Experiential Marketing has officially become a big deal. Ad Age recently declared 2013 as the Year of Experiential, and it’s easy to see why.
Marketers need to create and sustain growth in a tough marketplace, where competition is stronger than ever, and emotional connections are harder to forge. Advancements in consumer engagement combined with the latest results tracking technologies have made today’s experiential marketing programs more sophisticated and engaging than ever.
So, what is it all about?
Experiential marketing allows consumers to gain a rich understanding about a brand, product or service through a unique face-to-face interaction. At a base level, this is the difference between telling someone about a product and letting them try it for themselves. In the hands of skilled marketers, it connects consumers with brands through memorable and sharable experiences.
Experiential programs vary from the mild to wild, implemented through a variety of creative tactics including college tours, buzz stunts, pop-up stores and so much more. A well designed effort can increase awareness, change brand perceptions, generate leads, build brand loyalty and amplify purchase intent.
The secret is in thorough planning and preparation. Whether you are an experiential pro, or observing from the sidelines, here are five tips that will help make experiential marketing efforts more successful:
1. Extend The Big Campaign
Allowing customers to participate in a live, hands-on experience is a great way to bring a campaign to life. Not only does this help consumers to better understand the product, but it also jumpstarts immediate responses, generates online content and sparks conversation.
Coca-Cola’s “Happiness” campaign is a great example. Consumers put money into normal, everyday vending machines expecting a soda, but instead received unique gifts that surprised and delighted audiences of all ages. You can see it here.
2. It Doesn't Need To Cost A Fortune
Of course that depends on your idea of what a “fortune” is. But to keep things in perspective, most programs are less expensive than a modest TV campaign or direct mail blitz. You can pull off a localized guerrilla program on a shoestring budget or make a splash with a robust, multi-tiered national tour.
The important thing to understand is that experiential can be both flexible and scalable. To stretch small budgets, try renting promotional assets and vehicles instead of buying them outright.
3. More Than Marketing
A great brand experience will impact how consumers perceive and engage with your brand, but don’t forget about all the employees, retail partners and sales people who represent your company. Product training programs, employee recruitment and inside sales promotions are all great opportunities to ignite passion and energy internally.
Consider the opportunities to kick up it up a notch when educating franchisees on new menu items, or influencing the sales guys to promote your product on the retail floor. You could even amplify recruitment efforts at key events and conferences. Internal teams who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your brand will enhance customer service, reduce turnover and directly impact the bottom line.
4. Measure Up
Cost per thousand was the gold standard in media valuation, until digital came along and proved that metrics should consider more than just the number of eyeballs on a logo. Knowing how many people visit your website or event site is great, but you should also analyze how they spent their time with your brand.
Unfortunately, there is no standard ROI formula when it comes to experiential because every program is different. A product sampling effort will have a different set of success metrics than a brand awareness program. The key is to identify the results you need, then design a system that will track how those results are met. Establish quantifiable goals, benchmarks and challenges up front. Track everything you can like impressions, direct foot traffic, type of interaction, leads generated, samples distributed, etc.
But don’t forget that you’re measuring the impact of a personal experience, so give special consideration to the variable quality of the engagement.
5. Hire a Partner
You might be pretty handy around the house, but for most people, a home remodeling project turns out much better with professional assistance. Sure, anyone can set up a tent in a parking lot and call it an experience. But if you really want to create buzz and produce results that move the needle, consider bringing in a partner.
Look for an established agency that specializes in experiential marketing. Find partners who will respect your budgets while challenging your thinking. Most importantly, align yourself with a firm whose philosophies and people compliment those of your team and your brand. The people you chose to work with, and how well you work together, will make all the difference.
Experiential marketing is an important element of a comprehensive marketing plan because memorable experiences cut through the advertising clutter and help influence purchase decisions. Well designed, tightly executed, integrated events and promotions will drive growth and intensify customer loyalty. In a tough marketplace, the brands that engage customers via live, personal, experiential marketing efforts will receive strong results and create passionate consumer advocates.