Traditional marketing is practically obsolete. If you want to set your brand apart from the rest, you have to go beyond the newspaper ads, flyers, and radio jingles. As many brands are trying to figure out how to stand out on the digital scene, an ever-increasing highway of rush hour traffic 24/7, the media is simply no longer social in our fiercely competitive world.
Consider an average consumer and how much time they spend on their electronic devices. They are exposed to thousands of in-app ads, YouTube ads, branded Instagram stories, and an almost offensive amount of sponsored content on any given day. Our brains are bombarded with new information so often that we have subconsciously developed techniques to filter it out. If someone asked you about a recent ad you saw, would you be able to remember it? Would you be able to identify the brand it advertised or when and where you saw this ad? We didn’t think so.
To truly break out of the massive social media traffic jams and take your marketing game to a whole new level, you need to be different. You need a strategy that will capture not only the attention but also the hearts of your consumers – a marketing campaign that will leave them in awe and help them remember your brand for a long time to come. Your brand needs to be focusing on building emotional connections.
There is no better way to achieve this than to turn to experiential marketing.
The Definition of Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing is a marketing strategy that creates experiences and lasting memories by physically engaging with consumers. It can be event-based, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. One of the best examples of experiential marketing is the Red Bull: Stratos campaign where the skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, set the world record for the highest skydive. This dive was streamed live on YouTube, and at the time, it set the record for a live broadcast with the highest number of concurrent views: over 8 million.
The main feature of experiential marketing is that it is a wholly immersive experience. Often, it doesn’t even involve mentioning a product or service. Consumers are free to enjoy the events and experiences and to engage with them however they like, and not a single ad or promotion will interrupt them. In the end, it’s not the advertisements they will remember; it’s the experiential events and that memory will be shared with lots of friends and family via word of mouth and social media.
The Key Benefits of Experiential Marketing
1. Rising above the ad clutter
One of the best solutions to the ad overexposure conundrum and traditional marketing methods we mentioned earlier is to give your consumers something that is not just an ad. Experiential marketing offers a lot more.
Experiential marketing creates an entire world for the consumer – a brief moment in time where they can take part in something new, something exciting, an adventure if you will. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sleepover at an IKEA store or Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThis campaign that encouraged women to share what they value more than body shape and size. It’s the fact that your consumers will have a short respite from their everyday lives to relax and have a bit of fun, all in the name of your brand and what it represents.
And that is infinitely more impactful than stumbling upon a random ad in your social media feed.
2. Building emotional connections
According to Motista, consumers are more likely to stay with a brand they have an emotional connection with and tend to recommend it to other people at a higher rate (71%).
This statistic shouldn’t be too surprising. Humans are emotional beings. We like to be moved, to feel happy, joyful, exhilarated, and any number of positive emotions, depending on the circumstance. Brands that are successful in fostering these emotional connections with their consumers – that make consumers feel something in regards to their product – generate more sales and profit.
Through experiential marketing, you can more easily connect with your audience, allowing consumers to experience the benefits of your brand rather than just read about it. If you create a positive experience for them – an event that will make them laugh and be silly, keep them on the edge of their seat in suspense, or perhaps make them feel warm and comfortable – they will associate your brand with positive feelings and emotions, which will make them more likely to purchase your product, become loyal and maybe even become a fanatic.
3. Live storytelling
Never underestimate the power of a good story.
To build a successful brand, you need to weave a compelling story through its core. The purpose of a brand story is to create a sense of a higher purpose. Consumers want a brand that is bigger than the sum of its parts; they want meaning, a vision, a legacy of some kind. Take a look at the top brands of today: Google, Tesla, and Apple. Tesla is about sustainability, green energy, reducing pollution, reversing climate change, and saving the planet from humans. How does one not respond to that?
Experiential marketing offers your brand the opportunity to tell your story live. It even offers you the opportunity to change your story, if you so desire. Lean Cuisine used to be about weight loss and dieting, but through their carefully conceived experiential marketing campaign, they succeeded in shifting their narrative to being kind to yourself, loving your body, and your inner strength, no matter what. There’s no doubt that the combination of storytelling and experiential marketing is a powerful tool.
4. Expressing authenticity
Regardless of the consumer age group, authenticity was named as one of the most important attributes that make people take an interest in a brand and engage with it. Hollow promotions and inconsistent messages no longer cut it for an audience who wants to see the humanity in the brands they invest in. In keeping with the desire to hear a story and make an emotional connection, what consumers truly seek is proof that there is a soul behind the brand logo.
As we outlined in our post about the power of authenticity in marketing, there are numerous ways your brand can utilize experiential marketing to better present its authenticity. The brand ambassadors you work with should be open, communicative, honest, and well-informed on the principles of your brand. The experiences you create don’t have to be huge. Red Bull went above and beyond to break a few world records, but even a small gesture, if genuine, will make a world of difference to your consumers.
5. Bringing consumers closer to your product
While we did say that in some experiential campaigns, there isn’t much more than a mention of the brand (no products or services involved), there are those that center their entire event around the product. These experiences provide entertainment and a fun memory, but they also allow the consumers to get to know the product better and test it out before purchasing it.
Sonos is a well-known developer and manufacturer of wireless home sound systems. To celebrate their partnership with Google Assistant, Sonos wanted to provide their consumers with something more than just a basic sound test using a pair of headphones. They organized experiential campaigns both in the US and the UK to demonstrate not only their new products, but the effects sound and music had on the brain. Visitors in the Sonos pop-up locations could learn more about Google and Sonos, as well as admire the stunning visualizations of brain activity when listening to good music. Interesting, educational, and a highly imaginative way of showcasing your new product!
6. Improving brand loyalty
Brand loyalty is a reflection of how committed the consumer is to your brand and your products. If a consumer is loyal to the brand, they will make repeat purchases. They will go out of their way to find your brand in their local stores or online, and if they, for some reason, can’t purchase from you, they won’t choose a substitute brand as they wait for yours to become available again. Loyal consumers are frequent buyers and the more loyal fans a brand has, the less marketing a brand needs to do.
Through creating the memorable experiences we’ve outlined in the text so far – particularly through emotional engagement with the consumer – you will be at the same time boosting brand loyalty. Consumers who are happy with an event and looking back at it fondly, or even with a sense of pride or accomplishment, have a higher chance of returning and even consciously seeking out the brand to reinforce that positive feeling. Additionally, almost 100% of humans who participate in a live event, and capture it on their phones, share their experiences on their social media channels.
According to a travel industry report, a whopping 74% of Americans prioritize experience over material things. With those numbers, it is no wonder that experiential marketing breeds brand fanatics when executed correctly.
7. Driving Word of Mouth
Once upon a time, Word of Mouth consisted of one person telling their friends and family about a great product they bought. While that is still true today, it’s important to note that the Word of Mouth exponentially evolved through the use of social media. Generating social media buzz and encouraging online engagement and post-sharing has become one of the main goals of most marketing campaigns because of the additional reach a brand can get.
And this is for a good reason. According to Nielsen, a mind-boggling 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends and family, while 91% of consumers are more inclined to try a brand if it has positive online reviews. These percentages are astounding and perfectly highlight the importance of Word of Mouth. Additionally, and not good news for marketers, only 33% of consumers believe online ads.
To keep track of your experiential campaign’s social media impact, it’s a good idea to create a unique hashtag for it on all the popular platforms. Monitor user engagement and read the reactions of your consumers as they go through the experience. Not only will this help garner more attention for your brand, but it will also provide you with indispensable customer feedback.
8. Collecting customer feedback
Reviews and impressions that you get from your customers are what should guide your path forward as a brand. Customer loyalty cannot be achieved without customer satisfaction, and you won’t know what prevents your customers from feeling satisfied if you don’t listen to their feedback. The basic principle is simple: do more of what makes your customers happy and do less of what makes them unhappy.
An effective way to collect customer feedback is to directly interact with them. Perhaps not everyone who takes part in the experiential campaign will be your customer, but there will be those who have undoubtedly heard of or purchased your brand before. Either read about their thoughts on social media (through the aforementioned campaign hashtag) or talk with them directly through brand ambassadors. Be open to any type of critique they might throw at you. Use their reviews and opinions to modify your strategies and future marketing campaigns if need be for even greater customer satisfaction.
9. Organizing a controlled environment
Consumers don’t live in a bubble. They are constantly surrounded by influences from all sides – political, economic, cultural, and others – that affect the way they respond to marketing campaigns on a day to day basis. Through regular digital marketing strategies, you don’t have much power over these influences. If your loyal consumer doesn’t have the financial stability to purchase from your brand, there is very little you can do about it, save giving the product away for free, though free stuff can have its advantages.
An experiential marketing event offers you a unique opportunity to create a controlled environment for your consumers. This isn’t a permanent solution, obviously, but it does allow you to control the way the consumer interacts with your brand and the emotions they get from that for that short period of time. It is your very own way of creating the bubble we mentioned at the start of this section, one in which the consumer will be surrounded by nothing but positive impressions directly related to your brand.
10. Creating unforgettable memories
Regular ads you run into when you’re surfing the web don’t create memories. Social media posts don’t create memories. Billboards, posters, and other flat ads don’t create memories. They are merely impressions, taking up only a few seconds of our time, and they are forgotten before we even click or tap away. What most common marketing strategies lack is providing the consumer with something they will remember.
Experiential marketing is a memory-building powerhouse. A live event or a series of events in an experiential campaign takes the consumer out of their routine. They introduce a new happening, a never-before-seen occasion, and encourage the consumer to take part. It doesn’t matter whether this is a day at a dirt-racing track or a petting zoo you take your kids to; the brand experience will become a cherished memory in the consumer’s life. They will have fun, enjoy food and beverages, meet new people, take pictures they will ultimately share, and be actively engaged.
No other form of marketing can match the profound impact that experiential marketing can have on a consumer’s life.
11. Building brand awareness
To purchase from your brand, the consumer must first be aware that it exists. Brand awareness is vital for boosting profits and market shares and getting more potential customers interested in the product. 89% of marketers cite brand awareness as their most important marketing goal in developing businesses. Across the board, this is considered one of the most effective ways of growing your brand and spreading its message.
With everything we’ve talked about so far, it should be obvious that experiential marketing strategies enhance brand awareness in an almost explosive manner. The frenzy surrounding a brand experience, the social media posts talking about it, and the lasting impression it leaves on the consumers is an effective, formidable way of getting more people to recognize your brand. And where there’s recognition, there are potential sales.
Is Experiential Marketing Right for You?
Experiential marketing connects with consumers in a way that traditional ads no longer can. So if you want to deliver innovative marketing experiences, make a lasting impression on consumers, generate new leads, and fill your sales funnel, then you should start allocating a bigger budget toward experiential marketing.
As a content marketer, you probably already recognize that social media and influencers no longer have the same impact they once did with their audiences, explaining why brands are shifting their strategies. Social media exposure is still essential, but to reach consumers, brands need a mix of marketing methods. If you want the social media attention, you need to address the specific challenge of giving people something worth posting and absorbing.
Based on everything we described here, investing in experiential campaigns is a smart move for virtually any brand. If executed right, this strategy hits all the right notes with consumers and serves to increase brand awareness, strengthen the emotional connection between the brand and consumers, boost brand loyalty, and create tons of memorable experiences for consumers.
Experiential marketing appeals to all five senses of the consumer. It transforms them from being unsure of whether or not they want to purchase a product to being absolutely convinced that this is what they want and what they’re going to get at the first possible opportunity. More than that, it gets the people talking about your brand and generating that precious word of mouth that will attract even more people to it.
There is no great company today that hasn’t had at least one memorable experiential marketing. Even Google, arguably one of the most famous brands in the world, creates experiences for its consumers to fortify the brand’s name. (Such as the Impact Challenge, where Google includes local nonprofit organizations and residents in deciding what the best course of action is to keep the Bay Area community thriving.)
So why not start planning for an experiential campaign as soon as possible? Dare to be different from your competitors, connect with your consumers on a deeper level, and watch your sales skyrocket as a result.
Want to learn more about experiential marketing? Interested in working directly with an accomplished experiential marketing agency with 25 years of brand experience? Pro Motion is an industry leader in creating engaging, effective experiential marketing campaigns targeted to both consumers and customers. To start the conversation, give us a call at 636.577.8507.
Learn More About Experiential Marketing from Pro Motion’s President Steve Randazzo in his best-selling book Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!
We have a new phone number, moving forward. This has been updated. Thanks, Cathi