In today’s world it’s safe to say we are all bombarded with a ridiculous number of advertisements from sunrise to sunset. One study claims that the average person encounters up to 5,000 marketing messages per day.
While I do question the accuracy of such a wild declaration, it nonetheless successfully demonstrates an obvious (and yet, not so obvious) reality: more than ever, marketers must find innovative ways to elevate their brands above all of the other distractions competing for our attention.
Enter experiential marketing
Most marketing tactics add another message to the cacophony of advertisements that inevitably becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the noise.
Experiential marketing, however, creates a unique, engaging interaction between the audience and the brand. What does that mean for marketers? Television commercials, Facebook ads, and direct mail campaigns with feature-benefit statements simply aren’t cutting it.
If you don’t believe me, just look at the marketplace. TiVo customers enjoy the benefits of skipping annoying commercials; AdBlocker allows users to surf Facebook ad-free; and a national “Do Not Mail” list gives us the ability to opt out of receiving the direct mailers that serve no other purpose than to fill our trashcans.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to give these marketing channels a bad rap. In fact, television commercials, Facebook ads, and even direct mailers can all be included in an effective experiential marketing strategy. The point I’m trying to make is that these ad protection services have been created because most marketing messages are nothing more than a nuisance.
Why are they a nuisance? Because they’re boring.
Why are they boring? Because they offer the audience facts and figures instead of an experience.
“But the facts and figures about my service are incredible. When people compare my service with others they will surely choose mine. Humans are rational beings after all.”
Well now, if that were true then Starbucks would never have been able to steal customers from its less expensive competitors who offered an equally great-tasting cup of joe. If humans truly are rational, then customers would have scoffed at the idea of paying so much more at Starbucks for relatively similar coffee.
So what’s the deal here? How did Starbucks grow into the behemoth that it is when any logical consumer would avoid the steeper prices altogether? Consider what Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, had to say about this phenomenon in his book, Predictably Irrational:
“When Howard Shultz created Starbucks, he was as intuitive a businessman as Salvador Assael. He worked diligently to separate Starbucks from other coffee shops, not through price but through ambience…Starbucks did everything in its power…to make the experience feel different – so different that we would not use the prices at Dunkin’ Donuts as an anchor, but instead would be open to the new anchor that Starbucks was preparing for us. And that, to a great extent, is how Starbucks succeeded.”
Starbucks created an experience so powerful that patrons willingly threw logic out of the window in favor of this irrational behavior.
Since humans aren’t as rational as we originally thought, I hope we can agree that marketing messages that try to convince consumers on the basis of logic won’t suffice. So unless you want to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, start doing what works and launch an experiential marketing campaign.
Nothing Ever Becomes Real till it is Experienced
In 1819, a wise 23-year-old John Keats wrote a letter to his siblings, and hidden inside was a profound statement that still rings true today: nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.
This proverb concisely sums up exactly why experiential marketing is so successful. Brands won’t even be a blip on the radar until they create an engaging experience for their target markets. People only take notice when they experience something unforgettable. As Seth Godin says, “you’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not.”
A certain level of comfort accompanies sticking with what’s familiar, especially if the existing marketing efforts have produced good enough results. I mean, being mediocre is better than being bad, right?
Here’s the thing.
Don’t let the fear of making a mistake let you make a mistake. Resolve to make your marketing a memorable and exciting experience that will put your brand on the map.
Experience is the Best Teacher
The following case studies are examples of experiential marketing at its finest, and the results of these campaigns speak for themselves. Let’s examine what each company did to pull off their unbelievable success.
Levi’s Summer Hotline
The Premise: In an effort to regain market share in a crowded Hong Kong jeans market place, Levi’s implemented an experiential campaign to ingratiate itself with its audience. Here’s a look at what Levi’s did:
The Result: As the video mentions, nearly 500,000 people interacted with the booths in a matter of only 3 days! And the beauty of experiential marketing is the added bonus of generating tons of viral and media buzz. No money was spent on marketing the booths, but word spread nonetheless, and Levi’s generated over $250,000 HKD worth of earned media coverage. Plus Levi’s efforts garnered thousands of mentions on social media and blogs. The sweetest ROI of all? Next week’s sales increased by over 30% compared to a typical week!
It’s efforts like these that turn customers into fans. Levi’s obviously wants to be seen as more than just a company that sells jeans. Levi’s wants to be viewed as a fun, exciting organization that connects with their customers. Levi’s wants its customers to pull for the company, to hope for its success.
The Takeaway: Don’t waste your time prying open wallets; invest your time in winning hearts. Win hearts, and you’ll earn business. In the game of Bridge, Diamonds always follows Hearts.
Tropicana Arctic Sun
The Premise: Tropicana’s marketing messages have long associated its brand with brightening mornings. “Your daily ray of sunshine.” “100% squeezed sunshine.” “We put the good in morning.” To show its commitment to this mission, Tropicana brought the sun to a small Canadian community. Literally.
The Results: Initially Tropicana’s Arctic Sun project may not appear to be a very good ROI because of its limitations in reach. After all, the small town of Inuvik, Canada only has 3,500 residents. But Tropicana knew if it could create a commercial of the event the video would resonate with viewers. Tropicana broadcasted the commercial on YouTube and in Television ads, directing viewers to Tropicana’s Facebook page.
What happened? The Facebook page gained 36,000 fans overnight. The story was featured in over 65 media outlets around the world, providing more than 20 million impressions. And the video has over 500,000 views on YouTube alone (who knows how many additional views the video received on other websites?). If all those results weren’t enough, even the Wikipedia page for Inuvik references Tropicana’s Arctic Sun event.
Not too shabby, eh?
The Takeaway: The immediate impact of an experiential marketing campaign is only the beginning of its reach. You don’t have to pull a stunt in the middle of Times Square in front of thousands of passersby to get the attention of the press.
TNT Drama Button
The Premise: TNT was launching for the first time in Belgium and wanted to make a splash in this new market. The marketing message focused on the high quality drama TNT has in its TV series, something in which the company apparently finds much pride. Heck, TNT’s slogan is “We know drama,” and even its URL is drama filled: www.tntdrama.com. But talk is cheap. If TNT really wants to get its point across, it needs to walk the walk.
That’s exactly what TNT did.
The Results: TNT’s Drama Button has two things in common with Tropicana’s Arctic Sun. First is the strategy to create a unique experience for a small audience and distribute the footage of the event to a much broader audience.
Second is success.
In less than 24 hours the video had over 10 million views on YouTube and 1 million shares on Facebook! But the viral video didn’t stop there. To date the video has over 48 million views and comments still roll in each day. All major Belgian media ran stories on the publicity stunt. But what really surprised TNT was that prominent international outlets also picked up the story and created buzz for the company in other countries as well. This generated millions of dollars worth of media coverage across the globe!
The Takeaway: The prerequisite for a successful experiential marketing campaign is not to create an experience. It’s to create an extraordinary experience.
Unforgettable marketing brings unremitting results.
Spanair Unexpected Luggage
The Premise: 190 people were flying on a Spanair flight on December 24th from Barcelona to Las Palmas. Knowing that their customers would much rather be home on Christmas Eve than flying on an airplane, Spanair took the opportunity to create a very special moment that their passengers will always remember.
The Results: Once again, the power of recorded live events pays PR dividends. Within 48 hours of posting the video, the campaign racked up 100,000 views. In two weeks that number jumped up to 700,000! Viewers who were moved by the video made over 30,000 congratulatory messages and comments on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Unbelievable results for such a simple campaign.
The gifts that Spanair bought were really just a drop in the bucket, but the heartfelt intent was tremendous. In fact, if Spanair had taken the money spent on the gifts and instead given a credit to each passenger of the same amount, the effect would have been completely lost. Giving credits is what companies do for customers. Giving gifts is what friends do for friends.
The Takeaway: Customers are waiting for brands to lay aside the transactional company-customer relationship and start treating them like friends.
The Premise: German boutique publisher Eichborn wanted to distinguish itself as brave and unconventional at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, the biggest book and media fair in the world. Eichborn implemented a truly unique marketing stunt that incorporated the brand’s logo: the housefly.
The Results: It probably goes without saying, but the flies brought tons of traffic to the Eichborn booth. And that was only the beginning.
The YouTube video for the Eichborn flies attracted 800,000 viewers within its first month of being posted. Media sources and blogs across the globe covered the story. Perhaps the biggest victory was the 5,000 more clicks per month on Eichborn’s homepage.
With all those results you’d never guess how much was spent on the campaign.
A measly 500 Euros!
The Takeaway: Experiential marketing campaigns don’t have to break the bank. Go small on expenses and still get big ROI.
Is There Anyone So Wise As To Learn By The Experience Of Others? – Voltaire
These examples serve as great sources of inspiration. Even more, you can take the lessons learned from these successful campaigns and apply them to your own projects. Whatever the scale and budget, experiential marketing can help you reach your audience in a unique and memorable way.