iD's latest recruit to the business development department, Liam Danby, gives some thought to the intricacies of trialling products through experiential marketing.
Recently at iD we've become rather fascinated with the issue of spitting in public. But rather, as you might expect, than trying to stop it, we’ve been fascinated by how we can make it more acceptable. Why you wonder? Because we're trying to make people feel comfortable and positive about trailing mouthwash in public!
Spitting in public is pretty mild when it comes to social taboos but let's face it, no one likes a spitter. It does raise deeper issues though about the limits of experiential marketing - are there some product categories that can’t go down the live brand engagement route for fear of consumer embarrassment? Is this something we should be challenging - indeed, is this something we must challenge?
There are literally hundreds of products out there for correcting embarrassing problems, or involving embarrassing procedures. How can we help these products to challenge and shape brand perceptions through trial and engagement without having people run away from the first sign of a brand ambassador or member of promo staff?
It seems that in this regard we have something to learn from TV, which has been tackling these issues head on for some time - featuring real people in towns and shopping centres and broadcasting it to millions. It was now three years ago Maverick TV first brought the programme ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ to our TV screens in an explosion of incontinence and rashes, and ever since it has gone from strength to strength.
Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies website has been responsible for some 42% of its web traffic, with its STI Checker now having over 1 million unique users. It’s more than just a modern day freak show; people are engaging with the issues. Whether it’s the free surgery, the public recognition, or the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ - people are queuing up to show us their ills.
With embarrassing bodies, comes embarrassing products. ATL advertisers have consistently tried to exploit our insecurities by presenting us with images of polished perfection - creating an increasingly narrow view of what is desirable; or to put it another way, an ever wider view of what’s embarrassing.
If experiential advertisers can tackle taboo subjects they can sell taboo products to the masses. There is a real opportunity to be creative in this area - as the rules are clearly changing, one thing is for sure - it won’t help to be shy, just spit it out!