Traditional marketing certainly has its advantages. If you want to reach a broad audience or target local customers then go with an old-school billboard, mail, or radio ad. In the case of a rebrand, however, a more tactical approach is sometimes required. You’re likely pivoting strategically and veering the brand in a new direction, which can be jarring for longtime customers.
Take Facebook rebranding as Meta late last year. After years of the brand being aligned with controversial issues related to data privacy and amplifying hate speech, the company rechristened itself and updated the logo to tie a bow on its new direction. Although people knew what the shift meant, the core business principles never changed.
Of course, Facebook rebranding and changing its logo likely didn’t do much more than mildly dismay diehard fans. For other brands, however, the financial repercussions could be huge. Even if a customer base is evolving and all signs point to a rebrand, the changeup could actually come off as an identity crisis.
In the wake of COVID-19, brand authenticity has never been more vital. Events can help reintroduce consumers to what a company is all about or allow them to roll out a new direction. A more immersive and all-encompassing marketing approach can help a rebrand feel less abrupt to passionate followers. Experiential can help bridge that gap.
Building a Strong Identity
The beauty of an experiential marketing campaign is that it affords more control over rebranding efforts, partly due to the geographic constraints of live events. Only so many people will have access, and when you limit how many people can attend or cover the happening, you contain the messaging even more. If you then decide to expand your reach, all it takes is the flip of a switch to invite more attendees or leveraging streaming technology to share the event with a larger audience.
Experiential marketing also opens up marketers to bringing in on-site brand experts. With face-to-face communication, you can control the talking points and limit any misinterpretations or misunderstandings surrounding the rebrand. With traditional marketing, your message is locked and loaded. But with experiential, you have the flexibility to fine-tune and adjust details based on audience response and perceptions.
Though control can be of great benefit, it pales in comparison to what experiential can do for a brand’s identity. Putting a product in front of consumers offers a sensory experience. Not only can you merge sight, touch, and sound, but you can also add taste and smell if the product is edible. What’s more, experiential allows brands to customize all of these sensory experiences to reinforce consumer perceptions. For instance, a luxury brand could use specific music, fabrication materials, and fragrances to create a more affluent or opulent feel.
Events have an energy about them, and this, too, is tactile. Attendees tend to feed off of one another in addition to their overall surroundings. Last September, Wendy’s tapped into this type of energy by teaming up with the University of Washington for “Sailgate,” an event to help promote the return of its spicy chicken nuggets. To get the word out on the new offering, Wendy’s constructed a sea-based restaurant and served burgers, fries, and nuggets (of course) to alums sailgating in the harbor outside the stadium. The stunt got prime coverage on FOX Sports, plus it allowed the chain to get direct feedback about and build buzz around the return of its spicy chicken nuggets product.
Those kinds of unique experiences facilitate a connectedness not possible through other marketing channels. Traditional marketing rebrands simply use words and imagery to paint the picture of a company’s rebranding vision. With experiential, customers can feel where things are going and determine whether it’s a journey they want to take.
Getting Into the Mix
While experiential initiatives will vary by brand, several strategies will remain the same. Here are the top four you can use this summer with customers out, about, and (hopefully) ready to engage safely:
Experiential Marketing In Your Strategy
Experiential can take many forms, but the experience must make sense to your brand. As such, involve the experiential team in planning your overall marketing strategy at the outset.
Bringing the team in early on will help ensure a full understanding of the campaign objectives and allow ample time to develop strategic experiences that will resonate with your target audience. Let’s say the campaign will rely on influencers and social media to share your brand message. The experiential team can then create activations to do the same and maximize the effectiveness of that channel.
Tie It Directly Into Every Part of Your Campaign
Part of brand identity is consistency. Everything coming from your brand should support your overall campaign and elicit a specific feeling from your target audience — and that includes experiential opportunities.
If you create an event in a vacuum, the likelihood of it feeling disconnected from other brand interactions increases exponentially. Instead, use a more integrated approach where the experiential complements the “traditional.” The goal is to allow consumers to experience your brand in tangible ways.
Leverage Event Metrics
Experiential isn’t just a way to foster a two-way connection between customer and brand. It presents an opportunity to gather valuable information about the event itself. After all, experiential is, by its very nature, all about the customer experience.
Average session duration or dwell time can tell you how engaging an activation is, while attendee flow and heat maps are good indicators of whether changes need to be made to the layout of the space. You also have the chance to do A/B testing with your activations and improve upon display features that don’t resonate with attendees. Then, of course, there’s on-site tracking and surveying of engagement and lead generation through activations and staff.
Train Brand Representatives
Event staff will be the first live interaction attendees have with your brand. They’re also an essential component of the overall customer experience.
If your people misstep, you could taint attendees’ perception of the experiential opportunity. Make sure everyone on the floor represents your brand in the best possible way by training staff on how to talk about your brand, your products, and the event itself. You want every person interacting with eventgoers in a similar way, sharing a consistent message and covering all points predetermined by your marketing team.
Traditional marketing methods are limited to only a few elements like design, messaging, and sound (if you decide to go digital). Experiential opens you up to a bevy of options that can be tailored to a specific audience and support your brand’s identity.
Experience, as they say, shapes perception — and experiential makes the experience possible.