Do you remember when Bud Light took over the Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix and setup the “House of Whatever” across the street during Super Bowl XLIX?
A lot of people viewed it as another over-the-top brand excess – expensive entertainment expense rather than an impactful marketing investment. Was it just another brand gone wild moment – or was there a method to the madness?
You may have seen the commercial, but what was the experience like at the House of Whatever? Was there really a life-sized Pac-Man maze in there? Here’s a video from the perspective of a consumer:
Looks like a pretty wild party – a classic beer consumption occasion!
While the #UpforWhatever brand experience itself may have struck a chord with some, the new labeling on the product intended to explain the brand story drew fire from many segments of consumers.
This controversial slogan on the packaging, which emerged as colleges nationwide dealt with high-profile sexual assault and binge-drinking issues, triggered an uproar.
Of course, the ultimate measure of success for any brand activation program is sales. And this is where Bud Light has failed. Despite their hefty advertising budget, Bud Light is losing favor among American beer drinkers. Anheuser-Busch shipped 5.2 million fewer barrels of Bud Light in 2016 than five years earlier, a 13.4% decline. Bud Light is still far and away the most popular beer brand in the United States. So, one could argue that the company has been forced to bolster the brand’s popularity and slow the overall decline in market share with aggressive advertising and experiential marketing. Time will tell if this brand strategy pays off.
Proceed with Caution
According to a recent EventTrack survey, 74% of potential customers are more inclined to purchase a product or service after engaging in an event or experiential marketing campaign. Furthermore, investments in experiential marketing are growing annually by 6.7% to over $50 billion according to forecasts by the Association of National Advertisers. So what’s going on here – I thought Millennial’s were all retreating into the digital world and not seeking out human interaction? Hardly!
With traditional media (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards, etc.), we thought we knew how to influence consumer behavior and persuade people to buy stuff. People sat in their living room watching their favorite sitcom, we interrupted them with commercials every few minutes and tried to activate purchase intent. Of course, today, people DVR and skip commercials, they watch movies on their mobile devices and get their news from social media channels. Garnering people’s attention for even the most targeted campaign is a crap shoot at best. That’s where an event or experiential campaign has the potential to break through the clutter and, if successful, give consumers an experience that they’ll share with lots of other people.
That said, event and experiential marketing is not for the faint of heart. This type of brand activation has a lot of moving parts and requires focused resources and potentially significant investments to successfully pull it off. Here are 3 ways to improve your chances of getting a reasonable return on your event and experiential marketing investments:
1. Socializing your Event
As marketers focused on transformation know, the most efficient way to reach a broad audience today is through social media. It’s cost-effective because you can focus your media buys on acquiring your ideal customer profiles. In other words, you’re “fishing where the fish are” rather just casting a broad and expensive net and hoping to catch your target audience. Social media not only gives you a way to tell your brand story, but it also provides a platform for your customers to engage and make your story their own. If you already have a strong following, then you also already have a launching-off point for potential event attendees and brand advocates, which gives you a head start on getting the turnout you need for a successful experience. After all, no one want to be the only attendee at an event. People want to know who else will be there and what kind of vibe they can expect.
2. Optimizing SEO Impact
Localized SEO efforts are the most effective, and if you are hosting an event, there is no better time to increase your online presence. Contact local news agencies and let them know about your event. As long as your event is open to the public and of interest, they will likely share news about your event to their readers. This applies to newspapers, magazines, and even radio shows that love to be at the front of the local news. By increasing the number of relevant back links to your site, you will also boost your search engine page ranking.
3. Assuring Your Event Presence “Pops”
Your goal must be to put on a remarkable customer experience. Or as Seth Godin says, an experience: ”worthy of remark”. This point cannot be under-emphasized. It is crucial to your success. You need simplicity, clarity and alignment in execution. Your design must “pop” if you are going to break through the media noise. To achieve this, it is strongly recommended that you call on assistance from an experiential marketing expert. DIY events and experiential campaigns aren’t going to cut it to get the traction you are looking for, which is why engaging a digital event specialist must be on your critical path.
Successful events and experiences give your target audience a reason to care, a reason to listen, a reason to engage and a reason to buy.
You can learn much more about critical success factors for event and experiential marketing in my new book, Marketing, Interrupted. The book is written from the perspective of transformative experiential marketers at brands like Amazon, Disney and T-Mobile. You will hear their stories and learn how they made remarkable customer experiences the cornerstone of their brand strategy and generated outsized results in the process.