Born in Asmara, Ethiopia, Weil moved to the United States when he was a baby. He spent his growing up years between New York and Colorado. The 21-year-old college student who took off to travel the world became the Global CEO at Momentum Worldwide when he was just 37. Weil’s organisation, Momentum Worldwide, has been behind some of the most memorable and celebrated works in experiential marketing in the recent years. Weil speaks to BestMediaInfo about experiential marketing and why it’s not what brands say that matters but what brands do that matters.
How did you arrive at the thought ‘It’s not what brands say that matters; it’s what brands do that matters’?
As you start working on brands and brands that you love, ones that actually mean something to you in your life, you will find that it is very seldom that the feeling of love you have for a brand is because of a television commercial they did or a print ad that you saw. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with advertising, I am a big believer in advertising but advertising will get you to consideration sell and then it is about what a brand does for its consumers. If you start with that premise instead of the premise ‘what are we going to say about this brand’ then you start all your communications and all your thinking from a complete different. Information is so easily available now-a-days. That means that consumers are going to be looking up brands and they are going to ask “What does this brand stand for?”, “What does this brand do?” So, this though kind of serves dual purpose for me, one is that, it starts the mind set at the right place and two is that it also helps us think about how we can help our brands to do the right thing in the world.
Are brands open to the concept of experiential marketing?
Without a doubt, yes. It is different in every market but the fascinating part is if you do the research on brands that are known for a purpose and brands that aren’t, brands that are known for a purpose are growing at a faster rate by almost 10 per cent than brands that don’t. So you have got a business case against why this matters. In the end the job of an agency is to help a brand grow.
How has digital contributed to experiential marketing?
Digital has made the experiential marketing business. If not for digital it would have been an events production company. If you want to be in the experiential marketing business you better know what you are doing in digital. Digital has allowed us to create reach. When I started in this business you had to create an idea, you had to find somebody to pay for that idea, you had to get a distribution partner in a television network and there were only so many options. But now we have the option of building social channels. There are influential channels through which we can push our video out to 10-20 million people. Now that we have the ability to create this reach it is going to be phenomenal and that is essential to the experiential marketing business.
But the flip side of digital is that there is too much information at hand. How do you break the clutter and stay relevant?
To do that you must ask what is the role of the brand in the consumer’s life? Not the mind space in advertising, what I am talking about is the role that a brand plays in my life or your life. With mobile technology we not only have the ability to be sensitive to location but also way too many things at once, which is all well and good but if you don’t have a message that matters then all of that targeting is useless. For example, when is the last time you clicked on a banner ad on your phone? I can guarantee you it was by mistake and that is the problem. We as an industry need to figure out how to use this remote control to our lives aka mobile phones in a way that adds utility to the consumer’s life. For instance, at American Express we know our card members by their purchasing history and say a particular customer likes music and say they are travelling to Mumbai, well we have the ability to let them know what music is popular in Mumbai. Well, that means something to me and that is utility. The key is in understanding the consumer better. We now have the ability to get to know much deeper than we had in the past.
What according to you is the most challenging part about creating any communication?
I talk about intimacy at scale and I think the most challenging part about creating any communication is how to create a communication that feels intimate but also has some scale too. Every brand, category and medium is different. But if you start with what is the brand doing and how to create something that matters to as many people as possible by looking through this lens of intimacy at scale, you will be able to craft a story that is different from what most people would.
Which brands do you think are getting experiential marketing correct?
I would say American Express. They are not huge in India but they are a brand that does it as well as any brand. They are somebody who understands that a credit card can be your access to experience and a better life. Red Bull is another brand. They are somebody who built their entire brand around experience. I also think you can never talk about great branding without throwing Apple in there. The experience of Apple — whether you are in one of their stores using their products, or online — is the same.
We already have virtual reality. What do you think the next best thing in experiential marketing is going to be?
I think augmented reality is going to be a huge part of experiential marketing. Taking the example of Pokémon Go, what it did is show us that our mobile phones can play a part in the world around us. Virtual reality is a different medium because when you are in there you are not part of the world, whereas augmented reality allows you to be a part of the world that you live in. I think mixed reality is going to be the next big thing in experiential marketing.