Event planners: don’t overlook these common experiential pitfalls

For a dedicated event professional, bringing a brand to life should be a genuine thrill. Even more so when that leads to increased sales, social media engagement and web traffic because of it. Because those are signs of a successful experiential marketing campaign.

But no one in the industry will pretend it’s simple to create an interactive experience that genuinely resonates with a target audience. In fact, so much goes into developing an event, it’s easy for essential elements to get overlooked – unless you go through the following checklist.

Experiential marketing location

Location can make or break the project…

While branded inflatable domes and shipping container conversions are right on trend, consider if they will appeal to your target audience. A takeover of a building or structure with specific history or architecture may better attract the customers you’re after – and without them, even the greatest idea will flop.

… but it’s the experience that really counts

Entertaining the public is a great start, but it’s more important to spur them on to investigate items that make money for your client. Whether that’s by use of a product, an obvious tie-in with one, or both – like this dream-come-true for Ikea customers – it should all relate to the brand.

Engage consumers…

Clever signage, vending techniques and digital screens can offer memorable moments to consumers and, being unstaffed, they can provide a cost-conscious approach to experiential. However, research shows the main motivation the public has for visiting an interactive marketing activity is to receive a giveaway. A massive 81 per cent said so.

For that to happen, you either need an inspired static display with the technology to dole out a freebie (like Lego’s polaroid-dispensing Star Wars bus stops) or to use brand ambassadors who simultaneously provide samples and engage consumers on a more personal level.

… but don’t neglect the wider crowdExperiential Marketing Crowd

If you have created a truly memorable experience, an audience will develop. Consider providing a comfortable space for them to linger, so they can be further drawn into the event.

Onlookers don’t have to be there in person, of course. The rise of live streaming apps like Facebook Live and Periscope plays to the insecurity of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. It opens up a global crowd for your campaign, members of which can take part through leaving reactions and comments.

Dazzle with visual technology…

While innovative photo booths and LED screens continue to drive the events industry forward, interest in VR is booming, with it on course to become a $1bn (£710m) industry. Just ensure you have the right level of expertise to safely load and transport high-value equipment.

… but don’t neglect the other senses

The current thinking is that in order to generate brand love –­ actual consumer devotion – multisensory brand experiences are the way to win people’s hearts. A visual feast is not enough, as it leaves sound, smell, taste and touch untapped. Marriott Hotels’ ‘4D’ Teleporter combines hi-tech VR goggles with physical sensations like water sprayers to simulate conditions at sea, and heaters to mimic the sun on your face. That’s an experience people will want to talk about.

Remember that social media is hugely important…

Capturing peExperiential Marketing social media ople’s imaginations to the point where they feel the need to tell the world it is an indicator of a successful event. Actively encourage online sharing by creating and displaying unique hashtags, offering prizes for specific social media interactions, and providing specific photo and video opportunities.

… but don’t forget the human element

A large number of millennials are rallying against social media and claiming it doesn’t influence them a jot. According to a poll by marketing firm Affilinet, one in three UK internet users say it doesn’t affect their thinking, and 18- to 24-year-olds are among the most likely to say as much.

So aside from the experience itself, it’s also important to consider who will represent the brand in person. Invest in well-trained brand ambassadors or, if you’re on a tighter budget, attract knowledgeable volunteers, who can build a lasting relationship between consumers and the client.

Be quick and relevant on the day…

If you’re in an area with high footfall, properly engaging passers-by can be a challenge. You may only have a couple of seconds before the opportunity is lost. Make sure your take-home message is simple and impactful, with branding at the forefront.

… but be metrics-driven long-term

A campaign’s success will be defined by the results for your client. Whether those are driving traffic to a website, social media engagement, voucher redemption, or outright purchases, clearly defined goals should drive any marketing activity. And don’t neglect to ask for participant feedback either – you can learn what resonates with your audience, helping to refine your approach to future projects.

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