What You Missed at EMS 2017: Day Three – Event Marketer

What You Missed at EMS 2017: Day Three – Event Marketer
Experiential Marketing Summit

What You Missed at EMS 2017: Day Three

American Greetings' mailbox and card-writing station was a popular stop for EMS attendees.

American Greetings’ mailbox and card-writing station was a popular stop for EMS attendees.

There would be no slowing down on the final day of the Experiential Marketing Summit (May 3-5) as another packed day kicked off at McCormick Place in Chicago. With 25 sessions including two master classes on the agenda, the spread of breakfast treats and fruit outside the general session ballroom helped fuel the morning.

The IBM morning keynote began at 8:30 a.m., as Colleen Bisconti, vp-global events at IBM, talked about the “transformation” of IBM into a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company, and how that has transformed the brand’s event strategies.

“I kept coming back to this one word time and time again, and that word is transformation,” Bisconti said. “I strongly believe that as event marketers we need to constantly focus on how we think about, plan and execute events because this industry is moving so fast that those who don’t have a constant focus on transformation are going to be left behind.”

For the 106-year-old IBM brand, this has meant embracing technology to personalize the experiences for its event attendees—focusing on the attendee experience, rather than what the brand wants to tell attendees.

“Data is an incredibly powerful thing when it’s fully utilized, and for the most part, I believe we’ve only started to tackle the potential of data in events,” Bisconti said. “To be truly effective, we have to harness the totality of data we have on each and every person, what products do they use, what other events have they gone to, how else have they engaged with us, even going so far as to look at their social media footprint.”

IBM has transformed its events using three principles: Agile Thinking, Brand Design and Cognitive Experiences.

“Reaching new audiences requires a new focus on not just where we go, but more importantly, how we show up, and for us, a key part of this focus is leveraging IBM Watson to pull this end-to-end experience together—new audiences, immersive experiences, maximum ROI from every single dollar we spend,” Bisconti said.

After a brief networking break, women at EMS were invited to a networking brunch coproduced by Sparks at 10:30 a.m. featuring a conversation with Ms. Tech founder Nicole Yeary on the importance of networking for women in business. Women raised a mimosa and walked away with tips for career-minded women of all levels.

Experiential Marketing Summit

Complimentary manicures were among experiences offered in the Solutions Center expo at EMS.

At 10:45 a.m., a busy morning of sessions led by brand-side instructors, including event “habitats” with HP, launch events with United Airlines, reinvention with Google and design trends with Conde Nast. The luncheon keynote featured Alex Amado, vp-experience marketing at Adobe. Over a Cinco de Mayo feast of enchiladas and ceviche, Amado shared thoughts and creative approaches used at Adobe that he hoped would be relevant and resonate with the attendees.

“Our approach begins with our mission statement: Changing the world through digital experiences,” Amado told the audience. “At first, that statement seemed a little ambitious and far-fetched, but now it seems more relevant every single day. It is critically important for businesses to change and transform whether they are physical or digital.”

When Adobe began its transformation seven years ago to a new business model, it learned that delivering great experiences is the mission when going through a big business change. “Adobe has always been about great experiences. It’s our north star in delivering marketing to our customers,” Amado said.

He outlined five pillars at the core of delivering those great experiences: Design, Community, Engagement, Data and Culture. “Delivering great experiences is never easy,” he said. “We need to listen to the customer and put their needs first. And it takes the whole team, across every function. Events are a fantastic way to engage but it takes everybody.”

After lunch, 12 more sessions and a master class. Among them: a look inside HGTV’s Lodge at CMA Fest, baby boomer event marketing with AARP, tips and fan forecasts from the Boston Red Sox and VR for every demographic with Humana—which included live demos.

Since we’re all about going big or going home, EMS founder Dan Hanover hosted a closing general session at 4 p.m. on the trends to watch out for in 2017, with top expert case studies and insights, all washed down with cold beer. Mmmm. And that was a wrap.

After 15 years, we can’t wait to share with you what’s next. We hope to see you when the Experiential Marketing Summit heads to San Francisco in 2018, May 14-16. In the meantime, check out this year’s Ex Awards winners—78 case studies of excellence from the year’s best campaigns. And be sure to share our recaps from Day One and Day Two.

And one last time, we offer up the best insights from the day, below.


Experiential Marketing Summit

Adobe’s keynote offered spectacular graphics and insights on creative marketing approaches.


 “It’s amazing to see really driven, focused people unleash their inner child… They shed their work identities and titles and regressed back into being a kid… And they needed it. Adults need to get away from the stressful parts of their lives.”

—Adam Tichauer, CEO and Head Camper at Camp No Counselors


“The challenge for us was our age. Syfy is an old network…So we had to be really laser-targeted in what our goals were in marketing ‘The Magicians.'”

—Mozhgan Setoodeh, Senior Director-Brand Marketing & Promotions, Syfy


“IBM is evolving from a sponsor to a partner, and will continue on the trajectory. There is so much opportunity for cognitive technology to create a meaningful difference. What is the next thing? It’s not about robots in charge of the world—it’s what can we do that is really cool, and improve the experience for fans by helping our partners run their businesses better.”

—Elizabeth O’Brien, Program Director-Sports and Entertainment Partnerships, IBM


“We took our story and wrapped it around what is great about HD motorcycles—look, sound and feel.”

—Sean Zielinski, Director-Corporate Communications, Harley-Davidson.


“I want our customers to say ‘I had a great time at the CDW Experience at the Braves game,’ not ‘I had a great time at the Braves game,’ or I’ve failed.”

—Dan Frystak, Senior Manager-Brand and Sponsorship, CDW


“We love experiential and it is a big part of our overall marketing plan,  creating that incredible emotional connection with the kids and the parents. We’re really able to deliver on that.”

—Tor Sirset, VP-Preschool and Girls Team, Spin Master


“Nobody should walk away from any piece of our marketing without at least understanding what the positioning of the product is. Even if you haven’t gone deep enough to understand all the specific attributes of the product, you walk away with an understanding of the positioning. What is Polaris [new business class seating] about? They’ll say ‘sleep.’ You can get it down to one word, and that is a success for us. We needed to strongly position our marketing and experiences around that, and that’s what we needed to compete with. If you own that positioning, it’s very hard for a competitor to match.”

—Mark Krolick, VP-Marketing, United Airlines 


“We incorporated these fun little moments where it’s the Google personality with a wink and a smile. I don’t think many conferences have this sort of nerd Disneyland built into them, and we loved being a part of it.” 

—Amanda Matuk, Marketing Manager-Events, Google


“There are all kinds of preconceived beliefs that senior citizens have a phobia of new technologies, which isn’t necessarily true, but there were some nuances and things we needed to think about in designing the experience, because if you’ve never put on the goggles before, it can be disorienting. When we were in the development process and testing everything, I’d download the new version of it and be in my office with my desk chair and the headset, swiveling—the testing and refining is important, you really have to be thoughtful from end to end, from putting it on, to developing a menu that’s easy to use, to walking through it time after time.”

—Tres Waterfield, Strategic Consultant-Corporate Sponsorships, Humana


“Another one for us is authenticity. Really, again, going back to the products that are made that have real stories and resonate with people. A barometer I like to use is would we work with this partner five years from now or five years ago, and if the answer is a definitive No, then we know that’s not the right partnership for us. We’re always thinking about that longterm, longevity, and how it’s going to resonate with consumers.”

—Karla Dover, Senior Manager-National Event Marketing, Jameson

“Every year, we go on an extraordinary offsite—a retreat. Time out of the office, away from laptops and meeting spaces and fishbowl meeting rooms. It’s breaking down silos. It’s no longer, ‘Well, my agency, or your agency.’ It’s time away to bring the entire Dos Equis team together where the philosophy of ‘may the best idea win,’ and that mindset, quickly emerges.”

—Ryan Thompson, Brand Director, Dos Equis, on the value of cultivating “boundary-less thinking.” 


“We really get the genuine benchmark for what’s interesting. But more importantly, we get the benchmark for what’s doable. We used to say, ‘Can we do that? Can we do this?’ When you go to Burning Man and you see the absolutely crazy installations they do, nothing became impossible for us.”

—Ryan Thompson, Brand Director, Dos Equis, on the value of his team’s annual Burning Man offsite.

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