Experiential marketing used to mean handing out free bumper stickers, t-shirts, or goodies to promote a brand. But today, companies can effectively and easily convey experiences and feelings that do more to promote their brand than traditional experiential marketing ever did - all with social media and digital technology. We see examples of this every day - retail stores that offer 10% off for a Facebook like, restaurants that encourage guests to take pictures of their meals with a certain hashtag, etc. These strategies (and many more) allow customers to share consumer experiences with their personal networks.
Experiential marketing is a win-win for everyone involved. People like it because it makes them feel like they're a part of something. Brands like it because it's free advertising. The best part is, we've only seen the beginning of the impact that this new age of experiential marketing will have. More and more people are using their portable mobile devices (iPhones, tablets, etc.) for everything from dating to shopping to giving business presentations. And it's only going to continue to grow. So let's take a deeper look into what really makes this sort of marketing tick, shall we?
It connects people. People want to be a part of something. They want to connect and feel involved, especially with things that they're interested in. In the past, consumers haven't been able to make meaningful connections with brands they support. They bought a product or service, enjoyed it (or not), maybe wrote a review, and that was it. That's no longer the case.
Let's say that Emma is a big fan of Chick-fil-A. But instead of just eating and enjoying her Chick-fil-A like she did in the past, Emma can now post a picture on Instagram of herself enjoying their signature fried chicken sandwich and tag the company in the picture. Chick-fil-A will probably like the picture, possibly comment on it, and if she's lucky, they'll repost it - sharing her profile with thousands of people who have interests that are similar to hers.
But it doesn't end there. Fueled by SoLoMo (social, local, mobile), the relationship between brand and consumer becomes rich with new insight. Consumers can use any number of mobile apps to send out data, while brands can receive, filter and respond within seconds. Especially when combined with a mobile Point of Sale app, that raw data creates a living and breathing customer profile so that Emma's tastes and preferences are stored. Not only does experiential marketing open up the lines of communication between brands and consumers - it also allows for meaningful interactions between fans of various brands. Smart brands realize the value in this and are committed to facilitating genuine interactions between their communities of followers. And why wouldn't they? Experiential marketing allows brands to play a pivotal role in conversations that have the potential to influence thousands - all for free and requiring very little work.
People are becoming more trusting. Companies who used to take advantage of their audience's emails destroyed trust in the consumer for a long time. But brands have pretty much woken up to the fact that annoying email spam doesn't get anyone anywhere. Times are changing. Businesses are getting smarter about how they reach out to people. And consumers are noticing. They're becoming more trusting and are feeling more comfortable engaging with brands (and giving their information out to them). People are now engaging with companies in more dynamic ways than ever before, creating a sense of mutual trust in the brand and consumer that has never fully been there in the past. The customer has all the influence - and the brand benefits.
When people like (or don't like) something, they don't stay silent about it. They tell their friends, acquaintances, and anyone else who will listen. Social media makes it extremely easy for people's voices to be heard. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more make sharing opinions (good or bad) simple and accessible. Providing that the brand has already done a good job of making sure that the product or service that they provide is spectacular, the customers' ability to tell their friends about what they produce or provide can be a very good thing. And even in those cases in which unsatisfied customers voice their concerns, companies have the ability to publicly address those complaints, possibly earning forgiveness from the complainer and also earning respect from everyone who saw it.
Companies and individuals can only benefit from engaging in experiential marketing. The ability to make your voice/opinion known is a huge advantage of living in this day and age. And those who don't join in risk being overlooked or completely forgotten.