Why Brands Need to Invest in Experiential Marketing

Search, social, video, newsfeed, display and now native ads: The amount of messaging pushed onto users’ screens has exploded, making it increasingly difficult to truly impact and connect with today’s consumers in digital channels. The brand’s message has to stand out among the thousands of others a user is exposed to every day. On top of that, brands are also competing with their audiences’ social circles, friends and family that constantly exchange content via newsfeeds, IMs, text messages and e-mails.

This information overload has led consumers to become more selective about the content they engage with, and they keep raising the bar for brands competing for their digital attention. In the early days of social media, a plain text tweet or Facebook post got great engagement. Then posts containing images got twice the engagement when compared to text only. The numbers for Q1 2015 reveal a dramatic shift towards video content; people are engaging 3.5 times more with video compared to static image-based content.

Today’s primary method of content consumption for digital natives is their newsfeed on the platforms of their choice. If you want to be seen by and engage with this audience, show up in their feed-it’s as simple as that.

But how do you get there? By either pay to play (sponsored post) or social shares. Social shares are a better “investment” because if somebody likes what you had to say, they will share it with their network – no ad spend required. After all, most consumers don’t share ads, they share content that excites and engages them. That’s why marketers invented branded content, a genius way to get consumers to engage and share brand messaging wrapped in a snackable, sharable way. Although native content advertising has shown some great results, it is still far from making a lasting impression on users.

So the challenge is very clear: How do you stand out and make a true impact with today’s digital-first consumers? Experiential marketing.

Why Experiential Marketing?

Digital’s one big disadvantage is its lack of lasting impact – its low “sticky value” in the consumer’s mind. I still remember the back cover ad on the print edition of the trade journal I read last week, but I have a hard time recalling any of the ads on its online version I visited 10 minutes ago. It remains true that brand recall is often much higher in traditional marketing, especially when there is a “touchable” brand experience to engage with.

In order to stand out and earn a coveted place in the consumer’s hearts and minds, brands and agencies need to create viral and lasting impressions through connected, impactful experiential marketing activations.

Experiential marketing is about enabling personal connections between brands and consumers by creating real-life experiences that are worth sharing. These experiences combine digital and real-world connections to create stronger memories and emotional bonds between brands and consumers.

I am not talking about PR stunts but about connected experiences that put the user at the center, to not only connect with the brand but also share their experience through their own social networks. Like “build it and they will come,” if you make it an experience worth sharing, consumers will share it and you will find a place in their newsfeeds (and those in their networks).

Experiential marketing is not new. There have been countless high-impact activations such as Red Bull’s Stratos or Diet Coke’s Slender Vender. However, with the advancements in technology, we can create more fully integrated and connected experiences than ever before.

In order to ensure a successful activation, there are a few key concepts that have proven to ensure success:

  1. Agency integration. One of the most common barriers to success is the lack of integration between the agencies. From creative to production to social and to media, they must to work in concert and support the bigger idea.
  2. Be real. Today’s consumers are often anti-advertising and want authenticity. Make your activation be more about the consumer than the product. If you deliver, the consumer will thank you and broadcast your message.
  3. Spark curiosity. We all have busy lives. If I see someone handing out samples, or offering tickets, I walk away. But if you set up an intriguing experience and spark my curiosity, I will participate. 
  4. Use technology. Consumers love technology and innovation. Make these part of the experience and make consumers feel like they are the first to do something special.
  5. Appeal to their senses. If you can create an intriguing experience that looks, sounds, feels good, tastes or smells good, you have won the consumers heart. Make sure you are addressing at least two of these senses in any idea you have.
  6. Support it in all channels. The crucial component to ensure success is that your idea can live and be experienced across all channels. Only then you will become truly memorable.
  7. Make it last. Make sure users leave your activation excited and eager to share it. You want it to be something they will talk about for months or even years.
  8. Make it matter. Above all else, this is the only one that really counts. Any activation has to start with something you know about your consumers in order to matter to them and to create truly impactful experiences. (Show them some love!)

There are a lot of benefits that brands can win through experiential campaigns. Those brands that are already leveraging this strategy create impactful ways to stand out above the digital noise and show up in a crowded digital field. Does yours?

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