It’s Time to Experiment with Experiential Marketing

We’ve witnessed a number of marketing trends in recent months, from brand publishing and visual storytelling to partnering with social influencers and distributing content through mobile apps. The focus is always on digital media. Brands are experimenting in myriad ways, determined to connect with the ‘elusive customer’. The strategies they use may vary, but ultimately they’re all working toward the same goal.

Marketers want to create a brand experience

That’s exactly what consumers got at this year’s TED conference, where Delta Air Lines offered an interactive installation called “Stillness in Motion”. Designed to help enhance the participant’s productivity at work, the installation invited consumers to tune into what it feels like to be utterly still. Heart-rate sensors recorded their lowest heart rate while the room pulsed with light.

“We invest in [art installations] to showcase our services while also creating an innovative experience that attendees will be talking about,” said Judd Hooks, Delta’s manager of social media and brand partnerships.

According to reports, 95 percent of TED2015 attendees who experienced the installation tweeted about it afterward. It’s easy to see why brands are investing in these prominent, highly viral events.

Studies by the Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic, note that 93 percent of consumers believe live events are more effective than TV ads, with 89 percent saying events improve their understanding of a product or service better than a TV, print, online or radio ad does. A whopping 96 percent are more likely to buy a product after participating in a branded live event, and 74 percent of consumers report having “a more positive impression” of a company as a result.

The study also found that 72 percent of Fortune 1000 companies reported a “substantial increase” in live event marketing activities last year.
Experiential marketing as a marketing strategy, however, is somewhat nebulous. It encompasses outdoor displays and street performances, but can also extend to augmented reality and interactive displays. Increasingly, technology plays a critical role in boosting engagement and exposure. But even that can play out in different ways.

BMW recently stated that it plans to increase event marketing after discovering 5 percent of participants in last year’s “Ultimate Driving Experience” traveling event later bought one of its vehicles. Throughout the nationwide tour, which includes high-speed race track instruction and driving lessons for teens, the automaker uses the hashtag #DrivingIsBelieving to promote the event and share photos on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Consider Heineken’s 2013 “Departure Roulette” in which airline travelers were given the opportunity to take an impromptu trip to a random location somewhere in the world. Videos of consumers spinning the roulette wheel to see where they were destined to go generated millions of views online. The YouTube videos also led to “earnest engagement” and increased interest in the brand from Heineken’s target audience of Millennials.

Last October, we saw Whole Foods create a brand experience around the provenance of their products when they installed interactive displays in their new Atlanta store. And with more than 36 million YouTube views, West Jet’s “Christmas Miracle” was so successful the first time around that the airline launched a follow-up last year.

UK-based Choice Loans recently compiled some of the most successful experiential marketing campaigns we’ve seen in recent years in an infographic. The company encourages brands to be creative and leverage both social media and technology.

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But in developing an experiential campaign, where should brands begin? Experiential marketing is about participation – engaging consumers in an activity that captures the essence of your service or product. It’s centered on creating memories and positive associations with your brand. In the case of Delta Airlines, consumers come away with an impression that their next Delta flight will be soothing and productive. BMW gives potential car buyers the opportunity to experience the product’s speed and control in person, while Heineken’s stunt paints the brand as a beverage well suited to excitement and adventure.

The most successful campaigns aren’t just clever concepts, but a reflection of the brand’s image that resonates with target customers. Experiential marketing offers an opportunity to merge online and offline media in a wholly immersive way. Technology is allowing brands like these to take concepts further, not only to increase exposure but to make interactions all the more meaningful. If a branded live event isn’t in your marketing plans for 2015, it may be time to give your customers an experience to remember.

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