Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World
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Brand Experiences Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World

According to the bestselling author of “Brand Experiences: Building Connections in the Digitally Cluttered World” and the founder of Pro Motion, Steve Randazzo, experiential marketing is a relatively new concept that started circuiting the professional scene about 15 years ago. When he started his company, Pro Motion slowly shifted from event marketing to creating positive experiences that defined brands and created long-lasting emotional connections with target audiences. Despite experiential marketing’s growing popularity, many people still don’t know what it is all about. They may be familiar with some industry terms, such as public relations, and digital/social engagement. However, while both of these fall into this category, it is essential to understand that experiential marketing is “the seed of an emotional connection that can last a lifetime.”

The experiential marketing appeal relies on how engaged potential customers feel with the brand’s cultivated user experience. Throughout his prosperous marketing career, Steve Randazzo has successfully handled numerous roles, but he has always had a passion for experiential marketing. For this reason, he started consulting for McCann-Erickson Event marketing, where he devised one of his most memorable campaigns. For the “Nabisco All-Star Legends” campaign, he gathered five Baseball Hall of Fame members, along with forty former baseball players, and traveled across America with them, promoting the Nabisco brand. 

Steve decided to start his marketing agency business in 1995, founding “Pro Motion,” dedicating his time and effort to creating emotionally connective experiential marketing campaigns ever since. 

According to one of Pro Motion’s clients, you cannot get the same reaction and the level of emotional connection with customers via print or digital as you get through experiential marketing. You will create strong, long-lasting relationships only by reaching out to your clients and engaging them in face-to-face conversations. The “Event Marketer and Mosaic” research showed that 56% of brands intended to organize more or at least the same number of event and experiential campaigns.

By focusing on personality, you entice emotion as an essential motivator. People like brands that make them feel special or promote goals and values similar to theirs. Using these emotional motivators, you’ll not only get people talking, but your company will also establish the foundations for purchase, loyalty, and fanaticism. Fanatics or advocates are 52% more valuable than loyal customers who find a brand experience “highly satisfying.” 

Therefore, you need to break through the thousands of digital advertisements trying to catch consumers’ attention daily and tell a story based on real-life experience to make a memorable impression. You will achieve this by educating them on a topic, engaging their attention, and inspiring them to act.

Steve Randazzo wrote the best selling book, “Brand Experiences” to teach you how and why you should target your audiences through experiential marketing. This article will focus on the essential ideas presented in Steve’s book to help you educate, engage, and inspire your customers.

Educate

Whether you want to promote your first product or are the owner of a well-established brand, you need to drive sales, elevate brand awareness, and educate your customers. In other words, you need to make your target audience love your product as much as you do. If you are into the status quo, you can always rely on TV commercials as a means of advertising. However, if you look at the stats, you will soon realize that TV advertising is an outdated concept with a decreasing audience. With people massively abandoning their cable operators or fast-forwarding through the commercial breaks, TV’s share of ad spending in the US is on its way to dropping below 30% by 2021. And this trend is unlikely to change unless the Internet were to suddenly disappear. 

With experiential marketing, you do not need to wonder whether your audience is paying attention because you’ll be standing with them as you educate them through building a brand experience for your product. However, it is essential to choose the right place and time for promoting your brand. People are more open to new information and positive experiences when they are in familiar settings. An experiential brand strategy is designed to help brands recognize situations where people feel open-minded and then provide a valuable experience to create emotional and physical connections. Choosing the right place to build your brand experience and promote your brand is crucial when it comes to handing out free samples, keepsakes, or giveaways. The experiences provider that hands out samples can attract numerous customers this way. 

What about those who need to promote larger products or more complex B2B services? Creating live demonstrations, taking your products directly to your customers, or participating in trade show tours may be efficient in providing memorable brand experiences. Bear in mind that most valuable giveaways fulfill customers’ needs while reminding them of the company’s products and services. The key to a successful giveaway is matching the brand’s message and value to the item. For example, if you promote a time-saving software solution, you should offer something practical and efficient, like a pocket planner or Swiss Army Knife, relating to your product’s main feature. Besides offering appropriate giveaways at the right spot, you should focus on other factors to attract customers.

Have you ever wondered what the secret of the shopping channel’s success is? Unlike short commercials, these interactive shopping networks offer a detailed presentation of products enabling people to see how they work and explaining how to use them in real-time, mostly through a brand’s experience. The more senses the product can engage, the stronger the customers’ impressions are. Thus, more and more brands use the advantages of machine learning, virtual, and augmented reality in their campaigns to launch consumers in the product’s world where they can interact with this product in a highly immersive environment, creating an unforgettable experience.  

Therefore experiential marketing combines powerful sensory brand experiences with an effective brand presentation to create lasting memories in consumer’s minds. After these highly-engaging customer experiences, consumers will start thinking, “Hey, I have to have this,” instead of “Why do I need this?” To achieve this enlightening “A-ha moment,” you need to build brand experience and bring your product to life in a highly-engaging way.  

This book’s author likes to use the saying “If you want to shoot ducks, go where the ducks are,” to point out that marketers require more than just the right tools to attract customers. They need to create an appropriate context and target the audience in their “habitat.” 

So what’s the right way to target your audience? Always bear in mind that brand experience beats advertisements in gaining an emotional connection. Experiential marketing campaigns best work in peoples’ natural surroundings, where they are comfortable and open to receive information. You need to build brand experience that offers your product in places that make sense. For example, if you sell noise-canceling headphones, go to music festivals or the airport. On the other hand, you wouldn’t go to a vegan farmer’s market to sell your new steak sauce.

Research shows that people are willing to accept new technologies when they feel they are in control of the experience. Besides being at the right place at the right time and offering appealing products, you have put consumers in control of the brands you want them to try. When done correctly, experiential brand experiential activations allow consumers to choose their adventures. They will feel empowered during these moments of discovery, opening their mind to learn about the brand and the product behind the brand’s experience. 

Digital marketing is not dead, but it is incredibly hard to stand out due to lots of blah, blah, blah, and extensive amounts of clutter. Facebook, Instagram, and banner ads can still draw audiences for some brands. However, there is no better way to build a brand than through physical brand experiences.

Let’s see how experiential marketing does wonders for B2B brands and promotes their product and services through memorable mobile roadshows.

Unfortunately, trade shows are no longer an option due to the pandemic and it may be a number of months before they come back.  However, your brand can still get your products in front of your customers by offering memorable, convenient, and fun field trips to customers and prospects with mobile roadshows. B2B mobile roadshows are the best form of promotion for building a brand experience and making a lasting impression. Here are some major advantages of mobile roadshows compared to appearing at a trade show:

  • Roadshows are perfect for brands that need to be experienced to be understood.  When you load your products or services up and hit the road to visit every company on your prospect list.
  • A marketing roadshow offers a fun, interactive, and immersive field trip that not only engages the decision-maker, it also is perfect for the influencers who also are involved in your product and you get everyone’s full undivided attention.
  • Roadshows allow you to talk directly to the decision-makers without any competition insight, which puts your brand in your customer’s spotlight.
  • Roadshow events have a huge upside with building your pipeline and cutting your sales cycle in half.

Despite the evident advantages, many B2B and B2C brands are still hoping trade shows come back soon.  However, our clients tell us they have been cutting back on trade shows due to a lack of results and pivoting to roadshow events due to value and tangible results.  Roadshows provide a level of emotional engagement and hands-on participation that is unmatched.

Engage 

According to Steve Randazzo, there is nothing more boring than flat advertising. When brands insert themselves in TV shows, reading materials, or billboards, they hope people will stop everything and pay attention to their sales pitch. Randazzo thinks that this is not a successful approach because it does not engage customers on an emotional level. No brand can expect to boost sales with passive brand marketing. By interfering with customers’ valuable brand experiences and compelling content, flat ads become annoying and counterproductive and ultimately ignored. 

However, if B2B and B2C brands invest in their marketing strategy and implement an experiential approach, they will engage their audience, catch their attention, and turn the brand experience into the star of the show. 

One way to turn a passive marketing strategy into an active campaign is by creating an engaging brand experience and experiential campaign that will bring flat sponsorships into the physical world.

Another efficient way to engage consumers is to share the same affiliations. Shared affiliations are invaluable assets to marketers who want to engage audiences, simply because shared interests build strong emotional bonds. When brands actively align themselves with the hobbies, interests, and passions of their target audiences, they achieve high-level engagement that would be impossible otherwise. These are all advantages of active engagement over passive consumption. 

Steve Randazzo used one of the most remarkable projects to depict the importance of extending the users’ experience by activating audiences on so many levels. The memorable experience gained while working on a NASCAR project taught him not to base the entire campaign just on passively placing the brand logo on signs, T-shirts, or race cars. As he put it: “Race cars crash, T-shirts get covered by jackets, and signs blow away in the wind.” Therefore it is more productive to take a proactive approach to extend sponsorships beyond one-time events. You should not leave your marketing campaign to fate – revive it by fully engaging your audience. 

Factors that are out of your control, like the weather, can ruin the most carefully-planned experience marketing campaign. For this reason, smart brand marketers always have a backup plan and take proactive measures to extend their exposure beyond singular live events. If you plan your positive brand experiences carefully, you will still be able to engage audiences and make the customer experiences worthwhile.

Both B2B and B2C brands need to be present at the live events they sponsor to extend the moment and build positive emotional connections. The audience needs to know who you are and what you do before they attach any emotion to a flat ad. 44% of B2B marketers and 53% of brand and marketing managers stated they generated more leads and increased sales by being actively present at the live events with the target audience by bringing their brand to life with a positive brand experience.

The author also suggests marketing managers integrate social media channels to extend the moment, pointing out that compelling content like “every tweet, snap, post, or photo created by a person at an event has the potential to reach hundreds or even thousands of viewers. These simple actions may lead to the results’ exponential growth.”  And customer-generated social media, through the use of a brand hashtag, cuts through the clutter.

According to Steve Randazzo: “All is fair in love and war, and marketing is a bit of both.” If your competitor uses passive marketing strategies that leave an opening for you to “steal the show,” you don’t want someone else to take advantage of this opportunity. Do what Nike did when they built a positive brand experience that stole the show from Adidas at the 2014 World Cup and made a lasting impression, gaining more attention and leads than the main sponsor. You will not hear the Nike marketing team apologizing for this move. But when you decide to step into enemy territory, be sure to choose your battles wisely. You need your own space where you will not compete with 20 other brands and get lost in that crowd. 

When you decide to ride on someone else’s brand experience wave, you cannot sit idly, expecting everything to work out perfectly by itself. You need to identify why the audience should pay attention to your brand experience to make it stand out at someone else’s show. Once you do this, you will be ready to build an emotional connection. As Randazzo stated: ”The path from experience to brand familiarity to brand loyalty is clear. All you have to deliver is (brand) experience.”

Inspire

“Good intentions are beautiful,” says Randazzo in this chapter’s opening. However, retail brands should not support charity causes only to gain consumers’ affirmation through these partnerships. The more brands understand their role in making the world a better place, the better. It is important to recognize that consumers expect more from retail brands than offering reliable products at reasonable prices. They want to do business with brands that care about people and the world. Companies seem to stick to the passive involvement of charity causes by writing massive checks. While there is nothing wrong with this, and an abundant donation is always welcome, you need to take a more proactive role to gain customer loyalty and build experience-based emotional connections. 

But before you commit yourself to a disaster relief campaign, evaluate the situation to find out whether your company’s help would be authentic, welcome, and useful. A good example of experiential marketing was when Tide sent a mobile trailer full of washers and dryers to help people hit by Katrina. Tide provides an authentic experience that most don’t see as marketing, but it is surely building a brand experience and reaching consumers on an emotional level – a huge win for Tide!

Today, Millennials, the largest generation in US history, are reaching their prime spending years. This is also a highly socially aware generation concerned with the environment and social justice. Therefore, companies that do not listen to Millennial demands and adjust to their habits will miss out on the largest piece of the consumer pie. This generation expects brands to share their concerns. Statistics show that 91% of Millennials gravitate towards companies that support a cause and back up their convictions with cash. So brands need to authentically stand for something to attract this consumer group. 

The best way to reach out to Millenials is to join the growing number of companies involved in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). CSR and cause marketing are not new concepts on the scene, but Millennials, accompanied by digital technology, have recently put these concepts under the limelight. Modern consumers notice false intentions instantly. Companies that commit to a cause with only money on their mind are easily spotted. The only brands worse than the ones that do not care are those that pretend to care. Therefore, you need to use a polling process to identify an authentic area where your brand can help and find proactive ways to make a difference in people’s lives. Make sure to share your meaningful mission to connect with your audience and start creating long-lasting emotional bonds. Show through your actions and brand strategy that you are passionate about the same causes as them and to boost your brand awareness and attract an array of loyal customers.

Spark Activism 

All the experiential examples bestselling author, Randazzo, mentioned have successfully aligned brands with causes with a brand experience connection. Each example of experiential marketing showed how a brand played an active role in a community or a place of need. They didn’t just get people talking; they also walked the walk, hoping consumers would follow their lead and form emotional connections along the way. And these brands were right. Modern consumers want to be activists and see themselves as forces of good in this world. And your brand can provide that spark to invite customers to take the next step. You will achieve this in two ways:

  • Reach out to them through human interaction – don’t rely on a digital call to action to produce a massive turnout
  • Propose a fair trade

“By combining a human touch and equal trade, you can transform would-be activists into empowered champions of your CSR efforts.”

Conclusion

This is a summary of Steve Randazzo’s widely popular, award-winning bestselling book, Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World, that will help you better understand the value of experiential marketing. Steve has used an array of real examples from his 30-year career in experience marketing to show you the best practices you can implement to educate, inspire, and engage your customers via building authentic brand experiences. Whether you are a seasoned marketer, or your brand has just appeared on the scene, this book will be your faithful ally in forming lasting emotional connections through memorable experiences. So do not hesitate and order this marketing masterpiece, so as to connect with your audience right away.