Experiential marketing is fast becoming where marketers direct increasing amounts of advertising spend in 2017. The 2017 Freeman Global Brand Experience Study found that more than one in three CMOs expects to set aside 21 to 50 percent of their budgets for brand experiences. In a world saturated by advertising messages and savvy consumers, brands are recognising that experiences and positive brand associations are what matter. The Restless CMO asks why now, and what does the future hold?
Experential marketing means brand authenticity
In a world where thousands of advertising messages are competing for our attention every second, which ones stand out? The ones which aren’t afraid to be themselves. A brand experience is a key opportunity for consumers to try out a product or service. Speaking to Adweek, experiential marketer Denise Wong describes experiential as “where advertising meets the Amazon review, quote unquote.”
Consumers can easily skip, mute or block digital ads
Experiential activations are nothing new, but in the post millennial marketing world numbers are what mattered and ROI from an experience alone was difficult to calculate. Turn to 2017 and online advertising is just not providing the same benefits to brands as it used to. Consumers are becoming savvier in avoiding ads, with millions (no one knows exactly how many) using various ad blocking tools to avoid the worst offenders in online advertising. This, coupled with recent scandals involving brand safety, means that advertisers are searching for new and innovative ways to promote products and spread messages.
Millennials would rather tell people about something they have done than about something they have
A study from the Harris Group reveals that millennials not only values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them. It might be music festivals, sports events or a club night with friends. But when advertisers take their product and integrate it into one of these events, they are sharing their brand with this age group in a context they enjoy. Speaking to Campaign, Hew Leith, CEO at agency 10x, said: "In the new world you create an amazing experience. Not only do you want to get involved in it, you give up your time, get in a queue, wait to do it and then share it online because you are happy to." Influencers are also a good way to extend the message further, adds Leith. He gives the example of a recent activation run by beer brand Asahi inviting Josh Patterson from UK reality soap Made In Chelsea, who has 270,000 instagram followers. Josh shared the experience and the activation was liked 60,000 times on Josh's Instagram channel.
Experiential marketing means sharing an experience with someone
The author of this article recalls a quiet evening in 2003 in a bar with friends. Suddenly ten orange roller-skating reindeer enter the bar playing music from their antlers and shooting shots of Jägermeister at customers. While the activation lasted only 30 minutes, the experience was so deliciously on-brand, so entirely fun, that the “night with the Jägermeister reindeers” continues to bring back memories for these friends 14 years later. This brand experience, consumed by friends in a fun setting, will have achieved more that an online ad directed at people sitting alone in front of their computer ever could.
Experiential marketing: “Not a channel, but an attitude to total brand building”
More and more marketers are viewing experiential as an essential component of a broader campaign, rather than a one stop solution. Speaking to Campaign, Tim Jones, creative director at RPM Agency, said: "In the last five years we have been seeing brand experience is no longer a channel but an attitude to total brand building". MullenLowe Open global CEO Anthony Hopper sees experiential complementing conventional creative rather than displacing it. “The line between traditional and experiential is becoming blurred,” he notes. “More often than not, our events can be turned into ads and broadcast through either digital platforms or TV.”
What does the future hold for experiential marketing?
As brand experiences become ever more elaborate and engaging, people are increasingly prepared to pay to participate. Red Bull, for example, now charges people to go to events such as Culture Clash and the Red Bull Air Race. Technology is also changing the experiential landscape, as applications such as virtual reality are used more and more in activations.
One thing’s for certain: 2017 is the year of marketers engaging with consumers in ever more meaningful ways. For that reason, brand experiences are here to stay.