Why experiential marketing should be a part of your overall brand strategy

For the past decade, experiential marketing (XM) has evolved from a fringe, add-on strategy to a key brand pillar. It allows for direct engagement between companies and consumers in a creative or memorable way.

The question is, how do you do it right?

XM was the topic of discussion at Globe Content Studio’s MarTech Mornings event for March, 2019, and it featured a panel of experts who helped attendees better understand and successfully deploy this essential marketing tool.

Panelists included Emily Ramshaw, country lead at Bumble Canada; Paul Curtin, executive producer and growth lead at makers.to; Natalie Lucas, senior brand manager at Bud Light; and Claire Lamont, founder and CEO of smak.

Here are some key takeaways:

XM is a great way to reach your customers in real life

Bumble sees XM as a way to communicate with its users off platform and in the real world, Ramshaw said. As a networking app, it considers XM events an extension of what Bumble stands for on its platform – a safe space where users feel empowered and can interact in ways they feel supported.

Lucas talked about how experiences are a type of social currency for millennials and older Gen Zs, the age cohort Bud Light caters to. Since Bud Light is a consumer packaged good, its goal is to extend the brand beyond the product.  XM is a way to start that dialogue.

There is no standard approach to coming up with XM ideas

This is particularly true for Makers and Smak because they work on multiple brands with varying objectives. Ideation takes a lot of work and involves many questions, Lamont said. How do you make a product live and breathe? How do you inject your brand values?

Curtin talked about how Makers is a team of producers who are very process oriented. Activations take time, detail-oriented planning and partnerships with the right types of talent to bring them to life.

Authenticity is key

We’re all consumers, we see through the nonsense, Lamont said. If you put something out in the field, you have to be able to live by it. Brands need to take purpose off the page and think about how it will exist in an environment.

It’s important to know your audience

Bumble has activations all over the world, so it is always conscious of place, Ramshaw said. An event in Toronto is going to be different from an event in Mumbai. It’s important to understand how your audiences are alike and different and meet them where they are. When you know your audience, you can cater your experiences more effectively.

Content is becoming a big part of XM

There’s a trend toward using experiential marketing as a content driver. Think about how you are integrating the experience and working with others, such as artists and publishers, to tell interesting stories before and after your activations.  XM should be part of a bigger marketing play.

Use data to your benefit

As tech becomes more integrated into events, marketers have access to real-time data, Lucas said. Use it to your benefit and let your events morph with them. Take the creative risk, but if you’re going to fail, do it fast and move on.

Don’t rely too much on tech

It can be an amazing storytelling device, Curtin said, but it can also be the biggest point of failure. Tech can fail – if you’re trying to use AR or something that hasn’t been done before, have an understanding of the limitations. You need to think ahead of time about what happens if the tech fails, so you aren’t left scrambling.

Success is measured in many forms, it depends on your objective

It’s hard when events are singular, but you can measure data off the integrations, Lucas said. Amplification can be measured in earned and paid media, social buzz and overall KPIs such as acquisition and engagement. Ramshaw said Bumble tends to see higher engagement around activation dates, in part because you need the app to attend the likes of Bumble Hive.

Listen to an audio recording of the session for more details and examples of successful XM activations:

Kiran Rana is a content strategist with Globe Content Studio. She can be reached @kirannikita on Twitter or krana@globeandmail.com