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Experiential marketing has hit its stride. What was once viewed as experimental or even risky in terms of ROI—has officially proven its legitimacy with brands like Google, Lavazza Coffee, Geico, and Red Bull investing heavily in the space—and achieving massive returns.

The premise of experiential marketing itself is giving marketers a chance to become truly creative in their approach and engage their audiences like never before. But there is a right (and wrong) way to connect with your target demographic. Consider the recent Fyre Festival catastrophe: Though an extreme case, it's the perfect example of experiential marketing gone wrong and the detrimental impact on the people and brands involved.

So, whether you're organizing an immersive pop-up, on-site virtual reality installation, or a full theatrical performance or live event, here are a few things that should be kept top of mind to make it mean more, and ultimately deliver out the numbers you're looking for.

Experiences make people happy. This should seem like a no brainer: People love to be entertained. And more than that, 65% of consumers say that they are far more influenced by positive and memorable experiences than traditional advertising and marketing gimmicks.

For the Millennial generation, specifically—72% of whom would prefer to spend their money on experiences over things, and Instagram content is king—a well targeted, enticing experiential campaign that the younger generation will associate with your brand for years to come has proven to be invaluable.

Focus on people and relationships. One of the huge benefits that's often associated with experiential marketing is the sense of brand loyalty it creates among its target audiences. Consider Disney: The brand's immersive and often theatrical marketing initiatives have people feeling loyal to the company from cradle to grave, spanning multiple generations with their appeal.

When customers experience something truly memorable and personalized, they begin to develop a much deeper relationship with brands. Organizations that lead with a focus on relationship-building are able to foster this kind of dedicated audience, members of which truly embrace brands for their shared values. Companies that become more experience-focused are the ones succeeding in this new landscape.

Don't try to save time, invest in it. Marketing is no longer about saving time to deliver great customer service; it's all about time well spent. Gone are the days of trying to feed customers bite-sized nuggets of information in a 30-second time slot; consumers are willing to dedicate time to experiences that brands are offering, especially when those experiences are designed around their needs and interests.

Brands need to recognize this opportunity, and they should be grateful for the time consumers are willing to put into their hands and invest in a captivating experience that will make the time spent worth it—for both sides.

Nothing is more personal and impactful than the way we experience our lives. Years of marketing and sales insights show that experiences that lend to true engagement between brands and their target audiences are powerful tools for the acquisition and retention of customers.

Enhance, never interrupt. One of the more challenges of experiential marketing is authentically integrating your company or brand into an experience in a way that isn't interruptive to the audience. The experience you provide always needs to add value to the consumer's journey; the programing of an experience footprint can—and should—be customized to the specific event you're integrating into, giving your brand a credible place in the experience lineup. It's also a good practice to find event-specific opportunities to eliminate pinch points and invest in tactics that deliver true value to the people interacting with your brand.

Human connection is key. In experiential marketing, the messenger is, often, just as important as the message. Casting and training authentic ambassadors for your brand engagement is the difference between a good idea and a great experience. Most consumers may never meet a representative of your brand outside of these interactions. They can set the tone for the relationship between consumer and brand, making it essential to cast ambassadors with an authentic passion for your product and industry. Train them as an extension of your brand, and give them the tools to make each interaction mean more.

Solve, not sell. No one wants to be sold to—but most consumers are open to education on how products can solve a problem or satisfy a need, especially if it's a pain point they're experiencing themselves. Experts that focus on the needs of each consumer and can tailor information to the individual can achieve a level of unmatched credibility.

Bring the joy. Consumers respect, and ultimately end up purchasing from, brands that are able to provide excitement, entertainment, and memorable experiences. Each experience should apply the three E's—engage, entertain, and educate—for the highest impact both on relationship-building and on ROI.

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If you keep those things in mind and you're willing to be bold and to dive into experiential marketing head-on, the sky's the limit.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of John Millward

John Millward is chief innovation officer of RedPeg an independent brand engagement agency. Having led brand activations for Fortune 500 companies with CMI, Live Nation, and Jack Morton, then co-founding and leading Blue Flame as its chief creative officer, he brings 25 years of experience to the table.

LinkedIn: John Millward