Experiential Marketing: Create Branded Memories That Live On Forever
Experiential marketing makes an impact that can pay dividends to your brand for generations. Do you remember that trip you and your family took to Disney World? I’ll bet it was a pretty incredible vacation. If you think about it long enough I’ll be you can picture your kids faces when they met Micky Mouse. What you’re doing at this moment is recalling what I describe as a branded memory.
Disney does an amazing job at experiential marketing. They’ve been doing it for so long that I’m not sure they even consider it experiential marketing. Creating magical experiences that their customers remember is simply built into their company DNA. We can all learn something from companies like these when it comes to experiential marketing and creating branded memories that live on forever in the minds of our customers.
This article is going to unfold everything you need to know about experiential marketing, from what it is, to examples, and how you can leverage it for marketing your brand or business. Let’s take it from the top.
What Is Experiential Marketing?
Before we go any further, let’s align our definition of Experiential Marketing.
A quick Google search brings up more than a few definitions:
- “Experiential marketing, also called “engagement marketing,” is a marketing strategy that invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation. Using participatory, hands-on, and tangible branding material, the business can show its customers not just what the company offers, but what it stands for.” – HubSpot
- Experiential Marketing is “live, one-on-one interactions that allow consumers to create connections with brands,” according to Brad Nierenberg of Best Bosses
- 451 Marketing, a Boston-based agency, defines experiential marketing as strategy that “creates unique, face-to-face branded experiences”
- Shareen Pathak of AdAge loosely defines Experiential Marketing as “messaging you can touch, feel or view in a physical space“
Here’s my take:
Experiential marketing is the act of engaging customers in a brand-related activity, forging an emotional connection which is so remarkable that it imprints a strong memory of the experience.
Why Is Experiential Marketing Effective?
In a one-click-to-buy world driven buy companies like Amazon, every other business on the planet is searching for new ways to growth and thrive. Amazon competes on convenience and price. Consumers have grown accustom to finding the products they need at a competitive price, purchasing them with a single click, and having them shipped to their door the next day.
How do you compete with that?
You compete with Amazon by delivering remarkable brand experiences that stick with consumers long after the experience is over. Experiences so powerful that they are captured and shared on social media sites like Instagram. Experiences so powerful that a specific comment or a certain smell will trigger the memory at any given moment. Experiential marketing is how you compete with Amazon.
People generally remember…
- 10 percent of what they read.
- 20 percent of what they hear.
- 30 percent of what they see.
- 50 percent of what they see and hear.
- 70 percent of what they say and write.
- 90 percent of what they DO.
Experiential Marketing is all about “doing.” It’s about engaging with a brand. Successful experiential marketing campaigns encourage people to interact with the brand by doing something fun, active and emotion-invoking.
Experiential Marketing Creates Emotional Connections Between Brands and Their Customers
The desired result of experiential marketing Campaigns? Connection.
The connection between a brand and a consumer is extremely valuable. In Relationship Marketing, Livy Alvey explains that “brands facing identical competitor products can create brand loyalty by focusing on the emotional connection.”
Experiential Marketing is effective when executed properly because it creates emotional connections between brands and their target audience. At every interaction, those brand fibers are getting more and more intertwined with the consumers’. The tighter the connection, the stronger the relationship, the higher the customer lifetime value is for each customer.
Experiential Marketing is gaining popularity.
And for good reason. Experiences have the power to force us to think and elicit emotional reactions, whether pleasurable or unpleasurable. According to BeingHuman.org, “emotions are frequent companions in our lives…changing like the weather in April: sunny, rainy, stormy, mild or thunderous”.
Human emotions are driven in large part by our experiences, and our emotions influence nearly all of our buying decisions.
At some point, the role of human emotions in consumer purchasing decisions got lost along the way. This fundamental building block for what makes us all human was forgotten by far too many marketers, sales teams, and companies. Instead, we started selling on cost, convenience, and other ancillary product benefits, but that’s not good enough anymore.
As the marketplace shifts, companies are starting to realize they need to evolve their winning formulas by getting back to the basics. In searching for solutions, the conversation around creating remarkable customer experiences with experiential marketing as a winning strategy is exploding.
The Goal of Experiential Marketing Is To Create A Great Customer Experience
When it comes to creating a great customer experience, first impressions matter. Before consumers purchase your product or service, they must be open to purchasing your product. In a split second customers will decide if they are open to making a purchase. This is why the customer experience is so critical and correlates directly to sales.
If you’re buying this logic, that means that by default your brand is in the “creating experiences” business. Whether you operate solely online, you have a retail store, or you attend tradeshows, etc. having a strategy in place for manifesting an amazing customer experience is critical to your success.
What Is Experiential Strategy?
Experiential marketing strategy is the process by which a brand plans to engage customers and create an emotional connection through a fun or memorable experience. Experiential marketing strategy provides the “how”. Experiential marketing objectives set the “why”. Experiential marketing tactics are the “what”.
A successful experiential marketing strategy creates valuable emotional connections between your brand and target audience.
What Objectives Can Be Achieved With Experiential Marketing Strategies?
Every great marketer knows that you set your marketing foundation by developing a strong, measurable marketing plan. At the core of every great marketing plan are measurable objectives that are achievable, while at the same time will cause the organization to stretch in order to reach.
Once you set your objectives for the year the next step is to develop the marketing strategies that will work best for achieving those objectives. Experiential marketing strategies are not suited to achieve every business objective. That said, developing an experiential marketing strategy to achieve certain objectives can be highly valuable for your organization.
Here are a few example objectives that call for experiential marketing strategies:
- Increase brand mentions on social media by 25%
- Convert 5% of customers into brand loyalists and ambassadors
- Increase sales by 20% over the calendar year
3 Tips For Your Experiential Strategy
When developing your experiential strategy keep these three tips top of mind.
High Experiential Utility Is Critical
When it comes to creating magical customer experiences be sure not to overlook the Utility dimension. Far too often we fixate on the creative and engagement dimensions of the customer experience while giving less thought to the utility side of the house. Customer experiences must be functional and consumable.
To make this happen we have to aim for frictionless experiences. Friction filled customer experiences, no matter what great new technologies you employ, won’t provide the value you’re looking to manifest.
- Frictionless utility should set the foundation for the experience.
- Frictionless design of the experience ensures your customers don’t give up before they can get to the magical dimension.
As Seth Godin says, “People no longer buy products and services, they buy relations, stories, and magic.” The next time you begin to set the strategy for your next great experiential marketing campaign, be sure to lay a frictionless foundation to ensure your customers can easily consume the magic.
Set a Plan for Capturing Content Moments
If you are creating magical customer experiences through your experiential marketing campaigns then incredible content moments will be built in. Content moments are points in time when a customer is engaging with your brand, when that emotional connection is being forged, that you need to capture and share. These content moments can go viral and easily drive the next set of new customers to your business.
As you’re developing your experiential strategy, make sure you have a plan for capturing content moments.
- Taking pictures or capturing video is the best way to capture content moment – Consider live streaming your experiential events
- Put someone, or multiple people, in charge of capturing these moments
- Provide your staff with the technology to make it easy
- Ensure you can easily share the content back with the customers, as well as, capture their consent to share it on your social media
- Encourage customers to share the content on their social media as well
On-demand Is In Demand
Not only should you set up opportunities to capture remarkable brand-customer engagement moments for use in your promotional content, but you should also set up strategies for serving up value to customers in the moment during the experience. As consumers we all live in an on-demand world, and that’s changing our expectations when we interact with our favorite brands. The brands who can provide that instant gratification to customers in the moment will thrive, while others will wonder what’s missing.
Here are a few ways that you can deliver value on-demand during your experiential marketing campaigns:
- Text coupons to customers on the spot
- Share photos with customers real-time
- Giveaway prizes throughout the experiential event
4 Steps to Planning Experiential Marketing Campaigns
Once you’ve set your objectives and developed your experiential marketing strategies the final step in the planning process is to create your experiential marketing campaigns. As is the case with all high-value marketing campaigns, there are a few foundational requirements for creating effective experiential marketing campaigns:
- Think – Set time aside to really think about your target audience and your objectives, then vet your strategic ideas around your Experiential Marketing Campaign. Ultimately your objectives, strategies and target audience should be solidified and incorporated into your Experiential Marketing plan.
- Plan – Companies must create a plan or roadmap for their campaign so that all stakeholders are aligned in the vision, objectives and KPI’s. Like in Crew, everyone on the boat must be rowing in rhythm and in the same direction.
- Lead – Identify a champion to drive the initiative. This person will play the roll of Cockson in our crew analogy. She will be the person ensuring the team stays on course and executes against the objectives
- Measure – Once Objectives are set, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be established and a reporting plan can be put into place so the team can measure success.
These four foundational keys for creating effective experiential marketing campaigns are critical steps in the process that cannot be skipped if you want to make a real impact.
When going through the steps above, here are some questions to consider:
- What are the brand objectives?
- How can experiential marketing help achieve our brand objectives?
- What message needs to be communicated as part of this campaign?
- Who is the target audience?
- What emotional response needs to be triggered in the audience in order to create the desired connection with the brand?
- What determines success? Key metrics achieved? Verbal feedback from participants? Social media conversations?
Take the time to answer these questions as you go through the steps above, and once you have a solid foundation, you’re ready to dive into the tactics.
7 Experiential Marketing Tips
Once a company has objectives and a strategy for achieving those objectives, the focus can shift to the actual experience.
Consumers can see right through the facade if you’re not being authentic. Be sure your campaign clearly aligns with your brand image and mission.
What message should resonate with the target audience? If your audience walks away with one key takeaway from their experience, what do you want that to be? Your message may or may not be tied to your products or services. Determine the message that you want to communicate, and then build an experience around it.
As we have learned above, effective Experiential Marketing campaigns must trigger an emotional response within the target audience to have any chance of creating a real connection between brand and customer. Think about your objectives, audience, and the message you want to communicate, and then determine what emotional hooks can be set within the experience to trigger your desired response. Walt Disney famously said, “laughter is America’s most important export.”
Experiential Marketing campaigns today are like campaigns on steroids due to all of the latest technological advancements. With tools like smartphones and social media, local experiences are often shared globally. Make sharing easy and ensure it’s integrated into the experience so it feels natural for your customers to share.
Location, Location, Location
An Experiential Marketing campaign can take place anywhere while being shared everywhere. That means your store or event booth may or may not be the best place to execute your campaign. First, find out where are your targets are spending their time and then plan your experience around that location. Bring the experience to them and let them choose to engage. Interruption marketing is dead.
People love to see how they stack up against their peers. It’s a ripple of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Through the use of technology, it’s easier than ever to incorporate real-time leaderboards or “see how your peers answered this question” components into the campaign. If you’re running the campaign in multiple locations, create a leaderboard and watch participants in Philadelphia compete with folks in New York.
As we have learned, success in experiential marketing comes down to the brand’s ability to create an experience that evokes the desired emotional response within the target audience, which ultimately leads to a deeper connection between brand and customer. Sometimes that can be achieved solely by the brand. Other times, it makes sense to find strategic partners with whom to execute the campaign. Find partners with similar customer types, and integrate them into the campaign.
How To Promote Experiential Marketing Campaigns Using Social Media
Before you’re ready to launch an experiential marketing campaign definitely consider how you will use social media for promotion. Social media can be used before, during, and after your experiential marketing campaign.
Use Social Media to Build Awareness for Your Experiential Marketing Campaign
Promoting an upcoming experiential event using social media is great for creating awareness and driving participation during your event. Most brands have a built in following on social media that you can spread the word to. It’s a free channel for building anticipation around your new campaign.
Here are a few tips for using social media to promote experiential events:
- Use hashtags to promote your experiential event to a wider audience
- Run contests to generate buzz and participation in the event
- Treat the winners of any pre-event promotion to special services when they show up for the real thing
Use Social Media to Share Content Moments During Your Experiential Marketing Campaign
Social media is the best place to post images and videos during your event. We talked about having a plan for capturing the content moments during your experiential marketing campaigns, and social media is a prime channel for distributing that content.
Posting on social media during your experiential events offers you three main benefits:
- Generates awareness for your brand and your experiential event
- Encourages others to participate in the event
- Sets up a dialogue with participants that you can continue after the event
Use Social Media to Show Off Results From Your Experiential Marketing Campaign
Once your experiential event comes to a close, social media is a great place to post pictures, videos, and participant feedback. Keep the conversation going with those who participated in the event and encourage them to share their experience. this way you can make sure your brand stays top of mind after your event by taking the conversation to your social channels.
The benefits your brand can achieve through effective experiential marketing campaigns are extraordinary, which is why so many companies are investing in the space right now.
It takes time and a lot of strategic thinking to develop an experiential marketing campaign, but if you follow the tips above as a starting point you’ll be well on your way to building a more passionate user base and driving revenue growth.