Experiential Marketing: Creating Emotional Connections
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 as a winning strategy is exploding.
A successful Experiential Marketing strategy creates valuable emotional connections between your brand and target audience.
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 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 as a marketing strategy is the conscious act of facilitating a remarkable event or activity centered around your brand in order to foster brand engagement, and ultimately elicit your desired brand emotion within your target audience.
The main objectives for Experiential Marketing strategies that bubble to the top for most brands and marketers are:
- Create a remarkable experience that elicits such strong emotional responses from target customers and prospects that they share their experience with their friends & family
- Foster brand ambassadors
- Sell products and services
What’s your definition of Experiential Marketing?
Why Is Experiential Marketing Effective?
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.”
– Seth Godin
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 thought-provoking.
The desired result on the part of the brand? 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.
How to Create Effective 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 Tips for Developing an Effective Experiential Marketing Campaign
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.
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.