Experiential marketing is a fascinating subject and it follows my interests in creating immersive experiences. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it is a way to imprint a brand on people by allowing them to experience it. This is a very powerful tool.
Interactivity has been a long-standing interest of mine with regard to music and these ideas can easily be adapted to create a richer experiential marketing campaign. You may remember about the band that I started called Lunar Rising. For those unfamiliar with the band, we were a folk/rock band that had to split due to members following other non-musical ambitions. Anyway, before the band split, I got thinking about how to make our gigs stand out from the crowd (it’s a sad state of affairs that music is only a small element of this, especially in London for some odd reason – but this isn’t the post to talk about that lengthy subject!).
Partly inspired by a situation we once found ourselves in, I had the idea of getting the audience involved as in true folk-music fashion. One evening at a gig in south London our singer conjured up a disappearing act after sound-check so, not being people to disappoint, we decided to go instrumental and improvise. It turned out that the venue had a bountiful supply of percussion instruments so we seized the opportunity and handed them out to the crowd. The next thing we know, we are jamming with a room full of people and everybody is having a fantastic time!
I started to think about how this could be developed and created into a selling point for the band. There were many ideas; some bad, some good and some probably more at home in an art gallery than a music venue. I thought about entrusting the use of a simple drone instrument to a volunteer; ordering the controlled chaos of jamming somehow so that the crowd could play along to our songs; positioning ourselves among the audience for an acoustic gig so that people could get close and personal and experience being with the band; using samples of conversations and other noises recorded in the venue queue, manipulating them and working them into songs or instrumentals.
This is when I started to think about what else could possibly join music when creating a musical experience, and this was one of the seeds that led me to wanting to get involved in sound for events and experiential marketing. Various sound artists have shown us that involving the audience can create events and such ideas in folk music are very old indeed. With wireless, touchscreen technology; silent discos; sound gardens and trails included, there are many ways to lift an experience by getting the audience involved. On one level, this is great fun but on another it brings each individual to the centre of experiential marketing activities that they will remember for a long time; creating sound is a very rewarding experience.
In terms of audio ideas to bring an events or experiential marketing audience to centre stage, there are many possible routes. As briefly mentioned, current iPod technology has been used to create touchscreen access points that trigger various happenings, but then there are the more primitive ideas where people can interact with sound sculptures; maybe such ideas work in harmony… It doesn’t have to be a gimmick either; given a theme as a starting block, related ideas are always possible. What is also clear is that audiences no longer have to be passive and when they are not the experience is far more rewarding for everybody involved. The rise in experiential theatre as well as experiential marketing embodies these ideas and I believe this is the future for sound and music. And vice versa, sound really is truly immersive and it’s use beyond music in experiential marketing will definitely grow.