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XLIVE Interview Series
XLIVE Interview Series -Mark Harrison - T1 Agency.jpg

Mark Harrison, The T1 Agency - XLIVE Interview Series

This week on the XLIVE Interview Series we sat down with Mark Harrison, President & CEO of The T1 Agency. The T1 Agency is an experiential marketing agency which has done work with VISA, Mattel, the NFL, Habitat for Humanity, Nissan, and many more.. Mark will be delivering the opening keynote at XLIVE 2019 titled, ‘Experiences Driven’, where he and the audience will explore the changing dynamic of purchasing ‘experiences’ over ‘things’. Read the interview below to learn more about Mark, and his upcoming keynote presentation!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with is today, Mark.  For those who don’t already know, can you give us a brief overview of the T1 Agency, the types of clients you work with and share a couple examples of your team’s work?

We practice what I like to call Experiential Advertising.

What does that mean? Well from a consumer lens every activation, event, video, influencer post, billboard, etc is “advertising”. We play in this arena when it is experiential in nature with the objective of creating powerful relationships. Between brands and consumers, employees and employers, stakeholders and stakeholders. Our clients range from Mattel to the Red Cross. Recently we have been doing a massive influencer campaign as part of the Barbie 60th Anniversary celebration tour at Walmarts across the States. In Canada we sent Barbie to space through a partnership with a youth STEM camp. Next year we are running a corporate experiential learning retreat in Tokyo during the Olympics. So lots of amazing activities going on. 

Can you give us a brief overview of your professional background, when were you first introduced to experiential marketing?

My resume is simple. Had a job at a promotions agency for seven years. Quit. Started my agency at 29. I was a millennial entrepreneur before anyone used the word. My first introduction to experiential marketing was when I was a kid and Paul Henderson, the hero of the 1972 Canada-Russia Series, showed up at a local muffler shop doing an appearance. He signed a hockey stick which I had for years until my stupid neighbour broke it with a slap shot.

Let’s talk about experiences vs. tangible products.  Some people say millennials are killing consumerism, others argue consumerism isn’t dead, it’s just changing.  At a high level, can you give us your thoughts on this changing dynamic in purchase behavior? How did we get here and where are we going?

How we got here is quite interesting. The world has changed from a place where the strongest person wins to where the richest person wins to where the smartest person wins. That is the world we live in today. Smarts rule the world. Smart people don’t need things to make them feel good. They need to achieve. Same with fit people. Inspired people. Servant people. So while previous generations wanted to accumulate goods to keep up with the Jones’. Today generations of all ages want to accumulate experiences to keep up with the Branson’s. Nobody talks about how big a house Elon Musk has. They do talk about him launching a Tesla into space!

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What exactly constitutes ‘an experience’?

I hope to answer this in more detail during my keynote, as this is a question of great debate even in my office. Does watching an amazing video constitute an experience? What about listening to a story? Or watching a movie? Technically yes. You could argue that you need more complex factors present to consider an occasion, which is what my examples really are, in order to have an experience. Some of those elements include whether there are multiple stakeholders interacting; whether the occurrence causes a course of action or outcome; and another we should consider is the number of senses engaged. Experiences are hard to define but can be classified by a degree and that conversation is one I look forward to having at XLIVE

When talking to clients and encouraging them to activate in a new way, what questions or concerns do you often hear from brands?

There still exists a lack of clear understanding of number of connections versus depth of engagement. In almost all categories I am biased to the latter as a deeper engagement is much more likely to drive sales. That said, even deep engagements have diminishing returns. Clients also need to understand that the logo size won’t make the activation a success. We need to sweat Sales Results not Signage Size. The good news is many clients understand that a great experiential campaign can have a major impact on brand health. We all just need to evaluate the execution from the eyes of the consumer.

What are some of the most important components of a successful brand activation?  Authenticity? Reach/impressions? Memorability? Does it depend on the brand?

Ugh I hate the misuse of the term authenticity. There is no way an experience that involves the direct involvement of a vested party can be termed authentic. I prefer the term purposeful. Does the activation align with the brand purpose. But more on that another day. For me the most important components are based on your script. Treat every activation like a movie plot and make the customer your hero. What challenges is she facing, how does your brand help tackle them, what is the climactic moment when all is changed forever, and what is the happy (or sad) ever after? A great movie script provides every component a successful brand activation requires. 

How do you measure experiential marketing initiatives, and the return on experience (ROX/ROE)?

It sounds basic, but the most important measurement step is to establish a robust Capture Plan as soon as you have chosen your initiatives. This will allow you to bake it into the program. For example, if you want to utilize cameras to measure dwell time or activation engagement, your infrastructure and site map should reflect this. Another key aspect to measure in experiential is your competitive activity. Not the brands in your category but the other initiatives or activations that are on site. Everything we do needs to ladder back up to a SALE, LEAD, CONVERSION, ATTITUDE CHANGE, DONATION, ENROLLMENT, etc.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, Mark!  How can people get in touch to learn more?

Email is best at [email protected] or LinkedIn!

TAGS: Agencies
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