If you haven’t heard of experiential marketing, prepare to be blown away. It’s sometimes called engagement or event marketing, though others simply refer to hosting special events. In any case, it’s the same general concept; inviting consumers to participate in an activity with a brand. This gives people a chance to connect with the brand at a much deeper level, encouraging loyalty, referrals, and better long-term relationships with customers. The catch is, you do it all without ever trying to “sell” a thing. And, yes, it is wildly popular with pop up shops and can be highly successful if you play your cards right.
Consumer Habits are Changing
Just a few decades ago, most households looked the same. Each had two parents, with Dad working and Mum staying home to raise the brood. As mums began to work outside the home more, and single-parent households emerged as the norm, we saw a major shift in buying habits. Consumerism grew. The reasoning behind this is rather sombre, as consumer surveys indicate these constant purchases were largely out of guilt and the need for convenience. Parents could no longer be home with their kids, and so they bought.
Whilst the global recession was surely not something to be grateful for overall, it did help bring us all back to our roots. People learned to make due with less. They began being mindful of their pennies once more. However, children born and raised during the recession watched their parents struggle. Again, though sad, it’s important to understand the mindset of this generation, as they are the millennials, and they’re your youngest group of consumers right now. Because of the environment they were raised in, millennials don’t respond to the consumerism culture at all. They’re by far the most conscientious buyers of any recent generation, but they’re also very loyal, particularly when they find a brand that resonates with them. They don’t want “things.” They want to know the story and culture of the brands they select. They’re also the group responsible for the big surge in experiential marketing. They don’t respond to traditional marketing messages, but they do love being a part of a brand’s culture and story.
Choosing Experiences Over Sales is Rooted in Psychology
Maybe millennials are really responding to the environments of their youth, or maybe they’re more self-aware than prior generations, but their preference for experiences is rooted in science. Researchers have been studying the psychology happiness, and what makes people cheery is not what most would expect. As it turns out, experiences provide greater well-being than material things and, if people are making purchases, they’re happier when they purchase an experience rather than an item.
That doesn’t mean that if you’re selling a product that your items can’t make people happy, but it does suggest that, if you want to keep your customers happy, you should be giving them experiences as well. In other words, whether you want to reach millennials, or simply create a loyal and happy consumer base, experiential marketing is where it’s at.
Big Brands are Popping Up with Experiential Marketing Campaigns
It doesn’t take much to come up with an experiential marketing campaign of your own. Something as simple as grabbing a pop up shop and hosting a party could be enough to help you connect with your customers better. However, a few brands have gone above and beyond with their ideas, and what some of them are doing just may inspire you.
Whirlpool’s Dirty Laundry Campaign
Imagine if your job was to sell washing machines. Sure, prior generations would be excited about stainless steel and oversized drums, but not millennials. It’s hard to think of something more yawn-worthy for the younger crowd, but Whirlpool jumped in head first anyway. With their Dirty Laundry campaign, a limited engagement in London, the brand customised a few machines, so they’d create delish mixed drinks, encouraging would-be future customers to gather ‘round their oh-so-silent washers for some light chat and spirits.
Virgin’s Dyslexic Sperm Bank and Wave Bar
Richard Branson is well-known for his slightly outlandish, yet wickedly successful ideas. Lately, he’s been getting into pop up shops to promote Virgin Media. A recent offering includes the Wave Bar, a technology kiosk that looked more like an illuminated sculpture than sales stand, but the brand operated much more under the radar with the Dyslexic Sperm Bank. Rather than promoting anything related to Virgin, Branson opened a pop up shop in a traditional storefront, and designed it to look like a real sperm bank. Although it seems only a handful of people were brave enough to venture inside, those who did learned about the benefits of dyslexia- a cause dear to Branson, who has the condition.
Nescafe’s Hello Bench
Whilst larger pop up shops are great for creating immersive experiences, Nescafe proved you don’t need a large footprint to have a massive impact. The company designed what they called the “Hello Bench,” and placed it near an area where they were handing out drinks. In order to encourage conversation between people who might not so much as nod in the direction of one another, the bench was rigged to shrink and pull one person toward the other when people sat on either end. The reactions of the people who sat are priceless!