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Experiential Marketing Lighting: Taking the Show on the Road

Setting Your Team Up for Success When You Can’t Control the Entire Event Environment


“Experiential Marketing” can obviously mean a lot of things… it can be your traditional trade show, it can be a brand activation event for the hot new mobile device, it can refer to a private in-house event to rally your investors, it can even be a 40 city tour to promote a new flavor of your new energy drink. That sort of show… mobile marketing or a “roadshow” is what we are going to focus on today, and specifically on 7 tips for how to make sure you put your best foot forward with your lighting when on the open (and often uncontrollable) road!

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1.) Know your venues in advance, and specifically know the limits of the space you will be working in…

Let’s start with the (potentially) most important tip of the whole bunch- and it boils down to the old cliche “Look before you leap”. The fact is, if you are running a 20 stop roadshow, you are- to a degree- planning 20 different events. Whether you are hosting them in the hottest club in each city, a series of crowded shopping malls, a handful of concert venues, or even a collection of outdoor public spaces, each stop will have it’s own flavor and it’s own unique logistical challenges.

Before you set out, you need to know everything you can about each venue. That means knowing what the electric situation looks like (which can obviously be a crippling situation if you are expecting adequate power for your gear and instead find a 9 volt battery strapped to a tin-foil-covered squirrel running in a wheel… don’t laugh, we’ve all been to at least one of those venues), knowing how much uncontrollable light (ie the sun or emergency lights) you will be working around, understanding what the load in area looks like, and what areas are accessible. Some venues may require extra equipment that the others don’t, and knowing that BEFORE you hit the road is always preferable.

2.) Battery powered LED lights are your friends…

Like I said sometime you have less to work with at a particular venue than you might care for, and when you are low on power or can’t run cables where you need them, battery powered lights like the ADJ WiFly’s are a life saver. Battery powered LED wash lights are quick and easy to program and set up, tend to look great thanks to the over 16 million potential colors they can produce, and most of them can be counted on to give you at least 7 hours of power in between charges. Even if you don’t plan to use them in every venue, having them for emergencies is a huge plus when the situation goes south and you need to play MacGyver.

3.) But extra cables, plenty of gaff tape and a back up controller are your BEST friends…

You MAY need the battery powered LED lights on your roadshow… you WILL need extra cords, You WILL need plenty of gaff tape, and if things go REALLY far off course, you are really going to want that back up controller.

As a rule of thumb, add at least another 20% to the amount of cable you think you will end up requiring, add another 50% to the gaff tape you figure you’ll go through, and bring along a small back up console to run your rig in case something tragic happens (and tragic things do happen) to your primary board. For instance, one of our clients went out recently with a Grand MA to run their show, but after a bad experience a couple of years ago, they brought an MA onPC Command Wing along just in case. That extra bit of planning means that they won’t be caught with no way to control their show if a rowdy fan falls through a console, a faulty sprinkler system knocks the primary board out of commission, or a texting teenager smashes into their primary console’s case in the parking lot during load in.


4.) Accentuate the positives…

Every space you set up in will have it’s own unique landscape… it’s own challenges, and it’s own charms. It’s always great to bring that space into your event more and your experiential marketing lighting will help you do just that.

I’ve seen events housed under the trestles of huge old bridges in downtown Cleveland and 20 years later I can still vividly remember the subtle blue wash over those arches adding a larger than life feel to the entire event.

Likewise, I’ve seen an otherwise “boring” white walled room transformed into veritable wonderland by using those large white spaces to project the gnarled branches of autumn trees during another event… we truly felt like we were in the woods at night, and that went very well with the particular product that was being marketed.

The point is that each room/space you move into is a character in the presentation you are there to set up- use that! Find the coolest features of the space and use your lighting to subtly create an atmosphere that controls the flavor of the entire event.

5.) Be strategic with gobos…

Gobos are a great way to project a logo or a message, but they can be so much more if people spend a little more time to really think about the possibilities!

One of my clients (who shall remain anonymous) was looking to promote their new GIANT Ferris Wheel at a conference for event planners. The original plan was to project the name of the attraction on the back wall behind them… maybe have it bounce around the room a little bit to catch eyes. With just a little more thought, we created a large 20′ + recreation of their wheel that actually rotated behind them and it wasn’t hard to add a few “fireworks” as evening went on.

Everyone knows that gobos are the best way to project a logo, but why stop there? Experiential marketing lighting (particularly roadshows) gives you a chance to thrill a new audience at each event- give them something to talk about!


6.) Give the space some texture…

A major “whoops” that you see when looking at a lot of experiential marketing lighting design is focusing all of the lighting directly at the “human” portion of the stage… a roughly 6′-8′ high section of wall stretching the width of the stage, and then ignoring everything else around it.

Your event might be a temporary event, but it doesn’t have to look like it’s thrown together! Give the space a little texture by washing your walls and ceilings as well. complimentary colors washed at different heights and depths will give the entire space a sense of dimension and texture that will only serve to make the entire presentation more immersive, and immersive is definitely the key to keeping everyone involved and in the moment through your entire event!


7.) Keep in mind the point of the event is to market something…

Through it all, don’t forget that the goal is to market a particular product, service, experience, or candidate, and that has to be the focus behind everything you do. It’s easy to get lost in the effects, the music, and the fun, but all of that needs to lead back to the piece that you are there to promote. Make sure that your lighting properly highlights whatever you are marketing at all times. Even when the entertainment is in full swing, make sure that your experiential marketing lighting keeps a complimentary illumination focused on the reason you are there to begin with!




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