The main difference between experiential marketing and other forms of marketing is that it allows consumers to actively engage with the marketing message. Experiential marketing requires a significant amount of planning and expenses, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. Per one report, 40% of customers who participated in a brand activation or experience reported becoming more loyal to the brand.
However, many brands are at a loss as to how to take advantage of this increased level of engagement. Ultimately, the easiest way to get consumers to engage with your marketing message is to form a legitimate emotional connection with them.
Although the prospect of forming a genuine connection with the consumer may seem daunting, the methods a brand can use to do so can be quite simple, depending on what audience is being targeted. For some groups, something as simple as having a table at a local community outreach event will be enough to show them that your brand shares their values. Others may take more of a continued commitment, such as a history of community outreach and putting your money where your mouth is.
Why Forming a Connection Is Key to Experiential Marketing Success
The most important reason to form a connection with the consumer through experiential marketing is that this is how consumers will remember you. For many companies, the competition is intense, sometimes even at the same event you are marketing at. If you can genuinely connect with the consumer — whether through something you give them, an experience you create, or the message you share — you will be able to cut through the clutter and stand out among your competitors.
An indirect benefit of forming a more personal connection with the consumer is that it increases the probability of consumers buying your product. Most experiential marketing events do not offer the opportunity to sell directly to the consumer. Instead, you are trying to make them aware of the brand so that they will make a purchase in the future, such as the next time they go to the store.
Studies show that 74% of consumers targeted by experiential marketing walked away “more likely to purchase” the product or service being promoted. Thus, getting them to remember your brand is the key to effectively using experiential marketing to convert new leads.
However, at the same time, it’s important to ensure that any connection you attempt to form with the consumer is authentic. If it’s clear that a brand is simply being performative to win over new customers, there could be more of a negative effect than a positive one. Rather than the intended effect of forming a deeper connection with the brand, some customers will see through this “pandering” and become disillusioned.
How Emotional Connection and Brand Loyalty Go Hand-in-hand
One of the most valuable effects of forming an emotional connection through your marketing is increased brand loyalty, which any company should strive to achieve. After all, loyal customers are those who will return to make purchases time and time again.
The brands that tend to be most successful in building brand loyalty are those that align themselves with their target audience’s values. A great example of this can be hosting local grassroots events if you want your brand to be seen as the brand for the everyday person.
Consumers who feel a deeper connection with a brand are also more likely to become a “brand ambassador” for the company, meaning they are more likely to spread the word to their peers. If you sell or give away merchandise, these are the people most likely to wear it, talk about the product with their friends, and recommend that other people use it — or at least try it out. In these ways, they are helping spread the message of your brand more organically than you ever could.
Taking Control of the Market through an Emotional Connection with Your Customers
Forming this brand loyalty is one of the quickest ways to build brand equity, or the amount of commercial value a product has. With some rare exceptions, the brands that are the most approachable for consumers have more dominance in the market.
Creating “grassroots” equity is a great way to slowly build up a stronghold. Establishing control over a specific niche is a great way to break into the mainstream because those niche customers’ undying passion could translate to the mainstream. Think of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which started as a specialty product to appeal to the Latino market, but became so popular that they are now a cross-demographic success.
Brand loyalty is difficult to build, but once you have it, it’s also difficult to lose. Brands with a large amount of equity can generally rebound from hits their image may take from scandals or controversy because their most loyal customers stick with them through thick and thin. Although there might be a temporary decline in sales due to more casual customers rejecting the brand, they will likely trickle back over time. Sometimes, those loyal customers will even increase their spending on the brand in a sort of “protest” to the outcry against the brand.
Take Chick-fil-A, for example. Although the brand and its leadership have come under fire due to their controversial stances, the restaurant remains in the top 5 fast food chains in terms of market share. Their “secret sauce” is not actually a sauce, but long-established brand loyalty.
Experiential marketing can be a powerful way to get your brand’s message into the minds of potential customers, but to do so, you must form a legitimate connection with the consumer. This will not only ensure they remember your brand, but also make them more likely to convert into a purchase and establish the legitimacy and equity of your brand in the market.