In today’s media landscape, traditional forms of advertising are giving way to new and innovative ways to reach consumers. The latest evolution of advertising is experience marketing or engagement marketing. It’s a hot topic, and major brands are leveraging experiential marketing in unique ways that are going viral and building brand presence and invaluable emotional connections between consumers and brands. But before jumping on the experiential bandwagon, it’s important to first evaluate whether this advertising model is suitable for your business and stage of growth.
What is it, exactly?
Experiential marketing, at its most basic, is generating experiences for customers that create a deep emotional connection between the customer and the brand. The goal here is to create a strong, positive emotion, which then results in increased brand awareness, brand loyalty, and ultimately conversions.
Why is an emotional connection so important?
According to a study by the Tempkin Group, when individuals have a positive emotional association with a brand, they are 8.4 times more likely to trust the company, over seven times more likely to purchase more, and over six times more likely to forgive and forget a company snafu. And according to a Nielsen study, ad campaigns that elicited an above-average emotional response in consumers caused a 23% increase in sales as compared to average ad campaigns. Clearly, emotional connection converts.
But creating a genuine, authentic emotional connection is harder than it sounds. Today’s consumers are extraordinarily media-savvy. They know when they are being sold to, and resent obvious sales pitches. They think of brands as a way to engage with a certain lifestyle or movement – it’s about more than just the product. It’s about the company, what the company is, what it stands for, and how it creates the products and sells them to consumers.
If your business is still at a stage in which you are solidifying these concepts, experiential marketing may not be right at this point in time.
How does experience create an emotional connection?
Experiential campaigns can be enormously beneficial to a company when done right, but unfortunately, they can be equally destructive to a brand when done wrong. Instead of doing an experiential marketing campaign because it’s hot and other major companies are doing it, focus on laying out an exact plan of action for your brand, from the brand essence, projected to the expected emotion evoked, and the logistics of how to get there.
At first, some experiential marketing ideas may seem abstract – and they are. Experiential campaigns are very much about creating a feeling over pushing a product. In some campaigns, the product isn’t shown at all, only the brand name. For example, Always’ groundbreaking Like a Girl campaign recorded the reactions of men and women when asked to do things “like a girl,” then asked young girls to do the same. The difference in their responses always led to ask the question of when “like a girl” became an insult. Not once during the campaign was an Always product shown. The campaign was focused on creating an emotional connection with young women and inspiring feelings of solidarity, positivity, and strength. The campaign was enormously successful.
For us at StickerYou, we are opening a retail location in Toronto, Canada, as part of an experiential marketing play that invites customers to engage directly with our product (custom stickers, labels, decals, iron-ons, temporary tattoos, etc.), but to also be inspired by innovative use-cases, the history of stickers, and sticker art. The purpose is to underscore the potential for consumers to create things that are important to them, and that empower them in both personal and business matters. This is part of our company brand, encapsulated in our motto: Make What Matters Stick. By creating an environment in which customers can experience inspiration and innovation and link them to personal or business projects, we are creating an emotional connection through experience that will raise brand awareness and brand loyalty, both of which are important in discovering and retaining customers as well as driving sales.
Experiential marketing offers many profound benefits and results, but only if it is executed properly. An experiential campaign done wrong can just as easily damage a brand. One of the most common ways in which brands misstep with experiential marketing is by making the campaign too sales-y. If consumers feel like a brand’s campaign is a sales pitch, it will turn them off. And what’s worse, the viral potential for these campaigns can turn negative quickly, as consumers turn to social media to share negative experiences.
Because of this, brands must take time to fully consider a potential experiential marketing campaign from every possible angle before proceeding. Brands should have a clear goal in mind when considering an experiential marketing campaign, clear and well-defined values to transmit to a consumer audience and commit to a clear plan of action in execution.
Written by Andrew Witkin.
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