Experiential Branding is not about big budget

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor

THERE are mini sketches on the table. Very close to a thrash can, there is an inscription, which says ‘think global, but act local’. A well-cut silhouette of Felix King Eiremiokhae, chief executive/managing director, Oracle Group, one of the frontline experiential marketing agencies in the country, is on the table by the side of a storyboard that he is preening. It seems not totally separated from the whole. This single sheet of paper looks innocent enough: It’s a trail of flowing, creative eloquence. He is seated in his posh office, holding court on talk about the experiential branding, the new trend in marketing communications.

Oracle? Experiential marketing? Branding? They all lie in wait in his thought. They wait patiently to be freshly sketched in people’s mind. He smiles. He looks up and nods. “Okay. Oracle takes the first shot,” he laughs.

“Oracle Group is born out of Nigeria, but rooted in the veins of Africa. Our footprints have been boldly registered in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’ Ivoire and Senegal. Operations in Cameroun cover Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and the rest of Central African Republic,” he says. “Our company is an experiential branding agency. We are like physicians in the industry. When companies want to brand, re-brand or bring their products to life, they come to us with problems, and we proffer solutions that put their products and services on a pedestal.” 

Eiremiokhae stands up, paces left and right, as if he is in a lecture room and smiles, as he brings out a file from the locker by his side.

“Experiential marketing is evolving,” he reflects. To him, there is difference between experiential marketing and direct marketing, and says, “we all started with direct marketing, which is the art of telling and showing. Today, a good number of practitioners are still involved in direct marketing but we have taken it beyond that.”

He adds, “the idea is that when you tell somebody something he can easily forget and when you show him, he might remember, but when you involve him, he understands; it becomes part of him.”

The Oracle boss says this informed the evolution of direct marketing to experiential marketing. “It involves making people to understand. Now, we are taking it to the next level, which is experiential branding. It goes beyond activation. It is the art of telling, showing and involving the consumers with ideas that will ultimately make them take ownership of the brand you are promoting. It is about touching the senses and igniting the passion of the consumers. It is about making them brand advocators – that is experiential branding.”

As he is talking, a call pulls through. “A moment,” he says. He picks the call and joins the discussion later. Eiremiokhae explains that a brand is an empty promise if it cannot give consumers that memorable experience they will live to remember. He says for anyone to go into experiential branding, there is one thing he should have at the back of his mind: a brand is a belief system.

“To establish that connection between the brand and the consumer is experiential,” he points out, as he fiddles his laptop; he tries to print out some facts. “Unfortunately, the industry is dominated by direct marketing practitioners and not experiential marketing agencies. These are two different things.”

The Oracle Group boss continues, “experiential branding is about personally connecting with the consumers, enhancing their brand experience and deepening their relationship in understanding the brand messages.”

Eiremiokhae breathes brand. He eats it. He drinks it. He smells it. He says that what distinguishes his outfit from others, is loyalty to clients.

“When you are loyal you become passionate and when you are passionate, you are at your best in creativity such that you deliver your creative ideas without flaws – flawless execution,” he muses. 

On advertising, PR, promotions, experiential marketing to experiential branding, which one does he think has the most impact on brands? He answers: “The truth is that none of these marketing elements work in isolation. I think all of them have equal potential to impact on a brand.” Eiremiokhae adds, “they have their own peculiar ways of affecting brands positively and it depends widely on application. But if you want to connect with the consumer, then experiential branding is the root. As you know, you don’t necessarily connect through advertising, you appeal. Connections can only be established through experiential branding.”

As a young agency, how does he manage competition?

He heaves a deep breath and smiles, “our strong point lies in our thorough understanding of the business (terrain) and how it works together with the robust experience we have gathered over the years relating with the people.”

Business pitches for advertising, PR and others are full of intrigues, how would he describe experiential marketing/branding pitch in Nigeria?

“From my experience, I think it is the same system, but the approach might be a little different,” he sings. Eiremiokhae continues, “from the experiential side, you get your brief from the client and you present to them your experiential solutions. It’s about convincing your clients about your experiential solution to what they want to achieve with their brand.” He, however, explains that this does not mean that there are high-powered intrigues. In his words, “an agency that knows it worth and for a client that needs marketing solutions for its brands, no amount of that (intrigues) would turn things against you. Basically it has to do with your creativity, resourcefulness, dynamism, ingenuity and above all the grace of God who has the utmost connection.”

Is experiential marketing practice overwhelmingly accepted or is it only patronised by a handful of organisations? 

“I think you’ve got it wrong. If you look at today’s budgets, organisations interest in experiential market keep going up and I am beginning to think that the budget for experiential market is even bigger than other elements of marketing communications,” he reflects.

According to him, multinationals such as MTN, Nestle, Nigeria Breweries Plc, Guinness, Unilever and others, and see how much they invest in activation. “There is huge budget for experiential marketing, but the local companies don’t really understand experiential marketing. They have been doing a whole lot in the direction of direct marketing but it is good that most of them have come to see experiential marketing as the future of the business. That is why even the ATL companies are now trying to introduce what they call 360 marketing solution. But to be honest, no agency has the capacity to run a 360 agency in Nigeria,” he stresses.

He looks at reality TV show and says they are experiential branding. He reveals that they impact on brand. He, however, explains, “there is one experiential reality programme we are working on that’s going to hit the market soon. What we are trying to do is to bring the attributes of the brand to life using a vehicle that involves reality, so that consumers would be able to connect with the products but in an involving manner, which is experiential unlike what is currently aired as reality TV shows across the country.”

You doubt the marketing potentials of a show as Star Mega Jamz? Then get his take on this. “Experiential branding is not about the budget, it’s about the creative ideas. The current Nescafe African Revolution, a reality programme from Nestle to discover talents did not attract mega budget, ” he muses. 

To him, “the road shows you do is experiential branding, it depends on how you are able to interpret it. So, it’s not about big budgets. It’s about the execution and it’s about the creative ideas. You can have series of Star Mega Jamz with all the big budgets and yet did not make meaningful impact. Again it’s not about the budget but it’s about channelling your creativity towards achieving the aim of the brand. So the smaller companies should also try to find a way of doing something very small that will fit into their budgets it has proven to be more effective than direct advertising.”

On challenges facing the experiential marketing agencies in Nigeria that are not applicable to their foreign counterparts, he says is finance. “You run a business where the clients don’t pay you until you complete the job. They have to pay you maybe one – two months after the job if you are lucky or much latter. And there is no agency in Nigeria that has the financial muscle for high outlays because of financial constraints. It is always a problem trying to source for funds from the banks for huge activations. So finance will always be a problem in having a flawless experiential business.”

The clientele base of Oracle Group is large. They don’t have local businesses in their list of clients. They work mainly for multinationals and are moving into the government terrain. “Experiential branding is not just about products. It means orientation. It means mass mobilisation. The people out there need orientation and mass mobilisation to move out from where they are to the other side of life,” he enthuses.

Is experiential marketing part of hiring vehicles and load them up with girls, dancing and making noise in the town?

“That is direct marketing,” he answers. “For me it is embarrassing, but I don’t blame those people because some people confuse it with experiential marketing. They can’t differentiate between experiential marketing and direct marketing because at the end of the day the only thing that you go away with, as a consumer is the memory of people dancing and doling out gifts. You just talk, give out things and you move away. Experiential marketing is the art of involving consumers to make them understand the brand. You touch their five senses and once you are able to do that, you ignite their passion, and definitely win their loyalty to your brand.”

* Source: The Guardian Newspapers

Filed Under: Interviews

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