A new media environment requires new ways of connecting with consumers. People are inundated every day with conventional, one-way marketing, and most of it gets forgotten or ignored. Instead of continually trying to put more of your brand in front of more eyes, hoping that something will stick, try to engage on a much deeper level with just a few consumers. It’s time for a paradigm shift.
Experiential marketing is about immersing individuals or small groups in a meaningful and memorable experience. It’s about live, entertaining, and participatory content. The goal is to build your brand through the experience you provide, showing your potential customers who you are through your creative and interactive program, but the visible brand doesn’t need to be at the center of it all. You can radically reshape your company and bring new attention to your brand just by giving a few people a unique and exciting experience.
Set the Product Aside
Often experiential marketing is most effective when you’re willing to step away from the product itself. Let it be more about the experience and not feel like a living advertisement. In 2009, Volkswagen partnered with other agencies to turn a subway staircase into a piano, with each step playing a different note when you stepped on it. It encouraged people to take the stairs, not the escalator, and it gave busy commuters a moment of fun in the middle of their day. The publicity and benefit for Volkswagen have been very significant, even though the experience itself wasn’t about cars and the Volkswagen brand wasn’t stamped on every step.
“Customers don’t want to feel like they’re watching another ad,” says John Foy, founder of John Foy & Associates. “A truly immersive experience has to feel authentic, like no one is selling you something.” The piano staircase was effective because the immediate goal wasn’t to sell cars but to create joy.
Make Something Memorable
Think carefully about who your audience is and what their values and interests are. Effective experiential marketing needs to create something fun and memorable. The experience will help develop a stronger, more authentic bond between the participants and the brand, and any publicity around the event will communicate your brand to an even wider audience.
Lean Cuisine created a powerful and deeply memorable experience with a public gallery of fake scales on the wall of a train station. People coming through were invited to write on the scales and describe the ways they would prefer to be measured and judged: not by weight but by their values, by their family or achievements. This campaign sent a powerful message and said a lot about the values of the Lean Cuisine brand by creating something that people will remember. The individual men and women that walked through the exhibit that day and wrote something down won’t soon forget that experience.
That’s what it means to create an experience for your audience. Connect with people and communicate something meaningful about your brand with an authentic and interactive live marketing experience. There’s no better way to build a brand.