But without meaning, experiences are nothing. Every single time a person interacts with a brand, an opinion is formed, a feeling is shared, and trust is built or broken. Here are three tips for making every brand experience more meaningful to your audience.
This seems simple, but frankly it is one of the most overlooked principles of successful experiential marketing. In order for a brand to engage an audience, it must establish a clear point of view right up front. A strong call-to-action not only invites the audience to participate, but it engages consumers to challenge your opinion and see for themselves the benefit your product or service can offer. Take for instance Community Coffee’s claim, “Taste the Difference Family Makes”. For six years running, Community Coffee has created a fluid and fun sampling experience for people that mattered, where family mattered. Product sampling, roasting demos and coupon distribution bearing this bold headline took place right outside key accounts and at community events. Inside stores, brand ambassadors personally handed each guests coffee packs and coupon holders. The result was an on-brand, personal and rewarding experience that enticed a national audience to taste and believe the difference family makes.
Emotions enable the bond between the consumer and the brand to strengthen into something approaching an intimate relationship. We see meaning begin to unfold as the audience moves from opinion to a feeling—from “I like this” to “This makes me feel something”. Strong experiential design brings to life the essence of a brand’s emotional capital, humanizes the brand and excels at creating opportunities for shared feelings like wonder, excitement, nostalgia, and even empowerment. Jack Daniel’s put a fresh twist on their Country Cocktails brand when they linked the feeling of refreshment to new beginnings in their “Refresh Your Flavor” Makeover Campaign. Here, African American women with military ties were invited to receive VIP transformations in LA salons where they were pampered and treated to Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails. Much more than just a sampling promotion, these warriors were celebrated and honored in the fun, carefree and empowering spirit that Jack Daniel’s is famous for, creating a lasting feeling that linked taste to a rejuvenated outlook on life.
The final and most important step in the journey toward meaning is trust. Trust is the bones beneath the ever-changing flesh and blood of opinions and feelings. It is the difference between a marriage and a celebrity crush, a last-minute purchase and a yearlong subscription. HBO spent years producing industry-leading quality content, giving viewers worlds to lose themselves in and characters to love. But it was at SXSW 2018 that we saw HBO go the literal extra mile to make their brand believable. HBO brought their escapist drama “Westworld” to life with over 60 actors and stunt people, horses, and five live bands. By bridging the gap between the virtual and true reality, HBO struck gold. “The entire thing was amazing to the point that I really don’t know how to do justice to it,” said Alex McLevy for A.V. Club. “The world could use honestly more advertising like this.”
At the end of the day, how do we know when we’ve created meaning? Meaning is difficult to spot and even harder to communicate. Rarely will a guest explicitly say, “This interaction built a meaningful relationship between me and this brand.” Here, more surface-level testimonials, social media listening and opinion surveys can guide the way. If your audience can’t get enough— if they’re sharing your content with emotive language—you’re on the right track.
Submitted by Patrick Conreaux, SVP, Creative Director and Emily Dardamon, Emerging Media Specialist