This year saw a rise in ambivalence toward digital and social ads, frustration with interruptive media and distrust of "fake news" and branded content. Brands are now looking to reset their relationships with consumers and are investing in experiential marketing, which is becoming the most critical tool for today’s marketing leaders.
From pop-ups to takeovers, the variety of manifestations creates rich, interactive brand-building engagements. With the infusion of digital technology, these experiences can spread virally and their success can be tracked in precise detail. This provides brands with a scalable solution that builds loyalty and drives revenue.
In order to build the next generation of experiences, marketers must reframe their approach to creating, executing and measuring these activations. If not done properly, experiential marketing campaigns run the risk of having diminished impact, being reduced to "marketing stunts" or "social media backdrops" if they are not aligned to deliver against relevant and prioritized brand objectives.
These key takeaways are designed to guide strategists, planners and creatives to take more calculated risks in experiential marketing.
Go where your consumer is.
Effective campaigns bring "perfect match" opportunities directly to the customer—syncing with their location, in-the-moment activities and even mindset. Identify the best places to introduce individuals to new products by looking for locations and situations where they would engage with the product the most. Encourage these specialized experiences to be shared on digital and social channels to move beyond niche crowds.
Extend beyond your own brand.
While most brands like to think of themselves as the only players in the game, it’s important to recognize the variety of services and retailers that consumers use throughout their day. Identify and partner with complementary brands and media to connect with several consumer interests. These symbiotic partnerships can facilitate new audience introductions and provide opportunities to gain a deeper breadth of consumer insight.
Change your metrics.
The measurability of digital KPIs doesn’t extend as neatly to physical and mixed-reality brand experiences. Now more quantifiable than ever, experiential advertising demands a new set of metrics to evaluate the value of an activation. Consider how mobile, social and bio-tracking can collect sentiment and reach for more robust consumer insights.
Open the door with a passion or pain point.
Draw consumers into a brand conversation by engaging their most acute feelings—passions and pain points. Create experiences that position your product or service in the context of consumer interests and frustrations. Not only do these activations position the brand as a solution or enhancer, but they also provide opportunities to test how brand platforms, future visions or communication strategies are received.
Invest in digital as well as physical.
Physical pop-ups don’t need to be fully removed from digital and social strategies; integrate VR, AR and mixed-reality tools, as well as social feeds, to enhance a physical space. Incorporate tools that capture onsite content, as well as user-generated content, to share the experience with a larger audience than attendees.
Test, prototype and refine.
Valuable as data centers as well as marketing tools, brand experiences should be viewed as living labs where brands can test hypotheses, prototype products and services and refine based on customer metrics and feedback. Increase the value of experiences by having them work double-duty as centers for observing new product testing, gathering customer input or collecting user data.
Cutting through the crowded industry landscape by intersecting with consumers at targeted moments and mindsets can push your brand ahead of the competition. The Event Marketing Institute recently found that 98 percent of consumers feel more inclined to make a purchase after attending an activation. With those results, marketers can’t ignore experiential tactics any longer.
Piers Fawkes is president of PSFK.