Engagement Marketing: Experience Wanted
I fell asleep reading the Wikipedia page on engagement marketing.
Not exactly engaging.
I was looking for information about experiential or participation marketing, also known as engagement marketing. What I found were some long-winded definitions and theory but not much practical knowledge. (If you were hoping for diamond rings, sorry! Wrong kind of engagement marketing.)
Let’s ignore that erudite but boring Wikipedia piece and unpack some of the key concepts behind experiential or engagement marketing — marketing in a way that invites customers to be a part of an experience.
Why Does Experiential Marketing Matter?
As we’ve said before, marketing is not a one-way street. With the technology and platforms currently available to consumers, you can bet that the public is as much a part of your marketing as anything that you cook up. Experiential marketing embraces that crowd-source mentality by creating intentional and memorable events that amp up the love between your brand and the people.
So It’s a PR Stunt, Then?
Experiential marketing is simply a process for raising brand awareness in a tangible way. The idea is to do some activity for and with your clients that is fun, unexpected and creates a lasting impression.
If you’re curious about the difference between this and a publicity stunt — think of experiential marketing as the stunt’s classier, interactive cousin.
Hubspot’s definition is a good one:
A marketing strategy that invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation. Using participatory, hands-on, and tangible branding material, the business can show its customers not just what the company offers, but what it stands for.
So it’s a way to communicate your brand’s strengths and values via involvement in an activity with your customers or potential customers. This marketing opportunity involves planning a relevant and (usually) fun or unique experience that people can engage in with your brand.
The following examples are from big brands with big budgets, but being a small business gives you some leverage here. Experiential marketing is all about the connection and memorability of a shared experience. As a smaller, more nimble company, you are closer to your customers. You can connect with an authenticity that is hard for the big dogs to pull off.
Premise: A “diet brand” invites women to shift focus away from traditional body image metrics and instead share the things they would prefer to be measured by, like achievements and character traits. Wildly inspirational and shareable, this campaign was a mix of understanding the motivations and values of customers and finding a hands-on way to tap into how those customer values fit with the brand’s mission.
Lessons: Frame differently. Make customers the focus. Challenge the norm.
2. GE Healthymagination
Premise: Healthymagination is GE Healthcare’s initiative to pursue innovations and technology that make healthcare more accessible and affordable around the world. To promote engagement with the health community, GE invited doctors to share their stories live in front of event attendees on fabricated sets that recreated places like a rural African clinic and an urban ER where the GE’s products have helped improve healthcare.
Lessons: Experiential marketing is for B2B brands too. Involve people in a conversation. Show how your product is solving problems in the real world through immersive visuals and live storytelling.
Premise: Fashion brand Zappos co-opted a Google Photos experiential marketing campaign by piggy-backing onto it and upping the stakes. Google had commissioned a cupcake truck to hand out free cupcakes to people who downloaded its photo app. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, quickly jumped in and set up a station next to the Google truck where people could trade in their free cupcakes for potentially more valuable prizes. A great example of symbiotic experiential marketing that surely created a buzz.
Lessons: Don’t underestimate the power of co-marketing along with or (playfully) hijacking another company’s experience. Unexpected and funny experiences create good memories and brand goodwill.
Does Experiential Marketing Work?
Here are some quick stats1 from Event Marketing Institute.
- 71% of participants in experiential marketing events will tell others about their experiences.
- 72% percent of consumers report a positive view of brands who provide memorable experiences.
- 65% of people believe that live events help them understand a product.
- 74% of consumers say a branded experience makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted.
- Strategies involving an experiential component are extremely effective in B2B according to marketers in this sector.
Experiential marketing is an effective way to educate people about your products or services. It helps instill a longer-lasting impression of your brand versus other marketing methods. Engagement marketing improves opinions of your brand by making people part of an experience. Experiences are something people are highly likely to share with others.
1 Source: EventTrack consumer survey report