As the digital age progresses, brands are rediscovering an essential marketing truth: To connect with consumers, there's no better way than through a real experience.
Logically, this should have been in reverse. The times are rife with virtual connections. People follow or subscribe to other people, celebrities, news, shows, companies, and brands online. Because of email and IM applications, a great deal of communication is funneled through the Internet. Globally, millions spend almost half a day browsing the web, and the numbers are only increasing. This era of continuous digital consumption of information could very well crown mass marketing as the uncontested king.
That hasn't happened yet—and it's unlikely to occur. Mass marketing through traditional and new media relies on exposure to get its message across. However, the sheer amount of choice—on TV, radio channels, and the web—has fractured a brand's ability to inundate consumers with its message and achieve the Rule of Seven. Additionally, people now have attention spans that are shorter than that of goldfish and have very little tolerance for ad-like messages, switching them off or tuning them out before a sentence finishes.
What Should Brands Do?
To reach jaded, overexposed consumers, marketing can't rely on virtual connections alone. By definition, virtual connections are ephemeral, wraith-like bonds. Brands need to provide them with something that can't be ignored, something that stimulates all the five senses and evokes an emotional attachment. In short, something real.
Experiential events renounce volume-based marketing that rely on target audience impressions, focusing instead on increasing audience engagement. Rather than having a one-sided conversation with consumers, the focus is on creating a meaningful, personal dialogue with them. Not only does this create a memorable brand experience, but it also results in a real brand relationship.
Making the Most of the Experience
Although events by themselves may not have the potential to reach a great number of people compared with mass marketing, the campaign doesn't have to be similarly limited. A brand that treats experiential marketing as a tactical add-on or a one-off thing is criminally underusing its potential. When used as the heart of an across-media campaign, an event can go both deep and wide. It can create an in-depth experience for participants while reaching the eyeballs of those who couldn't attend with the help of social media or broadcast and print outlets.
Creating an integrated experiential marketing campaign requires a close partnership with an agency that can deliver high-level events, engaging social media, and on-message PR. The agency needs to know your vision and expectations to craft an experience that has brand-building power.
In 2014, B2B marketers in the US rated in-person events as the most effective marketing tactic in their arsenal for the fourth year in a row. The trend is also being seen in the Philippines.
For success in the digital age, a brand needs to make real connections with its customers. It needs to provide an experience in person, as well as maximize relationships with digital support outside the experience.