As an extra boost, these three evidence-based findings dive deeper into how experiential marketing campaigns are a must-have approach in any marketer’s arsenal:
1. Stored Emotions and Memories Create Desire
Have you ever walked by a bakery and decided to go in because the aroma made you remember how appetizing a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of challah can be? That’s one delicious example of how our senses mingle with our memories to drive purchase intent.
In fact, the brain processes smells, tastes, sounds, and more in the same area where emotional memories are stored. Consequently, the mind links hands-on pleasant, exciting, or otherwise positive experiences with nostalgia. All those feel-good neurons firing at once stimulate action, making consumers more open to buying.
This process works even when consumers aren’t planning on spending money. For example, when given the opportunity to test the latest BMW, a quarter of drivers purchased one for themselves so they could relive the enjoyment. Whether it was due to the smell of the premium leather seats or the exhilarating sensation of going from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, nothing compared to the feeling of actually taking the car out for a spin.
Being in the moment and truly experiencing a product links to positive, natural psychological tendencies, which is a huge factor in experiential marketing success and in turning tryers into buyers. You can do this by playing with sounds and scents that trigger an emotional response in consumers. Create an experience that immerses the audience in all of the senses to encourage them to find a connection with your product.
2. Familiarity Breeds Heightened Brand Friendliness
According to Srini Pillay, a Harvard brain researcher and psychiatrist, unfamiliar situations trigger the brain to be less engaged and emphatic. This is one reason consumers are so quick to hit the “skip” option when digital ads play.
Experiential marketing campaigns, alternatively, plays a less burdensome role in consumers’ lives and actually creates a friendlier response. This comes into play when you consider something like a pop-up store in the middle of a busy college campus. With the tent set up in a familiar place, students don’t see the event as an intrusion but as a curious opportunity. This enables students to feel comfortable to approach the situation with an open mind instead of avoiding it because they expect it will interfere with their schedules.
Use familiarity to your advantage and connect with consumers in places they already find comfort in. However, make sure this interaction doesn’t insinuate any extra work and instead provides the consumer with a benefit. For example, handing out donuts with a flyer about your product outside of a local coffee shop could do the trick.
3. Consumers Want to Choose Their Own Adventures
A 2016 Journal of Consumer Psychology study confirmed that consumers love control. Although these findings might be unsurprising, you absolutely must keep this in mind when crafting marketing campaigns. The more in control a consumer feels, the more likely he or she is to be receptive to your message.
When executed properly, experiential marketing campaigns are completely voluntary to bystanders. Although they might be invited in, they are also free to continue walking if they are in a hurry or uninterested. And if they come into the experience, they can choose their own adventure. They can opt to read the brochures, play the games, chat with your brand advocates, and stay as long as they’d like — all on their own terms.
For example, when our agency created an experiential campaign for Claritin many years ago, we ensured our reps engaged the public in a clear, non-constricting way. We simply asked, “Do you suffer from seasonal allergies?” A “no” response was completely fine and elicited a sincere “No worries! Have a Claritin day!” from the team. A “yes” response gave us the green light to offer a full-blown adventure that educated the consumer about the product. You can follow suit by being mindful about how some actions can make the consumer feel trapped. Instead, opt for open spaces, and use simple yes or no questions that help individuals feel like their answer controls the narrative.
It’s smart to experiment with the latest evolutions in digital advertising trends, but there’s no shame in sticking to tried-and-true methodologies. Experiential marketing campaigns contain many elements that align with consumers’ psychological tendencies and needs.
Backed by science, experiential marketing’s success doesn’t rely on the flashiest new industry trends; it caters to a specific audience’s needs, which is something that will never go out of style.
The original version of this article was first published on The Marketing Scope.