How experiential marketing can strengthen your brand and grow your business

Time is short. Attention spans are shorter still. So how do brands make sure they capture the attention of their customers in this fast-scrolling, screen-addicted landscape?

Despite the fact that digital marketing is essential for businesses who want to grow, the online world is quickly becoming saturated, this is making it difficult for brands to stand out and be heard.

The average teenager in the UK now checks their phone around 90 times per day, but most brand content is being missed, scrolled past and lost in the rising tide of competing messages. This means businesses need to up their game and reinforce their online activity with wider marketing techniques if they want to make an impact and rise above their competitors.

Today’s consumers - constantly connected consumers - want more than online engagement. They want experiences and real-life interaction with the brands they love.
 

What is experiential marketing?
 

As the name suggests, experiential marketing is all about experiences. Also known as engagement marketing, it is a way of creating a direct bond between a brand and its audience by immersing them in a positive, interactive and memorable off-screen experience.

Examples of classic experiential marketing include events, installations, pop-ups, challenges, games and product demonstrations. It’s worth noting that there is a fine line of difference between experiential marketing and PR stunts, and sometimes the two can overlap. A PR stunt can be anything that gets a brand noticed and makes headlines, whereas the key feature of an experiential marketing campaign is the interactivity and customer engagement element.

We really like CMO’s description: “Experience marketing is a mutually beneficial interaction between customer and brand in an authentically branded engagement.”

A great example of a true experiential marketing campaign is when IKEA answered the prayers of thousands of customers by hosting a sleepover in one of their warehouses. A competition was held to select people to attend the event, which built up a buzz during the run-up. And then 100 customers spent the night sleeping in the warehouse (growing steadily more fond of IKEA products in the process, ahem!), while having manicures, massages and bedtime stories provided. If that’s not genius, we don’t know what is.

After you get your customers to directly interact with your products or have a positive experience related to your brand ethos they are more likely to engage with your content online as well. 60% of Millennials share their experiences on social media and if it’s your brand that is providing that experience they’re talking about your business too. 

How could experiential marketing benefit your brand?
 

1. It creates the ‘Stop and Look’ effect

Consumers who come into contact with a new brand through a real-life experience are much more likely to seek out further content and experiences online and through social media. Having a first-hand physical experience also makes them more likely to stop scrolling and actually read and engage with a brand’s content when they come across it on their social media news feeds. This ultimately helps your brand rise above the competition and avoid losing out to the fast-scrolling online habits of today’s audiences.


2. Customers will buy it if they can try it

A 2016 EventTrack report by the Event Marketing Institute tells us that an encouraging 74% of consumers say they are more likely to buy a new product after engaging with a branded experiential marketing event. This makes this type of marketing a very promising direct generator of new and repeat revenue that you would otherwise miss out on when relying on online branded content alone.


3. You can funnel customers directly to social media

The great thing about organised experiential events is that you can create dedicated hashtags and Snapchat filters to generate a buzz about your event. This way you can send customers directly to the social media profiles you want them to engage with and directly monitor and measure the engagement levels before, during and after the event.

Extra Tip: Be strategic about which social media platforms you want to use, rather than trying to target all of them at once. Make the best use out of the platforms that already perform best for your brand, whether that’s live streaming your event on Facebook Live, setting up a trending hashtag for a Twitter campaign or creating custom Snapchat or Instagram filters.


4. Customers love to share

An incredible 98% of consumers will take photos and create digital or social content while attending brand experiential events. And – this is the clincher – 100% of these consumers then go on to share this content. This means that your brand exposure will grow exponentially with each piece of shared content that uses your brand name, profile handle and event hashtags. It also means you are able to connect with these consumers after the event and develop long-standing relationships with your community.

Before you get started with any experiential marketing it’s really important to know who you are as a brand. What are your core values? What does your brand stand for? What makes your brand unique? Whilst the way you reach your target audience may change your core values and the ‘why’ behind your campaign should not.