As brand experience expert and keynote speaker Kevin Jackson travels the globe. If anyone knows what the future of the live industry look like and what the hot topics are, it’s him. With a career that brought him from Jack Morton to the position of VP of George P.Johnson, the world’s number 1 experience group. Some time ago we had a chat with one of the most influential persons in the experiential marketing industry.

How do you see the future of experience marketing?

KEVIN JACKSON: Brands don’t generally seek extra awareness. Everyone knows who Coca-Cola, IKEA and Samsung are. What brands want is a relationship. And the only way to get one is to get out of your corporate HQ, to step out from behind your billboard or TV commercial and to shake your consumer’s hand. Brands are starting to understand this, which is what’s creating growth in our sector.

Events are about mutually beneficial experiences, the polar opposite of the singular benefit that traditional advertising offers the brand. If you want to build that relationship, you need to look at it from your audience’s point of view. Compare it to a party. You can serve your favourite food and play your favourite music, but it’s only when you anticipate your audience’s expectations and preferences, that they are happy and you get to build a relationship. A brand has to be a good host, however remaining authentic and loyal to its own DNA.


Which link do you see with digital and social?

KEVIN JACKSON: There is no more important driver than the connection with other people, even when we’re behind our smartphone or tablet and are talking through Facebook or Twitter. Only real life can truly cement this relationship. You can enhance, expand or extend these live experiences through social media, which is exactly why the live industry is growing. Conversely, all social media channels need content and live communication provides this content.

What’s the place of events as part of a bigger live communication picture?

KEVIN JACKSON: An event is a moment in time, an experience is about the entire campaign, including pre- and post communications, a feedback loop,… More and more advertisers are starting to realize this, but there is a lot of room for improvement. You still find standalone events.


Should brands give experience marketing a greater share in their marketing mix?

KEVIN JACKSON: Advertisers have to choose: either they put their money into TV advertising or into live experiences. There used to be a huge difference: aTV ad would reach 2 million people and an event – if you were lucky – maybe 20,000. That has changed: thanks to the enhancement of social media you can now reach as many people as you would with a TV commercial, with as an added bonus the endorsement of the people that were actually at the event. Events and activations can rightfully claim their position in the marketing mix.

Why should a brand choose for live as a medium?

KEVIN JACKSON: Not a single CEO is looking for a live experience, they’re looking for extra sales, ways to launch a new product, to increase visitors to the website, to engage its employees. Live communication agencies can deliver on each of these objectives.

A final question on the Belgian live communication sector: what can we do to improve?

KEVIN JACKSON: How our sector should evolve in each country is more or less the same, though not every country is already operating at the same level. Compare it with a 16 wheeler where every wheel is going at a different speed. But there are more things that unite us as countries than differences that keep us apart.

Each market has its pros and cons, but what binds us are the experiences we create for people, the emotions we bring about. It doesn’t matter where in the world we are, it’s always about those same emotions. As long as you take these emotions as your ultimate source of inspiration, you’re on the right track!

This interview was first published in LIVE #5, The Oval Office’s annual review.


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