#5 in a series of 10 articles looking at the changes and growth of the Guerrilla, Experiential and Non-Traditional Marketing world in the 10 years since we launched Interference Inc.
10 years ago, when I started Interference, Inc. there was no such thing as Twitter or Facebook. There was no bit.ly and no Foursquare and both Flickr and YouTube were not even close to being sketched out on the back of a napkin at an unnamed bar at SXSW. We had cell phones, but they looked like this, and yes AOL was the dominant name in the game and were about to
acquire merge with TimeWarner. In other words, the word-of-mouth and 'social' pass-along was mostly done through actual mouths and by extension email. Our focus was on getting people to talk to each other about what they had just experienced or seen and then if possible, get press for it.
The most important thing about doing creative marketing when we started out was to create an event or creation that cut through the clutter of the traditional advertising spaces in a given market. Billboards, transit media, radio, in-store, etc. were what we had to combat for share of attention when performing an event. We tried to design branded intercepts that would cause people to approach the marketing instead of avoid it. Simple premise right?
Well what we had in store for us next was nothing short of the perfect storm between our greatest opportunity and our worst nightmare.
Why our worst nightmare? Well we were initially battling for share of attention with physical and audio distractions, suddenly our general audiences went from looking at the world around them to focusing on their phones for SMS, MMS, social networking sites and more, all contained on this small computer that they carried in their pocket. Offline behavior took a decidely head's down approach, looking at the small screen, then an eyes front approach, looking at my spectacle. This is a bit of an exaggeration as of course people still pay attention to their surroundings, but it exponentially, and especially in the last 2 years, increased distraction points. Additionally, with all of the marketing movement and buzz around SM in the last 2-3 years, many brands started increasing spend in that area, and inevitably decreased spend in other areas, I believe guerrilla to be one of the victims of the SM revolution.
Now for our greatest opportunity, SM has extended the reach of so many wonderful guerrilla marketing campaigns and created a longevity and reach for live events that was very rarely seen before the medium attained it's recent maturity.
The person who wrote this status had 609 friends at the time and I had no idea who she was. When we told the client about it, they were really interested in if we could measure social ripple effects. At the time we could not, now we can a little better, but more importantly, it highlighted the fact, 3 years ago, that creating a live expereince that had 'share value' was now the business we were in. Since then we have had events shared millions of times on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Foursquare and countless other networks and the impressions of those shares clearly eclipse how many actually experienced the event live and have started to rival certain press hits one may have hoped for 5 years ago. It has changed alternative marketing, completely.
Not only has how we create and execute events changed because of social media, but even who we use to work the events has changed. We are getting many requests these days to hire brand ambassadors that are not only engaging and attractive but often brands and agencies want them to have a minimum number of Facebook and Twitter friends/followers. A brand ambassador with over 1,000 friends on Facebook and who is willing to share about the event he/she is working, can often command a higher rate than one who is not.
Social Media is certianly here to stay, who knows if it will remain in its current form or evolve, but clearly we in the experiential business are paying close attention and I believe 10 years from now, the younger set will be shocked to learn that we did events where the value of the event had to actually be justified simply by the people who saw it in person as opposed to virtual versions and conversations about it.