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To engage millennials, B2C marketers ramp up experiential marketing

In the era of the “selfie,” people share images of everything they do, from the food they cook to the mountains they climb. This persistent need to update friends about every experience creates a gold mine for marketers who can find their way into these Instagram-worthy moments.

Among millennials — 18- to 34-year olds — experiential marketing is especially relevant. Although this generation wields $200 billion in purchasing power, it’s more likely to find value in experiences, not things. Millennials tend to spend their dollars on global airfare, music festival tickets and meals at trendy restaurants, for instance.

Marketers are eager to share in these experiences with their customers, increasing their experiential marketing budgets by about 5 percent annually, according to the Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack study. Event marketing has been around for awhile; what’s new is the ability to extend the reach of in-person experiences to wider audiences via digital channels, thanks in large part to social media.

“When we dissect the meaning of highly share-worthy, it is not just about creating easily shared content; it is about creating share-worthy experiences that will add to the Millennials’ story and/or life,” writes Jeff Fromm, author of “Marketing to Millennials.”

Here are four very different experiential approaches that companies used to engage customers — and their networks:

1. Ball Jar

The Ball Jar, that glass container that’s associated with pickles and preserves and has been around for 125 years, is at the center of the DIY revolution, and it’s got the Pinterest presence to prove it. Jarden Home Brands, which licenses Ball Home Canning, undertook a social-media campaign and online canning demonstrations to expand the brand’s reach to younger audiences. In one year, Facebook fans increased by 40 percent and website visits increased by 30 percent, according to Advertising Age. More importantly, the company had its biggest sales year ever following the campaign.

2. The Gap 

For The Gap's BE BRIGHT NYC campaign, the retailer engaged visitors at the opening of its flagship store by simulcasting photos taken of customers in-store to a billboard in Times Square. It then emailed customers a picture of their billboard so that they could share it with their online networks.

3. Nutella

In London, Nutella offered the public the chance to ‘win a day everyone will love,’ by drawing an image of their dream day onto a virtual slice of toast covered with the chocolate hazelnut spread. In addition to increasing product sampling, the event helped attract more than 300,000 Facebook fans and more than 15,000 competition entries, according to The Drum.

4. Time Warner Cable 

At the 2014 Super Bowl, Time Warner Cable created a live, interactive campaign. It offered a 60-minute tour “inside” a cable box, where network sponsors set up interactive booths. The campaign drew 25,000 customers to the tour and resulted in 455 media placements, garnering nearly 1.5 billion impressions, according to Advertising Age.

Before marketers start planning their next block party, they need to remember that simply creating an experience isn’t enough. They need to think strategically about how their experiential offerings might enhance their customers’ lives.

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