Experiential and Field Marketing: A strategy checklist

Whether they’re trying cheese as they walk round a supermarket or having a full-on brand experience in a shopping centre, the customer sees and experiences the end result of serious planning and consultation. Field marketing can often be an afterthought for brands, considered not sexy at all. But we beg to differ.

Field marketing exists at the moment of truth, the exact time where the consumer is at the purchasing stage. You have that opportunity to change their buying habits in the place it matters most. You’re going to put your product into the customers’ hands (and mouths) face to face. Every element needs to be right. Experiential may take more creativity, but it still needs the same strategic basis.

Don’t leave a marketing experience out to dry. Build a campaign that works around these ten essential points – and avoid the all-too-common pitfalls we see brands fall into.

Ten things your strategy needs

1. Goals. What are you trying to achieve? In specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed terms, what good is this marketing experience meant to do for your brand? Most brands want to generate sales, brand awareness, leads or feedback on new products, and need to track them by appropriate metrics: location, schedule, cost, and effect on the bottom line.

2. Clear vision. Why are you running an experiential marketing event? How do you want customers to feel? What do you want them to do? Vision is how you avoid becoming lost in the possibilities, and deliver a coherent experience for your customers-to-be.

3. Seasonal context. Line up your field marketing plans with the calendar. Align with the holidays, the sporting events and the predictable trends that will help your promotional game. Likewise, stay away from off-season oddities: nobody tries to sell barbecues in winter.

4. Audience. Who are you targeting? How do they like you to speak to them? What’s going to make them take time out of their day? This stage is informed by customer profiles and market segmentation. While you shouldn’t (obviously) be turning anyone away from your experience, it should be pitched to attract the right demographic, and staff should be briefed on who to single out from the crowds.

5. Brand Cohesion. This works on two levels. First, the basics of branding: visuals, vocabulary and values. Second, the brand strategy as a whole. What other marketing efforts are you making, and how can your experiential campaign support and enrich them?

6. Creative. How are you making your stand… stand out? And who are you bringing in to avoid sentences like that one? Creative talent elevates a basic marketing experience, and it delivers on the potential of a complex one. If you’re hell-bent on using VR, someone needs to make that experience look, sound and feel good.

7. Execution. Staffing, times, logistics. How will you ensure the experience, whatever it may be, runs smoothly on the day? People need briefing, training and a chance to become familiar with the experience before they start delivering it – not jumping into it on the day.

8. Comms. How are you promoting the experience? What channels will you be using: what’s your budget for newsprint or pay-per-click? Who will be monitoring the social media presence, and how will they be managing bad press from negative feedback?

9. Data collection. What will you be recording? Do you need consumer consent? What are you offering to encourage that consent – is this a good day for newsletter signups? This talks back to your goals – you need some way of measuring how well you’ve done, and making the most of the data you’ve collected so it can inform your later plans.

10. Before/During/After. What’s the overall plan for the experience – how early do you need to start preparing, and how will you get the most out of your work in the long term? Field and experiential marketing don’t stand alone – they’re part of a brand-wide push toward strategic goals, and they have ripple effects beyond the immediate uptick in sales.

All of this needs to be documented. This isn’t paperwork for paperwork’s sake: the strategy document provides a structure that allows you to explain the strategy to retailers and hosts, and it makes everyone involved aware of the higher level goals, the plan that goes beyond “introduce product to customer.” If it’s done properly, it’ll guide everyone from head office down to store staff level, explaining how the campaign’s going to work and what it needs from them.

Common mistakes

Making the experience too complex. It can be tempting to throw the kitchen sink at experiential marketing – VR headsets, huge multimedia touchscreens, banners, a mascot. Throw some indoor fireworks in there too – why not? But nothing beats a simple idea executed to perfection. Two weeks of product samples just before Christmas boosted Ferrero Rocher’s sales by an average of 186% – that’s well-timed, no-frills field marketing in action.

Failing to align your experiential marketing with the rest of your brand, or with the retailer, or with the calendar. If it’s Valentine’s Day, and the store’s running a two-for-one meal deal and a half price prosecco deal for couples while we run a dessert tasting session, we need to know about that. Our session can feed directly into those other activities, guiding customers to spend more – a direct benefit to the store.

Not securing wider buy in from retailers. The people you really need on your side are store management. They’re hard-working people who already have plenty of responsibilities to balance, before brand folks come in, on head office’s say so, and disrupt their daily operations. Get store management on your side and you’ll have the space and support you need, store staff sharing in your experience, and a far more successful day.

There are dozens of clichés about planning that we could use to round this off, but you’ve probably heard them all before. The truth is, experiential and field marketing are bigger than the experience itself. If your activities aren’t aligned with strategic goals, other activities, and retailer operations, you’ll struggle to make them pay off. The more forward planning and alignment you can manage, the more effective your marketing will be.

To see how we’ve helped other brands clarify their campaigns and set their strategy, explore the work we’ve done.

Why do Icelandic retailers need to create brand loyalty NOW?

As far as international retailers are concerned, Iceland is (or has been) a challenge.

Iceland’s banks collapsed at the height of the 2008 credit crisis: a $10bn international aid package kept the country afloat, and the newly created special prosecutor jailed twenty banking executives. Retail giants pulled out of the country – McDonalds ceased Icelandic trading as early as 2009 – and for the best part of a decade, prices have spiralled and economic activity has been restricted.

Since 2017, however, the Icelandic market has boomed. Capital controls have been removed, the krona has become stronger, and the economy is growing at a steady, sustainable rate: so the retail big boys are back in town.

Costco, H&M and Nespresso have all arrived in a marketplace that’s keen to see prices drop and competition extend – but with only 300,000 consumers in the country, incumbent and incoming brands alike will have to work hard if they want to compete for attention and wallet share in the long term.

Building brand loyalty fast

The Icelandic market is currently in a ‘gold rush’ stage of development – everything’s up for grabs. This means incumbent brands have to build a strong market presence before every brand and their dog arrives.

The incoming brands are bringing a new approach. As high street retail has declined, pressed by squeezed incomes, changing tastes and a shift toward e-commerce, shops in the west have become a showcase for the product. Customers visit the shop to discover, test and experience something they’re more likely to buy online. Experiential marketing is an especially powerful strategy in Iceland – an import-dependent country where consumers are used to high prices and limited choice. In such a retail environment, novelty and a free gift go a long way.

High Street

The outsider brands who’ve done best in Iceland have gone above and beyond the call of retail duty. Product demos and experiences are in their DNA – Costco in particular offer enough free samples to have an acceptable (if piecemeal) lunch, and have already sold 80,000 membership cards, meaning one in every four Icelanders is a loyal customer.

This is only the beginning. If a retail innovator like Apple  – which turns its stores into educational centres for its ‘Today at Apple’ events – starts to transform the Icelandic retail experience into something that doesn’t feel like shopping at all, Icelandic businesses are going to be left behind.

Icelandic brands need to up their game in order to meet this challenge, and stay viable in a marketplace that’s dramatically different. To beat the newcomers, it’s necessary to think like them. Assume every customer coming into your store is new: what are you doing that’ll make them want to come back?

How to pitch a ‘new customer experience’

Costco succeeded in Iceland partly because it adopted (and adapted) a strategy that’s succeeded elsewhere in their operations. Its  product sampling and demonstration programme has worked well in the US and the UK – in the latter, it’s provided an average conversion rate of 1 in 7, and a 335% sales uplift to vendors.

Native brands are best off looking at what the newcomers have done – adopting and adapting the methods of the competition.

Dunkin’ Donuts brought a global level of variety to the limited Icelandic market. Icelandic bakeries only carry a handful of doughnut brands. Dunkin’ Donuts changed the Icelandic doughnut experience into something out of the ordinary; by opening in a select five locations, they created rarity, making an exclusive event out of their launch and ensuring they had people queuing around the block. Meanwhile, the old familiar brands were simply sitting on the shelves, waiting to be bought.

Likewise, Nespresso have positioned themselves as offering variety and quality outside the routine Icelandic experience, and that’s why they’ve succeeded. The aroma of their capsules creates an opportunity for powerful and unusual smell-and-taste experiences, and the store experience in Kringlan builds on this. They don’t just sell coffee: they help novice coffee drinkers find their preferred blend at a permanent tasting station, creating an experience that welcomes them into a new habit – and a new brand.

The question for native Icelandic brands is: how can you be more like this? To meet these newcomers head on, there are two real options. Introduce new products and meet them novelty for novelty, or introduce new experiences that bring them back to you? Product innovation isn’t easy in the Icelandic marketplace – so the solution is a change of pace in your experiential marketing.

Take a look at what we do and who we do it for, right here.

 

Image credit: (CC) Jonas Forth, via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jforth/4840420102

Measuring the results of experiential and field marketing

Testing and measuring are key components of a successful marketing strategy. Stats and metrics prove return on investment to your business leaders, and learning from the last campaign is how you improve the next one.

Certain marketing efforts can be difficult to track, and experiential is definitely among them. It’s easy for marketers to get lost, trying to measure everything, or drowning in a sea of vanity metrics – none of which directly address your key aims.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t report, quite the opposite. But it does mean you should spend time on getting your reports right.

Here’s how we monitor the performance of our experiential marketing.

Start with the key goals

The first thing to establish is why you’re doing this. Not in an existential crisis kind of a way – more establishing the strategic goal or goals for your campaign.

Is your goal to attract new sales in a certain store or area? Is it to increase repeat purchases in a certain store area? Is it simply to raise awareness of your brand?

Once you have decided on your key goal, then you need to set metrics against that goal.

If the goal is brand awareness, you might be interested in tracking new social media follows, new website visits, brand mentions, event attendance and email signups. They’re the evidence that people are paying attention, i.e. that you’re meeting the goal you set.

If repeat business is the goal, you should track the amount of sales from existing customers in an existing store, and not let yourself be sidetracked by the social mentions.

The most simple goals for our clients are:

  • sales (in one form or another)
  • brand awareness
  • lead generation (with signups for future contact as the key metric)
  • new product trialling (with direct satisfaction and feedback tracking built into the process)

To track where a brand stands, in terms of competition and relationship strength with retailers, demands cross-referencing a wider range of variables:

  • activity and sales by product line
  • previous sales reports
  • cost per demo
  • sales uplift

In addition, field and experiential marketing are best tracked by location and schedule. If one store’s performing particularly well, or one aspect of your experience is outshining all others you’ll be able to highlight that performance and investigate what they’re doing differently.

Set up a process

Once your goals and metrics are made clear, you’ll need to set up a process that will continuously monitor, analyse and refine these goals. This will likely involve marketing dashboards for the different members of your marketing team, showing the key performance indicators – the metrics you identified at first, the sources from which you’re drawing your data, and a way to visualise performance so it can be understood at a glance. You’ll also need regular meetings to discuss findings, trace underperforming elements of your campaign to their causes, and make the strategic changes you need.

The important thing to remember here is that you can’t measure everything. The feelings people have when experiencing the brand, the impact, the long lasting impression – these are important aims of all marketing, but they can’t be measured in purely quantitative terms.

We can track what a particular customer has seen, how long they’ve lingered, what they did next – but to get the qualitative feedback on why they made those choices, you need to ask customers. It’s possible to build the feedback into the experience – the happy/neutral/sad response buttons you see at airports are a basic assessment of how people are feeling at a given moment – but to get at the why needs a discussion.

That’s why it’s important for brands to position themselves so they can manage these non-quantifiable factors. Fond memories mean positive feelings, and positive feelings mean profits. Guaranteeing those positive outcomes demands great strategy and, importantly, great execution.

Do you know what marketing efforts are working and what aren’t? If not, you need to reassess your goals and set up systems to monitor your performance against those goals.

To see how we generate winning results for brands, check out our case studies here.

Why your experiential marketing efforts need to activate all 5 senses

In the modern consumer environment, it is more difficult than ever to grab audiences’ attention and make a lasting impression. This challenge is no more apparent than in experiential marketing.

It’s not that attention spans are declining, as such. It’s been widely reported that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now. But these stats aren’t entirely verifiable. There isn’t an ‘average attention span’ to begin with. Attention, it turns out, is task-dependent. How much we focus on something depends on how demanding that something is.

Listening to a lecture or watching a film are passive activities that only involve one or two senses, so their creators need to make them more demanding. That’s why faster, busier slides and shorter shot lengths have become popular in recent years. Likewise, social media isn’t making attention spans shorter – it’s just well constructed, presenting low-demand micro-tasks that deliver rewarding dopamine hits in quick succession.

In other words, it’s not that we’re paying less attention – it’s that the science of attention is better understood, and creators are better able to deliver engaging experiences.

Experiential marketing is well positioned to make the most of this latest research. It can activate and engage all five senses, compared to only one or two in conventional marketing activities. When done well, this means people focus more and for longer, and become more receptive to messaging. Fit them all together well and you can create an attention-grabbing, memory-making marketing experience.

Sight

Sight is the dominant human sense: the one we rely on most to navigate and understand the world. We say “I see what you mean”, “things to see” and “seeing is believing” for a reason. Sight’s the initial hook, the first sense your field marketing will activate, opening up the customer for the rest of the show.

Activating sight is all about providing cues, standing out from the visual noise around you. Do you use photography on the stand – and if so, how do your images disrupt the surrounding environment? This doesn’t mean being bold and clashing – sometimes a restful, natural image amongst the chaos of branding and packaging can catch the eye.

Colour vocabulary is a factor: the colours you choose either present positive or negative statements about your brand and business. Emotional, extroverted yellows are powerful for creative businesses, but if your selling point is knowledge and rationality, intellectual blues will serve you better.

Finally, think about location and shareability. People see things and they want to share them – the easiest social media activity is the quick snap or selfie that’s on Twitter or Instagram in seconds. Look for ways to frame those shots – angles from which to approach your stand or event that cry out for a photo.

Sound

While sight is a trigger for understanding, sound is a trigger for memory. The hippocampus – the part of the brain which recalls episodic events in our lives – uses sound triggers to contextualise and sort those memories.

Music is especially powerful here: drawing on the familiarity of songs and their cultural associations is one of the oldest and most potent tools in the advertiser’s box. Songs can be recalled involuntarily, suggesting this familiarity is a two-way street: the sight of a brand triggers the memory of its music and advertising, evoking an existing relationship between brand and customer.

five senses garden Israel Holon

Senses and sensibility: The five senses garden in Holon, Israel

If you have the luxury of an installation – a space to call your own for the duration of your event – this is a powerful way to build focus. In-store events have to stay quieter, but there’s nothing to say you can’t alter the soundscape around your stand in a more subtle way.

Sound also alters the effectiveness of our other senses. Research from Oxford University indicates that higher musical notes are associated with sweet tastes and lower ones with bitter.  So, if you’re running a field tasting session, curating the soundscape is vital – a gentle musical cue on the edge of hearing makes sure people hear things that bring out the right flavours.

Smell and taste

Smell is the basis for our most significant memories. Our early smell experiences create associations with events, which come to mind when we encounter the smell again. The ability to smell different things is dependent on our early experiences, and it takes time for us to overcome this early conditioning and learn to smell different things

Long-term scent memories also modify how other odours are perceived. That’s the scientific basis for ‘acquired tastes’: repeated sensory experience with a flavour or aroma changing our attitudes towards it.

Smell and taste are part of the same system, and what appeals to one is drawing on the other. Scents prime visitors for a taste experience – and the simple change in what can be smelled around a retail or exhibition space suggests that visitors are about to experience something different. It’s the same principle as the signature fragrances in hotel air conditioning, or the use of fresh bread smells to attract customers into a location.

Touch

Sight may be our dominant sense, but touch is the first one we develop, and it’s the sense which communicates compassion and interest – that’s why shaking hands is a powerful introduction.

Touch also makes experiences concrete: VR didn’t feel real until haptic feedback was introduced, appealing to the sense of touch to give some weight and presence to what users saw and heard.

If you can offer something hands-on that’s relevant to your brand, do so: it’ll ground everything else you’re offering in something concrete. Think about what visitors can do with their hands. Touchscreens to hand over their data, if you’re collecting it. Interesting packaging that they want to handle: an opportunity to touch the merchandise is unusual and attractive. On a more subtle level, consider the ambient temperature – if your stand’s a cooler place on a hot day, the immediate refreshment creates a positive sensation of relief.

Why does all this matter?

At the bottom line, we’re trying to create a positive, memorable experience.

The senses have a direct impact on our memory. Smells are the foundation of our preferences; sounds tie our experiences together; sight is how we make sense of the world, and touch is what makes our experiences feel real. Get all that right, and you can’t help but leave a great taste in customer’s mouths. By delivering the complete five-sense package, we leave lasting impressions with consumers – and those are vital for brand loyalty.

That’s how we do what we do. To find out how well we do it, take a look here.

 

Image credit:

Wikimedia Commons (CC), Senses garden in Holon

 

10 key principles for experiential marketing the right way

We’ve been leading the field in experiential marketing for twenty years. Not that we want to blow our own trumpet, but in that time we’ve learned a thing or ten about what makes experiential marketing work.

We’re constantly evolving and innovating the ways brands interact with their audience, online and off – yet the core principles and processes are surprisingly consistent.

1. Strategy first

Experiential marketing makes a splash, but without a coherent strategy, that splash might as well be a stagnant puddle. Establish why you’re doing what you do in the first place. What do you want to achieve? How will the experience you’re offering address your bottom line?

Current marketing theory suggests strategic planning and thought is even more important in the ‘Era V’ of marketing – a period in which every aspect of a company’s operations is now part of the marketing machine. Marketing is holistic, looking inwards to ensure that everyone in the company is fully aware of its goals and how they’ll be attained. Experiential or in-store can’t afford to be afterthoughts, they’re as crucial as every other cog in the marketing machine.

2. Customer (also) first

You might like the experience you have in mind – but does your customer?

A firm grasp of the end user – the retailers and consumers – is essential. Focus on the user experience: how it feels to interact with your brand. Users expect their experiences to be integrated and intelligent. They expect connections: relevant, personal interactions with the brand, and seamless cross-channel functioning between their experiences on different devices and in different locations.

Your strategic goal might be sales, but your tactical goal is giving your customers something to remember you by – and making sure it’s positive.

3. Your people are your product

Your product, the tech or the pitch are all undoubtedly important, but what matters most is your people. They are the face of your brand for the day. They form the personal connections that make marketing work, and they can compromise everything else if they’re not on-message. Everything they say and do needs to communicate your brand values.

Your people

What does this all mean? Train your people. Make your expectations for the event – targets, behaviours, messaging – crystal clear, and ensure the staff know exactly what actions they have the authority to take. Clear, concrete briefings build the confidence that makes for effective encounters.

4. Ideas over technology

Tech is a tool, nothing more. VR, AR, AI, apps and games – they can all be engaging, but not without a creative concept or idea. Don’t use these tools for the sake of being on-trend, without a clear link between the experience, the content and your brand offering.

Wow them with ideas, not with gadgets.

5. Engagement is everything

Is your marketing passive or active? Experiential marketing has to be active. You’re not just giving out product or information for the customer to receive. You’re inviting the consumer into your branded world for a part of their day. Is that world a delight? Would they revisit? Is there something for them to do there?

When you want to tell customers something, make them discover it. There’s a balance to strike between making it too hard to discover basic facts about a product, and leading customers to engage in more depth, but the basic principle is “don’t tell them about your product – make them ask.”

6. Aftercare isn’t an afterthought

Field marketing and experiential campaigns lead to an uplift in immediate sales results. Our in-store sampling campaign with Ferrero saw an average sales uplift of 186% after two weeks. In some locations, this figure was closer to 500%.

Short-term success is fantastic, of course. But experiential marketing offers the opportunity to create something longer-lasting. ROI isn’t simply what happens on the day. Experiences can stay with people, building brand equity in the long term. A brand needs to consider what they can do to continue the relationship with the consumer after they’ve moved on to the rest of their day.

7. Smiles are currency

Do you delight? Does the visitor come away from the experience beaming? They need to. Smiles are a powerful trigger: the physical movement of the face triggers a psychological reaction, and the customer feels happier, lighter, and more engaged with the day.

If a customer associates those feelings with your brand, you’re on to a winner. While there’s a known link between sadness and spending – the ‘misery is not miserly’ effect – there’s another, less documented link between relaxation and spending. Relaxed people spend more. What you’re looking for isn’t forced happiness, but a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere.

8. Little things are huge

Every interaction is a touchpoint between your brand and the consumer, and the little touches are the things that delight. These can be something as simple as the tone of your brand or staff, or a follow-up – something that makes transient visitors feel like more than just customers. Show them how much you value their engagement (not just their money), and you’ll see more of both.

There is a direct correlation between product performance, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, powerful enough to reverse trends across whole industries. In banking, for instance, quality customer service and long-term relationships are enough to counter a general feeling that banks are not to be trusted. The little things are enough to make your business stand out.

9. Think about impact first: the reach will follow.

Word of mouth referrals are the best form of advertising. 84% of consumers trust recommendations from influencers, friends, family members and peer networks – so make something that people want to recommend.

Make an experience people want to talk up – something people want to share around. Think about Kickstarter, a platform which bears out this approach to business. If a project doesn’t stimulate sharing, it’ll languish in obscurity – no matter how good it is, it won’t attract attention from potential backers.

10. Consistency is key

The bottom line: all marketing needs to be consistent and coherent and that includes experiential. Your experiences need to look and feel like they belong with everything else. Your above the line advertising, direct marketing and customer experience all need to say the same things, with the same language, and evidence the same values. A brand that can’t get its messaging together won’t be trusted.

Experiential marketing is a unique opportunity for brands to connect with the public, and leave the right kind of memories with every visitor and customer. Join up the strategy, think about how it feels to interact with your business, and strive to keep a smile on your customers’ faces.