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Experiential marketing
Does the brand define the experience—or is it the other way around?
With the changing landscape of marketing and communications, it has become clear that a brand is only as good as its online customers say it is. It’s the collective experiences of consumers that really drive the success of branding efforts in today’s social and often instantaneous marketplace.While the challenge of marketers will always be to identify and communicate effectively with target audiences, new challenges have emerged:

How do we create positive, memorable experiences that attract and retain customers?

And, how do we encourage customers to share their experiences with others?

One possible answer: Experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing allows users to interact with a brand and its products or services firsthand, often in a controlled environment. This area of marketing aims to appeal to emotions, logic and the senses, and it provides an opportunity for customers to engage with a brand. This engagement aims to diminish the disconnect between what a company says about its offerings and what customers actually encounter.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? Perhaps it’s something your business or organization should look into. For a bit of initial inspiration, take a cue from some of the ways big brands are using experiential marketing today:

At trade shows
Trade shows offer the perfect opportunity for marketers to try experiential marketing tactics because they provide an ideal venue for testing new products and services. Consider car shows where, for years, auto manufacturers have used national shows to unveil the latest in concept cars. By allowing visitors to sit in the cars, feel them, touch them, all but drive them away, they’re able to create an emotional tie to a new product—one that hopefully gets people talking, too. Keep those conversations going long after the show by distributing mementos, like reflector tags or car-shaped sticky pads, to commemorate their experience with your booth.

In advertisements
Advertisements have actually laid the foundation for other tactics of experiential marketing. Think perfume ads in magazines, coupons in the Sunday paper, or magnets stuck in direct mail pieces: these make consumers interact with the advertisement to receive a fuller product experience.

While online has taken over much of the modern marketing share, traditional channels of communication can work just as well when experiential marketing is executed. Take billboards, for one.  In April 2010, the Ministry of Internal Affairs Netherlands, in partnership with Bitmove, introduced an interactive billboard in Amsterdam to challenge people’s lack of response in regards to acts of public aggression. The billboard used technology to pick up images of people walking by and placed them into a pre-recorded violent situation, which was streamed on the billboard as though it were happening at that very moment. When people realized they were actually on the billboard, they stopped to watch themselves (vanity works every time) and were then lured into the campaign’s powerful message. Not only did this billboard garner the attention of passersby, it also provided four key tips people could use should they find themselves in a similar situation.

Through product demonstrations
What better way to show consumers how your product is different and superior to the competitor’s than by letting them find out firsthand? American winemaker Beringer’s did just that. Partnering with agency Marketing Werks, Beringer’s took to the road in a shiny silver bullet trailer for branded product demonstrations they deemed “Urban Picnics.” Beringer’s goal was to showcase how a great wine can bring the Napa Valley lifestyle anywhere.

Urban Picnics took Beringer’s, and Napa, nationwide. Consumers enjoyed a taste of wine country with demonstrations and food pairing suggestions from Beringer’s executive chef. Wine-tasting completed the experience, and sealed in the results: 24,000 program impressions, 1,248 wine samples and 503 leads generated.

Even if you don’t have Beringer’s budget, still take a page from their book.  Grab a portable booth and a few eye-catching banners to set up a product demonstration outside your office, at a local business or park (with permission, of course!) or other high-traffic areas to get your customers talking.

Using guerilla tactics
There is an overlap between experiential marketing and guerilla marketing in some cases—it can be an aggressive, in-your-face experience to evoke some sort of action in a target audience. For example, in July 2010, UNICEF installed “Dirty Water” vending machines in Manhattan to create public awareness about the dangers of not having clean drinking water. There were eight flavors available, representing the eight common diseases affecting impoverished communities around the world: malaria, cholera, typhoid, dengue, hepatitis, dysentery, salmonell, and yellow fever. Many people donated their cash on-the-spot, and UNICEF also offered a mobile component that allowed consumers to donate later via text.

If these ideas pique your interest, download the entire Blue Paper® and podcast for more information on developing and implementing an experiential marketing campaign today!

“Cause Marketing Campaigns | Experiential Tactics.” Experiential Marketing, Digital Marketing Agency | Antler | Boston. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.

“Beringer Experiential Marketing Event.” Experiential Marketing | Event Marketing | Mobile Marketing. Web. 10 Feb. 2011.

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