Our emotions control each and every decision we make on a daily basis. Regardless of how analytical or ‘battle-hardened’ we may think we are, the emotions that we naturally feel impact how we act and what we do.
Think about it for a minute. Feeling sad or stressed? Suddenly it is a lot more difficult to resist that last slice of chocolate cake. Feeling motivated and energetic? You’re probably going to smash that work out you have been planning. Feel like you have been treated well by a business? Of course, you are going to pick them next time you need that product or service.
For brands then, creating emotional buy-in from their target customers means securing a reliable income for future years. Of course, this is easier said than done. So how can brands engage customers and build the emotional connection needed to ensure success?
Enter experiential marketing.
What is experiential (engagement) marketing?
Experiential marketing, also often called engagement marketing, is a tool that is used to integrate customers into the brand experience.
Engagement marketing […] is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand or a brand experience. – Wikipedia
Unlike traditional forms of marketing which broadcast their messaging in the hope that the audience accepts and understand that messaging in an intended way. Experiential marketing brings the customer into the conversation, turning them into a part of the marketing activity.
Recent shifts in consumer behaviour and a drop in overall consumer trust have seen businesses which focus on developing an emotional buy-in from customers through experiential marketing grow their market share significantly.
Consumers no longer buy labels, but choose brands which they associate with having a positive experience.
Experiential Marketing Creating an Emotional ‘Buy-In’
So, it is clear that creating an emotional connection is paramount to long-term success for brands. But how does experiential marketing help us achieve this?
We trust those we know better than those we don’t. For example, a solid recommendation from a friend or family member is likely to carry more weight than a brand telling us that their product or service is the best thing since sliced bread.
Experiential marketing allows brands to humanise themselves. This humanisation, in turn, allows brands to build a personal connection and develop trust over time.
Communicates Customer Understanding
As a consumer, we want to buy from businesses that truly understand our wants and needs. Experiential marketing provides businesses with the opportunity to highlight their understanding of their audience through real-world events.
However, as experiential marketing makes such a clear statement, it is imperative that brands truly do understand what will resonate with their customers. Get this wrong and you could make a lasting negative impression.
That is why comprehensive customer research is such an important part of experiential marketing strategies.
Creates & Develops Community
Communities have shown to have incredible power for businesses. The success of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook combined with the success of businesses such as Starbucks, Airbnb and GymShark all go to show how communities are important to society and can be leveraged to the benefit of businesses.
Using experiential marketing helps marketers build communities. By allowing customers and other interested individuals to get involved with a business together, you facilitate the growth of a network amongst those individuals.
This, in turn, allows a business to promote a discussion and a buzz around their brand externally to their own marketing.
Your Brand, Front of Mind
The very nature of experiential marketing means that participants are at the front and centre of the experience. Other types of marketing and advertising are often ignored or quickly forgotten due to overexposure and their inability to engross their audience in their messaging.
By making your audience a key element of the brand story or message you are able to break through that barrier. This then puts your brand at front of mind when that audience faces a challenge that your business can remedy.
Experiential Buy-In: In Action
How do businesses actually apply experiential marketing to generating emotional buy-in from their customers? Well, as with any marketing methods, the possibilities are endless. Here are a few great concepts of examples of how leading brands have done this already.
Pop-ups give businesses the opportunity to create a physical presence in an area in which they otherwise wouldn’t. This type of experiential marketing is especially beneficial to businesses which conduct themselves primarily online or those that supply products rather than sell directly to the customer.
This type of marketing can be as small scale as a well-executed exhibition stand. However it can also be much bigger, such as store or stadium takeovers.
One great example of this is Heinz pop-up cafes in Ireland. This experiential marketing strategy gave Heinz the opportunity to establish a human connection between customers and the brand. It also generated high quality and on brand user-generated content which was shared widely.
Personalisation is a powerful way to develop an emotional tie between your customer and your brand. That is why many brands are always looking for ways to personalise their content, from super targeted ads to including names and details in email communications.
Coca Cola took personalisation one step further when they launched their ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. This campaign saw the business printing bottle labels with nearly 1000 different first and last names. They also hosted stands at major events where you could have a personalised bottle made especially for you.
No explanation is needed to highlight why this approach created an emotional connection between consumers and the Coca Cola products.
Does experiential marketing just happen offline? Of course not. In fact, by its very nature, the majority of social media should be experiential marketing. Including your customers in your marketing both through conversations and in more clever ways is a great way to delight customers and increase your brand appeal.
One great example of this was Smart Cars USA’s campaign which saw them taking images submitted by their followers and creating customised mock-ups of smart cars which matched the original image.
It is also important to remember that offline experiential marketing should be paired strategically with social media in order to develop an ongoing dialogue with those that partook, as well as to encourage word of mouth.
It is clear that experiential marketing is a powerful tool for marketers that want to create and strengthen their emotional bond with customers. Not only does it do this, but is also creates newsworthy, socially shareable and disruptive content that is often spread widely and quickly through word of mouth.