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Avoid These Five Common Experiential Marketing Mistakes

Today’s marketing landscape is saturated with traditional advertising, and consumers are feeling overwhelmed. Consumers’ use of online ad blockers is up 70% year over year, while 81% are able to avoid television ads through video-on-demand services like the DVR and Netflix.

However, the waning influence of ads isn’t necessarily bad news for brands. Instead of having their favorite programs or online experiences interrupted, consumers want to connect with brands through live events. A joint study by the Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic revealed that 93% of consumers say live events reach them better than television ads, and 89% say live events help them better understand a brand’s offerings than a television, print, radio, or online ad. Furthermore, 96% of consumers are more inclined to purchase after a live brand event.

Fortunately, it seems brands are finally taking notice of what consumers have been clamoring for. According to the Event Marketing Institute, 84% of brands with marketing budgets exceeding $10 million are using experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing is on the rise. But it’s still a young field, and not every brand has the know-how to execute a successful campaign. These are the five most common mistakes I see brands make:

Mistake #1: Viewing Experiential Marketing Only As A Tactic
The power of experiential marketing comes in its conversational nature, and this type of connection shouldn’t just be another tool in brands’ marketing tool kits. Organized person-to-person sharing should be the foundation of a brand’s consumer relations strategy.

Most marketing executives already recognize the influential power of interpersonal interaction, even if they don’t yet realize that experiential marketing is the right vehicle for it. A recent study found that 64% of marketing executives believe that word of mouth is the most effective marketing method, yet only 6% claim to be experts on it.

To reach customers in an unforgettable way, brands should make personal interaction a recurring and foundational element of their marketing strategies.

Mistake #2: Trying To Please Everyone
Customers increasingly want personalized brand interactions, so it’s important that brands tailor events to a specific audience, rather than try to please everybody.

This requires setting clear program goals from the outset. Brands sometimes want to make a big splash with a certain target demographic but simultaneously say they want to reach as many people as possible. It’s important that brands narrow the audience they want to reach, then refine a campaign to target that audience.

Disney and experiential agency Hotcow created a masterfully customized brand experience with its Doc McStuffins Check Up Clinic event. One of Disney Junior’s most popular television programs, Doc McStuffins centers on a 6-year-old girl named Doc who cares for sick toys in her backyard clinic.

In an effort to lift merchandise sales and increase interest in the show’s second season, Disney brought the show to life by inviting kids to diagnose a toy’s “ouchie” symptoms, allowing them to earn a certificate and a door hanger upon completion. The event was hosted at U.K. toy stores in more than 20 towns and targeted children ages 2 to 10.

Mistake #3: Underestimating The Time Needed To Build An Event
Experiential marketing isn’t like a social media post; it can’t be generated and delivered in a matter of hours. Creating a sensation can take months. Often times, hundreds of calls need to be placed, dozens of people need to be trained, and untold “what ifs” need to be planned for.

Brands should contact their experiential agency partners as soon as they begin thinking about executing an event to discuss timing, resource needs, and budget constraints. My company recommends starting this process up to four months prior to the event date to ensure every detail is accounted for and perfected.

Mistake #4: Allotting The Budget To Make A Ripple, Not A Splash
Whether you’re planning the next space jump or something a bit more subtle, event marketing requires financial backing. Brands must invest in technologies, campaign supplies, and hundreds of man hours for each event.

Additionally, many brands prefer to use one budget for all the respective marketing partners developing a campaign. They want to make a big splash while creating just one budget to cover all players—PR, social media, digital advertising, and more. Unless each agency has a concrete budget to work within, it can be extraordinarily difficult to coordinate and adequately support each piece of the puzzle.

Mistake #5: Failing To Measure Event Performance
Once upon a time, experiential marketing was considered by brands to be an immeasurable and imprecise marketing tactic. But with the advent of smartphones and social media, brands can track every tweet or Facebook post made by an event-goer, along with every conversion.

In order to showcase success and determine areas for improvement, it’s important to track event performance. This begins with setting benchmarks in the planning phase and ends with analyzing event KPIs, such as social media engagement and overall attendance.

My company has worked with Sun Products on a variety of projects, one of which was the sponsorship of the Little League World Series by all and Snuggle. Now in the fourth year of our partnership, we’ve steadily increased on-site engagement and social sharing figures. Compared to 2014, we boosted event participation by 65% and social impressions by 81% in 2015.

Experiential marketing is all about paying attention to the little things. Follow the lead of the Fortune 1000 companies and make experiential a centerpiece of your marketing campaign. Don’t forget, however, to designate a specific audience, give agency partners ample lead time, allocate a proper budget, and measure event performance. Customers want to connect. Get out there and deliver a brand experience they won’t soon forget.

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