Experiential marketing fabricators serve the event production needs of both brand and agency-side event marketers. They help create physical assets and branded environments that support activations, mobile marketing, product launches and other events and experiences.
What is the difference between an experiential marketing agency and an experiential marketing fabricator?
Experiential agencies are the event “architect,” whereas the marketing fabricator is the builder. So why don’t agencies have in-house design and production capabilities? Between the cost of equipment and need for skilled labor positions—operating, nonetheless, starting a fabrication shop is expensive. This is why most agencies have behind-the-scenes manufacturing partners to help bring their experiential marketing campaigns and ideas to life.
Sample Process for an Experiential Pop Up Activation
An agency may provide the fabricator with a concept drawing for an experience just like the below.
An industrial design specialist or event designer who works for the fabricator will then create a rendering based on specific measurements.
Hardware, soft goods and printing flow to various teams to take the project from rendering to reality.
The designer-fabricator relationship isn’t always the case. You’ll find hybrid agencies that sit in between agency and manufacturer. Some agencies like Sparks have fabrication services in addition to strategy, creative and project management--and some fabricators can do more than build the ingredients--like TentCraft. We bring a unique perspective because we not only work with event and experiential production companies, we often function as an agency to smaller brands and start-ups, helping visualize and design brand experiences. We've helped bring projects to life with only a napkin sketch.
Core capabilities for manufacturers specializing in brand experiences typically include metal fabricators, large format printing (across many substrates), precision cutting and sewing, technology integration and other skills to bring projects to life. This means that in addition to the equipment and tools, they need to staff artists, industrial designers, engineers, skilled machine operators, builders, sewing specialists and other key personnel.
Wood & Metal Fabrication
Metal fabrication is a core competency for experiential fabricators. Aluminum is most commonly used to build experiential pop up activations due to the material’s strength-to-weight ratio. This is why custom tents, truss, backdrops and other event signage and props typically use aluminum hardware. Within TentCraft, you'll find 3D printers, automated metal saws, lathe, CNC and 5-axis machines to support multiple and one-off ingredients to support experiential events. Here are some examples that showcase the abilities of an experiential pop up manufacturer.
Examples of Metal Fabrication for the Experiential Events Industry
Event marketing is about creating branded experiences, so the logos, messaging and graphics need to take center stage. While every fabricator may not have digital printing capabilities, it's a big advantage to work with a company that does. The process is not only easier but also ensures that the physical assets exactly match and fit the rendering. Both soft (polyester, vinyl, etc) and rigid (sintra, metal, wood, plastic, etc) substrates can be printed. Graphics can also be digitally printed and then transferred to a substrate or surface similar to how experiential vehicles are wrapped.
Technology is often the centerpiece for an experiential event. Whether it's integrating a TV to support product demos, iPads for opt-ins and registration or creating social media engagement and sharing opportunities, technology will play a bigger role in creating brand experiences. You'll even find agencies and fabricators who specialize in experiential technology.
Renderings & Mock-ups
While the experiential marketing agency is usually responsible for the overall event layout and design, it always helps to partner with an experiential marketing fabricator who can also help with visuals and renderings. The overall management and execution of an experiential program according to key marketing objectives is a lot to handle. A fabrication partner with design and rendering capabilities will not only free up time but ensure the vision meets the final deliverable.
Examples of Renderings that we’ve produced to support our agency partners
Which experiential marketing companies are pushing the envelope on how they create unique experiences?
A great resource for answering this question is Event Marketer. They provide content and coverage for the event and trade show industry. Event Marketer magazine started in 2002 and has since grown into the leading experiential marketing content provider while hosting a number key industry events, including the annual Experiential Marketing Summit, Ex Awards, and the Experience Design & Technology Awards.
They recently compiled an article recognizing the top 100 event agencies of 2019 which highlights the experiential marketing companies who are pushing the envelope.
Bottom line—event and experience fabricators are defined not by products but rather capabilities and ingredients. At TentCraft, we're a bit of a hybrid and constantly evolving. We blend products, ingredients and capabilities. While we manufacture custom event products, we're able to customize those products to create the ingredients that support both indoor and outdoor experiences. We also boast many of the capabilities the define experience fabricators. In other words, we're able to cater to the diverse needs of agencies and brands. We can make the product—the ingredients—or the full recipe.