Experian Pitches Its Tent at DMA·05

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ATLANTA -- Don't mistake that billowy white structure in the middle of DMA·05's exhibit hall for an Arab sheikh's tent. It is marketing intelligence and communications firm Experian's new trade show booth, and tangible proof of a company newly repositioned.


The 2,000-square-foot edifice is sheathed in sheer fabric and seductive lighting, with Experian staff dressed in black flanking the entrance and exit walkways. The drama continues inside booth 718.


Act one commences as the visitor steps through the walkway. A man adjacent to a billboard is seen talking on a cell phone while a television blares and the landline telephone rings. As each medium comes to life, the man seems to go from frenzy to meltdown and then finally nirvana.


The visitor then moves along to a bench seating three people. A young woman gets up and gives her spiel. She's a high school dropout who owns a high-tech company. Then an older gentleman speaks up. He looks like a retired grandfather, but a big nest egg lets him travel frequently. He is also a Luddite, preferring mail to other forms of communication.


Finally, the third person announces she is pregnant with her first child. But she is also the vice president of product marketing at a consumer packaged goods company. Her dilemma is balancing work with family.


A few feet away the visitor sees three people in earnest discussion. It is a brainstorming session of how Experian works to meet client needs with its mix of products and services.


And finally, a man on a soapbox nearby explains Experian's many constituent companies: e-mail and Web analytics firm CheetahMail, address hygiene service QAS, market researcher Simmons and analytics service Predictive Analytics as well as Experian's database offerings.


They are all actors. What the visitor saw in those few minutes was "Experience Experian": a tangible iteration of Experian's role in marketing to consumers in this media-cluttered, time-constrained era.


For example, the first actor was meant to highlight how today's consumer is battered daily by 3,500 marketing messages. Unsurprisingly, messages are not just hard to get through, but also difficult to remember.


The second group of actors aimed to convey a simple message: Don't market based on stereotypes. To break through to them, it is important to know the customer or prospect beyond their obvious appearance. Nuances, attitude and behavior matter.


Experian's reason for the third enactment showing actors brainstorming was just that: how the company puts its brain and technology together to hash out customers' issues. Moving to the last actor was logical. Experian is touting its portfolio of offerings to address marketers' needs.


Once the visitor has gone through this exercise, he or she is invited to computer workstations for demonstrations of Experian's products and services. The PCs are near a bar-like setting where Experian staff mill about, offer water and brochures, and chat with clients. Visitors can also sit in lighted seats themed in color with the fabric covering the booth.


The booth took a year of research. It also comes within a two-year timeframe when Experian acquired brands like CheetahMail, QAS, Simmons, Harvest for its Web analytics service SiteClarity and, most recently, Predictive Analytics.


"We've never had this booth before," said Chandos Quill, Costa Mesa, CA-based vice president of marketing for Experian's marketing services division. "The [old] booth previously was open with demo stations -- your typical booth.


"We're now going to be telling this over the next year," she said, "so we'll be using this kind of booth and messaging at other trade shows. NRF [the National Retail Federation's January-held Big Show in New York] will be the next one."


Experian's changed persona is obvious on its brochures, too. The images are younger and trendier, the writing more crisp and upfront about its value proposition. The main handout, for example, is headlined simply: "Turning customer information into marketing insight."


"The challenge for our clients is that there are a lot of ways to market to customers and prospects, and Experian provides multichannel expertise in capabilities such as information processing, database solutions, analytics and consulting," Quill said.


"The benefit is that marketers can get their message to the right customers and prospects and optimize their return on investment," she said. "The bottom line is that if we can figure out who to target, what messages to send them through what channel, we can help marketers be more effective in how they spend their money."


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