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by Padraic Gilligan, VP, Ovation Global DMC

We arrived early in Memphis having managed to blag our way onto an earlier flight and avoid payment of the $50 dollar fee which Delta said they’d charge but then , for some reason,  didn’t. For me this was small compensation for a nasty airline experience which I may relay in another post. Getting into Memphis early meant we got to attend a great drinks party at the über cool offices of Destination King where the ADME movers and shakers, in early for their Board Meeting, were all to be found.

Located downtown and opening directly onto the street, Cindy and Kevin Brewer at Destination King have created a wonderfully creative workspace complete with spacious hospitality facilities. You walk into the building and you immediately want to work with these people – it’s vibrant and exciting and really nails the notion of DMC as creative agency, rooted in the historical fabric of its destination. Miles and miles from old Mom and Pop paradigms …

A bunch of us then headed to Beale Street in search of some Memphis barbecue ribs and ate at the Blues City Cafe, a favourite, apparently, of Bill Clinton whenever he visited in Memphis. It’s a decidedly informal, edgy setting with little attention to niceties but it’s super friendly and fast and the ribs are great. Beale Street, meanwhile, is a crazy cocktail of neon and noise but jet lagged bodies were more inclined towards sleep and left Beale Street for another time.

We were determined, next day, not to miss the famous Duck March at our host hotel, the iconic Peabody. We stood with countless others in the lobby waiting behind velvet ropes at the red carpet with growing anticipation for the anatine celebrities to appear. Eventually their elevator arrived and to a loud fanfare 3 ducks and 1 drake made a mad beeline down the red carpet, up the specially customised steps and into the Grecian fountain where they swim happily from 11 to 5 each day. It was all over in the blink of an eye. Patrick said it was the 2nd time in his life when heightened anticipation and excitement ended anti-climactically due to it all being over way too quickly. Meanwhile I was reflecting on how the best brand experiences are sometimes  accidental and usually quirky, weird and wonderful – the Duck March started as a random practical joke in the 1930s and has now become a key feature of life at the Peabody, attracting thousands of people through the door twice each day.  There’s a real marketing lesson here for us: be daring and different and your message will cut through the clutter.

Since I arrived in Memphis Marc Cohn’s song “Walking in Memphis” has been constantly playing in my mind along with Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. I replayed internally the opening lines of Paul Simon’s song as we headed out to Graceland:

The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar

I am following the river down the highway

Through the cradle of the civil war

I’m going to Graceland …

[More to follow]

 

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