There was a time when ye olde “photo op” was solely the domain of a publicist and the act of image-making — whether for a celebrity or brand — was a highly orchestrated exercise in spin. Those were the days when “content was king” and controlling the production and distribution of that content was how mere messages became mythology. Clearly, the paradigm has shifted now that everyone and their iPhone is not only their own PR team but CMO, producer, celebrity, and brand. And though content still may be king, it now reigns over the comparative chaos of a million social media feeds, which have all but virtualized experience.
This is why experiential marketing has such power — it’s arresting and awe-inducing when done right and has an exponential half-life when introduced to the personal platforms of influentials in attendance. But here a question looms: Is your experiential marketing campaign just a photo op?
“…A single image can make a massive difference in how likely a tweet or Facebook post is to be shared,” writes Mary C. Long for Adweek, exploring the intricate dance between experiential marketing efforts and social media. “While many brands value the social currency of experiential marketing, they often aren’t leveraging it well enough to build the buzz and loyalty they’re after,” she writes
Indeed, certain images can help induce the Holy Grail of virality and give a brand an earned media lift in social channels especially when accompanied with a carefully-crafted hashtag. But such experiences also risk contributing to an emerging sense of photo-fatigue, which is rapidly becoming the elephant in the Instagram feed for experiential marketing pros.
Dan Ortiz, writing for The Drum, suggests doing away with “Insta-baiting selfie honey-pots” and focusing instead on cultivating authentic experiences that invite people to relax into the occasion such that they become “truly authentic and vulnerable.”
Think of it as The Museum of Ice Cream meets a hip boutique hotel. I believe that if we offer spaces that are comfortable and hotel-like we can erase the usual self-inflicted pressure created by experiential pop-ups — the gnawing feeling that I have to capture as many pictures as possible from the best possible angles before moving on to the next room of the experience and the next room and so forth.
Simply put, don’t get trolled by the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen.” Effective experiential marketing should build a remarkable experience first (the photo-ops will come).