EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING A LONG TERM STRATEGY FOR GROWTH.

Consumers are bombarded by advertising messages every day, TV, radio, online search, email, social newsfeeds and now, more and more, via push notifications on their mobile devices.

Somewhat surprisingly, there have been relatively few studies that quantify this daily onslaught, the most recent  study by US media analysis company,  Media Dynamics, actually shows the tidal wave is not quite as high as you might think. Their late 2014 study showed that the average adult is exposed to 362 ads a day, although they only register 153 as ads. Of this number, consumers may pay some kind of attention, (ie acknowledge an image, read a few words or watch for a few seconds) to 86. The number of ads that consumers actually engage with, and can easily recall, is just 12.

So is advertising a waste of time? Well no, it isn’t, but a strong creative idea is a must in order to stand out and we should be mindful of the fact that for brand-building, which is the key to long-term profitability, creativity is one of the most important factors in ensuring greater effectiveness of your marketing budgets.

In our industry, with little differentiation in the products offered, brand is paramount, so finding new ways to engage with customers in a creative way is becoming ever more important.

TV is still a vital part of any creative campaign but, for many consumers, content consumption also comes via digital platforms. One of the big changes for consumers in recent years has been the sheer volume of media, from a multitude of sources, that they are exposed to daily. For many people, their Facebook newsfeed generates hundreds of pieces of information every day. According to the company itself, users typically spend 50 minutes a day on its Facebook, Instagram and Messenger platforms – up from 40 minutes in 2014. If you want to be seen by, and engage with, the 18-45 audience you need to show up in their feed, it’s as simple as that.

In the early days of social media, a plain text tweet, or Facebook post, was often enough to ensure engagement. Over time, posts containing images got twice the engagement when compared to text only, and now video is progressively replacing image only as the most engaging content.

Earned is always better than bought, social shares are a better “investment” because if somebody likes what you say, they will share it with their network – no ad spend required. After all, most consumers don’t share ads, they share content that excites and engages them. That’s why smart marketers are increasingly investing in branded content, an effective way to get consumers to engage, and share, snackable brand messaging. Although native content advertising has shown some great results, it is still far from making a lasting impression on users.

So the challenge is very clear: How do you stand out and make a true impact with today’s digital-first consumers? When it comes to connecting with consumers, there is nothing comparable to a ‘Real Experience’.

 

Experiential marketing is about connecting customers with a brand through an event or experience, creating an emotional and personal link that can be amplified through media.

It’s a strategy that has been readily embraced by drinks companies, furniture retailers and sportswear brands, as well as many others. Carling, for example, launched a football shirt amnesty where they travelled around big cities during the January transfer window, to encourage fans to swap football shirts featuring the names of players who had left their club with new ones, It was a clever campaign that got masses of attention across social networks and reinforced the Carling association with football.

Ikea built a nine metre climbing wall in France decorated like a showroom flipped on its side, passersby got to climb up it demonstrating the sturdiness of ikea’s furniture in the process.

Hendricks, the gin company built a mobile bar on a Routemaster double-decker bus, then toured Cities in the UK to give customers a chance to try the perfectly served gin & Tonic.

Are there lessons here for the gambling industry? Can we connect with our customers via real-life experiences?

Well some of us are doing it already. Poker has always been good at it, The Full Tilt Poker Million Euro Challenge or the Pokerstars Live series of tournaments have been connecting players with the brands for a number of years, producing a mass of shareable content along the way. Bingo brands have also dipped a toe in the water from time to time.

Are these kind of opportunities available for other areas of the industry? Casinos and Bookmakers have always been good at rewarding their VIP players with trips to top sporting events or top gambling destinations but this shouldn’t be confused with an experiential marketing campaign. Paddy Power and it’s Ministry of Mischief has also produced a number of fantastic stunts which have achieved widespread publicity, but none of these activities constitute engaging customers with the brand in an interactive, participatory way.

It has been done successfully in the past. The bookmaker Coral experimented a few years ago with their RUN4IT campaign in which brand ambassadors dressed in trademark robber costumes and physically ‘stole’ customers from competitor bookies.

Experiential campaigns for gambling are complicated. Persuading people to try your product needs the right environment, add in the regulatory restrictions and it can seem a daunting prospect. Gambling is usually seen as a solitary activity and, although attitudes have softened, the social perception of gambling can be cloudy in certain environments.

Research published over the years have shown that punters rarely talk or brag about the fact that they gamble online, if they do so, this would only be be after a win – never after losing a bet. The product is also a barrier – how do you create an emotional connection with a bookmaking platform or slot and casino games?

In essence, experiential marketing is not about the hard sell,  it is not about pushing a bonus offer and getting the user to deposit as soon as possible. It is about creating a lasting memory that can eventually result in coverage, through earned media, both online and offline. Surely some interesting interactions can be created within existing communities? Think about all the places that men gather, where they might already be discussing their passion for sport – how can you interject your brand into that conversation?

Experiential marketing can encompass a variety of marketing strategies from individual sampling to larger-scale activity. In the end, the goal is to form a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the brand, encouraging customer loyalty and influencing a purchasing decision.

With a general trend of consumers becoming increasingly dismissive and mistrusting of big corporate brands, as well as the likelihood of tougher rules emerging around advertising, experiential marketing has an increasing role to play as part of the marketing mix.

 

While the impact of such activities is often seen as  a longer term, brand -building strategy, it is likely to result in having a deeper and longer lasting effect than many of the marketing initiatives that seem to be prevalent in the industry today.

 

Experiential marketing  can provide a positive ROI for brands that take the opportunity to think a little differently, will 2017 be the year that you embrace it for your brand?

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