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Create brand fanatics through experiential marketing

Create brand fanatics through experiential marketing Steve Randazzo

If your dear grandmother is feeling under the weather, which option would you consider to be the most meaningful plan of action: sending her a card with a heartfelt note or driving to her house and caring for her in person?

Maybe that scenario comes with too much emotional baggage. Here's a simpler question:

Would you rather hear about ice cream, read about ice cream, or taste ice cream?

Whether it's holding your grandma's hand or eating the most delicious ice cream cone you've ever had, nothing compares to in-person interaction -- and that's exactly why experiential marketing is so powerful.

Experiential campaigns go beyond words to completely immerse consumers into a brand's message. The result is a deep emotional connection that transforms tentative clients into full-blown brand fanatics -- people who only wear your logos, would never consider the competition, and love to spread the word about your brand throughout their social networks.

Experiential marketing in action

It would be pretty hypocritical of me to only tell you about the power of experiential marketing. Here are two shining examples that illustrate why it's so effective:

Watching cool cars speed around your television screen is one thing, but sitting behind the wheel of a sleek, Italian-engineered vehicular marvel and driving it around the track yourself is infinitely cooler. Porsche's ongoing "Driving Experiences" campaign lets customers sign up to rent a car and receive one-on-one instruction as they zoom around a racetrack. Nothing drives people to fanatic status faster than a $100,000 car going 130 miles per hour.

Bud Light
The "Whatever, USA" campaign immersed millions of people into the Bud Light brand. Fans auditioned for the chance to nab a coveted weekend spot in Whatever, USA -- a party town full of beer, music, and celebrities. Seven million people entered the competition, and the social content they created reached more than 15 million online users. The party may have ended, but Bud Light still had plenty of reason to celebrate afterward, as the campaign increased the brand's preference by 30 percent.

Event tactics that create fanatics

You don't have to have a huge marketing budget like Bud Light or Porsche to host events that create brand fanatics. Here are three simple tips that will help any company use experiential marketing to get consumers excited, engaged, and invested in its brand:

Stimulate a niche
Generic events that cater to everyone don't have a hook that catapults consumers from "advocates" to "fanatics." Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, be everything to a niche. You can be specific about your offering or your campaign and provide a more concentrated voice to a more distilled audience.

Once you find that unique audience, you then need to tantalize its senses. This is a key part of creating the emotional connection you're aiming for. Senses and emotions are processed in the same region of the brain, so when you stimulate the senses, you combine the endorphins of the experience with your unique offering -- and your brand becomes associated with good feelings.

Offer something exclusive to the tribe
Consider your event attendees to be members of your own special tribe, with a social currency only they have access to. Here's where brand swag comes into the picture. Whether it's free samples or souvenirs, providing something exclusive gives tribe members an elevated status, and on top of that, it makes the "outsiders" want to get in on the exclusivity.

But don't just chuck random free stuff at your attendees. Offer them something useful that represents your brand. For example, if your company sells beer, it makes more sense to give consumers bottle openers than it does to give them stickers of your logo. Choose carefully because 87 percent of your attendees are probably going to hang on to the free stuff they get for more than a year.

Let consumers help create the event
Consumers love to know that their voices are being heard. When brands acknowledge feedback and incorporate it into their final products, users feel a deeper level of patronage and ownership. This philosophy applies to both the physical products you create and the events you host to promote them.

So how do you get consumer opinions without pestering them? Two words: social media. Your customers' tweets, Facebook statuses, Pinterest boards, and YouTube subscriptions can tell you a lot about what they value and what they want to see at an event. When customer input leads to a great experience, there's a much better chance that attendees will become fanatics.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, experiential marketing campaigns are worth millions. While other marketing techniques are shallow and less personal, experiential creates a lasting emotional connection.

We can't spend as much time with our customers as we'd like to spend with our dear grandmothers. But following the above three tips will at least help ensure that attendees walk away from your events as brand fanatics.

Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has long-standing relationships with big-name clients, including Dr...

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