Technology innovation is causing our attention spans to become increasingly fragmented. There is countless data on this topic to prove the point - the average attention span of a human is now less than a goldfish at eight seconds, 55% of readers will read an online post for 15 seconds or less - I could go on and on.
What this means for brands is that it is incredibly difficult to build a relationship with a consumer because you have no idea where that consumers attention is going to be at any given moment. Gone are the days when you could create a television commercial or place a digital banner ad and reach a mass audience effectively with a simple media buy. We no longer live in a world where you can build a relationship with a consumer by simply “talking at them”.
So how have brands responded? Many take the approach that digital marketing is the answer. If they can just create great content for all the different channels where consumers are now spending their time, they will be able to establish an effective personal relationship once again. While digital marketing is certainly a key element of a successful brand strategy, building an in-person relationship must be a top priority.
Importance of physical experiences
Let’s take the analogy of online dating. You can spend all of your time building and optimizing dating profiles on every website available (and there are endless options), but eventually you are going to have to meet the person face to face. It doesn’t matter how great your profile is in generating leads, success is defined by how well the relationship works. If you’re not a pleasant person to be around you’re not going to find a lasting match. Investing in how you interact and come across in person always pays greater dividends than investing in how you market yourself online.
The same goes for brands. Most brands spend the bulk of their time, money and energy optimizing their online messaging while forgetting to pay attention to how they interface in person. Considering millennials are prioritizing experiences over material things, we need to stop selling them and start offering them memorable, shareable experiences. This not only creates a closer connection, it has the power to sway customer’s opinions of a brand and influence their purchasing habits.
The data supports this point. In a survey conducted by EventTrack, 65% of consumers said live events helped them have a better understanding of a product or service, and 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation. Take it one step further and 70% of consumers become regular customers after an experiential marketing event, and 71% of consumers share information about their experience with their peers and family members.
What does all of this mean? It means that brands need to start focusing on building in person experiences that forge a deeper connection with their consumers, while delivering the brand message in a fun, memorable way, and encourage users to engage and share. Once that is accomplished, brands can bring the conversation online with a deeper understanding of the individual.
Physical experiences should dictate digital strategy, not the other way around
Simon Sinek is a messaging legend and has a great Ted Talk and book that dives into the golden circle. The golden circle is the concept that while most brands start with communicating “What they do” and work their way to “Why they do it”, the best brands start with the Why and work back to the What.
The same holds true for building personal relationships with consumers. Too many brands and agencies create a campaign, build a digital strategy around that campaign (social, email, web, mobile, etc.) and then create in person experiences that bring the digital strategy to life. The best brands however start with in person experiences to get to know their consumers better, develop a digital strategy that is personalized to the consumer based on those insights (with a database of consumers gathered from the in-person experiences), and then create a campaign that delivers on those insights.
How to do physical right
It should be apparent that physical experiences have significant value for brands, so the question becomes how to create an effective experience. There are five keys to building a highly effective branded experience:
Interactivity: Make the user an integral part of the experience
Takeaways: Give the user something to take with them that has emotional value
Shareability: Provide a means for the user to share their experience with friends and family
Data: Ensure that you are collecting user information to continue the conversation online
Plan for future communication: Be ready to follow up with the user after the experience
Creating an experience that satisfies all five pillars was historically very difficult to accomplish. Now with the help of technology we can create these experiences cost effectively with a single integrated system. Let’s look at an example of one such experience with a brand that is doing physical the right way.
Bud Light GIF Booth
Bud Light is a brand that places major emphasis on music festivals and concerts, because that’s where its millennial consumers are spending time. Understanding that those consumers value pictures from their experiences to create lasting memories and to share with friends and family, the brand worked with Float Hybrid to create a unique GIF booth experience. Let’s take a closer look at how that GIF booth experience satisfies the five keys to building an amazing physical experience.
Interactivity: The GIF booth experience makes concertgoers the center of the experience and encourages groups of people to participate together.
Takeaways: The GIF that was generated from the experience is very unique which encourages people to share with friends and family. The GIF also ties back to the concert which has emotional value for the participant.
Shareability: Kiosks allowed participants to share their GIF via email or social media without ever leaving the experience space.
Data: Email addresses of all GIF booth participants were collected so that Bud Light could engage in a future dialogue with those consumers
Plan for Future Communication: Bud Light and Float set an email marketing strategy before the experience even went live. Participants received series of emails in the days following the event with predefined branded content and special offers.
Physical experiences cannot be an afterthought for brands and should be a key tool for shaping brand campaigns and digital marketing strategies. Emerging technologies are allowing brands to create one of a kind activations that consumers want to experience and share, and consumers are willing to provide their information in exchange for those experiences.
Physical experiences may not be as scalable or cost efficient (per consumer) as digital initiatives, but the value of a consumer reached through physical means is proving to be exponentially greater than through digital means, and brands must have a healthy balance in their budget. Marketing leaders are certainly catching on as 77% of marketers now use experiential marketing as a vital part of a brands advertising strategy (EventTrack) and 79% of brands say they will execute more event and experiential programs this year compared to last year (EMI & Mosaic). I for one strongly suggest you become one of those brands.