The Internet and social media have dramatically changed the way we market and communicate with our customers. While traditional media has taken a big hit as private and public sector organizations reallocate marketing dollars to online mediums, sponsorships, exhibits and other forms of experiential marketing have quietly gone about their business. Apart from the economic upheaval in 2008 when spending in almost all areas declined, these mediums have actually shown overall growth in spending. The reason is simple – experiential marketing works!
Research has shown that experiential marketing plays a major role in driving purchasing or other behavior change decisions. In one study, research shows that 52% of Canadians are influenced to purchase brands they normally wouldn’t consider because of experiential marketing. In other words, once a person has had a positive personal experience with a brand or organization, they are more likely to consider a future relationship with that brand.
Just think about your own personal experience. Would you purchase a new automobile, furniture or latest fashion without first giving it a “test drive”? Would you hire a new financial planner without first getting a feel for who they are and whether their style fits your own personality and objectives? Would you hire a new company to do work for you without getting a sense of who will be working on your project and the unique value they bring to the table? How many times have you purchased a food item because you sampled it through an in-store display? The bottom line is that despite all of the information that the Internet can deliver, we still like to “kick the tires” and deal with people or brands who we know, like and trust. And this is where experiential marketing plays a key role.
Exhibiting is one of the oldest and most successful forms of experiential marketing. A strategic exhibit marketing program can help bring brands to life by demonstrating product attributes, allowing visitors to see, hear or touch a product or brand and providing a two-way dialogue between the buyer and seller. This concept is articulated in a George P. Johnson Company White Paper on Experience Marketing where it states: “In a world where customers are besieged by thousands of selling messages every day, the audience has heard most of it all before…they want close contact with captivating new products. They want to experience the sights, the sounds and the feel of your company and everything it stands for.”
A well-activated sponsorship has the same ability to build a personality around a brand. A logo on a brochure does not sell a product, but an activation or experiential element that engages audience members in some form of positive “brand experience” can have a major impact on purchase intent.
In 1967 D.G. Treichler wrote: “We Remember: 10% of what we read, 20% of what we see, 30% of what we hear, 50% of what we see and hear and 80% by doing”. While specific percentages of this model have been challenged over the years, the fact remains that we retain more information and develop greater affinity towards a product (or organization) when we actively engage ourselves (or our customers) with that product; either by sampling, testing or actively discovering the unique attributes of the product.
So, if you want to move beyond product or program awareness to actually moving your customers along the decision-making continuum, look for ways on how you can use experiential marketing to help them develop a meaningful understanding of the value that your brand delivers to them. When you do this consistently, it will pay off in dividends!