“Innovation drives everything,” an event pro remarked at a recent industry conference. That sentiment is certainly true of the past few years in experiential marketing. As budgets fluctuate, lead time constricts, and guests become savvier, it’s no longer enough just to pull off an event. In order to stand out in a saturated and highly competitive marketplace, producers, marketers, and vendors must be creative visually, provide engaging content, and find original opportunities to connect with their audience online and in person—all without appearing frivolous or wasteful.
With that in mind, the goal for our second Innovation Issue was not only to highlight brands and individuals behind some of the most memorable efforts of the past year, but to tell the stories of those who also demonstrated the power and importance of face-to-face events by meeting and exceeding business goals. We found 66 professionals and selected the top 10 companies whose constant stream of unconventional, purpose-driven concepts shapes the way we look at, think about, and interact with events today.
On our list of innovative people are organizers who turn guests into active fund-raisers, and planners committing to long-term sustainability efforts. There are marketers forging strategic partnerships between public and private entities, culinary leaders who seek to redefine their offerings through cultural exchange, and those developing ways to incorporate digital activities into physical environments. (There aren’t, however, any people from last year’s list; we aimed to recognize an entirely new group.) From independent set fabricators and producers behind the scenes to the in-house executives providing the top-line directives, this group works on hundreds of events each year, including award shows, music festivals, trade shows, benefits, movie premieres, and design fairs.
For our list of brands, we revisited the companies featured last year, once again looking for those that place an emphasis on experiential marketing and craft smart campaigns that see results. We also investigated some of the most successful marketing stories of the past year, weighing style against financial reports, media impressions versus consumer awareness. The resulting list—ranked for the first time—includes some of the usual suspects as well as some surprising entries.