Oana Borcoman, the founder and mastermind behind strategic marketing firm EVOKE: An Experience Agency, has created a rare one-stop shop. While other businesses might be able to do experiential marketing events, implement corporate gifting campaigns, or handle distribution, she and her team not only do all this, but also provide overarching strategies that deliver maximum success.
“That’s our special sauce,” Borcoman says. “We don’t do business as usual. We come in, ask questions, get creative, and find exciting ways to evoke powerful emotions in the target audience. That’s how we get real results.”
Still, Borcoman had to triumph over adversity multiple times to expand EVOKE: An Experience Agency into the comprehensive shop it is today.
The roots of Borcoman’s powerful work ethic
Borcoman credits her work ethic to her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Communist Romania. “They were forced to become medical doctors, and they knew we would be forced to do the same,” she explains. “They had a comfortable life in Romania — a big apartment and plenty of money. Everything was available to them, but they gave it all up to go to the US and start over. They made this sacrifice because they wanted me and my brother to have more choices, and wanted us to be able to direct our own lives.”
Her father immigrated first, leaving his wife and children to travel to the US and start a new life, risking everything and starting from the bottom by working low-level jobs. Her mother joined him a year later, giving up her own medical career to make the same journey.
“We didn’t have the Internet,” Borcoman remembers. “You couldn’t just call someone on FaceTime. They had to save their money to make expensive long-distance phone calls to hear our voices. They had to wait for snail mail from Europe to see a couple of photographs showing how we were growing up.”
Borcoman was only reunited with her parents at the age of five. “They weren’t really ready,” she says, “but they weren’t going to get another chance to take us. We were a family of four in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, but when you’re little, you don’t really know what it means not to have money. We just loved being together.”
This background has given Borcoman a powerful drive to succeed. “I don’t want to waste that sacrifice,” she explains. “I have to make sure it wasn’t all for nothing.”
Borcoman’s clients benefit as a result, receiving close attention and personalized service at EVOKE: An Experience Agency. Growing up, however, Borcoman never envisioned taking the entrepreneurial path and one day leading her own thriving business.
“I’ve always had this drive to succeed,” she says, “but I thought I needed to learn from other people first. I saw myself going up the corporate ladder.”
Starting EVOKE: An Experience Agency
Borcoman did enter the corporate world and climb that ladder skillfully, becoming Director of Brand Marketing and Events at a beverage marketing agency, but she found that working in a corporate office wasn’t the best fit for her personality. “I’m very much my own person,” she notes. “I’m strong-minded, and I speak directly. I also don’t have a lot of patience for office politics.”
After assessing her own strengths and skill sets, Borcoman realized she could embark on her own venture and started EVOKE: An Experience Agency in 2018. Not everyone supported her vision, however.
“When you launch your own business for the first time, you learn that some people don’t celebrate your wins,” Borcoman remarks. “It’s interesting to see that come to the surface.”
Luckily, she didn’t listen to the naysayers, and her agency quickly gained a reputation for conceiving and implementing innovative strategies for experiential marketing and promotional gift campaigns. Since she was having difficulties working with product distributors, she decided to expand her business into this area as well.
That’s when COVID-19 hit.
The Evolution of EVOKE
“All the events were canceled,” Borcoman remembers. “That part of our business came to a standstill.” As a result, the business she has today isn’t quite the same business she started.
“I threw myself into the distribution branch of the company,” she explains. In addition to distributing masks and gloves, Borcoman created signage for organizations to help them communicate with the public during the pandemic.
Now that lockdowns are over, Borcoman finds herself with a much larger, more flexible enterprise than she could have imagined before the virus changed everything. “The business has evolved over time,” she says. “It has grown in scope and added revenue streams.”
In particular, Borcoman has expanded EVOKE’s distribution capacities. “Since we’re a distributor now, we have access to hundreds and thousands of wholesale suppliers,” she says. “We can source anything you need, from brand-name gifts to absolutely unique, custom-created items.”
These capacities enable EVOKE: An Experience Agency to craft unique marketing strategies that go above and beyond what other agencies can offer.
EVOKE creates powerful results
EVOKE: An Experience Agency comes into the strategic planning process early. “We’re a strategic partner,” Borcoman explains. “When we come in, we’ll listen and consider the existing strategy, but then we’ll ask the ‘why’ question. Sometimes, an event isn’t the best strategy. Other times, gifts aren’t, either. We’ll question things that might not be as effective as they could be. We even disrupt existing plans and come up with something better.”
In some cases, EVOKE’s campaigns combine events with gift-giving and other relationship management efforts to ensure an outstanding customer experience. “Other agencies steer clients toward the services they offer, but we don’t work that way,” Borcoman explains. “We consider the client’s goals first, and then build a strategy to achieve them. If there are components we don’t do ourselves, then we bring other partners on board and collaborate with them.”
As a result, EVOKE’s clients can see an exponential return on their investment. “One client was just entering the insurance space and wanted to make a splash,” Borcoman says. “Our event strategy helped them stand out, attract prospects, and get them noticed by influential members of the community.”
The events were so effective, in fact, that participants in the financial sector approached Borcoman about doing their own. For them, EVOKE hosted whiskey tastings that brought in new business to the tune of millions of dollars. “The cost of the event was nominal compared to the business it brought in, and then there’s the lifetime value of those accounts,” Borcoman notes.
The secret of Borcoman’s success
At the end of the day, the secret to Borcoman’s success is that she understands people. When she mobilizes her creative mindset, unparalleled access to coveted items, and wealth of valuable connections, businesses are sure to benefit. EVOKE: An Experience Agency is different from other marketing ventures, and that’s exactly why it works better.