Experiential marketing is expected to continue to grow in 2018, but the relatively "hot" form of marketing is still in adolescence in many ways.
Though we're very much in the experience economy, brands haven't fully wrapped their marketing brains around how to leverage live experiences and there are still a lot of myths around experiential marketing. Rakuten Marketing reports that 80 percent of consumers around the world say online marketing hasn’t improved in many years regardless or platform or device used. This further reinforces why experiential marketing is gaining in popularity for both marketers and consumers. But how can we do better in 2018?
Brands are making real impacts in the world through these campaigns and more funds are being earmarked for experiential approaches. However, it’s maintaining that growth that can be tricky. Accountability and results need to be prioritized. Experiential approaches can often be slippery to quantify. If marketers (and those funding them) are going to continue to offer experiential campaigns, we need to get a few things straight.
For starters, experiential isn’t a channel.
That can be tough for some marketers to grasp, especially if they’ve only worked within clear channels before. Experiential marketing isn’t advertising. It’s not broken down into pre-determined categories like print or radio. It’s more complicated than that, which is part of the problem. After all, experiential is an adjective and not a noun. It’s a way of describing how marketing can be done by environment, idea and form. As such, it’s best not to label campaigns and events. Events, Classes, and Tours are, of course, a kind of experience but the desire to slap a label on it can stunt creativity.
Second up: Let’s embrace brand plans.
Old school brand planning has a place with experiential marketing. Ask yourself what image you want to change or reinforce during the experience. What will the consumers walk away with? The impact of an experiential campaign has to move beyond the interaction. That’s where the overlap with traditional marketing kicks in. Nobody would pay for a 30-second television ad if it didn’t have the capacity to stick with the person watching it, right?
Finally, let’s get back to accountability.
We need to measure these experiential campaigns. Without keeping score and track, what are you doing? You can’t learn from past mistakes and you can’t prove to those who sign the checks that what you’re doing works. When experiential marketing first started to really pick up, it was small and it was unique. It was okay to depend on anecdotal evidence and remarks from those at events. However, an attendee who says, “It was great!” to someone on site doesn’t mean anything. Smiles aren't metrics. What was great? What wasn’t? How many people thought so and what were those demographics? It’s a bit surprising that major experiences aren’t being tallied. Where’s the quantitative and qualitative analyses? After all, it’s usually skilled marketers behind these events, so why aren’t they doing what they should be doing in terms of measuring? Maybe it’s because experiential kind of crept onto the scene, or maybe because it’s just difficult, but we’re not keeping score. As such, a lot of brands are stuck in limbo without clear directions in where to go next. Just like any type of marketing, one size fits all just doesn’t fit. Quality research and analyses is a great place to start, and it's the big reason why Jonathan and I started AnyRoad. Truly measuring the Return on Experience (RoE) is how you’ll get to know consumers’ perceptions surrounding events and the impact of those events. It’s how you’ll follow up and improve in the future.
It’s great that experiential marketing is taking off around the globe, but we need to gain control before it’s too late. Otherwise, 2018 might be a year of sustaining experiential marketing but not learning or growing.