Making a difference with experiential marketing

Being different isn’t always popular. In some cases, it takes a lion heart to go outside the comfort and safety zone and stand different, as the odd one. Even at that, it has been proven that life rewards bravery, especially one that comes from being different. Think of it, it is very easy and convenient to flow with groove without rocking the boat, and being the different apple in the basket. Being different is what brings attention to brands and they drive these distinctions in different ways.

Does brand advertising work by showing an advert once and getting an instant response? Of course, no! Branding is about storytelling. It is about an idea and trust. The connection that comes with brand advertising takes time. Consumers’ trust for a brand does not happen the moment they see a single advert or hear about a brand. The relationship is built over time through consistent and repetitive positive experiences. That special connection between the consumer and the brand is trust, and it creates what Warren Buffett refers to as an “enduring moat” for the brand. The good thing is that for most brands, especially the ones that know how to consolidate the trust, that moat is almost unbreachable. That is just another way of saying there’s no shortcut to brand building.

As mentioned earlier, brands use different means to fortify that moat and one that will deliver more to brands, especially in the post-pandemic period is experiential marketing. There is no doubt that the world is now digital, and that space has become the new marketplace. Even with this development, one major challenge for marketers and brand handlers is that most brand-influenced products still generate the majority of their sales offline. As a consumer, how many times have you bought your favourite fruit juice beverage online? When was the last time you bought a bottle of Cola or a can of Energy drink online? How about a box of cereal? Or even a car? How about a million-Naira supply contract for your business?

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Of course, there are exceptions, just as it applies to everything in life. Yes, digital sales and transactions are on the increase, even in Nigeria, but when you look at the numbers, the stark reality is that most purchase behaviour is still happening offline, in physical spaces and done in person. According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), of the N384 billion spent in Nigeria, in retail in 2020, only 1.7 percent was e-commerce.

What is it about experiential marketing?
At its core, experiential marketing is all about creating a meaningful connection between a brand and its customers. More than just promoting a certain product to a passive audience, it is designed to have customers actively engage with a brand’s identity and its core values. For customers, it provides them with a chance to directly interact and build a meaningful relationship with a brand. For brands, especially small businesses, it is a golden opportunity to increase customer loyalty and direct sales. Successful campaigns don’t just introduce people to brands, but serve as ways to activate new customers and introduce them into their sales funnel.
The real power of experience also sits in providing a way to increase brand awareness and exposure, turning your audience into brand ambassadors and encouraging participants to share their experience on social media. Research has shown that, in Nigeria, experiential marketing is the powerful catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing, with branded experiences accounting for 50-80% of all word-of-mouth activities.

What to avoid in experiential marketing?
Many companies will attempt experiential marketing for the sake of it, knowing that it’s a trendy and high-engagement practice. However, without proper research and preparation, a campaign can very easily blow up in your face.
One of the biggest pitfalls in experiential marketing is to make the experience too ‘salesy’ (all focused on making sales). Sadly, this is what many brands still do in Nigeria. If you make the experience too salesy, you’ll turn your audience off. Or even worse, they’ll share that they had a negative experience with your brand.
While the advertising world is actively deploying experiential marketing, it is important and strategic that brands think very well before launching an engagement campaign. You must have answers for posers like “Is this right for our brand? Can we devote the time, effort and money to doing it right? Do we have a clear goal in mind? Only after you have clear answers to all these questions, can you start thinking about incorporating experiential marketing in your strategy.

Tell a compelling story
Every successful experiential marketing campaign tells a compelling story and also invites people to be a part of that story. The best stories are the ones that either target your customer’s pain points with a solution or taps into a larger, more socially conscious story. With experiential marketing, a brand can both acknowledge a customer’s challenges while also demonstrating what their life could be like with that brand in their life.
Last line: As anyone in marketing communications will tell you, it is absolutely vital to keep the relationship alive, through any means possible. Keep building on the momentum you’ve created by following up via e-mail, social media or out-of-the-blue in person engagements. Reinforce the message of your key campaign and create re-targeting campaigns so you can continue to nurture each lead and prospect on your warm list and remain top-of-mind.

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