The Time For Experience Is Now

Kevin Jackson, The Experience is the Marketing (Director of Ideas and Innovation), ILEA UK (President)

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS 

Name and title

Kevin Jackson, The Experience is the Marketing (Director of Ideas and Innovation) 
ILEA UK (President)

What is your most vivid memory?

When I came home from school after my first day, and told my mom that I didn't need to go back tomorrow, because I already knew everything.

When did you feel the happiest?

I feel the happiest right now. Now I feel that I’m in exactly at the right place, I have got four amazing kids, a company, and a lot of exciting projects.

What do you want to change in your life?

My impatience. I get very, very impatient very, very quickly. But I am working on it. Are we still talking about this? As you can see – I’m a work in progress!

If you had to choose a different profession, what would it be?

I would be a professional golfer.

What is something you could never give up?

My connection with my four amazing kids.

What is your favorite place?

London

What do you fear most?

Sleep. I have so much to do and I don't like sleeping. I go to bed late and wake up early.

What do you cherish the most?

Love and happiness

Which traits would you like your children to inherit from you?

Confidence and positivity

Hi Kevin, first of all thank you for finding time in your terribly busy schedule. You know, I’m really happy that we met and that now we’re not only good friends, but partners, looking in one direction and aiming to do our best to lead the industry forward. It’s your first interview as editor-in-chief of Live Communication Magazine, which makes this even more important for me. So, thank you for joining in all ways and let’s start. Of course the first question will be about your impressive title. You start all your presentations with it as well as your LinkedIn shout-out stating that you have been voted the most influential person in the UK event-industry. So the question is how and why was this honor bestowed upon you and what do you think about it?

I think they voted that way because I have a clear vision for the event-industry, and it’s one that I’ve been promoting for the last few years. I see special events being the most important channel in terms of marketing, because they create emotional connections between brands, companies and the target audience. I am constantly talking about how important events are and are going to be in the future, and that’s why I was voted the most influential person.

What’s in it for you?

It gave me access to a larger audience and a bigger platform. Influence is good if you use it for good - if you have a purpose, and I have a very clear purpose. My purpose is to make the industry better, to help companies within the industry get better, and to help individuals in the industry get better. So I have a very clear purpose and that ‘number one’ position helps me to reach more people. That, in turn, helps us all make the industry we love improve in a shorter period of time.

Most of your professional life you have worked in the world's largest advertising companies then you moved to event marketing. You have seen the communications industry from different angles. In your opinion what is the most effective tool or communication channel currently available for brands?

My view of the most effective communication channel has changed significantly over the years, largely because once upon a time most brands just needed awareness. In the last 8-9 years, brand communicators have moved from awareness to relationships.  Brands don’t need more awareness, they need one-on-one relationships with customers, consumers and clients. The event industry and the experience marketing industry allow them to do that. So I would say events are the most important channel because they build an emotional connection with the brand. Great marketing used to be about what to say to people and now it is what you do for people. Events do things for people; creating great experiences that drive an emotional connection. Because the most effective way to influence your customers and consumers is to make them experience something in order to change their attitude and behavior. That is why events are the core part of a brand's marketing mix. In addition, if we look at social media, it needs content and we in the event industry create great content that you can share on Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn or Instagram. We’re the people who create great content.

Okay, let’s go back to the basics. Let’s talk about you. Not so long ago you left the world's largest experience marketing agency George P. Johnson, where you had a very high position of Vice-President. Why? What influenced your decision?

For five years I worked for Jack Morton and then another five years in George P. Johnson, so the two largest event companies in the world. They are both amazing companies, but what inspired me the most were the actual founders; Jack Morton and George P. Johnson, the visionaries who founded those companies. There came a moment when I thought that it was time for me to create my own project and so I established my own agency, The Experience Is The Marketing, which is about using the skills of the marketing industry to drive business growth. In all honesty, I’ve been doing this since I was in advertising - always building growth for the companies I worked for. So I brought all of this together into serious experiential workshops that drive transformational behaviours. Now I can do more for people. Was it a nervous transition? Yeah, I was very nervous.

What made you think that you would succeed?

I had a brilliant idea: to generate growth for the people inside an organisation. I always produced brand and company growth, so I was convinced I could do that. What I show companies is how to have a bigger slice of the market. The market will grow, but if you have a bigger slice of it you are also going to grow, every company and brand is under pressure to grow. That is why I am focused on growth.

Can you tell me a little bit more about this service, these growth workshops. How does it work? What are you doing for people?

Growth is really about three things: 1) understanding the role the company plays, 2) understanding what your brand is, and 3) understanding some really hard-selling facts on how to drive sales. What I’ve done is create a process called ‘the growth pathway’, which addresses those three elements. During immersive workshops with people in the business, we uncover the culture, sales, and foundations of the brand to understand their sales culture: how they make sales, what the sales team does, how the sales team plans the day, how to create demand, and how to close deals. We spend a week out of the office and a week in the office working out what that data means, gathering insights from that data. With our fresh perspective on the business and its unique challenges and opportunities,  we develop the direction the business needs to take in order to get from where they are now, to where they want to be. That forms the growth pathway. The workshop is the mixture of business consultancy, training, inspiration and brand experience. It’s a very powerful, collaborative environment, which brings people together and makes them think together. This helps to unblock everything that is hindering company or brand growth.

Apart from this brilliant and unique service, you also possess one more special talent. You’re a great speaker. I have seen how you perform at different events in different countries and the result is always a cheering, inspired, and excited audience. You travel all over the world, but it is very energy and time consuming and you do it for free. So it’s not a business venture. So what is in it for you? Why do you spend so much time and energy to share your expertise with others?

That is a really good question. My goal in life is very clear. I want the industry to get better, I want companies in the industry to get better, I want people in the industry to get better. Obviously in my company I am interested in making money and profit as it’s a business. But I am also interested in the big picture, in getting in contact with as many people as I can. I spoke at a conference in Orlando to 9,000 people, I spoke at your event in Moscow to 600 people, I spoke to 2,000 people in Birmingham. I can’t get to that number only through my company, I can reach that amount only through my speeches. It leads to a shift in the industry. Also I learn as much from the delegates as they learn from me. Actually it’s all about hoping that the industry understands how great it is when people are connected.

You are the President of ILEA, the UK branch of one of the largest professional event associations in the world. What do you think about professional event associations in general? Why do you think people should join? What's in it for members?

I think a lot of different things about associations. The key thing is that I think there are probably too many, especially in the UK. The thing about associations is they all are trying to do good, to improve their own bit of the event ecosystem. A lot has to do with attitude. You’ve got to find the association that reflects your attitude as an individual or company. But you should also try to find an association that tries to do the right thing. Most of them are involved in education, trying to improve the standard of professionalism in the industry. Most of them are interested in networking. Usully people come to an association to find new business opportunities. But actually that is not what networking is about! Networking is about getting into a group of like-minded people, who through their experience and education may help find a much-needed solution for you. And again to join a group is to think about the future, as it shows you the direction of where your particular part of the industry is heading. This kind of networking can not only show you how to take advantage of what is, but also to get ahead of where it is going, so you can create something for your own company or individual growth. I know associations receive a lot of criticism especially in the events sphere, but I really don't know any of them that are doing it for the right reason. It’s a fundamental thing – you’ve got to have a vision of where you and the industry are heading.

The Pan-European Alliance for event associations has been founded recently. Do you think there is a need for such an institution?

It's just like the European debate that we are having in the UK at the moment on whether we should stay or leave. I think everything should be happening on a pan-European basis for the event industry. It’s about sharing best practices, it's about understanding where the market is, and where the consumers and clients are. The best thing for a better and wider experience is knowing and talking to as many people as possible. So I find the LiveCom Alliance to be a very wise and good idea and a positive step for the development of the industry.

What should the future of the live communication industry be like? What is your personal vision? Which companies, individuals, products or services will succeed in the coming years in this changing industry?

We are now in the experience age. We are the experiencers, we create people and consumer-valued experiences, rather than money-valued. Creating the experience is everything, it’s much more powerful than advertising or social media, because those aspects follow the experience. That is why I called my agency The Experience Is The Marketing. We become everything around the brand, all of those touchpoints from outside the store, in the store, through the product, and back to the customer. We create energy, we create action, we enable brands to move forward. As long as we know where we are going strategically. So it’s a creative mix of strategy, measurement, and planning – that is, in my view, the key factors of success for the future of the event industry. 

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