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Experiential Marketing - It’s time to take the leap!

EXPERIENTIAL marketing has existed in different forms for decades, but the modern obsession officially began back in 2006.

A time when Motorola made the best phones, foam footwear was fashionable, and Freddos were still only 10p.

But whilst the world was distracted by flip phones, Crocs and inflatable furniture experiential marketing was officially recognised by the Advertising Research Foundation, and defined as:

“Turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context”.

FAST FORWARD to 2022 and most marketers will proudly pontificate about the importance of experiential in any self-respecting marketer’s toolkit.

But in truth, most experiential events fall a long way short of the mark, placing an emphasis on concept over content and gimmicks over connections.

So here are 10 questions to consider before embarking on an experiential marketing campaign.

1. Why Experiential?

It’s not enough to hope that our message gets through to those we seek to serve; but that they respond to and engage with it in a positive way.

Experiential marketing allows you to connect with consumers by letting the personality of your brand shine through and bring it to life.

This enables you to profitably identify and satisfy your customer’s needs by means of two-way communication.

Done correctly, any customer who engages with your brand in this manner will be left with an indelible memory of your complex brand values, in a way that connects to their own aspirational and lifestyle goals.

At the core of this engagement is the focus on trying to turn customers from simple shoppers into brand advocates and converts.

Shoppers go where the mood takes them on the whim of any one of a number of variables (price, location, newness, coolness, promotions, etc).

But brand advocates and followers will preach your brand and core values any time, any place, anywhere. Often better than your own staff.

2. What are you selling?

If you’re in business you’re selling something, and experiential marketing is no exception; but it does play the game a little differently.

There are two types of selling. Type one focuses on the tangible and the obvious; the immediate gratification of completing a sale and the thrill of the chase for the next one.

Type two focuses on selling change, connection and possibility; the promise of something better and a new way of thinking.

We can get side tracked into thinking of marketing as somehow separate from selling; more distinguished and artistic maybe.

But maybe we need to consider selling in a different context, a context that makes us feel inspired to sell in a way that is distinguished and artistic.

Consumers today are smarter than ever before and yet many brands still rely on trying to trick us or steal our attention for just long enough to bombard us with their latest ‘deals’.

The days of trying to sell average products to average people are gone.

Instead we need to deliver anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

We need to move away from marketing that assaults the senses and towards a system that inspires and engages people in a positive, communicative way.

3. Who are you trying to reach?

You can only sell when you know what you’re selling; and you can only reach your customers when you understand who they are.

In order to get as complete a picture as possible of your customers it helps to understand not just their demographics but also their psychographics.

Simply put, demographics explain who your customers are, and psychographics explain why your customers buy.

Whereas demographics can be broken down into factors such as age, occupation, education, religion and family, psychographics cover factors like opinions, attitudes, values and personality.

Drilling down into the specific psychographics of your customers can be difficult and time consuming; requiring detailed analytics, market research, surveys and focus groups.

Because of this, utilising and implementing them in a marketing strategy can prove prohibitive for many brands and businesses.

But their importance will only increase in the coming years as the value of this data becomes more prized and accessible.

So be sure to take every opportunity to engage with your customers and find out information about them.

Such as during an experiential event where you have already earned their attention by creating an emotional connection.

4. How are you trying to reach them?

Whether you partially or completely understand your audience and their demo- and psychographics, understanding where and when you reach them plays a critical factor in the success of your event.

Many experiential events position themselves in busy locations where there is high foot traffic, providing the best chance of engaging with as many people as possible.

And whilst this does have its advantages, you are still playing a numbers game.

The alternative is to position yourselves in a location where you know there is a good chance of targeting your target customer base.

This could be anything from a sporting event or a concert to a talk, an exhibition or a public performance.

Or maybe there’s a march or demonstration taking place around an issue your audience feels passionately about? Or maybe a parade celebrating an individual or community group or LGBT rights?

And if you can think of an angle that will appeal to the local media also, there’s a good chance of killing both proverbial birds at once.

5. What do you stand for?

Understanding who and what you are prepared to say no to, regardless of the money, impact or kudos that it could bring matters. A lot.

We’ve all heard the age-old adage that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. But something can mean a lot of things.

So maybe a more apt adage for today is: “If you want to stand for something you can’t stand for everything.”

Too often we see marketers, leaders, companies and organisations trying to be all things to all people. But to be a good brand you must be prepared to lose sales.

This may seem counterintuitive at first, but if you want to build long-lasting trust and customer loyalty, it’s the only game in town.

The beauty of experiential events is that they afford you the opportunity to incorporate complex ideas, concepts and values within your marketing message from the very beginning.

This means that you can articulate these messages and values to every person that you come into contact with.

And no, it’s not going to resonate with everyone. But that’s ok, because those it does resonate with will feel the connection deeply and promote your brand better than any advertising.

6. Is it a multi-sensory experience?

Experiential marketing attracts up to 74% more interaction and positive brand perception.

People intuitively understand experiences. Experiences are real and something that we all deal with every day of our lives.

And yet, the number that we remember positively and in detail amounts to barely a handful.

What better opportunity for brands to meaningfully engage with customers than by providing an experience that creates an honest emotional connection in the mind of the consumer?

As well as this, it has been well proven that multi-sensory events and experiences are more effective and live longer in the memory.

Here are some statistics to emphasise the issue:

73% of millennials crave experiences that stimulate their senses.

  • JWT Worldwide

Brand impact increases by 30% when more than one sense is engaged. And 70% when three senses are engaged by the brand message.

  • Martin Lindstrom

78% of event professionals believe that multi-sensory events deliver a more memorable and creative experience.

  • London & Partners and CWT Meetings & Events

But engaging multiple senses is only worthwhile if you are doing it with integrity in a way that resonates and reflects your true brand values.

People are bored and weary and any company that uses experiential marketing dishonestly will be found out. Regardless of how many senses you’re engaging at the time.

7. Is there an emotional connection?

By appealing to and engaging with people’s emotions, the likelihood of creating a deep connection that will embed itself in the memories of your consumers increases exponentially.

A recent study by Havas (the largest of its kind) revealed that 84% of people expect brands to produce content that entertains, tells stories, provides solutions and creates experiences and events.

In stark contrast to this, 60% of all content was considered to be poor, irrelevant and failed to deliver.

Furthermore, 74% of us wouldn’t care if the brands they use disappear and 75% of us expect brands to do and make more of a contribution to our wellbeing and quality of life.

In an age where customers’ trust in companies and brands is at an all time low, the solution is clear: Customers are desperate to feel an authentic connection to a brand.

8. How do you measure success?

To measure the success of an experiential event you must first define what success looks like.

This may sound obvious but it’s something that many fail to do.

This is because success is often intangible, relying less on product sales and bottom lines and instead focusing on PR coverage, brand awareness or product trials.

What you measure matters and only when you have determined what that is can you decide what metrics are most applicable.

This is where determining ROI (return on investment) becomes difficult. If the main campaign objectives are tangible - such as making direct sales or product trials, then success is easy to measure.

But it is likely that the desired outcome will be less tangible and as such the means and methods for gauging success need to be more carefully considered.

Some more pertinent and relevant factors could be:

  1. Online brand mentions.

  2. An increase in followers across social channels.

  3. Social media engagement both during and after the event.

  4. Contact details obtained directly during the event.

  5. Direct feedback from customers during and after the event.

  6. The number of people who participate directly in your campaign whilst live.

At present there is no industry standard for measuring data from experiential events and campaigns. Which presents headaches and opportunities in equal measure.

For brands obsessed with data and metrics, it offers the opportunity to set new precedents which could be adopted into common usage.

But it also offers an alternative. Out-of-the-box and off-the-wall to some, but exciting to those with a keen sense of intuition and gut-instinct.

“…An experience is also about an emotional connection and there’s an intangibility. Sometimes the best research of all is looking at people’s faces and seeing how they’re responding. It’s a tried-and-true way to see what’s working.”

  • Deb Curtis,

VP of Global Partnerships & Experiential Marketing

American Express.

9. How are you following up?

Regardless of how you measure the ROI of your experiential campaign, even hugely successful campaigns can take months to reap the benefits.

Therefore it’s important to have a strategy in place to ensure that you follow up in a way that helps to continue the momentum of the campaign.

This can be accomplished in several ways, from reminding people via social media channels, to blog posts, pictures and videos, follow-up emails, reviews, media coverage and testimonies.

Done correctly this will also help to garner attention and excitement for your next event or campaign by keeping the memories and connections fresh in people’s minds and positively reinforcing them.

But whatever you do, remember to make it easy for people to share the information via their social channels in as many ways as possible with as few clicks as necessary.

10. Can you embrace the tension?

If you don’t feel tension, you’re either doing something wrong or not doing it enough.

Experiential marketing is still in its infancy, and many companies and managers are still resistant to spending their marketing budget on an event with so many variables and unknowns.

But in an age where playing it safe is increasingly the riskiest thing you can do, taking chances is part of the game.

And sometimes minimising them and taking responsibility for the outcome, for better or worse, is the best you can do.

The people, companies and brands who succeed will be the ones that can embrace the tension, feed off it and let it guide them.

Now more than ever, the world needs people and companies who seek to make the kind of change that connects us in a positive way.

Brands with the ability to tell the truth and show the world that they really care will find an audience, because their message will resonate.

To create something that connects on a different level to your competitors you must search for the tension and embrace it.

Imagine that!


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