Want to build a killer brand experience? Let’s start with a simple question: What is a brand without the community that surrounds it? Is it a name on a page, a cool website, a concept? Of course all brands need consumers, but more than that – they need a community of individuals who feel aligned and attached to the brand in a meaningful way. In the most highly-saturated digital marketplace to date, what creates real bonds between consumers and brands. It’s literally the billion dollar question of the hour, and as they look to answer it, brands and businesses are turning to the untapped potential of brand experiences.
This means engaging the consumer by engineering positive, meaningful experiences that deliver a benefit to your audience in a way that feels authentic and fun. The goal: evoking a genuine emotional connection between your guest and the event or situation you’ve curated, and by association, your brand.
Tapping into Conscious Consumers’ Desires
Millennial and Gen Z consumers take serious pride in what they are a part of, and what buying (or not buying) something signifies. This generation loves knowing that a pair of shoes was just donated to someone in need because they bought new kicks, or that someone overseas just got new glasses because they did. The act of purchasing an object or service says: “I like what you’re doing, and I want to be part of it.”
Brand experiences, when done well, can spark that same sentiment in consumers. We’ve all heard this adage too many times to count, but the message is actually worth the repeat: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This way of thinking needs to translate into the customer experience. Take clothing brand Everlane which hosted a Williamsburg-based speaking event in March of this year, bringing renowned activist Gloria Steinem to the stage who spoke at length about problems facing America today. Funds from the event were donated to Feminist Camp, an organization dedicated to teaching women and girls how to make a difference. The line was around the block. Hundreds of starstruck Brooklynites got to meet their legendary role model – and it just so happened to coincide with Everlane’s real women real underwear campaign.
Similarly, digital media giant Refinery 29 puts on an annual “29 Rooms” event which involves 29 super-cute, super-curated rooms each with a different theme. The annual event is a creative hub of ideas and takes centre stage on social channels, especially Instagram, but like the Everlane event, the experience is a marketing exception rather than the rule.
Always-On Brand Experiences
One-off events are one thing, but keeping consumers engaged over time can be a bit trickier. One example of long-term activations are the various advertising agencies based in New York City who routinely host seminars giving founders of well-funded startups a platform to explain how they got to where they are today with no overt push for their own services.
By curating the series and giving their target consumers something of value, the agencies have created an affinity for their brand while positioning themselves as experts and simultaneously getting 100 plus entrepreneurs in one room – most of whom could use an advertising or marketing agency. The added bonus? More often than not, the speakers are successful and inspiring, creating an emotional experience for those in attendance, who now (hopefully) link that feeling to the agency who hosted. In the same vein, digital makeup giant Glossier turns their brick and mortar stores into experience showrooms. Showroom staff rock light pink jumpsuits in all locations. A new store opening in California revealed a backroom made to look and feel exactly like the Grand Canyon.
Bringing one of the Seven Wonders of the World to life in a retail store? Talk about curating memorable experiences. The pull was so strong that a young woman’s Tweet thread went viral as she attempted to assemble a carpool together to make the four hour drive from her home to the new shop in Los Angeles. Yanna Wilson-Fischer, currently the Circulation Marketing Director, North America at The Economist, formerly Director of Global Experiential for the company, says that today consumers are expecting to have memorable and meaningful interactions with brands. “The key to retention is continuing to serve relevant content through online and real-world platforms, further showcasing the experience was a genuine brand initiative and not just a one-off stunt.” Wilson-Fischer leads acquisitions for real world marketing channels including experiential, brand partnerships, subscription agents, and other core offline channels in North America. She has also led large-scale experiential events for brands including Volvo, Toyota, and Tiffany & Co.
Still wondering why brand experience is important? According to a recent study, one in three CMOs will allocate between 21 and 50 percent of their budget to brand experience marketing over the next five years. This is the time to seize the opportunity for change and mold inspiring interactive experiences that create a killer (and kind) community.
Ready to get moving on a sustainable brand experience strategy? Check out the work we’ve done for clients who are making waves in experiential.