Experiential marketing is currently the most effective way to connect with a millennial audience. Differing vastly from more traditional marketing strategies, experiential marketing focuses on the quality of the customer’s experience, not the number of people who attend an event or buy a product. In fact, a recent study showed that 72% of millennials would rather spend money on an experience than a material item. From festivals to concerts and cultural events, millennial events encompass a wider range of interests and culture than any other generation yet. Here’s how to integrate your brand into their tech-savvy, interactive world.
Let’s start by pointing out the obvious. Millennials are living in a tech-savvy world where voice assistants answer abstract questions, virtual events allow them to experience events from the comfort of their own home, and personalized tech caters to their whims all day. Because of this, they tend to disregard most forms of traditional forms of marketing. When using search engines, they swat away pesky ads like flies. Theirs is an interactive space that congregates largely on social media. In fact, millennials are so plugged into social media and other spaces in virtual reality that brightly colored billboards aren’t even blips on their radar. So how exactly can marketers capture their attention?
1. Bridge Virtual Time with Real Time
The answer lies within the realm of experiential marketing, and relies heavily on personalized tech. Gone are the days when going shopping meant stashing your cell in your pocket and perusing favorite stores at leisure. Millennials want marketers to cross the line between real time and their online world. They want control over the agenda of the events they attend, and they want experiences that are tailored to them based on expressed interests on social media. Festival culture in particular has used technology and experiential marketing to create emotional, interactive experiences for millennials that they’ll remember- and talk about- for years to come. While previous generations focused more on material value, millennials are focused on the emotional value of events and products- and both event planners and retailers are picking up on this trend. Although companies are certainly not live humans, they’re finding ways to share experiences with attendees and customers that foster an emotional attachment to their brand.
Personalizing Your Tech
Let’s face it- today’s world of technology is more than a little desensitizing. This may be one of the reasons that millennials have such a positive response to personalization in tech and event planning. When they open a promotional package for an event via email, they want animated graphics to bring the experience to life, giving them a taste of what’s to come if they register. Many event planners are employing voice assistants to literally talk millennials through the process of getting their questions answered before they commit. Voice assistants are no longer answering “yes” or “no” to questions; prompted by words like “if” or “when”, they can provide answers to abstract questions as well. Experiential marketers are also using videography of past similar events to bring the experience to life for attendees. They know that most millennials want more than a sneak preview- they want to feel that they’re already a part of the experience. Personalized tech is enabling marketers to break through the constant, cluttered buzz of the digital world by offering something that feels real to millennials. Think of this strategy as similar to a scene of a movie breaking through static; you can finally see past the chaos into a visual of real people in real time.
Marketing toward the millennial population means engaging their senses and eliciting emotional responses. This means reaching them on social media and promising them an interactive real time experience. Millennials spend about six hours per day on social media and the Internet, so for marketers, this is the starting point for engagement.
2. Be Interactive, Especially on Social Media
If you’re marketing your event or product to this age group, you’ve got to develop an interactive relationship with them on social media. And you’ve got a head start: Social media breaks through the incessant chatter of online marketing because millennials are familiar with these social channels. They’ve been using them to interact with friends and family, promote their businesses, and network for years. Millennials regard their most commonly used social channels (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn) with a certain degree of trust. So if you’re marketing an event, meet them there.
3. Cash In on the Element of Surprise
Studies have shown that consumers in general are much more likely to buy from brands they “like” on Facebook or follow on Twitter than other brands. Yet the experience of the live event still trumps virtual advertising in importance. Did you know that some cruise lines provide a real-time visual of the ocean on screens inside cabins? This may seem to border on the absurd, as the ocean is never too far from someone on a cruise. Yet people are so enamored by the idea of integrating the natural world with the comfort of their own suite that it worked! Several cruise lines also enhance customers’ experience with artwork and even art auctions. If you’ve ever cruised on Ovation of the Seas, you’ll have seen its most legendary piece of artwork: a colossal mother panda reaching down from the top of the SeaPlex arena to her baby, who sits adorably on the deck below.
Again, we’re bringing the natural world into the space of technology. Ovation of the Seas boasts an 11,000 piece art collection, and Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas has over 13,000 works at an estimate worth of $8 million. Classic contemporary works of art adorn the ship’s restaurants, atriums, stairwells, and rest areas.The concept of art works aboard cruise ships itself isn’t a new one, but it is new to resort-style lines that usually focus on flashier, more commercial forms of entertainment. So why has this marketing endeavor been so successful? The answer is simple: It broadens the horizons of today’s consumers, who are hungry for culture and diversity outside their digital world.
Also, there’s an element of surprise to it. People don’t usually expect to be exposed to world-class artwork on commercial cruise lines, so it brings visions of other worlds and eras to them. And there’s almost nothing millennials love more than to have culture personally delivered to them. Experiences like this draw emotional responses from consumers. Experiential marketing is all about using creativity to make experiences memorable.
4. Create an Emotional Experience
Today’s brands can’t afford to just be seen on display; they’ve got to interact with their customers and create an emotional impression. They’ve got to create a personal connection through shared memories. It’s not enough to use social media to bring an event to life for attendees- the live experience has to live up to all the digitized hype.
Merging the digital world with real time is challenging. The alcohol brand Bulleit recently constructed a 3D-printed bar for Tribeca Film Festival, and even added a 3D printed robot slash bartender! At SXWX, HBO created an quasi-realistic, larger-than-life set to promote the last scene of Game of Thrones. The effects were essentially designed to bring an onscreen, fictional world to life in real time. It also hosted a blood drive, which probably attracted many more donors than it would have without these extraordinary effects.
Tracking Results of Experiential Marketing
5. Track Your Success
Tracking the success of experiential marketing is complicated, but doable with the right resources. Some bars and restaurants are encourage customers to use hashtags on social media or post their own Instagram images on a screen that the other customers can view. Retailers are allowing customers to sign up for discount codes as they shop, keeping track of these discounted sales on their databases. Yet for most of us everyday brands and event players, access to these sophisticated systems eludes us. So let’s talk about some data collection strategies that require a little less technology and a little more effort on our part.
The first step is to define success for your event. Success is not a “one size fits all” state of affairs, and measuring it is not an exact science. So set goals for your event. Maybe you already have a sizable following from one demographic, but now you’re trying to reach a new one and have employed new marketing strategies. Perhaps the quality of the attendee is more important to you than the number of attendees. (If this is your line of thinking, you’re on the right track for millennial marketing. Millennials generally value quality over quantity). But whatever your goal is, make it a clear one. What is the purpose of your event or campaign, and what are your core values? What matters most to you and your attendees? Are you looking to increase product sales via your event? Once you’ve developed clear goals, you can figure out how you want to measure their success.
6. Utilize KPI’s
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are numerical marketing metrics that help organizations measure their progress in relation to a defined goal within marketing channels. Just in case you’re like us and not a math whiz, let’s break down the concept of metrics and KPIs. Let’s say your main goal for your event is to boost sales. Your targeted outcome would be- you guessed it- to boost sales. (See, it’s not an exact science, but it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds). Suppose your goal is to raise brand awareness. Then you’ll want to pay attention online mentions of your brand. You’ll also want to track sales growth in relation to your marketing efforts.
If there’s one thing millennials love more than experiences, it’s posting and discussing them on social media. So try to promote brand awareness before, during, and after your event. You can do this by simply interacting on social media, posting YouTube videos, and surveying your target demographic. In keeping with the trend of personalization, surveys allow you to glean nuanced information about how your event changed attendees’ perception of your brand. This is experiential marketing at its optimal best.
If you’re looking for the perfect virtual space to promote your event, we designed our upcoming social media app with experiential marketing in mind. Aptly called Plans, our app will feature a news feed that populates based on shared interests with the friends you add. Plans focuses on the quality of the experience, not the quantity of people at events- and so does experiential marketing.
Remember, with experiential marketing, quality always trumps quantity. A large turnout doesn’t necessarily spell success in terms of KPI’s. Most marketing specialists agree that it’s better to create an interactive experience with smaller crowds than it is to have superficial interactions with larger groups. Think about it this way: Are you more likely to spread the word about an event that touched you personally, or an event that didn’t? The most important KPI is word of mouth, so personalize your event as much as possible, and it will spread like wildfire across social media channels.
7. More KPI’S You Should Be Tracking
Do you know the lifetime value of your customers? Yeah, that’s a tough one. But there’s a working formula that can help you get at least an approximation. Multiply revenue by gross margin and average number of repeat purchases, and you’ll get a clearer picture. (If your company doesn’t get revenue from repeat purchases, remove that part of the equation and you’re good to go). This information is invaluable when it comes to forming future business goals. It tells you which groups are staying with you, and which ones are passing you by. With this demographic information, you can adapt your marketing strategies to reach new populations.
You should also be factoring in the cost of acquisition. It’s no secret that marketing strategies are an investment. When you reach new customers, it’s due to marketing efforts that cost money. So how much exactly is it costing you to attract customers? You can calculate an estimation by dividing your total marketing investment by the number of customer acquired.
8. Revamp Your Website
Also, don’t forget about your website. Track the amount of website visitors who convert and become leads for your brand. This KPI not only gives you a conversion rate, but tells you whether your target audience is visiting your website. If the results aren’t what you hoped for, you can revamp your website to better entice your target audience. When you assess your website’s traffic, be specific. Differentiate between users, page views, sessions, and length of sessions. These numbers will provide you with a wealth of information about what you need to do to improve your reach. It goes without saying that you should be tracking social media mentions of your event or product. This not only gives you pertinent demographic information, but also tells you which social media channels are drawing the most attention to your brand. Armed with this information, you can focus more of your efforts on the channels where the most customers are talking about your brand.
Remember, millennials love to feel like part of a universal experience that connects them to other parts of the world. Design or redesign your website with that in mind, including lots of animated graphics and videography that will bring your event and/or product to vivid life.
9. Personalize Your Email Marketing Plan
As you know, millennials are inundated with emails and ads that pop up on their phones all day, obscuring the important emails they need or want to see. The stream of spam and pop-up ads is so constant that many people hit “delete” before even taking the time to read through emails that don’t catch their eye. That’s why it’s so important for you to optimize your email marketing campaign now. Again, the key to marketing success is personalization. Use consumer data and try to address customers by name instead of with an impersonal heading. Did you know that emails that address customers by name are 16% more likely to be opened?
If you’re marketing for an event, use data gleaned from sign-up forms and shared interests on social media. You may want to suggest vendors or other features at your event they might particularly enjoy. (If you’re selling a product, feel free to base suggestions on buyer history). Event planners, we advise you to ask for the information you need directly on your sign-up form. Ask for your customers’ name, company, and location; then move onto their preferences.
The personalization shouldn’t end there. You should be using a real reply-to email address where customers can engage with you and your team members. We know this can be a bit daunting, as there’s no way you can possibly send a personal reply to everyone in real time. The solution? Take an inventory of replies to your original email, and then address the most frequently asked questions or discussions in another mass email. This will show customers that even though you don’t have the time to engage one-on-one with everyone, you hear their feedback and care about catering personally to their needs. This is exactly the kind of credibility you need in a social sphere that values personalization above all else, even in tech. Include real contact information in the signature of your email, and encourage people to reach out to you with questions and ideas.
10. Give Attendees (Some) Control Over Your Event
Because millennials also love to have some semblance of control over the agenda at an event, you might consider providing them with choices on the sign-up form. These choices could be as minimal as what kind of food and catering services they want to see or what music they want to hear. Being given choices even in small matters makes attendees feel as if you’re catering personally to their wants and needs, which you essentially are.
There are certain quantifiable KPIs that you can use to measure the success of your email marketing. Be sure to analyze delivery rate, open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and forwards and shares. Also keep track of the people who unsubscribe, and look for patterns: Do the people who cancel subscriptions have any identifiable characteristics? If so, what can you do to better reach and satisfy that population?
The (Near) Future of Experiential Marketing
Currently, companies are developing software that uses facial recognition to assess a live crowd, highlighting demographic information like age, gender, and where these groups spend the most time at your event. This kind of software gives experiential marketing a new cutting edge because it records the expressions of attendees. It potentially answers questions about where attendees were happiest or where they seemed bored and unhappy. This kind of software is still on the exclusive side and not widespread yet, but experts claim it will be much more readily available over the next several years.
If you’re marketing to a millennial audience, it’s time to get up close and personal. It may sound idiosyncratic to get personal in a digital world, but when you consider how much time millennials spend on their phones and social media, it makes sense to meet them there. Because their media channels are all clogged up, you’ve got to wow them with something that stands out and meets their personal needs. Hopefully we’ve given you some helpful useful experiential marketing trends to start an ongoing personal conversation with millennials in both the digital world and real time.