You know Cardi B, right? Of course, you do. She’s that uncontainable New York rapper, occasional actor, inventor of okurrr, and purveyor of WAP. Yes, that one. I would also have you know that, as I speak to you, Cardi B is an adopted citizen of Nigeria.
How and why, you may ask. Thank you. The whole thing began when, in 2019, a certain events organiser by the name Deola Art Alade deemed it an interesting idea to fly Cardi (Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar) B over to Lagos for one ground shattering concert, the Livespot X Festival. It turned out that Deola was right. Once she landed, Cardi B spontaneously converted into friend and fan every person within eye- or earshot of her electrically-charged persona.
Shepherded around the city by Art Alade’s company, Livespot 360, Cardi dropped by a “popular” strip club. Cardi also asked to see the “real Lagos.” Then Cardi hung out with the big names of Nollywood and the continent’s kings of Afrobeats. Cardi said Nigerians were “entertaining.” Cardi set fire to the stage. Cardi thought Nigeria was reminiscent of her father’s native Dominican Republic. Cardi took a Nigerian name – “Chioma B”. Cardi promised to officially apply to become a Nigerian. Cardi. Just. Lapped. Up. Nigeria.
Now, as you may have heard, the best way to warm your way into the embrace of this particular gang of West Africans is to openly profess your love for Nigerian jollof and every other thing they hold in esteem. Which is why Cardi B, the newsiest female rapper out of America, is currently one of Nigeria’s favourite people in the world. And this potent alchemy of emotions around the Cardi B spectacle, completely choreographed by Livespot 360 is what marketing people describe as resonance.
“To evoke resonance,” writes author and journalist Erik Sherman in Inc, “you have to be connected somehow to the audience. There must be common humanity. In a way, at least a bit, you have to love the people you address. How else are you going to be on a sympathetic emotional note? Anyone can pitch, but truly great marketing goes beyond what can fall short as manipulation and lies. You have to touch emotional truth.”
Mr Sherman, agreeing with all textbooks previously published on the subject, reckons that “it’s not enough to come up with a clever idea, talk about benefits for a customer, or even create what seems to be an overall witty idea.” Selling, you see, is “an issue of emotions.”
And when it comes to feelings, is there a more sensual path for human and brand connections than through an experiential event? Probably not. It is why, according to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 93 percent of executives said “hosting events” was a priority for their businesses. And it’s why, by 2016, the pop-up events market had ballooned to $50 billion.
To prove that “experiential marketing” is just as alive and well in Africa’s biggest economy, you may only need to step out of your house. In Lagos, for instance, to drive by big traditional trading squares and bus stops without periodically encountering an open pickup truck bearing uniformed dancers who hand out product samples, is to not be paying attention.
Aside from those, there’s the occasional talk-of-the-town music concert or celebrity meet and greet that has been proudly bankrolled by a company. But these days, in the face of a petulant economy, the easiest brand experience is the open truck, those uniformed dancers, and the peddlers who accompany them. Each parade is similar to the next. Compact, mobile, sort of a turnkey package. They’re currently the favourite of companies with not a lot of cash to spare on marketing.
For brands with bigger ambitions, however, such generic system of consumer engagement would not be enough—it would neither catch attention nor generate stories. And for these ones, Deola Art Alade’s Livespot 360 appears to have found a technique that works.
Deola, an experienced interior designer and record label executive, runs Livespot 360 with her husband, the singer Darey Art Alade. Darey is the creative lead at the company; Deola is the CEO. “I strongly believe you don’t have to show off,” she said in a rare interview. “For me, it’s not about accolades because I believe your work should speak for you and not your face speaking for you.”
So far, Livespot 360 has produced live shows for Heineken, 9Mobile, GTBank, Access Bank, UBA, Procter & Gamble, the Lagos State government and several other big names. The shows it created for itself are just as consequential as those it is paid to manage.
For instance, its Love Like A Movie series, which was a vehicle for Darey’s performances and a showpiece of Livespot’s capacity, at one time or another featured international headliners Ciara, Kelly Rowland, and Kim Kardashian. Thereafter, those events yielded long-tail conversations that lived on for months.
Livespot 360 introduces itself as a creative collective. “Not your average experiential marketing, advertising or digital agency,” it says on its site—and you get why it would portray itself as that. How else do you describe a thing that, rather than pick a class, chooses to straddle all of them? While it may be canon for experiential agencies to walk within a delineated lane in the marketing and communications industry, Livespot 360 has issued itself the ticket to not just be an experiential agency but also a creative and digital storytelling partner to its clients.
The sense in this model isn’t hard to see. For a long time, brand experience managers wondered how to gauge the return on their investments. But times are changing, aren’t they? Today, brands can now measure experiential events ROI with such metrics as social engagement, reach figures, brand affinity, competitor comparison, and net promoter score—and they need pop-culture tuned collaborators who can help them hit most, if not all, of those metrics.
If we’re to consider the millions of naira worth of user-generated stories earned by Livespot 360 since Cardi B visited Nigeria more than 12 months ago, we may easily conclude that Deola’s all-in-one operational model may be the exact drum to beat for the type of resonance that’d echo for years.
This story first appeared in The Guardian (Nigeria) on January 9, 2021.