With consumers putting down the phone and craving real-life experiences, marketers are taking note. Event Marketing 2019: Benchmarks and Trends Report found that 41% saw experiential marketing as their top marketing channel. This was up 32% year-over-year, showing greater spend growth than other channels like content marketing or social media. What’s more, Forbes 2019 State of Experiential Marketing report found that 92% of brands believe integrating experiential marketing within the overall sales and marketing funnel is imperative to their success. So, what is experiential marketing and what should you look for in an experiential marketing agency to bring activations to life?
What’s Old is New Again
Experiential marketing has been around for over a century. Before consumers were having virtual experiences online, marketers were engaging with consumers in person. From Pabst Blue Ribbon’s activation at the Chicago World Fair in 1893 to the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile launching its mobile marketing tour in 1936, experiential marketing is nothing new.
As new media channels emerged through the 1950s up to the 1990s, advertisers were quick to decrease experiential marketing budgets to launch their brands on radio, TV and through digital marketing. These new avenues offered mass awareness at a similar cost to experiential tactics, but lost the personal, exciting touch of a 1:1 experience.
With the dawn of social media, marketing became more of a two-way street than ever before. What a consumer says about a brand is equal to, if not more important than, what a brand says it is. As such, what a consumer experiences and shares with their friends, family and followers expands the footprint of brand activation. Consumer experiences weren’t just for the attendees anymore, and experiential marketing agencies took note.
JOMO and Cutting Through the Feed
Ads on their own don’t do it for consumers anymore. You can fast forward, pay for apps to avoid commercials, scroll through your Instagram feed if a commercial is on, use ad blockers or just look out the window. Did you know that we scroll through 300 feet of content each day, while making about 35,000 decisions each day, most on auto-pilot? On top of this, the growing movement away from screens – JOMO – is gaining popularity. JOMO (the joy of missing out) is the antidote to FOMO and is essentially about being present and being content with where you are at in life. Essentially – living in the moment and being open to new experiences.
The fight between FOMO (the zoned out, mindlessly scrolling way of life) and JOMO (craving new offline experiences and being present) has led marketers to understand one thing – the best way to reach consumers is to create experiences that they actually want to be a part of.
Creating Experiences That Matter
Experiential marketing can take many forms, but the ultimate goal is to create a lasting impression on consumers by bringing to life what the brand says it is. It’s not about advertising a product, but showing and immersing consumers in how their life would be with that product. You let them see it, touch it, feel it. You’re working to create a positive association with your brand and product. Positive brand experiences are connected to customers brand loyalty. This is why immersive brand experiences are important in providing the best customer experience.
So how can you find the perfect experiential partner to bring your brand to life?
Choosing an Experiential Agency
When looking for the right match for your brand, there are some key qualities you should look for:
- Holistic Approach: Experiential isn’t meant to live in a silo in your marketing plan – it should be at the core with extensions and legs to build off of it. And it’s not just media. Or creative. It’s creative media. Data-driven, tech-enabled, and emotionally-charged creative media. It’s both precise and passionate, logical and imaginative. You need to bring together the best minds across experiential, influencer, PR, social, digital, research, and beyond to make this happen and that’s what we pride ourselves on at Empower.
- Pulse on Culture: Not only should the agency you work with be a good cultural fit for you, but it should also be immersed in the latest and greatest in cultural experiences. There is a delicate balance between brands creating culture and brands chasing culture, making inauthentic connections. The best brands are integrated into our cultures and communities; they don’t tell us what we should want, they unlock the things we already desire. The agency you choose should be tapped into the pulse of culture and be a driving force in what’s next.
- Experience in Experiences: Look for agencies who understand planning experiences from all aspects, even extending the event footprint. There are many things that seasoned professionals know to look out for, like negotiating sponsorships, training street teams, curating booth spaces, etc. A well-rounded agency with experience in these tasks can make a world of difference for your brand in executing flawless experiential activations.
- Data-Driven: When all you hear from upper management is “What’s the ROI?” or “Was that worth it?” it’s clear that you need an agency who understands measurement and showing the value of experiential. We all know 1:1 experiences create a long-lasting impact and drive consumer loyalty, but proving this is another story. Look for an agency that understands the importance of measurement in experiential marketing and can utilize data to identify where your brand should be. We leverage data to uncover the audiences most likely to engage with your brand, and a robust measurement strategy is baked into every plan, then data drives our optimizations.
- Trust: Experiential marketing is personal. Like all personal relationships, brand relationships require trust. You should trust the agency you work with to make the right decisions for your brand and be transparent about how they work. Transparency is more than a cultural imperative for Empower. It’s part of its operating system. We have learned time and time again that transparency works better for both the brand and the agency.
The Future of Experiential
Experiential is always evolving as marketers strive to stay relevant for consumers. From mobile experiential tours to immersive influencer experiences to one-time sponsorships of major events, the opportunities to connect with consumers are endless. As marketing changes, one thing is certain – holistic, interconnected consumer experiences are the ones that make an impact. You need to bridge the gap between the emotional pull of an event and the digital push after the fact that reinforces the brand.
At Empower, we tackle challenges with the precision of an engineer and the heart of a matchmaker. We’re not just counting impressions, we’re making impressions count. That’s how you build trust in the space between brand and consumer at scale, and that’s what we do.