Experiential has come a long way from the sample driven add-on it once represented, it has become a key player within brands marketing communications and this growth looks set to continue with Pearlfinders Gobal Index 2015 report indicating a 54 per cent increase in experiential activations in 2014 with further growth planned this year.
Part of this can be explained by the fact that our lives have become more and more linked to a screen, live experiences have been elevated to a higher importance with human contact and shared experiences which we then share on our many screens become engrained into everyday life, and this is never truer than with the millennials. This can be seen with the growth and strength of the live music festival scene, with shared physical experiences creating collective memories we want everyone to view.
The impact of this has been that where once the brand messages was delivered to the consumer, now the consumer expects a conversation and to participate in that conversation. This means that face to face contact through brand activations has become increasingly important in a brands strategy, with the strength of a positive immersive brand experience having a greater impact and response with a consumer than a one-way delivery of a brands message.
The amplification that activations can now achieve has also helped strengthen experiential value, activating social media campaigns and creating added value via its organic reach. It connects the dots by bringing the brand to life in the lives of its consumers who then start sharing that encounter, creating brand advocates in the process and in essence letting the consumer do some of the heavy lifting for the brand. It allows the brand into the lives of its consumer in a way traditional marketing cant because they chose to participant in the conversation.
Standalone social media campaigns can create reach and a level of engagement but when blended with an activation they take on meaning which is not always achieved solely via a screen encounter. Experiential experience creates a deeper level of engagement which only a physical experience can achieve, which is why brands such as River Island are creating their Wi-Fi enabled selfie swings at Parklife in which a hashtag tweet gained you access to a VIP section and Jagermeister are taking on tour their Unearthed house, which will have emerging band and DJ’s playing across festivals this summer rather than simply creating a hashtag or one way content. The consumer is stepping into the brands world and experiencing the world from its point of view. The brands are giving their consumers more than a message or a free sample so reciprocating that the consumer gives them social reach and approval.
The experience is organic content generation which the consumer has created rather than being given, and millennials respond to their peers likes and tastes not the ones given to them by a one way campaign. Marketers are now seeing this power of activations within strategy, not as the poor relation but the leading force within the mix.
The key to successful activations is a 360 degree approach where each of the elements are integrated to support each other and to amplify, creating both immediate brand experiences which live in the memory of the consumer and the ability to reach beyond that. Savvy brands such as Topshop are demonstrating with their recent Playland activation at their flagship Oxford Street store, which not only involved a tweet powered giant crane arcade game but a vivid live experience that their shoppers wanted to share with their friends, creating envy if they missed out.
Integrating social amplification into the activations centre and not just a hashtag or a piece of new technology is vital to its success and must be a cornerstone of the experience design from the outset. Technology such as augmented reality is giving experiential marketeers new scope to create experiences but it must be utilised in a way that enhances and has a purpose, not just a nice piece of kit. However the surprise, delight and reach of an immersive activation is hard to beat.
Danae Abadom, director, Independent Events
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