Experiential plans, not publicity stunts, offer value

As business has transformed over the years, I have become accustomed to blocking off much of the fourth quarter when many of the large corporations we work with set their strategic programs and budgets for the coming year.

As business has transformed over the years, I have become accustomed to blocking off much of the fourth quarter when many of the large corporations we work with set their strategic programs and budgets for the coming year. 

As most people in the business know, this is a critical time when brand rollouts, product introductions, annual strategic programs, and initiatives are solidified, budgeted, and scheduled. 

One observation from this latest round of planning sessions is that major brands seem newly obsessed with publicity stunts. Even in today's economy, companies are willing to allocate time and money to the world's biggest, longest, heaviest whatever in order to generate publicity.

On one hand, I applaud this semi-retro appreciation for the publicity stunt because it reflects the continuing trend of marketers favoring PR over advertising.  

On the other hand, I think the majority of stunts constitute a waste of time, money, and opportunity. The evolution of communications has changed the game and even the funniest, biggest, longest one-off is usually just a one-off, rather than an integrated program aimed at building a brand.  

Stunts used to serve a strategic purpose, creating a bang for a brand that would stay in the public dialogue for some time. But with Internet-driven information overload shortening our attention spans, stunts don't really do the trick the way they used to.  

My advice: save money on stunts and invest in high-impact and well-executed experiential marketing programs.

While not a new concept, pop-up stores and mobile units – with PR integrated into the strategy – work. They enable the consumer to touch and feel the brand and they are programmable over time.  

If executed properly and creatively, experiential marketing programs create a platform for daily publicity and consistent social media activity, which not only elevates a product offering or service but invites people to sample it, providing infinite more value than a stunt.  

Sean Cassidy is president of DKC PR, Marketing & Government Affairs.

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