They say you only get one first impression, but even that number is high nowadays. With the likes of Yelp, Amazon, and Trip Advisor at our fingertips, we don’t even need to interact with a brand, as our decision has been made for us. Plagued by the shadow of buyer’s remorse, we neglect our own intuition when it comes to purchase decisions. Rather, we put our faith in a lone number aggregated by others and hope our experience matches, or even exceeds their own—completely removing all emotion from the decision. In fact, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
What if we could bring emotion back into the equation, while creating an avenue for consumers to truly connect with brands? Well, we can, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are three ways to use experiential marketing:
Nothing is more straightforward than sampling, and nothing gets the product into consumers’ hands faster. Whether you’re a new company looking to build awareness or established and looking to change your image, no one passes up a free sample. The easy part is sampling, while the more difficult aspect is establishing a connection with the consumers—one they’ll remember next time they’re shopping for your product. An excellent example is Lavazza’s Black Friday sampling campaign. Rather than hand out samples to ordinary people at an ordinary location, they took to the doorstep of a New York mall to provide a pick-me-up to the cold and sleep-deprived shoppers waiting for the doors to open. It’s this extra detail that makes a small sample a memorable one—a future purchase decision, an easy one.
2. Live Events
Tourism brands can’t physically bring the beach to you, just like hospitality brands can’t bring their properties to you. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage when desiring to dispel misconceptions or highlight new features. To counter that, brands must display themselves through a different lens—one that connects to consumers on a personal and emotional level. Hospitality brands, like Marriott, are tapping into virtual reality to transport consumers to exciting destinations. Texas Tourism brought the state of Texas on tour for the past eight years, providing a more comprehensive, multi-experience footprint to make that connection. With a combination of physical and digital activities, consumers curated their own custom travel guide aligned with their own passions. This avenue opened up a new world of opportunities for travelers, turning common stereotypes into ideas of the past. Sometimes, the only way to circumvent ratings is to change the lens others view you through.
When it comes to travel, we all want to be safe and comfortable—especially on long trips through the air. Problem is, with dozens of airlines to choose from, what separates one from another aside from a couple dollars and a numerical rating? Virgin America answered that question and distinguished their brand with their current out-of-home campaign. Across six major cities, they added sleek branding to generic bus shelters but added a giant touchscreen window for visitors to take a 360-degree tour of the aircraft—think Google Maps inside a plane (it is actually Google Maps). For an airline that prides itself on its trendy, modern image, what better way to exhibit that than provide an exclusive digital view of the cabin? It’s simple, functional, and provides a visual cue for consumers next time travel looms. The best experiences don’t need to be elaborate; they just need to form a connection at the right time.
Brands wield a double-edged sword, where one consumer’s opinion can impact thousands of others. One bad review becomes ten and it snowballs from there. Escaping that trap is no picnic. Then again, nothing worth doing is ever easy. Don’t let your brand be defined by a number, but rather the interaction a consumer experiences with you. People forget numbers, but they won’t forget how you’ve made them feel.
Jay Selig is a marketing and PR manager at RedPeg Marketing, an independent experiential marketing shop headquartered in D.C., with an office in L.A.