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Events Agencies Agency Leadership

‘Brand gravity’: 3 years post-pandemic, what’s next for experiential marketing?

By Carley Faircloth, Global Chief Marketing Officer



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September 5, 2023 | 8 min read

Carley Faircloth of experiential marketing agency Spiro says it’s all about what you bring to the table for clients – and that’s more than execution. Here: Faircloth’s manifesto for the ‘brand gravity’ era of experiential.

A skydiver, falling to earth

Brand gravity: a manifesto from Spiro's Carley Faircloth / Muzammil Soorma via Unsplash

Our industry has been forced to redefine itself since 2020. Several years after this historic recovery, it’s time to level up what we bring to the table for our clients.

It’s great to see so many agencies now thriving, but that’s not to say we don’t have more work to do. Many in our industry still only prioritize an event itself: “We had a great event;” “We survived a crazy onsite execution;” “Look how great our onsite was.” While important, it becomes temporary and transactional.

We believe that execution is table stakes. The real result is about the result of that execution and what we’re able to do for our clients’ brands – not just "We loaded in and turned off the lights on time;” “We increased your attendance;” “Our coffee station on the floor grabbed good foot traffic.”

That’s not how we prove, as an industry and as partners, that we’re of larger strategic value to our clients. To be an invaluable part of a brand’s partner matrix requires us to understand their business goals and challenges. Execution is very important, but it’s only part of the puzzle.

The flip side: if clients’ muscle memory leans towards logistics-only metrics, it’s difficult to demonstrate our value outside of that. And that perception dictates where we sit. Certain agencies always have a seat at the “big” table, starting with pan-messaging objectives across the portfolio. Others never get the invite.

Raising the bar: Delivering ‘brand gravity’

We need to go beyond the event itself and ask what impact we’ve made on our client’s audience and business. What’s the impact on your brand? On your pipeline?

That’s where our industry can raise the bar.

The ultimate result of a successful brand experience is feeding the funnel. Moving the needle. Creating enough momentum that the stock price moves. Increasing the brand love where you were never considered before.

Our value to our clients is not merely that we create and execute events. It is that we can design experiences to sway and stay customer preference towards their brand. Working to understand drivers and engagement motivators, designing for those behaviors, and positioning their brand as a priority in the hearts and minds of their most important audiences.

That’s what we call ‘brand gravity’.

The power of the brand (and getting a seat at the table)

Observationally (and not critically), our industry doesn’t truly understand brand marketing, because most of us came up through production and execution. How can our industry claim to align ourselves in a role we don’t always understand – especially if we don’t have access to it?

I’ve seen, from several agencies, numerous campaigns and designs that have been liberal with the most fundamental brand staples. There’s a lack of reverence for the brand and what it stands for. But as a historically ‘below-the-line’ industry – a ‘production company’ that has evolved into brand experiences – that heritage naturally brings an overwhelming emphasis on experience, leaving a lack of emphasis on the brand.

Belief in an identity and elevating a promise with your client and their customers is something that only a handful have a seat at the table for – ‘above-the-line’ agencies always occupy that seat.

Now, at certain levels, we’ve merged into through-the-line offerings.

It’s about what you bring to the table. If your client doesn’t see you understanding and solving for their business challenges, they’re going to see you as an execution partner.

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Our industry’s path forward

How do you respond when a client says, “I don’t want to talk about customer driver insights when I have a supply chain issue in X region. As my business partner, can you solve that for me?” No, and I would argue they wouldn’t want us to.

But as a through-the-line agency, there’s value in having us at the table earlier in those business conversations. What we can do through our specific channels may not solve your supply chain delivery issue, but it will certainly alleviate the emotional tension your customer feels after a less-than-ideal interaction with your product or service. It might have them believe you when you say you’ve solved the problem. It might help them forgive you and give you another shot.

That’s the bond we help solidify: the bond between brand and customer.

It’s a lofty promise; we’re only as good as where we’re invited into as an industry, the information we acquire, or where we insert ourselves. It takes an actual partnership to make this effective on both sides. But having a through-the-line offering gives us the ability to arm our clients with necessary materials to have real impact at that table strategically, knowing execution is a given.

Delivering brand gravity demands an understanding and knowledge of our client’s commercial business. Again, we’re not the operational business partner to solve your supply chain delivery issue, because we work in a different solutions modality. But when we design with specific commercial outcomes to deliver a solid brand and customer community bond, we go from being an experiential partner to a commercial and brand partner.

Now is our time for bold moves, with a caveat: earning the right is critically important. No agency can skip that step.

Clients should expect our industry to understand the stakes and earn the right. There are a few in our industry that have reached a consistency level – and are able to perch there.

Events Agencies Agency Leadership

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