The Age Of The Ephemeral: Why Experiential Marketing Is Compulsory This Year

The Age Of The Ephemeral: Why Experiential Marketing Is Compulsory This Year
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In this guest post, Keep Left’s head of consumer engagement, Johanna Murray (pictured below), explains the merits of experiential marketing, as well as sharing some tips on how to do it – and do it well.

Johanna Murray

Humans love to label things – especially intangible things, like time. We like eras and ages and eons because they make the abstractness of years and hours feel manageable. So, after the Age of Enlightenment came the Industrial Era, and then the Information Age. Now, we move into another: The Age of the Customer.

It’s an age that should’ve been welcomed ages ago, but marketers are finally tailoring their campaigns to their audiences and enabling memorable customer engagement. One popular tactic is ruling the roost: experiential marketing.

Everything effective is ephemeral

Technology turned us into hoarders. Our social media accounts and desktop computers became cupboards for photos and thoughts – an eternal profile that could be revisited forever. But then Snapchat and Instagram Stories introduced ephemeral messaging and live streaming. Consequently, personal status updates dropped by a whopping 21 per cent.

It’s the exclusivity and FOMO (fear of missing out) attached to transient content that makes it successful – positioning the content as experiences (rather than tangible things). You experience a Snapchat story, you’re a part of its life, you witness its birth and sometimes – if it’s really good – mourn its demise. Although you might take a sneaky screenshot, you can’t relive that shared moment again.

It’s the same with experiential marketing. Unlike magazine advertisements that you tear out, file away and ultimately toss in the bin, you’re invested, involved and immersed in experiential events – an active member of their existence. And apart from a few photos as souvenirs, you’ve got a shared connection with the brand, a better understanding of the offering and vibrant memories to boot.

Hang on, what exactly is experiential marketing?

According to CMO magazine, experiential marketing “is a mutually beneficial interaction between customer and brand in an authentically branded engagement”. Think of some of the brand activations you see around Melbourne’s Fed Square at Christmas, or pretty much anything produced by Red Bull. And it’s growing: the US Bureau of Labour Statistics predicts a 44 per cent growth from 2010 to 2020 in the event industry (far more than other industries). Increased interest in experiential marketing is a core driver, with 76 per cent of marketers integrating activations into their campaigns.

Experiential marketing allows brands to bring their brand philosophy to life. Sixty-five per cent of consumers say that events deliver better understanding of products or services (much higher than TV and digital’s stats). GE’s Healthymagination event connected healthcare providers with tech innovators to convey the complex reality of powerful technology in rural healthcare systems. The campaign reached a whopping 700 potential stakeholders, using reenactments in immersive ‘theatre’ sets to help participants experience potential scenarios up close. And there’s more:

  • Events are great for capturing customer data to be retargeted in future marketing efforts. German NGO Misereor installed an interactive fundraising campaign where passersby could donate by swiping their credit card: every swipe is a valuable audience data point.
  • Activations also create PR opportunities – especially important with the overwhelming number of brands vying for media space. For example, Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThis event ignited an explosion of public discourse around body image and self-worth.
  • And then there’s the free influencer marketing: more than a third of consumers are willing to post about an experience on social media, and another third will take photos or videos during. Refinery29’s annual 29Rooms activation comprises 29 Insta-worthy art installations – perfect social media fodder for aesthetic-obsessed content sharers.

Okay, but how? If you’re going to do it, do it well

Ninety-eight of customers are more inclined to purchase after attending an activation, and 70 per cent of attendees become regular customers. So, make sure consumers are saying good things and sharing moments that others will wish they’d been a part of.

Be subtle with your branding but precise with your messaging, allowing attendees to take your key message away without feeling ‘sold’ to. And remember to capture and amplify content that’s visually engaging, and owned by you. A wrap-up video of your event – like this beautiful one by Origin Festival, or this one by Google – is a great way to keep the story alive after the hordes have gone home.

Chris Cavanaugh, CMO of event innovators Freeman, cites that “there’s a consensus among marketers that brand experience builds loyalty.” It’s all about stories. Not just those little circular Instagram stories at the top of your mobile screen: actual human stories lived and experienced within the branded event. It’s one thing to tell a great story, but it’s another thing to allow consumers to create their own story within the branded environment.

So, give them something that money can’t buy. Something that translates well to PR; something immersive and memorable and above all – something that allows them to do what humans do best: label it (hopefully with a trending branded #hashtag).

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