5 Mistakes Companies Are Making in Digital

Opinion: Pay for play is not only lame but very transparent to those consuming content

Each Outpost lets artists get their hands on futurist brands and share direct to their fan base
The Participation Agency

Here are five mistakes brands are making and how to fix them:

Stop focusing on major markets

There are more than 320 million people in the U.S., and about 5 percent of them have access to experiential marketing projects. This a lot to leave on the table when experiential has proved to be the most efficient and expedient way to reach consumers in the sharing economy.

As we’ve become more digital as a society, we’ve shared culture much faster than ever before. 20 years ago, a teen in the Midwest looked totally different than one in New York, and today, that’s not true.

So, if consumer taste level has evened out, then a brand’s focus should evolve, too.

Rethink festival sponsorships

Festivals are a blast and aren’t going anywhere, but the way brands spend at these events should. At the end of a festival, brands have no idea whether activations were successful because the metrics are loose, generic, non-correlated and biased.

The cost to set up a temporary structure in a field is insane versus the payoff. Further, the ask to consumers doesn’t meet their main purpose, which is to hear music, get high and eat some street food. You also have the added problem where phones don’t work in the cell jungle at festivals so sharing becomes obsolete.

Brands looking to sponsor music events should instead find ways to authentically work with artists who can speak on their behalf in a mutually respectful way. We at The Participation Agency tested this concept with the Outpost program, a collection of sophisticated rest stops for artists on tour placed in tertiary markets. Each Outpost lets artists get their hands on futurist brands and share direct to their fan base. The efficiency and return on investment, from a metrics standpoint, is astronomical, as artists with massive followings are much better at generating content and talking to the fans at a festival than brands will ever be.

Hack a brilliant hashtag

We constantly see brands trying to scale a boring hashtag, almost like they have no idea what hashtagging even means. Hashtags are used to notate trends, movements and sentiments, and if your brand hasn’t harnessed one or all of these things, then you should get out of the hashtag game.

At The Participation Agency, we always say that if you want to get attention, you need to do something attention worthy, and that goes extra for you, Mr. Hashtag.

To prove this point, we created a movement called #getupny. We started by asking 10 Instagram photographers to share their images with #getupny. We then wheat-pasted their pictures around New York and reposted these images tagging each user. This project scaled to more than 100,000 submissions in three months. It was a valuable lesson in creating sentiment, trends and movements to prove use case for hashtags.

Get the digital brand value of a New York party without spending millions

From a tactical standpoint, as a brand, you can get much further spending dollars in tertiary markets than you can in major markets, where the dollars get you about one-quarter of the distance.

We at The Participation Agency have found traction and value looking at projects in El Paso, Texas, and Ashbury Park, N.J., where we have a longstanding space and oasis for musicians.

In El Paso, one project cost us $80,000 to build and $50,000 to maintain to date. This would literally be unsustainable in a major market due to the extreme costs of rent, creative talent and labor. However, the project has received more than 21 million social media impressions and $500,000 in media value.

We have been able to harness the power of influence by connecting to the same musicians that play in Los Angeles or New York, but while they are passing through a smaller, less brand-saturated city. Thinking about who we wanted to reach and where they might be located gave us a unique platform to reach them outside of the expected.

Work with, but don’t pay for, Instagram influencers

Pay for play is not only lame but very transparent to those consuming content. Influential instagrammers are influential because they are able to develop and scale content. If you provide a situation where the ability to develop content is matched by a mutual benefit, then social influencers will see the value and respond.

In all of the music programs we develop at The Participation Agency, our success has been in creating immersive worlds that content-developing artists want to experience. We match that with brands that meet their ethos, and this results in a perfect storm where authentic engagement is king.

Jessica Resler is founder and chief creative officer at experiential agency The Participation Agency.