Why 2018 is the year of experiential marketing

We are living in an abundance of brand clutter. It follows us from screen to screen, room to room, and sends us ping notifications at three in the morning. A generation of marketers has taken the mantra ‘Content is King’ to heart, spurring an arms race to determine which brand can talk the loudest to the fewer and fewer people who have yet to hit ‘unfollow’ and ‘unsubscribe’.

At the same time, inscrutable algorithms have turned our social feeds into a murky torrent of branded content, undeclared ads, pet memes and fake news.

In this environment, is it any wonder people have lost trust in the content they’re being served and the brands that are serving it? If people were merely annoyed by brand content that would be bad enough, but at least that’s a feeling. What people have actually become is incredibly efficient brand filters; they’re so inundated with messages that they now don’t even register.

It’s this perfect storm of mass indifference, coupled with the fraught world of programmatic buys serving millions of ads to billions of bots, that is leading more and more marketers to realise that the most effective way to reach consumers, change perceptions and drive action is through direct engagement with people via an impactful real-world experience.

Trust needs to be reinstalled in quality brands, and what better way to create trust than to give people the chance to engage with your product in a way that’s truly memorable? Providing an experience that engages touch, taste, sight and smell gives your brand authenticity and leaves an unfiltered impression with the consumer.

Tapping into our desire to share

As Bill Bernbach famously said: word-of-mouth is the best medium of all. The challenge is how to get traction via this incredibly powerful medium – it’s not something you can easily book on a media schedule.

Fortunately, sharing our experiences is a fundamental part of being human. Whether we share memories through word-of-mouth or catapult our message into the stratosphere of social media, if we engage in an experience that means something to us, we will talk about it, we will share it and it will spread.

Incorporating experiential into a brand strategy is undeniably important in the age of social sharing. In particular, the changing behaviour of modern consumers who crave ‘moments’ that will create engagement and can be easily leveraged through social and earned media. But how exactly do you create a successful brand experience or ‘moment’ that will rise above the clutter?

Experiential can now be experienced by few and then go on to be shared by millions. Staying relevant in the digital environment is the crux of modern-day experiential, and the power of projection means that brands do not necessarily need a huge budget to create a stir.

The awesome power of a simple experience

An experience doesn’t have to be complicated. Often the simplest ideas make the biggest impression. 2017’s most talked-about campaign, ‘Fearless Girl’, was created on a shoestring budget with no paid media behind it. Standing roughly 50 inches tall, her hands placed defiantly on her hips while facing Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull, ‘Fearless Girl’ generated mass awareness as a symbol of gender equality – and positive attribution for State Street Global Advisors, the firm behind it.

The statue proved just how effective occupying a physical space can be. You could touch it, take a photo with it, and the century-long context of the physical space it occupied was rich with symbolism.

Nike’s ‘Unlimited Stadium’ which gave keen runners the opportunity to race themselves is an example of when a simple idea meets exceptional production value. Macca’s 1976 campaign, via DDB and Mango, demonstrates the same. Both campaigns resulted in outstanding earned media value and produced a demonstrable effect on customer behaviour.

Whatever your business objectives may be this year, if you want your brand to make a meaningful, long-lasting impression on real-people, experiential needs to be central to your brand strategy. I challenge all brands to engage with experiential agencies in 2018, you will get the return on the investment. 

  • Noeline van den Berg is the experiential director at Mango Communications.

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