Compelling stories have always been at the heart of effective advertising. But with the proliferation of marketing platforms in the digital age making greater demands of consumers’ attention than ever, powerful, effective and unique storytelling have never been more important. Brands are desperate to tell stories in a memorable, attention-grabbing way. It is therefore no surprise that the rich, diverse world of experiential marketing continues to expand at a rapid rate.

Experiential marketing (or XM) has a lot going for it: it’s relatively new and – when done well – incorporates some of the most exciting and inventive thinking in the field.

In an environment where the old standards of the traditional marketing mix are being pushed to their limits, XM is the perfect medium for marketers looking to craft stories that co-exist in multiple platforms.

We are emotional creatures. Long gone are the days when advertising relied simply on imparting information about a product and extolling its benefits – there needs to be that emotional pull too.

There are, of course, many ways of doing this in advertising – as we see every year, commercials around the holidays are particularly keen to tug at those heartstrings. But one of the simplest ways of appealing to emotion is through an authentic, real-life, face-to-face experience.

This is where experiential marketing comes in. It’s a potent mix of event staging, branding, social media strategy and digital innovation. It’s all about creating a tangible brand story powered by innovation, imagination and impactful messaging.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to XM: the concepts are often fun, outlandish and ambitious. But it can also so often go wrong or be done badly. What’s as important as the fun-packed, imagination-gone-wild concept are the old standards of planning, structure and measurement.

As an agency with a strong track record in experiential, we thought we’d give our team’s advice on the first four things to ask yourself before planning an experiential marketing project or campaign:

 

1) Why are we doing this?

Experiential marketing is a hot trend right now, and as such there’s a desperation to not be left in the dust. But before embarking on a campaign, it’s important to understand exactly what your goals are.

It can be a temptation to dive into creative and begin brainstorming – but first thing’s first, ask yourself: what is the business problem we are looking to solve through this activity?

Everything we do as marketers involves identifying consumer behaviours we want to trigger – be it increased purchase, trials, or a change in brand image. Experiential may seem new, but it’s evolution rather than revolution – these fundamentals remain the same.

To create your goals, you need to understand who your audience is. Who are they psychologically and behaviourally? What makes them tick and what turns them off? Where will you find them? What will make them engage with you?

One of the difficulties in XM is that the freedom from creative boundaries means it’s easy to pack too much into a concept. But if you have a strong foundation to explore creative possibilities, then you will always be able to pull things back to your key objectives and keep things on track.

 

2) What’s been done already?

So much of what’s great about experiential is bound up in the “new”. Whether your goal is media exposure, increasing your contact list, trialling a product or simply changing perceptions of your brand, there needs to be an element of novelty that will capture people’s attention.

So it’s important that our concepts bowl consumers over with their innovation and imagination, rather than being retreads of what’s gone before.

Doing your research is absolutely vital. You’ve now identified your audience and the behaviours you want to encourage – what have others done in experiential to engage similar audiences?

And look also at what your competitors have been doing. What were their successes and failures? What elements would you like to avoid and what could you build on?

With XM often lending itself to video and digital assets, there’s an absolute wealth of information available online. So take your time, study the field and get inspired.

 

3) What will the consumer’s journey be?

The experiential strategy needs to always come back to the consumer journey. As marketers, the way we plan marketing tactics are very different than how they are perceived in action by the consumer.

It’s our job to make sure that the consumer’s perception is kept at the heart of the strategic process. We need to pull out all of the fluff and make sure everything links back to building the ideal consumer journey.

Experiential programmes should be lean and streamlined, distilling the message into a digestible, tactile story. You have a great story to tell about your brand – so make your budget work for you and ensure every component of the experience is reinforcing that story.

At every stage of development, take a step back and ask yourself: how will the consumer experience this? How does it add to the overall experience we wish to create?

 

4) How will we prove it was worthwhile?

When we think of terms like “optimization” and “metrics”, we often think more of digital marketing. But these apply just as aptly to the brand experience as a whole.

If you don’t track and evaluate your project, you have nothing to benchmark performance on – so how can you track improvement? As mentioned in point 1, we need to set clear, measurable objectives – with all planning feeding into achieving those objectives.

A mistake many make when developing experiential is that they try to measure the impact retrospectively, having not budgeted for proper measurement processes beforehand. Unsurprisingly, this is usually highly unreliable.

Asking yourself how you’re going to measure performance should occur right at the beginning of your planning. Whatever it is you will use – audience figures, surveys, conversions, sales – to track impact, measuring KPIs must be built into the design of the event.

 

5) How does this help us long-term?

The brutal truth is you can have a fantastic concept, buy-in from consumers and pull off a fantastic brand activation – but if it’s not tied into longer term goals, then it’s a missed opportunity.

Because experiential marketing places creativity and innovation in customer experience as its focus, the danger exists that focus goes into one activation or campaign – that it becomes a stand-alone project.

But a strategic long view of what you’re doing is absolutely vital. We must ensure that all our marketing efforts are aligned to support and magnify each other with a long-term focus.

You also need to continually learn, adapt and plan. The best time to begin preparation for your next experiential marketing campaign is right at the end of the previous one – what worked, what didn’t, and how can we continue to show the side of our brand that we want to get across?

 

So what’s next?

Getting experiential right can be tricky, but the rewards are great. It has the potential for a level of brand storytelling that is impossible through other methods, and can be thought-provoking, emotive and fun.

When done right, the campaign also achieves a long-lasting lifespan through other marketing avenues. PR, digital and traditional marketing – in conjunction with well-planned, well-crafted and rigorously-measured experiential – give life to the experience leading in and out of the project.

So where to start? We are on hand to help anyone looking to delve into the world of experiential marketing. Our team are helping brands across North America develop brilliant and ambitious brand experiences that speak deeply to their ideal consumers.

If you want to unlock the possibilities of unforgettable marketing moments, call us now at 514.840.0020 or email info@lashvision.com. Visit the experiential marketing section of our website for more details.

 

Lash Vision Media brand ambassadors pose in front of a paint-spattered wall at McGill University, Montreal