Experiential Essays: Wax Communications - Having your cake and eating it is more fun for everyone

Make your experiential activity fun and consumers will engage, talk about it and continue the conversation

Lucy Gillions, experiential director, Wax Communications
Lucy Gillions, experiential director, Wax Communications

No one goes to their grave wishing they’d spent more time in the office; similarly, I doubt anyone wishes they had had less fun or fewer experiences. Our busy, automated lives mean we don’t want to be passive spectators – a good meal in a restaurant is not enough; we want a 'dining experience'. Today people 'experience cram', mixing and matching as many new experiences as possible. Why? It gives us something meaningful to talk about.

It’s no longer enough for a product to taste great, wash whiter, download faster, look the best in the pub. For someone to love it, there needs to be more, more, more. Experience is at the heart of every brand – always has been, always will be. TV ads might spike interest, but only the product experience will make people come back. No wonder marketers are increasingly saying that experiential is 'the future of marketing'.

And what type of experience do we most want to repeat? No, not that one. The other one. The fun one. Simple as that. There is no brand that can’t put fun at the heart of its experiential activity. Inject fun into someone’s day and they will only thank you for it.

Fun activates people, after all. But in an age where everything has to be measured, an overly single-minded approach to achieving the brand KPIs can diminish that fun factor and lessen the impact of the experience.

Don’t get me wrong – we like KPIs; KPIs are great. But put the experience first, and the KPIs will follow.

Kenny Hyslop of Pernod Ricard says: "It’s easy to get carried away with the event, but you need a fundamental objective." Don’t just stand there dishing out samples or grabbing consumer contacts – that’s no fun for them or you. You want people to be talking about your brand, and that comes from delivering memorable experiences.

McVitie’s Medley did this with our 'Air Play Tour' – consumers were asked to 'air-perform' with various Medley instruments, and footage of their antics was shared via Facebook and YouTube. Enormous fun. Completely measurable. A fantastic talking point. And fun doesn’t mean frivolous. Medley overachieved on its measurable objectives. But best of all, it worked at an emotional level – creating experiences that sustained conversations long after the activity had ended.

Our work with Canon has shown how fun creates natural talkability. The key was a deep insight into its audience and knowing what type of fun they would best respond to. Canon’s social media-led campaign for the launch of its EOS M camera was built around the hashtag #nothingmissed. The message was simple: whatever you’re doing, capture it best with the EOS M. The locations: quirky, creative and fun. Think Art Junky in Brighton, London’s Columbia Road Flower Market and the Christkindelmarkt in Leeds. By letting people play with the cameras, and upload the results to Facebook, fun experiences at great events were captured, memories made and conversations started. The whole experience became a talking point. A classic case of understanding people’s personal experience and weaving the brand into that so they pass it on to others.

We have generated natural talkability by creating experiences that deepened consumers’ emotional connection with other brands, including Bacardi Brown-Forman and Currys PC World.

Our campaigns have activated people whose comments and conversations have been driven by putting fun at the heart of the experience. Impressive ROI is almost a given.

We know now, more than ever before, that people need experiences to love a brand… but in the modern world, we must turn engaging experiences into social currencies and start conversations. Not only does this make the experience deeper and more fun, it also makes it more measurably successful for the brand.

So don’t let the KPIs throttle the experience. Be free, challenge the norms, have more fun. It’ll get people talking. It’ll work. You can have your cake and eat it. Enjoy.

Lucy Gillions is experiential director of Wax Communications