According to a survey by Bizzabo, 80 percent of marketers today believe that live events are critical to their company’s success, and the majority of them (91 percent) plan on growing their event marketing budgets. But while experiential marketing can ignite powerful buzz, the spark of the event often dies out immediately after the event ends. In order to avoid this short-lived “firecracker” phenomenon, brands have to leverage the long-lasting halo effects that experiential has by marrying live strategies with digital in a powerful, strategic way. Here’s how.
Focus on the Entire Journey
To start, an experiential event shouldn’t be contained to the event itself; rather, it should include a carefully planned social and content strategy that touches the consumer before, during and after the event in a consistent, thoughtfully orchestrated way. From the beginning, invites before the event should entice consumers with an ephemeral experience. The invites themselves should be Instagram-worthy. Once arrived, every detail that goes into the activation should feel consistent with the brand persona and ethos.
Refinery29 is a great example of a media brand that has conquered consistent experiential flow with “29Rooms.” The rooms surrounded audiences with dynamic, creative and curious experiences, all while encompassing an underlying theme of celebrating women, which guests recognize as the brand’s authentic, core message. Post event, brands should consider what additional content (branded or user-generated content) can be repurposed later in time that still resonates.
Make It Personal
With experiential marketing, brands have the ability to cultivate extremely personalized experiences, allowing people to feel that they’re playing pivotal roles in the event itself. This meaningful connection can be achieved by providing people with a stage to express themselves, building dynamic settings that require audience interaction and decision-making, having brand team members interface with guests one-on-one and listening to their responses and answering questions. Guests are invited by you, but the experience should be centered around them.
Online and Physical are Different for a Reason
Many brands think of digital as being an amplification of the physical event, but to generate the most impact, digital and physical should actually be approached as separate experiences with equal value. They encompass vastly different playing grounds and call for highly disparate strategies and tactics. A great example includes Steve Madden’s launch of their first-ever fragrance line, “The Factory.” To move beyond the online launch and cultivate a live experience around the collection, we helped Steve Madden create an exclusive pop-up art installation, encouraging people to interact physically and discover the new brand extension through a multimedia collaboration between five artists. Meanwhile, online, we posted real-time content and hosted an immersive autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)-fueled, 12-hour live-stream on Instagram Live.
Another example is our partnership with Yeezy for the duration of three seasons. Season three culminated in streaming an exclusive film to over 700-plus cinemas worldwide that coincided with the premiere of “Life of Pablo.” This way, the teenage boy who woke up at 8 a.m. in Sydney to go to the cinema had an equally immersive and rich experience as those celebrities seated in the front row at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Think About Now, and Later!
Brands can benefit by leaning into the “limited time, limited quantity” aspect to create urgency and novelty. Fleeting moments trigger desire to capture the moment, post social media content immediately and discuss the experience with peers. Providing guests with inspiration and evergreen content for them to post later can go a long way in extending the event into the future. Refinery29’s rainbow neon sign is a prime example of this, being utilized for content later in the year during gay pride.
Retail Is Not Dead (Yet)
Today’s consumers are spoiled — they know they can buy anything online, and at any moment. They need a good enough reason to leave the house and go to a physical retail space.
Nike Live’s pop-up stores are a great example of a modern brand adapting its retail strategy to fit today’s experience-hungry consumer. Its pop-up concept stores are community-driven and people-centric, allowing access to exclusive services like using their digital vending machines and the ability to text store associates directly. The store experience encourages the consumer to continuously engage and participate, generating brand advocacy.
Experiential marketing is one of the most exciting channels for brand engagement today, allowing brands to engage with their consumers in real time, (in real life or IRL), and in highly creative ways. When properly executed, experiential events and activations are valuable opportunities to gather real-time insights, foster meaningful connections and build a brand’s story and identity within a community of ardent fans.
Quynh Mai, is founder of Moving Image & Content, a N.Y.-based digital marketing and creative agency.
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