A great article from Forbes. Solomon explains why experiential marketing wins over customers in today’s market.
Experiential Marketing: Winning Over Today’s Customers, One Event At A Time
“Experiential activity marketing” is a term that’s batted around more and more these days. In case the phrase still sounds like futuristic gibberish to you, let’s spend some time with Bharat Rupani, President of Interactions Marketing, an experiential marketing agency and subsidiary of Daymon Worldwide in San Diego. Rupani, who has 20 years of experience in leading the development and expansion of brands in both the consumer products and retail sectors, explains the term as “work done with retailers and brands to connect directly with shoppers – usually through an event that happens inside a store or externally in the community.” Like what? “In terms of our company, experiential marketing can range from anything from us handing out samples in a store, to staffing grand opening celebrations, to being behind the truck of a mobile tour.”
I wanted more examples, so Rupani took me first to the grocery industry, where Interactions Marketing has done work for Giant Foods on the East Coast of the U.S. (Giant is a part of the mammoth Ahold USA corporate conglomerate.) “At the Giant Landover, Maryland grand opening, our team created a three week long extravaganza for the store that featured a flash mob, a custom miniature ice cream truck, a selfie booth, kids craft area, outdoor grilling event, and a number of food sampling events. It was a way to connect with shoppers in what we feel was an unforgettable experience, and to help cement Giant Landover within its local Maryland community.
He then spoke about their relationship with Advance Auto Parts, for whom Rupani’s company has created a mobile tour (with a 44-foot RV) that reaches Advance Auto Parts’ shoppers at over 30 automotive events across the nation. The RV-based tour interacted with nearly 50,000 people in 2015 alone, of whom they managed to sign up more than 15,000 new members for Advance Auto Parts’ loyalty program, Speed Perks.
Experiential activity marketing, of course, also has digital components. In the case of Advance Auto Parts, this year, Interactions Marketing augmented its program by developing a game (“Rev it Up!”) that allows customers and prospective customers at home to test their diagnostic skills, with prizes that include gift cards.
There are many challenges involved in any customer-focused enterprise, and I spent some time with Rupani talking about problems and issues that have come up for Interactions Marketing as it has grown. He let me know that the biggest challenge is talent acquisition, not for technical skills, but for the human, customer-focused element: “Rapid growth always comes with its challenges and growing pains to an organization. And one of the primary challenges for us has been keeping pace with the growth and being able to find and deliver the top quality talent that Interactions is known for providing. Often in hiring talent for experiential marketing, we find a shrinking pool of candidates who have a passion for human interaction and face-to-face encounters that is necessary for the work we do. Personal engagement is an art we must keep alive – it’s upon us to hire and train those who can emote and connect with people.”
Finally, I wanted to draw Rupani out on principles of experiential marketing that would be useful whether a company is of a size that can engage his company’s service. He told me that, absolutely, the answer is yes; “Experiential marketing doesn’t have to be overcomplicated – it’s about the human to human experience and word of mouth which are both extremely powerful marketing vehicles.” First, he says, “realize that with each interaction during your day you are creating a memory for someone; in this sense you already have a role in selling and in creating experiences.”
Next, “take that concept beyond your team, and beyond your office and you can be creative in the way you engage with shoppers.” The key, as with any marketing or advertising tactic, is to know your consumer: “For example, if you want to conduct a street team event, think about your target audience, where do they live, where do they congregate, what messages and offers would appeal to them? When you know the answers to those questions, and a few more like them, you’ll know where, when, and how to stage your event. Ultimately if people try your brand and like it – you’ve made an impact that traditional marketing (radio, print ads, TV) can’t produce. With so much focus on technology today, experiential marketing is still the real and organic interaction with a brand that so many of us still enjoy and value.”