Connecting with a target audience is a lot like dating: If you’re looking to forge a relationship with a certain type of person, there are certain places you should go, words you should say, and appearances you should portray. Experiential marketers play this dating game every day when crafting their campaigns.
According to recent research, event-based marketing plays a “significantly positive” role in boosting customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. When an experiential campaign is executed to perfection, the resulting engagement, positivity, and faithfulness is priceless to brands.
In order to achieve this deep connection, marketers must truly understand their target demographics on all levels: who they are, where they are, what’s important to them, and what they want to see.
What Not To Do
Before we dive into examples of what you should do, let’s first take a look at what can cause an experiential marketing campaign to fall flat on its face.
Imagine this scenario: Your brand just released a great food product for kids, and you want to set up an experience on a busy street corner to showcase it. So you send out a few employees with a couple of cardboard signs, a collapsible table, and dozens of free samples. They prop up your logos, set up the samples, and eagerly await the hordes of kids who will surely scarf down the snacks and beg their parents to buy several boxes.
One hour later, what seems like thousands of people have passed by your booth, yet hardly any have stopped to see what you’re offering.
Why? Here are some major reasons this can happen:
The wrong location: You told your employees to find a busy street corner—which they did—but it happened to be in an area that wasn’t family-friendly. If you’re sampling products geared toward kids, don’t create an experience in front of an office building. Instead, set it up at a park, a mall, or any other place families go to roam about.
Location is the most important factor that goes into experiential marketing, so choose wisely. Your best bet is to go where your audience already is.
A shabby appearance: A cardboard logo, a collapsible table, samples on paper plates, and three random employees aren’t going to successfully draw in your audience. It’s crucial for a marketing experience to stimulate all of the senses through striking imagery, engaging sounds, scrumptious smells, and enthusiastic brand advocates.
Your signs need to be readable from afar, and they should give some indication of what’s going on. Then, once the audience shows an inkling of interest, your street team should welcome them, inform them, and immerse them in your brand and product.
Inaccessibility: Your head was in the right place when you said “busy street corner,” but imagine the chaos that would ensue if 20 families pushing 20 strollers happened to queue up at your table. Not only would the entire sidewalk be clogged with people, but it would also present a safety hazard if these folks spilled out into the street. It’s crucial to make events easily accessible, organized, and spacious when necessary.
Shining Examples You Should Follow
Now that you know the three main factors that can make or break an event, here are three examples of experiential marketing campaigns that hit the bull’s-eye:
1. Bud Light’s “Up For Whatever”: In 2014, Bud Light made a conscious effort to reach Millennials by taking over a ski town and hosting a weekend of partying. “Up For Whatever” is a phrase that speaks directly to young people—especially when it comes to food and beverage. The beer brand checked all of the boxes by selecting a fun, visually appealing location and by making it accessible by busing in more than 1,000 attendees.
2. Nike’s “Risk Everything”: During the 2014 World Cup, Nike ran a marketing campaign in the New York City area that generated more buzz than the event’s official sponsor, Adidas. From video content to extensive media coverage, Nike got everyone’s attention with its Winner Stays soccer tournament. The final match was played on the flight deck of the USS Intrepid—a stunning backdrop.
3. CNN’s “Election Express Yourself”: In 2008, my company partnered with CNN to create an event that reached voters during that year’s presidential election. Instead of a generic Q&A, we put a creative spin on public opinion polling and asked attendees to express themselves through video content. We called it “Election Express Yourself,” and the campaign was a hit across CNN’s television and Web outlets, as well as on the Times Square video board on Election Day.
While each of these brands targeted different demographics and utilized different creative tactics, they all shared one thing in common: They understood their target audiences. Just like the dating game, when you take the time to properly present yourself to potential suitors, you’ll foster a connection and build loyalty for years to come.
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