Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a senior client in charge of a premium spirits brand and want to know what the bloody hell experiential marketing is, and should I be spending cash on it?

A: You know that old riddle: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Well, marketing has its equivalent: "Does behaviour condition attitude or attitude condition behaviour?" Do we like Guinness because we drink it or do we like Guinness because something persuaded us that we would? Hugely brainy people have been squabbling about this for 50 years. Ad agencies, unsurprisingly, tend to believe that attitude conditions behaviour. Experiential marketers, on the other hand, believe the opposite. And, of course, they're both right.

Experiential means "derived from experience as opposed to other methods of acquiring knowledge". Perhaps you're old enough to remember sampling?

But, of course, how you sample is pretty important. Let's take your own premium spirits brand. If you put some in a plastic sachet and stuck it on the cover of Nuts or Zoo, you'd certainly be sampling. And so you would if you invited 300 acknowledged A-Listers to drink your liquor at a party in Carlton House Terrace - with Jancis Robinson and the Duke of Grosvenor doing the greets. I humbly submit, however, that - as we say in marketing - the image-takeout effect on your brand would be significantly different.

Please don't take it amiss if I suggest that your premium spirits brand, however intrinsically excellent, is unlikely to justify its premium on taste alone. For most people, vodka and Red Bull will taste nicer, cost a lot less and get them drunk quicker. So while you shouldn't dismiss experiential marketing altogether, please make sure that the experience is in keeping with your brand's blueprint. Only thus can you ensure that behaviour beneficially affects attitude and indeed vice versa - and what's more, simultaneously. I do hope that's clear.

Q: I've worked for a long time with a particular ad agency, and more importantly, a particular individual at that agency. However, he's just been made redundant and I'm furious about it. Another agency has subsequently offered to take him on, expecting my business to follow him. Is this cronyism at its worst, or is working with people you know you can trust the most important thing?

A: Do you play golf with him? Did he ask you to be his daughter's godfather? Have you been on family holidays together? Do your children call him Uncle Leslie?

Lovely though such relationships are, they fill me with fear. Of course you trust him, and he's been good for your business. And it's not just the size of your budget that's bought his friendship. But something like this was bound to happen and it has.

His agency management would seem to be inept. If your friend was so crucial to your business, and your business is juicy enough for another agency to covet, they're mad to have made him redundant. Either that or they know something that you don't know. So conceal your fury and go and see them. Find out more.

What you mustn't do is threaten to snatch your business away if he's not reinstated -because what you've forgotten is that it's not your business. Sorry to be so prissy about this - but what you're paid for is to look after your brand. Once you've remembered that, what to do next becomes easier. Choices include: staying with your same agency but without your friend; putting the business up for review; and even following your friend to his new agency. But for the sake of the brand; not your friendship.

Q: I've been offered a job heading my ad network across Europe. I quite fancy the new challenge and greater pay packet but am put off by the constant flying to Central European cities. Is there any way around this to ensure that I still spend 90 per cent of my time in London?

A: No. You can't be a surgeon but pass on the blood. Just put yourself in the place of those Central European offices of yours. A new network chief is announced. Groan. A Brit. Groan. Who knows nothing about the rest of Europe. Groan. Who hates travelling. Groan. So wants us all to come to London all the time. You've lost before you've started and deservedly so.

However, why not do something that's never been tried? Instead of those offensive 48-hour visits, with ritual PowerPoint presentations, spend an uninterrupted three weeks with each of your offices. You'll get to know them; they'll get to know you; and there won't be much flying. If that's still too much for you, forget it.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683. Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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