Infinite Games: The Experiential Marketing Perspective
Simon Sinek is no stranger, to me personally yes, but to millions who follow and admire him for his ted talks, his views on leadership and management, no. I think he has this unique ability to address a crisis, a nagging thought and an existing organisational issue with such clarity that it always makes me wonder if he knows more than we think he knows. That said, this is not a fan post, and no way is this going to be about my love for what he says, but it does have leanings to his recent book The Infinite Game and the industry I have been a part of for 17 years, experiential marketing.
The infinite game and this is my take on what Simon already says is about pivoting (such a famous word now) your current approach to have more longer lasting view about your own business. The ignorant corporate honcho would say “I already have a vision about my organisation” and I know a few who would say it just like I have quoted it (think ruffled feathers). The infinite game is about resilience and care, about your people, in their talents and skills and just changing simply the verbiage of calling resources, talents. Resources deplete, talents are scaled or honed.
What I wanted talk about was how playing the infinite game, especially now amidst this crisis is an absolute mandate for the experiential industry.
Experiential marketing by design is about enabling the future today for the attendee and the clients. Sure, it makes them look cool, but it is a lot more than that, for instance, the critical need is the attendee being able to experience technology, services or products without someone having to spoonfeed it to them. Making everything a lot more organic as a process, or a car marker being able to create avenues for bloggers, auto enthusiasts to talk about new features and engines etc. without the need to say too much. An industry that powers that should focus only on the future without ever attempting to arrive at it, because you can’t possibly arrive at the future just like you never reach the horizon, the closer you get, the farther the horizon. Playing the infinite game helps us always be on our toes, always look at the horizon and outlast the next guy.
Simon Sinek summarises this well in his keynote at the Blanchard Summit where he says either you are ahead or behind, there are no winners or losers. Similarly, the experiential industry should focus itself on not attaining the future, but always reaching out to it. Slightly spiritual, but it works.
Simon Sinek has identified five tenets of the Infinite Game, here is the experiential perspective.
- Just Cause: a just cause motivates us to get out of bed every morning, is our just cause giving our clients a library of experiences, no. We should enable them to tell their story better, bring their vision alive and align ourselves to their reality or sometimes just shake them up to see the truth.
- Fearless Leadership (Courageous Leadership): Bring the wolf pack together (I will explain this). Fearless or Courageous leadership is about ensuring we ‘stick it to the man’ and that the direction of the organisation chases the just cause every day irrespective of pressures from the board, people around them etc. The wolf pack, leadership pressures of the kind mentioned by Sinek are often too great to be faced alone, so it is critical the leadership teams across the organisation are buying into the idea of the just cause and chasing it.
- Vulnerable Team: This in no way means everyone has to mope and walk around sad, crying. What this means is that the organisation should build a culture that celebrates people, and allows them to be themselves. People should not be afraid to take risks or make decisions. In the perspective of the experiential space, if we think that there is a critical need to invest in innovation and creation of new technologies or solutions we should. If we need to sell an idea to a client that is simple at its core because that is what works the management and the entire ecosystem should function to make that happen (within reason) of course.
- Worthy Adversary: This excites me the most. Sinek talks about in the true spirit of competition (very much like sport and the conversation of sportsmanship) respect and acknowledges your competition. In the true sense of competition, your success will not be by the success of your competitor but yourself. In the context of the experiential marketing space, Our competitors should only be an innovation barometer, where we measure only the products and services they offer and learn from their wins. In the experiential space, this will prove to be the most considerable differentiation because innovation is the only reliable metric that defines this space.
- Open Playbook: This is tough to do because this would mean that there are no rules, there is only a framework, and within that framework, everything remains fluid. While we create experiences, this crisis has led a lot of organisations to go virtual, and by going virtual, we have had to rethink how experiences are delivered on a non — physical medium. The first thing we had to do was unlearn everything we knew about delivering engagement and what it meant, then figure out how we can keep the attendee interested throughout the whole virtual event process. Believe it or not, I think empathy is the greatest strategy there is.
Experiential marketing will see a lull for now. Physical events are going to be tough to come by, and clients will re-prioritise their spendings on things that are more important right now than experiences, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The choices we collectively make now will redefine how we conduct our business in the future. As the experiential marketing industry, we should play to our strengths create inward experiences where we can upskill the workforce, make them future-ready. Work on strategies that will ensure business continuity so that next time a crisis arises, we are ready.
I’d like to take the opportunity to rechristen the industry to call it the future-forward industry. If anything is the take away from the Infinite game it is this; we have to play this game and to play we need to train and to train we need to discipline ourselves. Once we are back, we will do what we do best, create experiences where no one wins or loses but is just ahead.