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Encourage Engagement with Experiential Marketing

June, 2019

Let’s talk about experiences. We all have them, some more meaningful than others. What was the last memorable experience that you had? Was it a weekend trip through the mountains? Maybe you visited family and saw some of the old haunts again for the first time in a while. What made these experiences so memorable?

This is the question many marketers are trying to answer for their brands today. The practice of curating a memorable experience for consumers is known as experiential marketing or engagement marketing, and it is one of the greatest ways to connect in the digital space. Brands such as GE and Covergirl have leveraged this form of marketing to great effect, and your brand can too.

Why Choose Experiential Marketing

With many brands scrambling to grab the attention of Millennials and Gen Z, going the experience route makes sense. For notoriously fickle younger audiences, maintaining a digital presence and browsing the presences of others is a key part of their daily lives. Sharing is an important element of their active social media lives and physical experiences are perfect opportunities for shareability. Think a pop-up shop, a branded playground, an art gallery. These are ideas that have the potential to engage with young crowds and have them posting about your brand on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

One of the most valuable opportunities with going experiential is interactivity. Entice consumers with the experience and have them interact with your brand in a physical way. For example, a haircare brand may set up a street salon for a new product line. Consumers that are familiar and unfamiliar with the brand now have an opportunity to break from the daily grind and get a free shampoo. Positive brand exposures like this are only available through catering to the desire for unique experiences.

A nice secondary benefit is cutting through the clutter of the digital world. This is not to say a well structured digital marketing campaign does not go a long way. However, experiential marketing does not have the same level of saturation. Brands are present in everyday life, but many still underestimate the power of experience.

This leaves plenty of opportunity for your brand — and others — to have consumers generate their own content surrounding brands that they are familiar or unfamiliar with. The better the experience, the better the user-generated content.

How To Create A Winning Experiential Marketing Strategy

Every successful marketing strategy starts with a fundamental understanding of the consumer, the brand and the connection between the two. Experiential marketing is no different. With all of the data available for segmentation, it can be easy to either find a common thread among different segments or hone in on one specific group and build around it. What experience you want to create depends on who will be targeted combined with how they view your brand.

Let’s do a little thought exercise. Imagine a popular brand of pet food starting to develop its experiential marketing strategy. This brand is bought by consumers from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. They may all share a love of animals, but outside of that their interests vary greatly, along with their reasons for choosing said pet food brand. The decision to go for a broad experience that appeals to all or a more niche direction depends on the brand. What experience would you design for yours?

Whatever path is taken, it is important to always remember that the experience must be consumer-centric. While every brand has a brand strategy, the concept of what a brand is is ultimately in the hands of the consumer. The created experience should set out to answer some questions, including how do I want consumers to interact with the brand? and what will they learn about the brand when the experience is over?

Successful Experiential Marketing Campaigns

CPG brands have done a great job when it comes to creating successful experiential marketing campaigns. Instantly recognizable names like Hershey’s and Lean Cuisine have made engaging through experiences memorable for consumers while taking different approaches: Hershey’s by featuring the product and Lean Cuisine by not showing any products at all.

In 2017, Hershey’s flipped merch on its head at SXSW to promote the relaunched Take 5 line of candy bars. The company set up a booth where festival goers can swap unwanted items like flashlights, pens and keychains with tablets, portable projectors and of course chocolate. Not only was this experience wildly successful, but it showed that Hershey’s knew their audience, what they wanted and how to link their relaunch to the desires of consumers.

On the healthy food front, the Lean Cuisine brand was going through a reinvention in 2016. To show consumers this shift, they chose an experiential marketing campaign titled #WeighThis to promote self-empowerment. The campaign was an incredible success. Even though the Lean Cuisine logo was prominently visible along with the hashtag, by not pushing products on consumers for this engagement, the campaign felt more authentic and showed that the brand really cared about the message they were pushing.

Whether your brand sells consumer goods or is B2B, there is value in going experiential with your marketing efforts. While it takes a good deal of investment, planning well and getting a campaign right offers opportunities that go beyond traditional tactics and into genuine interaction.

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Last Edited on May 25, 2018