Can experiential reinvent the 'cool factor' for marketers?

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Luxury brands have experience built into their DNA. Woven’s Mark Bower explains what experiential can learn from luxury inbound marketing.

These were once the hallmarks of a successful life beautiful jewelry, a shamefully low-mpg car, a six-bedroom house, a Westwood wardrobe. All signs of prestige, exclusivity and success.

But today, when it comes to interacting with brands, people want more than just the product. The idea of owning a beautiful car and being dressed in this season’s latest is still a motivator, of course, but what’s becoming increasingly important is the story that comes with the sale.

Status through stories

In medieval cultures, bards would leave their communities enraptured by tall tales and myth-preserving chronicles. Bards were held in such high regard that their well-woven words could determine history, mould opinion and cast doubt on kings.

The reason is simple - people love stories. They love to hear them, tell them, be the subject of them. This powerful, DNA-encoded human trait is something luxury brands need to incorporate into their thinking. For instance:

“I love that top,” said Philippa. “Where did you get it?”

“Oh, thanks!” said Tabitha. “I picked it up at Selfridges.”

We’ve all been involved in such conversations (except I’m more Primark than Selfridges). But what brands need to be aiming for is this:

“I love that top,” said Philippa. “Where did you get it?”

“Oh, thanks!” said Tabitha. “I picked it up at Selfridges during their Future Designz Awards thing. They had this huge catwalk and all these models wearing clothes from upcoming designers. Oh, and guess what, this top was made by the woman who won.”

Customer conversations like this don’t just involve the product, they involve the brand, the store and (yes, here’s that all-important word) the experience.

To stay intriguing to an audience that can buy anything, do anything and go anywhere, luxury brands have an even greater incentive than their everyday counterparts to offer their customers an experience, not just a product.

It’s why Maserati offered free rides to and from people’s private jets. It’s why Ritz-Carlton launched #RCMemories, offering visitors culturally specific experiences depending on the hotel’s location. (Yoga whilst bathed by the early Bali sun, anyone?) It’s why Grey Goose set up ‘Boulangerie Francois’, a series of posh bakeries, the produce of which is made with the same grain uses to make their vodka.

Marketing mixology

As a way to create short-term buzz (that ‘Holy sh*t, that’s cool’ factor) and long-term brand awareness, experiential marketing is crucial to luxury brands. But it also needs underpinning with processes that improve their long-term impact, and this is where inbound marketing comes in.

Inbound goes wider, eschews the interruptive traditional methodologies in favour of providing educational, enjoyable, value-adding content with which people actually want to engage. It means creating content that organically attracts interested audiences before converting them into customers.

Essentially, inbound is about being a magnet, not a megaphone - and it’s a perfect partner for any experiential brand or campaign.

Back to bricks and mortar

Inbound marketing is usually the preserve of digital marketers who use websites, CRO, social media, SEO and online data capture to turn prospects into purchasers. With experiential luxury brands have an opportunity to combine the benefits that bricks-n-mortar-based immersive marketing brings with the personalisation and data capture potential of inbound.

As well as a glitzy website to attract attention, luxury brands can use their experiential events as launching pads to initiate inbound practices that turn these short-term events into long-term sales pipelines.

So, those the people who attended the Selfridges Future Designz Awards? They can receive newsletters for subsequent events, be informed when Selfridges launch a new line from the competition winner (and receive exclusive discounts), see themselves on the landing page generated just for the event and be tagged into the video content seeded out across social media.

All of which takes the brand experience beyond the event itself, increasing the brand’s potential to interact with its audience across numerous channels for years to come.

Experiential and inbound in action

Our Woven developers recently built a cross-platform app for one of our clients to use at trade shows. In exchange for interacting with the product, audiences allow event hosts to use the app to collect attendees details, including their location and native language, so the prospect can be teamed up with a distributor from the same area and who speaks the same language.

As a result, the brand can stay in touch with the prospect across email, phone and social media, informing them about their business activity, from when the next event is taking place to showing them a sneaky peek of their next TV ad.

This is experiential marketing and inbound marketing in action: offering potential customers something of interest in exchange for their permission to market to them in the future.

Thanks to experiential marketing, luxury brands are leveraging the power of storytelling to create unique, exclusive and memorable brand experiences.

But what will really give their campaigns much-needed longevity is a supporting inbound strategy that maximises impact long after the event is done, affording them greater opportunities to stay in touch with their audiences and keep their brand stories at the forefront of their minds.

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