Experiential, as part of an integrated communications strategy, is a key way to deepen customer relationships.
As marketers we first need to understand human behaviour and motivations, and what fuels people’s basic needs and emotions. Sharing is one of those most basic behaviours – even before babies can talk, they share and communicate with their parents by pointing at things that surprise or delight them. Social media plays to this human need, and what people share tends to be based on their experiences, good or bad.
So, if experiences are the foundation of people’s lives and conversations, and a core objective of marketing is to get people talking positively about brands and products, it comes as no surprise that "experiences" are becoming an integral part of the best marketing campaigns. With social media being so ubiquitous, now more than ever before, brands are what people say they are, based on their experiences of that brand.
Successful experiential marketing can be short bursts of "flirtatious" activity that create buzz and excitement, or "longer-lasting", more immersive, interactions.
Buzz and excitement
Knowing what we do about human behaviour and how people respond to the unexpected, our pop-up gig with Gorgon City, at the end of the recent Snowbombing Road Trip sponsored by Lucozade Energy, is a good example of creating buzz and excitement. An intimate performance for 500, it played to this human emotion of surprise and delight, ensuring that the whole experience was enjoyed by a far wider audience via social amplification. The activity has since had nearly 1m views on YouTube.
Maintaining these short bursts of activity can be difficult to sustain, however, and brands often look for those opportunities to build a long-lasting relationship, based on mutual trust and loyalty. Much like a friendship, you need to invest time getting to know someone; the same is true for brands and their consumers.
As customers’ understanding of marketing becomes more sophisticated and their ability to share is enabled, the pressure is on brands to create relevant experiences that will encourage loyalty.
Our work with Lucozade Sport this June is an example of how to create loyal brand fans through longer-term, immersive activity. As the official sports drink of the England men’s football team, Lucozade Sport created The Conditions Zone, a unique five-a-side venue and experience that gave amateur footballers the chance to play in the same heat and humidity as Brazil. During the two-and-a-half-hour experience, 14 players took part in a 50-minute game while hooked up to cutting-edge STATSports equipment, giving them a host of interesting data including their heart rate, distance covered and body temperature, as well as communicating the hydrating benefits of Lucozade Sport.
Similarly, we have created and developed communities such as the Nike+ Run Club, which has grown to 22 clubs across the UK, with 2000 runners hitting the streets each month. A tight-knit community of like-minded brand advocates and influencers, this enables Nike to support its fans doing what they love, in a relevant and beneficial way.
The desire and need to build relationships through the use of experiential techniques is now moving into the retail space. As consumers are making more transactional purchases online, the offline retail experience needs to reinvent itself; adding value by educating or entertaining.
The appetite and demand for this "surprise and delight" factor has permeated every element of our daily lives. We’ve seen the fastest growth in "experiential retail" over the past 12 months, working with brands such as Google, Samsung and BMW through in-store brand environments, interactive window displays and pop-up shops.
As customers’ understanding of marketing becomes more sophisticated and their ability to share is enabled, the pressure is on brands to create relevant experiences that will encourage loyalty and trust; authentic to the brand and its raison d’être, and also to the purpose of the experience and target audience, whether it is to entertain, educate or excite.
While experiential marketing, whether short bursts or longer immersions, is being recognised by brands as an effective way to create deeper relationships with consumers, it works only as part of an integrated communications strategy. This is best achieved when all agency disciplines truly collaborate, with the single-minded focus on the long-term relationship between the consumer and the brand. And finally, when developing and implementing our ideas, we should remember that we are actually communicating with people, not marketing to consumers.
Michael Wyrley-Birch is chief operating officer at TRO EMEA.
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