Effective experiential marketing is all about brands developing long-term relationships with consumers — rather like a good marriage.
I’ve often thought that marketing is a lot like marriage. Brands and consumers journey through life trying to meet the right partner. Some end up having casual flings, others fall seriously in love. But many partnerships fizzle out, and some inevitably end in bitter divorce.
So how can brands really ‘get engaged to’ consumers and, just as importantly, how can they keep the magic alive for years to come?
For some, the starting point is a change of mindset. The days of ‘wham-bam, thank you ma’am’ mass marketing are over. Does anyone find true love by sending Valentine’s cards to a 1000–strong mailing list? And whose heart really skips a beat when their eyes meet a TV screen across a cluttered living room?
The truth is that today’s consumers want something much more personal, engaging and tailored to their individual needs, desires and lifestyles.
Kevin Roberts, chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi, recently said: ‘The mass market is dead. The consumer is boss. Imagination, intuition and inspiration reign.’ Experiential marketing is the art of translating these values into a series of powerful ‘engagement moments’ — resulting in memorable, personal and consistent brand experiences.
Outsiders may look at agencies like ours and see only one dimension of our work — the creative live interactions that our brand ambassadors have with consumers in the field. Crucial though this ‘hot date’ is, it’s vital to understand that effective experiential is far more multi–dimensional than this. One date rarely leads straight to engagement and marriage.
So when developing experiential campaigns, brands need to follow the same principles of building human relationships.
It starts with making sure you are in the right place at the right time to meet the right people in the right mindset. At i2i, we use past campaign data and an online consumer panel called i–sight to pre–test campaign ideas and audiences, and find out what’s really going to turn them on.
When courting consumers, experiential works because it makes people feel special and tugs on their emotional heartstrings. More than any other medium, face–to–face connections engage all our senses. Whether it’s experiencing the performance of a new razor or tasting a new kids’ dessert in a fun–packed environment at Legoland, nothing compares to the emotional power of personal experience.
Experiential is often seen as a tactical solution for product launches. However, I’d argue that it’s more of a strategic mindset that is imperative for all brands. Integrated live brand experiences are a great way to support brand repositionings and re–appraisals, rekindling old flames as well as building new relationships.
Once you’ve ignited initial passions, build the foundations for a long–lasting relationship. A positive initial experience can swiftly lead to a honeymoon period — the perfect time for brands to cement their commitment to consumers and create real brand loyalty via integrated promotions, online and direct activities, or more exclusive face–to–face encounters.
For a long and happy brand marriage, avoid complacency at all costs and look for ways to keep the magic alive. All too often, existing consumers are taken for granted and ignored as brands find themselves unable to ditch the thrill of the chase for new consumers. Is it any wonder that rivals then arrive on the scene and steal those loyal consumers away?
In this climate of economic uncertainty, marketers tend to focus on immediate brand plan targets, thinking only about the ‘next date’, if you like. But brands prepared to develop longer–term consumer engagement strategies using integrated experiential activities will be the ones who find true happiness in the end.