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Why experiential marketing achieves real cut-through in a digital age

By Katie Penfold

Precision targeting or mass marketing, which is best? That’s the great dilemma facing the modern marketer, according to a recent Evening Standard article.

While one approach advertises to customers according to their online behaviour, gender, location, interests and so on, the other ‘sprays’ brand messaging across TV channels, radio, social media and poster sites and then holds out hope that somebody, somewhere will be influenced to act.digital.jpg

Rising with the tide

The Standard’s article would have us believe that it’s a straightforward choice between the two. Although I understand the need to simplify complex marketing matters to get a message across within a short piece, I argue against the article’s sign-off that it’s a case of ‘be famous or be invisible.’ That’s misleading. A more accurate analogy would see a marketing strategy like a ship rising with different tides.

Gone are the days when a brand would need to decide which channel to use in order to get its message out into the world: the article points towards the challenge that Procter & Gamble faced when it moved much of its marketing budget into targeted Facebook ads, and the subsequent impact on wider brand visibility and cultural impact.

The limited power of digital

Now, creative technology has given marketers the power to maximise multiple channels across myriad devices, while also bringing brand messaging to life in the here and now.

The bigger dilemma for the 21st century marketer therefore, is where, when and how to reach different audiences with cross-channel and experiential content that won’t be ignored or blocked but instead, be enjoyed, shared, talked about and ultimately, acted upon.

Few people click on banner ads these days, no matter how targeted they may be. However, if they help to drive awareness of other branded activity such as live, in-store, video or social, even outdated display advertising will maintain its place within the marketing toolkit.

The real power of live experiences

It’s therefore still fine to target existing customers, social followers and loyal brand fans. But they, much like mass consumer audiences, need content that’s shareable, meaningful and relevant; otherwise there’s little chance that even the most dedicated brand advocate will respond.

For today’s brands, the right content, in the right format, delivered in a variety of ways ensures that even the most precision-targeted brand messaging can have extensive reach via digital sharing and word-of-mouth.

This is where experiential marketing plays a key role. The digital evolution, which saw the birth of precision marketing, has meant that with a deeper knowledge of where target audiences live, work and play, brands can deliver powerful and fun real-life moments that add meaningfulness and value to their daily lives.

Mass brand reach

In turn, our live experiences make for snackable, shareable and culturally relevant content, which when distributed via multiple online channels, results in far greater mass brand reach.

Experiential can evoke a range of positive emotional brand responses, which participants will carry with them, discuss with their friends and, of course, share online: experiential inspires user-generated content from all those it touches in the form of tweets, video, photos, Snaps, vines, Instagram Stories and whatever else the kids are into these days.

In short, experiential is the tide that produces such a rich variety of content that it will sail any ship across the complex waters of both precision targeting and mass marketing.

Therefore, it’s not about choosing whether or not to make your brand famous. It’s ultimately about deciding which brand stories to tell and how you intend to tell them.

Partner up

Choosing the right partner for your next experiential campaign can be tricky. Knowing where to start with the vetting process is half the battle. That’s why we’ve compiled the 7 essentials for choosing the right brand experience agency, just for you.

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