Dearth Of Personnel Affecting Experiential Marketing Business

Tade Adekunle is the main driver behind an experiential marketing company popularly called Keskese, a name derived from Greek word meaning “what it is”. In this interview with Olamide Bakare, he shares his thoughts on the business of experiential marketing and other issues in the marketing communication industry. Excerpts:
What do you think should be done to tackle the issue of quackery in the experiential marketing business?
The entry barrier, unfortunately, in this our profession, is not there because it is not yet strictly regulated. That is why the Experiential Marketers of Nigeria (EXMAN) was formed. The association is basically important so that members can speak with one voice, as this would enable them to put sanity and order in place because anything that the entry profession is loose, people may not take that profession seriously. Once people are aware people that the profession is adding value and not just carrying chairs, it will attract the right people and interest.
For me, I think that is a strategic process in delivering what is required. We are not just getting briefs but ready to dissect and give you feedback beyond what you have even proposed. From there, you will know that people know what they are talking about. It means they are adding value or strategic process to what they are proposing to you. That is where we need to differentiate ourselves as core professionals. But, however, what a lot of people see is the end product without knowing the process they had gone through. For the quacks, their confidence is stemmed from the fact that when they see the end product, they think they can do it. On the entry barrier, I believe by the time EXMAN becomes member of APCON, I think sanity will also prevail. It is not bad as you might say, but only that there is need to differentiate between the core professionals and the charlatans.
Many still consider experiential marketing as a mere jamboree. Do you agree with that position?
As I said earlier, most people see the end product but are quite unaware what goes into it. Take for instance, you are organising a concert or a producting a launch, there must be a reason why the brand decided to do a product launch or concert, which the consumers are hardly aware of. What most people don’t know is that what they see on the final day is the end result of a long thought out process. So, what they call a jamboree is actually the end product, which comes in form of concert or product launch. What is often not realized is that there are so many legs attached to the actual delivery itself. You will find out that the brand has interacted with millions of consumers through the concert. But as onlookers, you may not see that part, but however, the brand has achieved its aim. For the brand, it has been able to measure the impact and realise the benefit of what is referred in some circles as jamboree. By the end of the concert, the brand would have seen that its equity has grown, market share has gown. But when people see the final leg, which comes in form of razzmatazz or pyrotechnics, they will think it was a waste.
Razzmatazz is not my business. It is the strategic thinking, the process or the brand objective that is put into it that I find very relevant. Sometimes, what people take away is not what is seen particularly those who know. I believe those who know or those who are enmeshed in the business, they will know, which is the ultimate. It is only that you cannot break it down for everybody but the brand has its objective. It has its strategic process, which the experiential marketing would help to achieve. In as much as it is achieved, whether it is a jamboree or a party, what is important is that it has impacted on the brand.
How do brand activations help unconscious consumers to become conscious?
If you have been familiar with what I have been saying, you would understand that experiential marketing has become a core part of integrated marketing communication. Do you know that experiential marketing has been taken into core advertising? When you immersed people in the worldview of a brand, that is what experiential marketing is all about. It is for you to say let the consumer experience the brand, and then he or she will never leave the brand again.  Experiential marketing is expected to deliver beyond the objectives. Experiential marketing and brand activation is critical because it connects with consumers and immerses them in the brand world. However, using other media may not be able to deliver on that.
Once again, congratulation on your new MTN account. Now, considering the fact that you will be operating in a new environment where the culture and nuances are different, how do you intend to drive the process in a manner that would add more value to the MTN brand?
Thanks for such a brilliant question. I think it is important to state that it was an international pitch that featured top rated experiential agencies. We were not the only one involved in the pitch process. Other agencies in Nigeria and in other markets took part in the pitch specifically from Benin Republic. Of course, we cannot assume that Benin Republic consumers are the same with those in Nigeria. You would expect that there would be differences in their worldview and relationships. We must note that Benin Republic is French speaking while Nigeria is English speaking. Therefore, in getting the brief, we went the extra mile to learn what operates in that environment instead of relying on what happens in Surulere and using it as benchmark. We carried out our research in Benin Republic to understand the consumers better in Benin Republic. And some of the solutions we proffered in answering those briefs were tailored with Benin consumers in mind according to the feedback we got from consumers in that country. We didn’t apply one leg approach in arriving at the needed destination. It would have been dead on arrival if we had used Nigeria as benchmark. In actual fact, we arrived early for the presentation to learn new things about the country. Funny enough, we got information on the Internet that was contrary to what was on ground. The contradiction itself was enough to reinforce the fact that not every thing you see on the Internet that you take hook line and sinker.
As someone who has been in the business of brand building through experiential marketing and brand activation, what is the implication of data availability on the business of marketing communication?
Data is key because it would guide you to make an informed decision. It would guide you to know the target audience you are talking to, it will guide you to know where you can meet that target audience. That is what data helps you to do. However, experiential marketing companies are not data companies or research companies. We might gather data but what we do on our own is only scratching the surface as far as data gathering is concerned. There are companies that are specifically set up to address that area. In my personal view, I don’t think an experiential marketer can claim to be a research company. We might have data probably because of the virtue of work that we do which are documented across various brands. All these might help us in some situations or assist in revalidation. However, when we are doing some other big assignment, we buy data from research companies because that is the only way we can give an informed decision on the brand and also align proposals to hit the bull’s eye.
One big issue that has remained a recurring decimal in the marketing communication business is the payment of pitch fee. What is your take on that?
We will get there. I cannot make any contribution for now. It is left for the association to decide. The association will take a decision that will be binding on all of us.
How will you assess the business of brand activation and experiential marketing in Nigeria? What are the challenges?
The business of brand activation is a growing business or concern. It is a growing business in which marketing directors, brand managers and companies have seen the need to retain people who are knowledgeable, people who are who can add value in that particular area for them to grow their brands and increase bottom line and also own the brand. That is where experiential marketing comes in. We can bring the product and the brand, the service to come face to face with the consumers. The consumer must experience the brand. It is something you can easily take a decision on. It is something you can easily measure. It is something you can easily take a decision on. For experiential marketing, the consumers must take something positive from the brand.
The challenges are not peculiar to this business alone. The challenges are not far fetched from what other sectors are facing. It is a known fact that in Nigeria, we still contend with the problem of power supply. Beyond that, experiential marketing is faced with the issue of human resources. If you go outside the country, the experiential marketing is one subject, which runs as a programme in universities. But this is not the case in Nigeria. Over there, experiential marketing is studied up to doctorate level. Virtually, no Nigerian university or polytechnic offers such as a course and this is one big challenge that is contributing to the dearth of able personnel.