In a hyperconnected world where most of us are one click away from endless sources of content, it’s no surprise that consumers crave unique experiences that take them out of their everyday lives. Whether physical, virtual or hybrid, brands that create these meaningful moments have the power to forge closer ties with people—and not by interacting for interaction’s sake. “Experiential is not only about bringing a product to market,” explains Chris Kaliszewski, VP, Experiential & Virtual Events. “It’s about providing value to your customers and doing so in a way that puts them at the center of the experience.”
But generating value is where the challenge usually lies. Take a look at the world of experiential marketing, and you’ll find most brands use it almost exclusively as a way to kick off a product launch or a specific release. But to treat these experiences merely as a one-and-off strategy is to miss out on the opportunity to inspire people to build a long-lasting relationship with your brand—one that goes beyond the release of a specific product, and instead keeps them coming back for more.
Make People the Heroes of an Unforgettable Experience
Experience is an essential element of customer engagement, which makes it important to connect with audiences in ways that stand out and are unique to your brand. The shape that these experiences will take ultimately comes down to your goals. “Experiential marketing is so broad that most brands struggle to identify what their activation should look like, or where to start,” explains Kaliszewski. “The first stage is one of discovery and collaboration, where we try to identify what kind of medium will help us achieve our objectives.”
In that exploration stage, you may find that a long-term installation better suits your requirements. When Pepsi wanted to build an experience reflecting its historic partnership with the Super Bowl Halftime Show, our colleagues at Jam3 worked with them to create a permanent installation cementing the brand’s commitment to the iconic annual concert. The experience at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania features private performance pods with gesture-based interaction and navigation. Inside, guests can create their own pop star avatars and select a killer track from artists like Imagine Dragons or the Black Eyed Peas. When the music starts, they can let loose and bust out their best moves while the avatar on screen matches their movements, all in a fully touchless experience that hits on the fun and excitement of the Halftime Show.
A permanent installation like this one lets you shape new spaces for consumers to experience your brand firsthand. Of course, experiences can come in many forms. Whether your experience is a permanent installation or a temporary one, one thing is true for them all: the more immersive it is, the more affinity, loyalty and awareness it drives.
Valuable Brand Activations Enhance Their Surroundings
It’s easy to think of experiential activations as self-contained spaces. But some of the most effective ones make clever use of their surroundings in order to tap more authentically into a community or cultural moment. For experiences that stand out, it is sometimes better to blend in—with a unique twist.
Earlier this year, the Tribeca Film Festival marked the return of in-person cultural experiences in New York City. With the aim of feeding the locals’ passion for film, we partnered with DoorDash to build a classic movie theater concession stand combined with a typical NYC deli ticket counter. Packed with bagels, pretzels and anything you would normally order through DoorDash, the space felt familiar to hungry viewers—until it was time to make an order. In exchange for their food (and a redeemable coupon from DoorDash) visitors were invited to perform the line of dialogue written on their ticket.
The concession stand’s ability to capture the unique interest of festival film fans led to thousands of cumulative impressions on social media as people shared their attempts to reenact iconic scenes. Ciaran Woods, VP Experiential & Virtual Events, explains, “For us, experiential has always been focused on online amplification, and now the industry has grown accustomed to its benefits. With this kind of event, virtualization continues to be cost-effective: you can get the value of a physical venue while amplifying your reach online.”
Turning Traditional into Transformational
All things considered, it’s important to focus on the consumer at the heart of the experience at all times. So no matter what, default to simply providing an experience that’s fun and couldn’t have been made possible without your brand.
For the release of the new Netflix film “Army of the Dead,” we teamed up with advertising agencies Dziadek do orzechów and Plej to turn Warsaw’s passersby into zombie-apocalypse survivors. Playing for the chance to win official Netflix merchandise, visitors could use their phones to control their character as they make their way through an abandoned casino, take as much money as possible and wipe out any zombies that they encountered along the way.
Combining an in-person experience with a compelling digital layer, we amplified the level of engagement and turned the film’s release into a very tangible experience. Moreover, the act of blending real-world objects with augmented sets—whether AR, VR or any immersive technology—enables a new breed of experiences that can hardly be replicated.
When done right, experiential marketing can imprint people's memories, which then translates into brand awareness, affinity and loyalty. But the most compelling activations provide true value for audiences and their communities beyond simply promoting a specific product. When in doubt, focus on crafting new, original concepts for how you present your brand to consumers every day, and the results will follow.
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