I get a lot of email from students and recent grads about how to break into the business of experiential, guerrilla or non-traditional marketing. I have been thinking about how I got into the business and the winding road I took and I also have been thinking about how the dynamically changing face of media may be teaching those just getting into the business some pretty bad habits. And finally, I am worried about what they are NOT going to learn because of all the hype that surrounds the current media fad and how little attention right now is paid to the past.
So in light of all that, I present an open letter to marketing students.
Dear [Insert your name here],
So you are interested in getting involved in Experiential or Non-traditional marketing. Right there we have a problem you need to understand. Nobody really knows what to even call this industry. You will hear terms like those as well as Guerrilla (sometimes spelled Guerilla for some reason), Ambient, Viral, Intercept, Promotion, Grassroots, Astroturf, Outeractive, Landscape, Live Marketing and so many more. And guess what, they are all bullshit. What we do is not really any of those, when done correctly, you are creating an opportunity for a brand to connect with their desired consumers, get through all the cynicism and filters, and present your brand in an engaging memorable way that lasts with the consumer. And if you can get an action out of them, all the better.
Another thing, pay attention to all that is in the world around you and use what you need, but do not buy into the hype that often captivates our industry. It ends up limiting our thinking. Take what you need for the specific assignment, and allow that what you think today's tactic is, may not be tomorrow's. To get you started here are some challenging thoughts to frame your thinking:
- Pay attention to Chuck Klosterman, not Malcom Gladwell - Gladwell reports on things and gives you what he thinks you should pay attention to. After the first 50 pages or so of a MG book you get the premise. Klosterman, while not specifically media/marketing related teaches us to think different about situations and find the angles that you did not necessarily know existed.
- If you want to learn how to affect and motivate crowds, study Edward Bernays and Jim Moran, not Improv Everywhere.
- Being 'Social' is about having real conversations with real people, not using technology to connect with others who should be having real conversations too. Social Media are simply tools for connection, service, reputation management and message dissemination, but the real Social Engagement happens one-to-one and ideally in person.
- Don't worry about the numbers of 'followers' and 'friends' you have, worry about the authenticity of the messages you put out there and respect your own community. Become a voice with something to say and people will start to take notice.
- Don't be arrogant. There is so much more that you don't know than you could ever know.
- What is hot right now, may not be in the near future. Second Life, Friendster, Myspace, the Palm VII, The Globe, WebVan, Netscape and so many more companies dot the landscape of those with huge buzz and potential riches, and then fell out of favor. Do not tie yourself too closely to a technology, destination or platform that potentially could be obsolete or passé in a few months/years time.
- Constantly be looking for new things to inspire you and others.
- Try and become an expert on something.
- Be honest with yourself and the brands you work for. In today's world, if you try and pull the wool over someone's eyes or do not deliver on your promise, not only are they geared up to expose it, but it will probably end up on YouTube and Twitter.
- Meg Kearny wrote "I believe good poets borrow, great poets steal" - I fully support this notion and welcome you to do so with my ideas as well as offer your ideas up for theft to others.
These are but a start. Obviously you will be charting your own way. Learning from many and teaching others. Allow yourself that you will not know everything. One of the most satisfying things about what we do is that often the best ideas are things that have never been done before. So often the innovation comes out seeing if something can happen and when it goes right, you will know it. When it does not, you learn for the future.
All my best,
Sam Travis Ewen
CEO - Interference Inc.