Creative & Tech Social Media

Is Experiential Marketing the Future of Social Media?

October 8, 2012

For years marketers have been steadily focused on creating immersive online campaigns that make the most of opportunities for engagement. As the concept of the “share” continues to rise in importance (vs. a click or a Like, for example), inspiring audiences has emerged as a critical objective for brands.

Make no mistake; this isn’t inspiration to click a button. It is inspiration that drives people to share a piece of your brand that they’ve connected with – emotionally or otherwise. It is this connection and this kind of thinking that could make experiential marketing the future of social media as we know it.

What is experiential marketing?

At its core, experiential marketing is the act of creating an experience where there is a resulting emotional connection to a brand, product, idea, etc. This used to consist of field studies, special events, in-store promotions and PR stunts, but with social media it has taken on a whole new meaning.

As the lines between online and offline have blurred – and in some ways, disappeared entirely – experiential marketing has evolved into a much larger, and much more exciting, space. Now, your live event or stunt can have more people reach than ever before. And just as offline events can drive social chatter, digital community insights can inspire real-life promotions.

This interplay between the real world and the social web means that successful experiential programs today are fluid and adaptable – able to match the behaviors of consumers on and offline through a holistic experience that amplifies naturally via word of mouth.

Two-way conversations between brands and consumers lie at the heart of these experiences. Successful experiential campaigns are able to cut through the clutter of everyday life by resonating with the behaviors and passions of the audience at hand.

Fortunately for marketers, knowing what will strike a chord with your audience is more accessible than ever before, as digital insights can tell a complex story about how consumers identify with your brand. Will they think your content is cool? Will they share it? How will your content enhance their everyday interactions online?  Baking digital insights into your strategy will guide you in building a campaign that both resonates with your audience and amplifies its effect across social media.

How can digital amplify experiential campaigns?

Experiential campaigns create an environment in which your consumers are moved to share what they’re experiencing, feeling, seeing or touching – often via their smartphone or tablet devices. Thus, effective experiential efforts today are mobile by design.

This means two things. First, it means facilitating the expected behavior of social sharing – and making it easy to people to enter the conversation. Experiential program tactics should build in mobile-social considerations, which may include Twitter or Instagram hashtags, Foursquare integrations, Facebook events, real-time Tumblr updates or Pinterest pins.

Second, mobile by design means that the experience itself should be interactive beyond your ‘in person’ audience. Invite people in remotely, bringing them access to something that they might not otherwise be able to experience. Create inspiration through accessibility and the creation of a broader movement.

Here are three examples of recent experiential efforts that showcase how digital was used to inform and amplify the program strategy.

1. Oscar Mayer’s “Great American Bacon Barter” – By leveraging America’s unequivocal love of bacon, we teamed up with the brand to send one man on an ambitious and unprecedented cross-country expedition. With bacon as his only currency, comic Josh Sankey had to barter his next meal, a bed to rest his head on and everything else along the way.

The effort was amplified across Oscar Mayer’s social channels, as people could offer barters to Josh in person or digitally, via Twitter (#BaconBarter), Facebook and email. Josh’s on the ground encounters were captured via a series of YouTube videos and shared back across social platforms. [You can read the full case study and watch the trailer in the 360i Portfolio.]

2. Oreo’s Daily Twist Finale – For the finale of Oreo’s Daily Twist program, the brand recreated an advertising war room in the middle of Times Square. Four agencies (including 360i) came together to create the final Daily Twist in reality show fashion. With this event, online empowered offline. Oreo asked its community to send in ideas for the final twist. Then, the team collected, sorted, and began ideating around the community’s idea in real time.

Photo credit: Layne Harris

Not only did Oreo add value online by involving its consumers in the creative process, but it also created a once-in-a-lifetime event for those walking through Times Square on the day of the 100th twist. Utilizing the billboards, any passerby could tweet at the brand with their own idea, and they could eventually vote on the final twist.

3. Carling Black Label “Be the Coach” – Last year, South African beer company Carling launched an experiential campaign that tapped its audience’s love of football and propensity to use mobile devices. The campaign invited football fans to effectively become the coach of one of two teams – giving them the power to select the lineups, call the substitutions and ultimately dictate the dynamic of a live game. More than 10 million votes were cast via mobile devices, as social media communities saw triple-digital growth and 85,000 fans attended the sell-out game in person.

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Creating for your consumers, instead of directly for your brand, creates trust and an understanding that we (the brands/marketers) get them. This translates to experiential quite simply – if you know how your communities consume, interact with and share content, then creating an experience that leverages those behaviors will be far more effective.

As the digital world becomes a crowded place, brands who understand that meaningful offline experiences translate into meaningful online connections (and vice versa) will be able to fully tap the potential of experiential campaigns.