MarTech Interview with Michael O’Connell, VP Marketing at AnyRoad

What drives experiential marketing in today’s B2B economy? Michael O’Connell, VP Marketing at AnyRoad shares a few thoughts in this catch up with MarTech Series:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Michael, tell us more about your time at AnyRoad?

I’m relatively new to the AnyRoad journey having joined as the company’s first marketing hire in March 2020. The company was founded in 2014 by brothers Jonathan and Daniel Yaffe. Jonathan had worked in marketing early at RedBull and Daniel came from the publishing world as the former head of a spirits magazine, which brought him to distilleries all over the world. In both of these roles, they noticed that brands were spending a ton of money and effort on providing experiences for their consumers – whether that was distillery tours or massive experiential stunts – but they had no way of measuring their impact. 

Consumer behavior was also starting to shift, where people were more inclined to spend money on experiences over things. Jonathan and Daniel set out to create a platform for brands to participate in this shift and deliver meaningful experiences to consumers. For those interested in learning more about this change I recommend checking out the book The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. 

Today, we consider AnyRoad the leader in a new category of software called Experience Relationship Management (ERM). We empower brands to collect insights and deliver experiences at scale. We work with hundreds of organizations including Anheuser-Busch, Diageo, Honda and Michaels Stores to capitalize on the “experience economy” and support anything from in-person events and online experiences to brand activations in-store and in the field.

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In today’s hybrid work and hybrid marketing/sales setup – what are some of the top trends that are driving change in experiential marketing?

In 2020, we saw the rise of virtual and hybrid experiences and these experiences are here to stay. A survey we ran in November 2020 showed that 70% of respondents ran their first virtual experiences in 2020 and that 80% expected to continue running them after the pandemic 

We’ve also seen a cohort for consumers who prefer virtual experiences and will gravitate to them over in person. We see this in the data on our platform where online experiences continue to account for 30% of the engagement with AnyRoad customers – even as the world reopens.

How have you been seeing in-person brand experiences get redefined during this time as global businesses adjust to new norms amid COVID (to manage better/safer in-store experiences)?

Despite the rise of virtual experiences, in-person is back in a big way. We’ve seen a tremendous surge in in-person registrations since March. We’re seeing consumers opt for premium experiences and spend 4.5x more per visit, an indication of both pent up demand and perhaps a desire for private luxury experiences that give a feeling of safety. 

The feedback we see from consumers is that they expect brands to be very clear on their safety precautions and COVID guidelines. Those that do see a 10% higher post-experience NPS.

Another trend we are seeing is the desire to leverage contactless technology such as QR codes as part of experiences. This technology helps brands deliver a value exchange with consumers and collect valuable data and insights in return for an experience. 

What are some best practices that you feel marketing teams need to follow to create a better balance between their physical-digital marketing campaigns?

A powerful in-person marketing experience can create lifelong loyalty with a brand, but that needs to be part of a holistic marketing strategy. We’re seeing innovative brands combine the two types of marketing as a broader consumer journey.

For example, based on a consumer’s digital interaction with a brand, the brand learns their flavor preferences. When the consumer comes in for a tasting, it can be tailored to them.

In turn, any future digital marketing should take into account the feedback the consumer provided in-person.

Can you share highlights from leading brand campaigns that have grabbed your attention in the recent months?

Two campaigns spring to mind that used experiences to build awareness and strengthen loyalty. 

First up, as part of an effort to improve its performance credentials Toyota has invested in it’s Gazoo Racing Brand and launched a series of new models including the Yaris GR which has been a massive hit. In Australia, the brand launched the Gazoo Racing Club which allowed owners and enthusiasts to take the new models on the track for the day. In addition to lots of earned coverage and awareness the brand was able to strengthen its connection to loyal customers. 

In Scotland, Diageo made a $210M investment into Whisky tourism including the development of a stunning brand home for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh. One of the most impressive brand homes ever developed.

A few thoughts on the future of experiential marketing and how marketers of tomorrow will have to adapt to changing environments?

In 2019, the AMA found that US consumer brands spent $63B on experiences but the majority of these programs lacked the data and analytics to understand ROI and maximize impact. With experiential budgets increasing at 20%+ per year marketers will be required to bring increased measurement rigor to their experiential marketing efforts. 

Related to this is a requirement to collect more first-party data from experiences. With changes to online tracking and increased consumer privacy concerns best in class brands will develop a clear strategy for first-party data that includes experiential marketing.  Experiential marketing teams are uniquely positioned to deliver a ‘value exchange’ with consumers for data and have a seat at the table to evolve the marketing strategies of their companies.

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A few martech tools you feel marketers today need to integrate into their overall tech stack and why?

I am a big fan of direct mail as a channel for marketers. In both B2B and consumer marketing direct mail is seeing a comeback. Platforms like &Open and Sendoso are great examples to consider here. 

Having worked in the space previously, I still feel that many marketers are underutilizing digital experimentation and A/B testing.  There are a wide variety of platforms out there from free tools like Google Optimize to enterprise platforms like Optimizely to one-stop suites like Adobe.

Some last thoughts and takeaways for CEOs in B2B and marketing leaders to always keep foremost in mind?

Customer retention should stay front of mind for marketers and executives. In a recent report, McKinsey found that 73% of U.S. consumers have changed stores, brands, or the way they shop during the pandemic. Brands have an opportunity to invest in initiatives that build loyalty and advocacy. My advice to do this is to focus on your real value drivers for consumers. For example, Amazon has a seamless customer experience that combines digital touchpoints with a supply chain that is best in class. Brands must ask themselves what is our superpower and how can we capitalize on it?

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AnyRoad is an Experience Relationship Management (ERM) platform enabling global brands to properly measure, scale, and implement their experiential marketing campaigns.

Michael O’Connell is VP of Marketing at AnyRoad, a software company that helps its customers develop high impact experiential programs. A career marketer, Michael’s experience spans various roles in technology and professional services companies.  
 
From brand homes and visitor centers to activations and in-store events, brands like Diageo, Anheuser Busch and Tabasco all count on AnyRoad to measure the impact of their experiences both in-person and online. AnyRoad’s software integrates into CRM, loyalty, ERP, and POS systems to deliver a precise understanding of how experiences build loyalty, increase brand perception, and increase revenue. To learn more, visit www.anyroad.com.

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