We’ve all felt goosebumps while watching the magic of a ‘surprise and delight’ moment. Why do we take the time to watch, retain and then share these moments on our social media channels? Likely because they are entertaining and authentic and they connect with us on an emotional level. Although not a new concept, experiential marketing and events have been gaining traction as a great source for this type of emotive content. An evolved form of corporate storytelling, experiential marketing allows a brand to immerse their audience in a captivating experience, connecting with them on a deeper, more personal level. Typically, the participants aren’t actors and their reactions aren’t scripted, which makes for some refreshing content in a sea of messaging overload.
As cited in the book Experiential Marketing by Kerry Smith and Dan Hanover, today’s experiential marketing campaigns are yielding up to 25 different types of content that are being used to fuel many areas of the marketing mix. From TV spots to outdoor ads to viral videos, the experience is becoming the best and most authentic generator of content. Although this is definitely a great opportunity as more brands jump on the content bandwagon, it is important to ensure that the final product doesn’t compromise the core consumer experience. At the end of the day, amazing content comes from amazing experiences.
In the advertising and experiential world, it’s not unusual to receive a project brief stating that the main objective is to capture incredible content. While this makes sense in theory, it’s often putting the cart before the horse, with too much of the focus (and budget) on the uses for the content and on specifics about how to capture the content. When this happens, what is often sidelined is one of the most important considerations: how are you going to connect with the consumer to create a reaction? The experience is the only controlled element in the entire interaction, so ensuring that it is relevant, authentic and entertaining is imperative. If this step is missed, there is a risk that the activation will not connect with the audience, resulting in disappointing content – and engagement. Edelman’s Brandshare report confirms that 87% of consumers actively want meaningful interactions with brands, so if the content falls short, you must look at the core experience.
So, how do you ensure that you deliver on a great experience?
- Ground the experience in strategy. Combining objectives with insights is a great first step in designing your experience. You need to truly understand your audience to know what will catch their attention and create an emotional connection.
- Engage the audience by providing value. Experiences become memorable when participants can say they learned something, discovered something, created something or met someone. Design your experience to deliver moments that will make someone’s day better, and always ask yourself why they would stop and engage.
- Don’t overcomplicate it. When designing your experience, keep in mind that the attention span of the average consumer is 8 seconds. Keep your messaging and engagement hook simple so your audience understands quickly and easily, and then turn the stage over to them to engage and react.
The potential of experiential marketing campaigns that deliver engaging content can be seen in successful examples such as WestJet Real-time Giving, which now has over 48 million views and 216,000 likes. However, it doesn’t take a large budget and a team of resources to hit a home run. Remember that consumers are seeking to engage with brands that provide an authentic and memorable moment. Show them an experience worth talking about and let them do the talking.
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Written by Bianca Knop