Brands are increasingly utilising external activity and stunts in a bid to build a stronger bond with consumers through immersive and brand storytelling. However, it is not an approach that will work for every brand. Events agency, Identity says there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to experiential.
IPA Bellwether claims experiential marketing budgets were up by 5.5% in the final quarter of 2018, and a few months later at SXSW in Austin it became clear brands can send a bold message with these activations.
At the festival, Beautyrest mattress company sponsored an eight-hour concert by composer Max Richter. The stage was surrounded by 150 Beautyrest beds filled with lucky fans who tried to catch some sleep between the hours of midnight and 8am. The premise was that a night sleeping on a Beautyrest bed would leave attendees feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
“It’s vital to remember that one experiential campaign does not fit all, and that no consumer is the same," says Identity's experiential account director, Toby Havord. "A pop-up shop in Wigan may work well for a confectionary brand for example, but possibly not so well for a sports manufacturer. It’s vital to take the venue, location and consumers into consideration during the planning stage of your next experiential campaign.”
And then consideration must be taken in judging the success of these activations.
He explains: “It’s more important for brands to redefine how they target their consumers. From data capturing, past successes and KPIs, brands can measure results and understand how successful their campaigns are with their desired target audience.
Brand are embracing experiential with the likes of HBO recreating the Westworld town at SXSW, Netflix ‘incubating’ a human in a bus stop to promote Altered Carbon and Viceland’s Weed Week hosting a goat-petting zoo.
Over the next few years, Havord believes that more brands will take a higher focus on targeted and personalised campaigns, rather than UK-wide activations where ROI is almost impossible to calculate.
“As they become more exposed to experiential campaigns, consumers are becoming savvier with their demands and what really captures their interest,” he explains. “With these targeted campaigns, brands will need to support it with wow factor stories on social media to attract a wider audience not just live but online, leaving them wanting more and wishing they were involved."
Many brands can get it wrong. Take a look at Jägermeister. In 2013 a promotion party held in Mexico turned into disaster after party organizers poured liquid nitrogen into a swimming pool. This created a toxic mixture that put eight people into hospital and another into a coma. There are risks involved.
In 2005, Snapple attempted to erect the world’s largest popsicle in Manhattan, New York. The 25-foot-tall, 17½-ton lolly melted faster than they expected.
Brands, meanwhile, are beginning to understand that there is massive value in experiential but that doesn’t mean that the industry has yet cracked how to measure the success of physical experiences. There is no one answer to quantify success, says Havord. Many factors come into play for businesses. “Before you put on an activation, sit down with your marketing team and discuss what the brand’s targets are and what you want to achieve from it," he explains. "Set these goals and work out how an activation will accomplish these.”
One way in which you can measure could be the attendance and participation from audiences. Havord explains that the number of consumers who turn up to your event will always provide a good indication that you have marketed the event well and that interest is there. “But are these the right people turning up for your brand?” he questions. “If you’re aiming to attract one thousand ABC1 30 to 46-year-olds to your event then ensure that the activation used appeals to that audience.”
Take large shopping centres, for example. They can have a weekly footfall of 600,000 people and many brands will latch onto these places with experiential activations. Havord suggest that this isn’t in fact a cost-effective and wise way to cast your net as a brands actual target audience will only be a fraction of the 600,000 shoppers.
Another method to capture success is in the data. “Having a thousand people turn up to your event may seem like an achievement, but you need to maximise the time that they are there for,” expresses Havord. “Data capture will provide brands and agencies with a detailed breakdown of that consumer and in turn provide you with detailed feedback and results. Brands should remember that once you have started a journey with your consumers, after collecting as much data as possible at the event, determine how best to keep them on board, post-event.”
Social media is a part of our everyday lives and is a fantastic tool for measuring engagement, reactions and feedback, not just from a live audience, but an online audience too.
In 2017, Facebook posts, photo sharing and Instagram posts were the top three types of branded experiential content posts made by consumers. Havord clarifies: “As we know, people are often brutally honest on social media, so this is a helpful tool for brands to measure reactions and feedback from their latest campaign.”
Capturing news coverage
To garner the attention of the media with experiential, the work has to be unique, stand out and capture the imagination of the public. With more and more news outlets popping up, the demand for outlandish and funny stories increases.
“Successful experiential campaigns should target which media outlets they want their activation to appear on,” Havord adds. “Of course, brands still want to hit big numbers with the news mediums they are on.
“To gauge overall effectiveness this shouldn’t be measured in viewership alone, but also include engagement levels and the likes, comments and shares their content has received via these news outlets.”
He concludes: "Brands are increasingly partnering on activations and this will only grow in popularity over the next few years. For example, one of our clients recently partnered with a major car company for a two-week activation at Westfield, London. Both brands were intrinsically linked while not conflicting with each other. These kinds of partnerships will see many brands jumping into the experiential sector on their own and together with other brands.
“Should Toys R Us have done more in-store experiential? Yes. Should they have been at the forefront of experiential at kids and family events? Yes. They neither jumped in nor out, but I am sure they wished they had jumped in! Which can only help the experiential market because brands will not want to stand still until it’s too late.”