The latest buzz in the industry is experiential marketing. While many define it as tapping the senses through a variety of marketing tactics, we realize it is more. A true connection with consumers will create a positive, interactive experience with your brand, product or service.
Join me as we step off the internet screen, come off the page and make consumers interact with these experiences. This is what experiential marketing is all about.
From interactive to experiential
Young adults demand that information be presented in contextual, educational and entertaining formats, rather than in straight sales pitches. In order to help you to develop interactive campaigns that make this audience truly feel your message, we've developed three strategic phases to guide you in reaching this goal.
Phase 1 (Interactive)
- Online-- create an interactive campaign college students will frequently visit and send their friends to. Humor is the best way to realize heavy traffic and return visits. Contests or promotions that leverage user-generated content are proven successes within this demographic, as is content that educates them on a specific topic or cause.
- Education-- present your brand, products or services in an informative way, stressing the ways it will improve customers' lives rather than focusing on arbitrary or non-essential benefits.
Phase 2 (Engaging)
- Location-- bring your brand to students on campus, online and in-store in a thoughtful and fun way that allows the consumer to experience the brand while experiencing something they enjoy.
- Events-- consider presenting information in the context of a live concert, physical or academic challenge. This makes your content more memorable.
Phase 3 (Experiential)
- Value-- present your products and services in the context of how they should be used, so consumers realize they are more valuable than competitors' offerings and, more importantly, they take action to embrace your products and services.Viral-- train students on your brand, products or services so they identify the brand as something they believe in. Engaging brand ambassadors and creating viral programs that will get students and grads to pass it along to friends works for both product-level messages and corporate messages.
- Cross-functional-- double the impact by mixing multiple functions, such as recruiting or testing/sampling with marketing efforts.
Don't miss the boat
The statistics are compelling: 17 million college students make high-impact purchasing decisions. These 17 million consumers can pledge allegiance to your brand -- or your competitors' -- for life. In addition, their spending power is on the way up. In fact, Experience, Inc. research shows that college graduates with three or more years of work experience have an average annual income of over $90,000 and an average discretionary spend of more than $400 per month (Experience, Inc. 2005 Work & Lifestyle Survey).
So you face a now-or-never opportunity. If you're not already tapping the college student market to help grow your business, you may lose these consumers forever. An astounding 72 percent of 18-23 year old consumers said experiential marketing would make them more receptive to the brand/product advertising, and 59 percent said it would lead to quicker purchases (2005 survey by Jack Morton Worldwide). But the fact is that 18-24 year olds are a highly elusive demographic, and they can change their minds on a whim. Even the slightest negative experience (or simply hearing of a friend's bad experience) can ruin a campaign.
The good news is that through creative campaigns that capture the attention and hearts of these consumers, you can create brand loyalty among college students and influence their purchasing decisions for a lifetime.
Your goal: Make them feel it
How can you create experiential marketing programs that trigger brand loyalty with college students and recent graduates? Present your brand, products or services in the context of entertainment and education, rather than as a traditional sales pitch.
Experience recently worked with a loan consolidation firm to build brand awareness and generate leads in the college market. Rather than pitch students on the virtue of their products and services, we developed a content-rich microsite dedicated to helping students manage their money. By placing brand information in a resource students could use to make major life decisions, the company was viewed as a partner (providing informative and objective data), rather than as another company pitching a product. As a result, the company enjoyed unprecedented lead generation in the college market through this creative, engaging program.
You can do the same, but remember…successful programs for this elusive 18-34 year old demographic need to be as informative as they are entertaining. Handing them something and hoping they like it doesn't work, so design programs that get students up from their chairs, off their couches and create a relationship with your brand that triggers 18-34 year olds to take action.
By helping them experience your brand now, you can make them your customers for life.
Jennifer Floren is founder and CEO of Experience, Inc. Read full bio.