The Drum Network Q&A: Stuart Knight of Trigger talks putting brands in the right place at the right time

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The Drum Network talks to Stuart Knight, managing director of Trigger on how experiential marketing can place brands in front of their dream audience. Knight discusses how it’s all about entertaining, misbehaving and leaving people speechless.

Stuart Knight

What makes experiential marketing so important in this digital age when everyone is so focused online?

Experiential is really coming of age and many brands understand the vital role that experiential has to play as a part of the marketing mix. The ferocious appetite for content and the increasing ubiquity of social media has resulted in the rise of experiential, done properly it delivers meaningful engagements and high value useful content. Many brands are now including experiential at the top table when it comes to strategy development and brand planning rather than how it was often seen in the past as a 'nice to have'.

Experiential has a more clearly defined identity now and I would go so far as to say that it should be an aspect of early stage planning as opposed to developing ATL and other media or channel marketing strategy and then considering experiential. It should be part of the thinking right from the start so all elements of the campaign can be maximized including the integration of digital.

How do you go about the experiential landscape; how do you measure what works?

Good question. The measurement of experiential is indeed the perennial question along with how to monetise sampling.

Experiential directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate with a brand often with a degree of cognitive fluency. The landscape is varied and can range from shopper market much like our ‘Save the Cheese Sandwich' campaign that we ran for Anchor Cheddar or large scale high footfall events like the Nickelodeon Slimefest Festival which reaches hundreds of thousands of people and many things in between.

Our approach is in step with our 'people first, brand second' ethos. We put the customer and or consumer at the heart of our thinking. Creative, insight and planning play a key role before we get to the activation.

Technology is developing fast and allows for a greater degree of evaluation and measurement. We are already seeing the move towards cashless solutions at events and the relationship with the consumer is much longer often pre, during and post event that delivers measurement opportunities.

We are doing a lot of work currently with data and intelligence applications for events and experiential and also have some panel based activity underway some of which is ‘always on’.

As experiential moves more centre stage it will be an aspect over all brand performance that is measured in different ways including sales volumes and market share/penetration. I can see standardised metrics for experiential in the near future.

What experiential marketing campaigns have you been working on recently?

We are currently producing a large project for the Nickelodeon channel. This will be two indoor events which are celebrity led and involve lots of Slime as well as a large scale out door family festival that coincide with the switching on of the Blackpool Illuminations which enjoys hundreds of thousands of visitors.

There is also a two-day event in Brixton across the bank holiday on behalf of Encona Sauces (Grace Foods) that is part of Caribbean Food Week.

We have built and produced a real life ‘Wall of Sound’ for Red Stripe that is appearing at summer festivals.

We have also build a large integrated digital ‘vending machine’ for Anchor, which is in action across a range of high footfall locations currently.

Do you think the experiential market faces many challenges in the current political/economic climate?

Like a lot of people, I have been listening to a lot of economists and so-called experts recently with regards to Brexit and the general geo-political situation.

It is true; there is a lot of uncertainty around currently. Marketing services in general may well suffer from more conservative spending but I do remain optimistic and positive with regards to experiential. There is growth in the sector and I do believe that will continue. More traditional marketing is evolving partly due to consumer behavior and also technology. Experiential continues to be relevant however improving standards and creativity continue to be important. We did touch on this earlier but there does need to be clarity around the use of data, obviously I’m not sure how EU legislation will affect us now. Another watch out of course for large-scale events will be security.

What trends do you see in the future of experiential marketing?

This is a constant subject of discussion in our office. I am going to give you a few thoughts from myself with regards to this:

Wider use of technology, I am interested to see how the current pilots with cashless work out, as well as smart ticketing and apps. This maybe a bit of wishful thinking but I see bigger budgets for experiential as consumer interest and appetite for experience over ‘stuff' continues to grow.

Personally I’m a bit tired of photo booths and mobile charging portals, time to move on. I can see more creative use of pop ups and transportable environments.

More definable, measureable and integrated ways of directly driving sales with experiential not being treated as a difficult or misunderstood third child but as intrinsic to sales growth as the rest of the marketing family.

Stuart Knight is managing director at Trigger, part of the thinkpeople family.

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