studio space where we do high intensity interval training for 28 people in a class-based programme. We also do this experience with body weight classes outside of the studio. Our team have been creating events where we put that experience with a night club and fitness together in other spaces outside of our own.

The story behind it is that, when you go to gyms these days, it is much more experiential. It's not just about people going there and 'pumping iron’. They want to go and feel something different. They want to be led by the experience. People really care about the health and wellness side of their life much more than ever before.

Why do you think that, given experiential is proven to create a greater connection with audiences, that events and experiential budgets are still not getting nearly as much investment as above the line?

TV has always been safe. People have always looked at it and said, “that's going to hit 10 million eyeballs so let's pour lots of money into it.” Digital is amazing, as it is accountable. You can see where your money is going.

Experiential is much more difficult to quantify but you do know that it works. When you spend a bit more money, don't just think about doing your activation and the cost being the cost of the actual activation. Think about how you are going to research the accountability and effectiveness of it as well. And then add that to your budget. Then you can start to really understand the connections that are made and the influence of the great experiences that you can provide for your consumers.

There is currently no industry standard to measure how effective experiential activation is. How do MOS do this and how do you calculate ROI?

A lot of what we do is tracking on social media. We have a bunch of tools that our social media team use to look at equity and where we are strong and what people are saying about our brand at that moment. But we could do much more in that area and spend a lot more time and money.

What do experiential marketers need to do to change the perception of marketers not taking experiential marketing seriously as other channels?

I wouldn't say that it isn't taking as seriously. It is perhaps perceived as a ‘dark art’ by budget holders. As the experiential budgets keep going up, awards like The Drum UK Event Awards allow us to shine a light on the brilliant work that the industry is doing. I think it does demonstrate the accountability side, which makes the final process a lot easier.

Why do you think that most activations happen in London and don’t stretch beyond? Do you think this will change?

When I talk to clients often these days, I do feel there is a tide turning. The London market is almost saturated with experiential. You can probably find some kind of experiential activation to go to every Thursday night in London, somewhere.

When you do that event in Bolton or Scunthorpe, people are going to talk about it because there's nothing else that they are experiencing in that space. It creates a bigger footprint, socially. That's what you want. You want people to have a great experience that they will then tell other people about.

As a judge for The Drum UK Event Awards, what are you expecting to see from the entrants this year?

Generally, I am looking for great examples of innovative work in the experiential space. That's what I am excited to see. I also want to learn from it. I'm expecting to see people that are really passionate about experiential and doing things that are providing value outside of the original propositions.

How important do you think these are awards are to the industry?

Anything that highlights great work is super important and The Drum being a highly visible and vocal proponent of experiential is great for our industry. For me it's great that that mantle has been picked up.

Akuffo is a judge for The Drum UK Event Awards. The entry deadline is Friday 25 August, so why not showcase your event skills, knowledge, delivery and results and reward yourselves for the hard work you and your team have done over the past year?

Sponsors for this year’s event are: JLA, Special EFX, Tint, The Drum’s RAR and The Drum Network.

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