Experiential Marketing Summit tops off with a little Pitbull

Kitty Hart

24 May 2019


Experiential Marketing Summit 2019


Experiential Marketing Summit tops off with a little Pitbull

Fresh from yet another trip to Vegas, the STAR team returned to Minneapolis chalk full of vigor and inspiration. Some people return from Vegas broke, hung over, and tight-lipped. Ha, no regrets from our team. We embraced all that the Experiential Marketing Summit had to offer, with a little Pitbull on top!

EMS is the ultimate conference on our favorite discipline: experiential marketing. Packed into three full days of programming, some of the biggest and most influential brands from all over the world came together to share, learn, network, and bond. Collectively, we are peers, competitors, thought-leaders, teachers, and consummate learners. While definitely getting our daily steps in traversing Caesar’s Palace, we came, we saw, and we conquered emerging trends, best practices, and lessons learned.

This Summit was born nearly 20 years ago in Chicago and there were many people I spoke with last week who have attended every one of them. For me, this was only number two but I can certainly see why marketers build EMS into their must-attend events. If you’re in the business of experiential, it is the place to be. In fact, I wish we could bring more of our team. But dang, registration is hefty! Like all things, rates continue to go up and, Vegas is no longer a cheap destination. Remember the days of $10 buffets, $100 flights, and $30 rooms? Well, as Vegas became the business convention mecca that it is today, apparently, expense accounts have allowed skyrocketing appetites for accommodations and meals. Ugh. I can certainly appreciate Vegas for the over-the-top gluttony of experiences that it is, but I know I’m not the only one happy to see EMS return to Chicago next year. Sorry, Vegas. Sometimes we just need a break.

Well, back to the good stuff. EMS opened with some fun add-on experiences including a tour of Zappo’s, ax throwing, swings at Top Golf, several executive forum workshops, and the traditional 3-hour Experiential Marketing 101. Normally attended by people new to the industry, EM101 drew the largest attendance yet, clearly an indication that no matter how experienced you are, training camp is always beneficial.

Interesting that the birth of experiential remains the foundation still today. Why does experiential marketing exist and why is it so impactful in our world? Well, that is summed up appropriately in the Nathan Shedroff quote that was shared.

Experiential Marketing Training camp“The only value that companies ever create happens in the context of a relationship. No relationship, there is no exchange of value on any level. The reason why experiences are so important is that they are the container for relationship, especially ongoing. So if you don’t have an experience, you can’t have a relationship. If you don’t have a relationship, you can’t exchange value with anyone.”

~Nathan Shedroff Chair of Design Strategy, California College of the Arts

Grounding in this fundamental was a great way to kick off the week. We also stepped through the top 10 trends of 2019, as summarized here:


What does your brand sound like? I.e. event playlists, sonic logos

New Networking
Brands place more emphasis on playful, unstructured meetings 

Wellness spaces exploded

Sneakerheads + fashion + music. High-profile launches

Broadcast studios pop up in B2B and B2C experiences

Personalization + recognizing the whole attendee

Avatar Effect
Consumers play characters in live-action experiences

X Partnerships
Brands pool their followers for social-friendly mashups

Peer-Led Content
Less emphasis on celebrity speakers in B2B events

Brands saturate markets with small but mighty programs

The week was filled with experiential stories small and large, all focused on bringing brands and people together to create meaningful engagement. Networking throughout the week was exciting and certainly fun to hear about everyone’s evening adventures at the start of each day. Las Vegas is truly an experience in itself and, aside from the harsh $$ criticism noted earlier, it really is an appropriate setting for an intensive discussion on the discipline of experiential marketing. A person really can’t turn around without being influenced by the sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and feel of the environment. There are messages both subtle and blaring, delivered via service as well as products and entertainment. The world is aligned on the fact that people crave physical experiences, every day. The desire exists because we are human beings and we want to be moved.

Pitbull Concert in Las VegasThe entire week was impactful and inspiring. For me, it was beautifully topped off by the heart-pounding rhythm and beat of a couple hours with a true entertainer, Pitbull. He writes and sings of the universal language of music. Surprising to me, he gathered a wide ranging audience from youth to seniors. And I did crack a smile as I watched the 70-something woman near me pounding her fists to the beat and singing along with every word; words that remind us that life is a gift and experiences are precious.


“One day when the light is glowing

I’ll be in my castle golden

But until the gates are open

I just wanna feel this moment.”


EMS returns to Chicago in 2020. Until then, let’s all go, design, and create heart-pounding experiences. It’s our duty, obligation, and pleasure as experiential marketers. 

Want to talk experiential strategy and design? You can reach me here.

Kitty Hart


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