Field marketing to consumers used to be seen as a quick interaction, grab a passer-by, hand out a sample and move on. However, these days companies want to stay in touch, using face-to-face activity not simply for a quick sales boost but also to build enduring relationships.
Consumers can be persuaded to try out a product after an interesting experience, but there is no guarantee they will continue to use it.
Maintaining contact helps establish a more lasting connection and makes good economic sense. Most of a company’s experiential investment goes into the event itself, and once contacts have been made it does not require much extra cash to continue the relationship.
Experiential marketing is the first big step in building a longer-term dialogue. It starts the conversation, giving the brand some personality and hopefully gaining trial. The big job is then to ensure consumers come back time and time again, which is where direct mail, engaging websites and ongoing incentives can be hugely successful.
The industry has only recently started to look at the long term. In the past few years, clients have been asking us how they can continue the relationships they have started. In some cases a short-term hit will do the job, for instance with a product trial, but for well-established brands that understand the need for advocacy, long-term dialogue is very much part of their strategy.
An experiential campaign should consist of more than merely setting up a sampling tent at a weekend music festival. Smirnoff’s Electric Cabaret campaign, for example, is focused on relationship building and brand affinity. The brand stays in touch with consumers who book tickets via its website by keeping them informed of upcoming events.
Websites are now a crucial part of the experiential mix, used not just to publicize the activity beforehand, but also to provide more information to participants afterwards. Data gathered either at the event or from the web can also be used for direct approaches via email or mail.
Marketers need to make sure that what they are doing is not a cute little stunt, but delivers real connection with customers. Digital and paper communications before and after the events are an ideal way to engage people and get them more immersed in the experience. Participants can be given a memento that they can share with other people, such as a video of them at the event, for example.
Rather than having staff standing around with clipboards, consumers can be given incentives to provide their contact details. Californian wine brand Gallo did just this recently by offering visitors to the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea the chance to win a case of wine.
A more direct approach was used for Nestle’s Quality Street, when the brand erected giant Christmas trees in locations busy with festive shoppers. Consumers were invited to write their Christmas wish on a cardboard decorative ball for the chance to win £1000. Of the 800,000 people who received samples, 5% gave their details, providing valuable data for future marketing activity.
Maintaining contact is especially relevant for products intrinsically linked to customers’ concerns. Health-related products fall into this category, since many people are responsive to communications regarding their wellbeing.
Consumers who gave their details to RPM staff at railway stations and shopping areas were sent regular emails with tips about local cycle routes and healthy activities. The work enabled the agency to build a database of consumers who were potentially interested in the brand and apparently happy to be contacted with more information on an ongoing basis.
Similarly, I2i client Sanex uses a microsite to support sampling of its shower-gel range in gyms. The site contains information about skincare and details about products in the company’s range. This provides the basis for viral activity, with consumers invited to email a link to a friend in return for a free gift and further samples.
Aerodeon worked with the agency to help reverse a decline in Guinness’ sales with a national campaign in which pub-goers were approached by Diageo staff and offered a free pint in return for their mobile number. The following week they were sent a personalized SMS reminder to tell them how and where to redeem the offer.
Few people like being phoned and questioned on something they don’t care about. However, they are usually happy to be reminded of a good experience, and are more likely to be receptive to calls about it.
Data gathered recently by CPM when demonstrating RIM’s BlackBerry mobile device was used in a research project to understand consumer perceptions of the product and the effect of the campaign. The agency contacted 800 consumers to whom it had spoken at events. The data was also used by RIM’s sales teams as a source of warm leads.
All this suggests that experiential is entering a new phase of development. In the past few years it has come a long way from its origins, which largely involved handing out product samples. The discipline is coming into its own as brand owners find ways to integrate it with other channels, providing a lasting experience for consumers and engendering a bigger impact on sales and awareness.