When Experiential Marketing Works


On a trip to Disney World I had the opportunity to take in the Test Track at Epcot and was able to witness experiential marketing at its best.  The Test Track is presented by General Motors’ Chevrolet and involves the design and testing of a virtual concept car.

In the first stage of the pavilion, participants are given an opportunity to design a concept car. They can customize the shape, color, engine, along with several other features.  Participants have a set amount of time to design the vehicle before moving into the next phase.

The ride portion of the test track is where participants test their concept car.  Each vehicle is assigned a code that is loaded to their magic band or Disney card, so when they enter the ride stage, the code can be loaded and used to test their specific vehicle under a number of parameters like capability, efficiency, responsiveness and power.  This is where the fun begins as participants load into a vehicle and go through a series of test tracks.  Once the ride is complete, they receive information on how their concept car performed.

Following the ride, participants can take part in a number of interactive experiences.  They can create commercials for their concept car, take pictures with other Chevy concept vehicles in a showroom and a take part in a digital driving table that allows participants to drive a mini version of their car around a track.

Experiential marketing is all about helping consumers experience a brand. It’s objective is to stimulate as many senses as possible in that experience and to create a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the brand.

As I walked through this pavilion and witnessed the excitement on the faces of many of the participants as they tested their concept cars and posed for pictures, it was evident to see that the Chevrolet Test Track is one of the best examples of experiential marketing that I’ve seen.

Advertising Alone is Not Marketing

If you ask most people to define marketing they usually say advertising. While this may be true, it is certainly not the main aspect of marketing.

Have you heard on the four P’s of marketing?  These include product, place, price and promotion.  Advertising is really only one of many tools available for use under the “promotion” category.

Here’s an example to illustrate why thinking advertising is marketing is incorrect and detrimental to your marketing efforts.   Say you are holding an event and ticket sales are not going well.  People often try to do everything in their power to get the word out about the event, often resorting to a shot-gun approach to advertising (advertising everywhere and through all mediums).  And many times when an event fails, blame goes to the advertising effort.

The reality of it is, you need to have the right mix of the other components (p’s) of marketing.  You must understand your target audience and then define your product, price and place.  If sales aren’t going well, maybe the product or event isn’t a good one, or maybe the price is too high.  Maybe the distribution method for purchasing your product or service is wrong (place).

Companies and non profits need to look at marketing as something much bigger than advertising or social media posts.

Offer something unique and get to really know your ideal customer.  Then work with all of the 4 P’s of marketing to create a complete plan.

Why You Shouldn’t Fear the Media


Don’t trust the media!

I’ve heard this a million times and I’m not sure if it’s due to the over exaggerations we see in the movies of the aggressive reporter hiding in the bush, or if it is due to a bad past experience. Either way, I’m going to try to help you see the benefits that can come from working with the media.

During my days in the media, I would often call individuals to inquire about different topics and be greeted on the other end by someone who was absolutely terrified to speak with me.

Maybe it was a fear of speaking on TV or on the radio, or maybe they just didn’t want to have their picture in the paper.  Either way, it made me wonder what the possibilities would have been had they not shown such objection.

If fact, strong relationships with members of the media can be a huge benefit to your business or organization.  Many companies spend hours strategizing on how to get media coverage. That’s because PR is often viewed as being way more credible than paid advertising.

So I’ve compiled 5 things for you to consider in your attempt to build better media relations:

1. Learn who makes up the media  – The first thing you need to do is create a media list and determine who you want to get to know.  Most businesses already have these lists, but not many know the journalists on the list personally.  In fact many businesses just send emails with press releases attached without ever really taking the time to get to know the reporters on the receiving end.  That leads to my second point……

2. Build real relationships – The goal is to make authentic connections with members of the media. Remember, the media is not the enemy.  In fact, most are just like you – just trying to go to work each day and do their job.  They are open and willing to build relationships too.

3. Learn about their job – Find out what journalists do on a daily basis.  Get an understanding of their deadlines and responsibilities.

4. Create a win/win relationship – Offer to assist and provide insight on subjects when opportunities come up.  Many journalists keep a list of names of people they can contact for comments or analysis on different subjects.  Even if you don’t offer your services, most journalists end up calling on people they have relationships with. You too can be of assistance!

5. Be realistic – It is important to remember that even though you have taken the time to get to know members of the media on a personal level, at the end of the day, they still have a job to do.  A journalists first responsibility is to present an unbiased perspective of the story.  If you acknowledge this and still maintain a strong relationship regardless of how the story is written, you will be much further ahead!

Good luck and remember, the media is your friend!


My 10 Digital Media Discoveries

Digital Media Summit 2014

Digital Media Summit 2014

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Digital Media Summit in Toronto and I wanted to share some of the key discoveries I made during the course of the conference.  I believe these ten tips can help any marketer steer through the digital landscape.

1. Prepare a team of people who are not like you.  Determine your skills and weaknesses.  Find people who are strong where you are weak.

2. Failure is considered education. Fail forward – pioneer.

3. People’s behaviours are dictated by their peers.  Give your brand over to your consumers.

4. Understand your audience and how they are talking to each other. Let your audience guide your content strategy.

5. Relevance is key to social sharing. Whatever is happening in pop culture, is important.

6. Be clear on objectives.  Always ask, “what are we trying to achieve?”

7. Don’t get comfortable.  Things change and the industry depends on change.

8. Measurement will be different based on the industry.  Know what you are measuring and what it means.

9. Small businesses have the ability to be more agile in the social media landscape.  Research and experiment with new technologies.

10. Tell your story in the day and age we live in.  Most people are still advertising like its 1980.

For more information on the next Digital Media Summit, click this link.

How You Can Draw Media Attention as a Business Owner

Ever wonder why the business down the street is always in the newspaper or on the radio and your business isn’t?  I’m not referring to the advertising they may have purchased…..I’m referring to the news story featuring their business or some other on-air recognition they’ve received.

You may say they’re just lucky, but chances are, they’ve learned what makes them, or their business, newsworthy.  And they’ve taken the time to let reporters know about it – usually in the form of a media release.

Now it’s your turn.

There are five key elements that journalists refer to when deciding whether to cover a story or not.  The more of these elements you include in a press release or in an email to a reporter, the better your chances of having your business featured in the news.  I’m going to detail them first and then provide an example to tie it all together.

First, is your idea timely?  Essentially, is it new?  No one likes old news.  If it happened two months ago, no one cares.

Second, what is the proximity of your story idea?  As with most small businesses, you’re probably looking for attention from the local media – unless your story idea is provincial or national in scope (would be nice).  Journalists usually prefer to cover local events and activities.

Third, is the story idea relevant?  Is there something your business does that relates to something else going on in the news?  Or does your business provide seasonal services like yard cleaning?  You may be able to create a story idea based on current trends or issues.

Fourth, is the story full of controversy?  As sad as it sounds, journalists (and the public) love conflict and controversy.  This can be a positive for your business in certain situations, but often media attention in this category comes during a time of crisis.

Fifth, does your idea have an element of human interest?  Yes, we love controversy, but we also love stories of triumph and events that restore our faith in humanity.  If you’re doing something extra special, you should tell people about it.

Now for an example.

Lets say you own a local restaurant and you’ve decided to set aside one night during the holiday season to feed a group of people staying at a local shelter.  Telling the media about an event like this is timely (new), has proximity (local), is relevant (holiday season) and includes an element of human interest (doing a good deed).

Sure, you could always pay to have your business featured in the newspaper or on the radio.  But there’s nothing like free publicity!

The Best Service in Town……..Really?

The importance of being able to back up your advertising claim.

Whether it is radio, TV, or online, business owners spend plenty of time creating advertising messages about their companies.  Often the intent behind these messages is to create awareness, attract new customers, or sell a specific product.  But what is communicated in these advertisements or on a company website is extremely important, and therefore; must be accurate.

If a business claims that their product can cure the common cold, they better have the evidence to support that claim.  And if someone says their business is the only one in the city that offers discounts with service, they better be sure of that.

It’s equally important to ensure postings to company websites and social media also reflect a true and accurate representation of the business or product.

In the very social world that we live in, being authentic is number one in terms of importance.  And if you’re not, there will surely be someone out their to prove you wrong……and share that with the rest of the world.

For more information on accuracy in advertising, check out this link.




Small Business, Big Crisis – What You Say Makes a Difference

“How to communicate in a crisis situation using the 3 R’s.”

It’s a common misconception that only large companies face situations that can have a negative impact on their reputation.  In fact, no business is really immune to the issues that surface in a time of crisis.  And the way in which a company decides how to handle their communication can greatly affect the outcome.

In crisis communication we refer to these as the 3 R’s.   Regret, Reason and Remedy are used to help formulate the key statements to be communicated to stakeholders during these difficult times.

For the sake of discussion, lets say a local restaurant gets shut down over a health inspection report.

The way the restaurant may put the 3 R’s into action might be something like this:

Regret – The business should start by showing regret over the issue itself and communicate their concern to their key stakeholders.  In some situations they may even apologize for the closure since it will likely have an impact on their customers.

“We regret to inform our customers and staff that the restaurant had to be closed due to some concerns brought to our attention by the health department.  We understand that this closure may be an inconvenience to our clients who continue to be our most loyal customers.”

Reason – Most people want to know “why” something has happened.  If a business can provide the reason, or at the very least, some type of explanation, it can help to avoid rumours from spreading, and help to build back trust.

“As a company we take full responsibility for the issues that have been presented to us by the health department.  We are working hard to determine how some of these key areas may have been missed.  We take these concerns very seriously.”

Remedy – Even the best explanation in the world, isn’t going to help restore reputation in a time of crisis.  But what a company chooses to do, and say, in order to rectify the situation can certainly have a huge impact.

“While we determine how these issues came to light in the first place, we intend on making some major changes in our operations to ensure this doesn’t happen again. First, we will be taking this time to initiate a massive store-wide cleaning and inspection.  We will also be providing quarterly staff training sessions to ensure every member of our team, new and old, abides by the health standards set out.”

The best part about the 3 R’s of crisis communication is that they can also be used to help manage customer complaints.  They often help to diffuse a situation, provide context and help to build customer loyalty.

Give them a try the next time you encounter a crisis, whether big or small!



You Want Me to Sponsor What?

How to make the most of your sponsorship initiatives as a small business owner.

As most small business owners know, the number of requests for sponsorship and other forms of support can be endless.  They range from opportunities to sponsor a local bike race or charitable campaign to providing donations for a silent auction event.  You name it…..your business has been asked to support it.

Before I continue I want to make the distinction between a sponsorship and a donation.  Sponsorships are essentially another form of advertising – you provide support, financial or gift-in-kind, and in exchange, receive an opportunity to get in front of event participants through a display of signage or another form of advertising.  A donation, on the other hand, is a contribution (financial or gift-in-kind) to an organization with really no strings attached.  In general, donations that are provided to a registered charity qualify for an income tax credit, while sponsorships do not.

I’m going to address sponsorships.

I do believe that supporting the local community and charitable causes is important. But I really feel business owners have to be more strategic with how they make these sponsorship decisions.

As a business owner, you need to consider if the request for support has a good “F.I.T.”:

Forecast – Know what you hope to achieve on a business level by providing support. Will your involvement in the event help you reach your company objectives?  For example, if one of your business objectives is to create awareness of your business or product, you may consider sponsoring a major event in the community.  If you hope to increase brand recognition in rural communities, you may want to look at sponsoring community “sports days”.  Always consider your own objectives.

Impact – Does the event or organization have a positive image and will your involvement have an impact?  It’s a good idea to align yourself with organizations and events that already have strong support.  It’s equally important to make sure you activate a plan if you do decide to go ahead with the sponsorship.  Often organizations dish out money to sponsor an event, but then never do the follow-up to ensure they receive all of the benefits that come with that investment.  If your company is entitled to a full-page ad in an event program, make sure you get that ad, and take some time to craft a message that will communicate something of value about your business (not just your name).  For even greater impact, look for opportunities that offer exclusivity.  This will help remove your competition from the mix.

Target – Does the event or organization align with your own brand and what your business represents or believes?  Will your participation give you access to current or potential clients?  It’s important to consider sponsoring events that make sense for your business.  For example, if you operate a local dress shop, then sponsoring an event like “Dress for Success” makes complete sense.  Or if your business is a construction company, then “Habitat for Humanity” might be the right initiative to get behind.  Spend some time targeting the right events and right group of people.

So the next time you get asked to sponsor an upcoming event or a worthwhile organization, take a few minutes to consider its “F.I.T.”.






Is Any Publicity Good Publicity? Ask this Calgary radio station…..

Did you hear about the publicity stunt of AMP Radio in Calgary, Alberta?  The radio station asked listeners to vote on whether they should #bank $5,000 or #burn $5,000.  If listeners voted to bank the money, one of their names would be drawn to win the money.  If not, the money would be incinerated.  Well, as the promotion came to an end, 54% of listeners voted to burn the money….and that’s exactly what the radio station did!

The PR stunt has received a lot of heat from the community.  Many people are upset that the money wasn’t distributed to some of Calgary’s many worthwhile charities.  The radio station has defended their decision and in one interview the morning show host said the promotion achieved exactly what it was meant to do….get people talking about them!

The story got me thinking about whether any publicity is good publicity.  We’ve all heard the phrase before, but what impact does it have on your reputation over time?  Of course, we are talking and writing about the radio station now (mostly negative), but in a few weeks when the hype is over, what will the sentiment be – especially from the station’s key stakeholders, its advertisers and listeners.

Anyone in Public Relations knows that the start of any good campaign begins with research and clear objectives.  Was the station in tune with their listeners, did they have a good understanding of what money means to those listeners and to the many businesses that purchase advertising on their station?  Did the stunt align with their stakeholder beliefs?  I don’t believe it did.

If the objective was purely to get attention, then they’ve done that.  But I’m afraid that won’t lead to the financial results they were hoping to achieve in the long run – which is essentially the driver of any public relations campaign.  I suspect some advertisers will take their marketing dollars elsewhere and many listeners will tune into a different station.   Sure the station may gain some new listeners, but they will be forced to continuously come up with ways to top the last promotion, always looking to be edgier and over the top.  This itself can be a daunting and financially draining task.

In public relations, reputation is everything!

So what do you think of AMP Radio now?