What makes us remember a moment in time, a brand we encountered, a person we met? Well, I bet it’s not the calendar, or seeing a logo, or even someone’s name (ugh, maybe that’s just me!); it’s because you experienced something in that moment, with that brand, or with that person that sticks in your mind and you recall it again and again. And I bet you tell people about it—billions of people on social media confirm I’m not the only one!
So why is including experiential in a brand’s marketing mix so important? In a recent article written by Erik Hauser of the Experiential Marketing Forum states that: “Experiential marketers sell emotions and stories FAR beyond the products and services that they're attached to. We do this by delivering meaningful and relevant experiences at meaningful and relevant moments.” So, if you see a logo on a screen or online for mere seconds, it’s not going to stay with you for very long…but if that brand greets you at a perfect moment with a great message—it can be magic.
Speaking of magic, how about that Disney? Disney was built on magic and they instill it in every moment that you are experiencing any of their parks, books, videos, stores, games, toys…the list goes on. I kind of think of the Magic Kingdom as experiential marketing on steroids—it is experience personified. They own it, they live it and you remember it.
Our job as marketers is to help brands make those deeper connections with their target audiences. Some do it well and some not so much. It’s not rocket science, but it’s sometimes just as easy to get it wrong as get it right. And we are living in a time where bad news is not hard to spread; in seconds a consumer’s negative experience is posted on any number of social media sites for millions to see.
What strikes me as great experiential marketing? I agree with Erik, it’s important to get to the emotion of it all, so that the next time you need to purchase groceries, diapers, book a plane ticket, a hotel room, a pair of shoes, a new coat for your child, you remember the brand that gave you that great memory or experience. Maybe the brand of shoes that helped you cross the finish line of your first half-marathon, or the hotel chain that sent milk & cookies to your room unannounced because they discovered it was your child’s birthday (true story), or that brand of juice kept your kids hydrated and entertained at an event months ago.
I was recently blown away by a story that involved one of our own Experiential Programs. At every Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors home game at the Air Canada Center, we have incredible, talented Brand Ambassadors at the BlackBerry booth (actually, to call it a booth is an injustice – it’s an interactive experience center). They interact with thousands of mobile-savvy customers—some BlackBerry users, some not—and help answer questions, give people a chance to get their hands on devices and make their trip to the game that much better. And how’s this for better? One customer who spent time with one of our Brand Ambassadors and left with all of his questions answered about his new device came back later with a small token of thanks in the form of a gift card. Guess whose brand that customer will be advocating for in his circle of friends and co-workers?
And we can’t forget about how West Jet… don’t know that story? Best to let you experience it for yourself. It just might be the best feel-good 5 minutes of your day.