Why Brand Marketers Should be Thinking About Experiential Marketing in 2017

The beginning of a new year always calls for predictions, and I’m putting a stake in the ground on mine now: experiential marketing will become more important than ever in 2017. In a world of digital abundance, nonstop social chatter, and advertisements on every surface, a unique, face-to-face branded experience stands out among the noise.

So, before you jump into experiential marketing, let’s cover a few things. First of all, what is it and why does it matter? How can it be done right so that it authentically brings your brand to life? And then most importantly, what is it going to look like in 2017? Read on.

What is experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing allows a consumer to experience a brand. Rather than a commercial, an ad, or a Tweet, experiential marketing embodies messaging that you can touch, feel, or view in a physical space. It’s an opportunity for consumers to interact with your brand in person, and while this tends to be event-centric, more traditional campaigns can also take an integrated approach that includes a tangible, offline experience. By adding experiential elements, a brand can enhance or complement their initiatives.

Experiential marketing embodies messaging that you can touch, feel, or view in a physical space.

 

The objective of experiential marketing is to form a memorable connection between the customer and the brand so as to generate consumer loyalty and ultimately, influence purchase decision. When consumers have the opportunity to get to know the people and values behind a brand, they form brand associations (like we talked about in this post) and long-term attachments to it. When a consumer is attached to a brand and associates it with beneficial, fun, and memorable emotions, they’re more likely to stay loyal. If an experiential marketing activation has created a positive bond between a company and a consumer, it has done its job.

As brand marketers work to embed their brands into consumers’ lives, experiential marketing will continue to play a vital role. According to the Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack study, 79% of brand marketers did more with experiential marketing in 2016. This makes sense, since they also found that 77% of marketers view experiential marketing as a vital part of a brand’s marketing strategies.

Who has done it right?

The power of experiential marketing is exponential. Take a look at the brands who have done it well: these creative activations reached new target markets, formed memorable connections, and allowed their brand to stand out from the clutter.

Rather than abide by the traditional diet or weight loss messaging, Lean Cuisine built an experiential marketing campaign that authentically showed their brand values. They created an installment of “scales” in New York’s Grand Central Station and invited women to “weigh in”. Rather than record their weight by pounds, however, they asked women to measure themselves by other metrics—like by their level of education, their pride in their children, or their volunteer efforts, for instance. Lean Cuisine’s brand values were clearly showcased—that a number on a scale isn’t an indication of who you are. Rather than pasting that message on a billboard though, they created an interactive experience around it.

Rather than paste a message on a billboard, why not create an interactive experience around it?

 

With the launch of their new shoe, Adidas created the “Jump with Derrick” campaign. NBA player Derrick Rose, known for his jumping ability on the basketball court, held a competition to challenge participants to reach a 10-foot tall platform that held the new shoes. If customers could touch the platform, they got a free pair of the new kicks. To broaden the reach of the campaign, Adidas filmed the jumps for a video, which reached over half a million views.

Another example is the activation by the chocolate brand, Milka. They manufactured 10 million chocolate bars that were missing one piece. Consumers learned that this one piece wasn’t an accidental omission from the package—it was an opportunity. These chocolate eaters got to choose whether they wanted the piece mailed to them, or mailed with a personalized message to a loved one. This campaign was brilliant because it not only provided an experience for the buyer, but also to a new target consumer.

Why does it matter?

Great experiential marketing, like the examples above, showcases to consumers what the brand stands for. These brands know that the feelings, attachments, and associations that come from these kind of activations influence loyalty and purchase habits. According to the Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack study, 74% of consumers have a better opinion about a brand after an experiential marketing event. In addition, 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation.

74% of consumers have a better opinion about a brand after an experiential marketing event.

 

From these statistics, it’s clear that more and more businesses understand the value of in-person, real-time branded touch-points that create an emotional and sensory connection with their consumers. These touch-points build trust, nurture brand loyalty, and enhance both new and old relationships.

What will experiential marketing look like in 2017?

As consumers both increasingly appreciate the “here and now” and crave authentic experiences with brands, experiential marketing will become more important than ever before. Brand marketers must think of new and creative ways to interact with their consumers. This may involve livestreaming, meeting customers where they are, QR codes, VR, or brand partnerships. Regardless of which innovative activation you choose, it must encourage participants to share their experience with their network via social media. Supporting your tactics with a social sharing component expands your reach, allowing customers to tell others about you. As your consumers create a closer bond with your brand, you’ll be rewarded ten-fold.

What are your experiential marketing plans this year?

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Rachel Jamail leads the brand marketing team at Spredfast. Find her on Twitter for a random assortment of thoughts on marketing, yoga, books, and her two favorite (yet very different) football teams - the Texas Longhorns and the Harvard Crimson.