Viva’s Blog: Stop Shouting!

Instead of using advertising to shout at people, brand experiences are the new approach to engage people to interact with your brand. Sure, there’s a place for paid advertising in your marketing program, but in today’s #me world, the foundation of your plan needs to foster an emotional and personal conversation with your customers. It’s about meeting them where they are, creating brand touches that leave a lasting emotional connection. It’s a different way to think about your advertising plan. Experiences are a must for every marketer in 2018. 

Like all effective marketing programs, creating a brand experience starts with understanding what consumers want.

Consumers want experiences, not things. According to the Mintel American 2017 Lifestyle Report, the two most robust areas of consumer spending growth were vacations, and food and drinks. Each category grew by over 6% in the last year. 

With this shift in how consumers spend their money, it follows that marketing budgets should shift, too. Savvy marketers must think beyond channels like TV, direct mail or even online and start to focus on creating meaningful connections with their customers.

Airbnb is a big winner in the societal shift from transactions to experiences. airbnb’s “Experiences” is an eclectic assortment of more than 5,000 excursions across 58 cities ranging from wine tasting in California to glass-blowing in Chicago to kimono making in Tokyo. Many capitalize on the locale, such as a tour to discover the hidden stairways in San Francisco.

Analysts believe the revenue generated from their experience business will soon dwarf their room and home rental business as tens of thousands of people are signing up for experiences each month. airbnb combines the right amount of technology with the right dose of humanity to build a long-lasting, positive brand touch.

Great experiential campaigns are emotional brand moments, not brand stunts. Consumers leave feeling closer to your brand not because of functionality or cost, but rather because they feel a connection. 

How do you transition from TV ads, direct mail and other media that rely heavily on one-way communication with a brand and its customer to a conversation? Learn from other smart marketers who have realized impressive business results from experiential marketing.

While you may not have the budget or resources to conduct a large-scale experiential marketing program, there’s a lot to learn from companies who do. 

Success Story #1: Lean Cuisine weighed in and won!


In 2015, after six years of declining sales, Nestle Lean Cuisine introduced new advertising, packaging and products and stopped perpetuating their image of being a diet brand. Research indicted that their core female target preferred conversations about their personal accomplishments rather than how society judged their appearance. So, the brand sought to build an emotional bond with female customers and meet them where they were – celebrating their accomplishments instead of counting calories.

Through video, social media and an installation at NYC’s Grand Central Station, the brand asked its customers, “What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment?” An artist captured the womens’ responses and painted them on scales that were hung in the station. 

The brand didn’t stop there. At the start of the new year, when resolutions are often about weight loss, the brand gave women the power to change the conversation with digital tools that silenced everyday “diet” talk. A proprietary #WeighThis diet filter for TV and Google Chrome allowed women to mute the word “diet” on their TVs and web browser.

The results? 6.5 million viral views in the first week of the #WeighThis campaign, a 428% increase in social mentions and a 33% increase in positive brand perception. Importantly, the campaign contributed to the brand’s first sales increase in six years.

Viva Takeaways
1. Understand your audience. Insights gleaned from research told the brand managers what really mattered to its female customers and it wasn’t their diet.
2. Don’t interrupt. If you create an experience that provides value to people, they’re more likely to participate.

3. Let your brand ambassadors drive the message. The power of the campaign came from showcasing women’s words not corporate marketing speak.   

Success Story #2: Google delights with donuts


Google is hoping the way to your ears is through your stomach. To promote its voice-activated mini speakers, Google created 11 pop-up doughnut shops as a means to experience their new superhero – the Home Mini. Why donut shops? The Home Mini is about the size of a donut. 

For one or a couple of days per city, people enter a converted Google-branded donut shop where donuts and donuts carrying Home Minis were circling on a conveyor belt. Visitors rang a bell and asked a question from the Google Home Mini donut shop menu like, “Hey Google, where’s the closest coffee shop?” Then, a little pink Google box came out of a service window to provide the answer. Open the box and engaged consumers won two donuts or a free, donut-shaped Home Mini. There was even a sprinkle booth where visitors could dance around a shower of confetti.

The results? Individuals who won a Home Mini, and many who didn’t, bombarded social media with their photos and videos of the event. Wait times were 3 hours just to enter the decked out bakeries. 

Viva Takeaways

1. Start with a goal. Google’s success with its Home Mini is essential to their smart speaker strategy. Amazon has sold about 20 million Echo smart speakers of which two thirds are estimated to be for the sub $50 Echo Dot. Google Home Mini hits that same price point. 

2. Go all in. Google took over bakeries for one to four days each across the US and in Canada in October and November of 2017. No signs of the original business were visible. The design helped create the party atmosphere and tremendously engaging brand experience. 

3. Promote a new product with a twist. Think beyond giving out free samples. Let your customers experience your brand.

Success Story #3: GE brings good things to life


Think experiential marketing is just for B2C brands? Think again. Sixty-seven percent of B2B marketers say that events make for one of the most effective strategies they use. 

GE created the Healthymagination experience to promote global healthcare solutions among key stakeholders. How’d it work? GE invited 700 meeting attendees to experience what they branded, healthymagination, through three separate movie sets designed to emulate a rural African clinic, an urban clinic and an emergency room. The idea was that doctors would share their stories, live, in front of 700 attendees, to illustrate how GE’s healthcare technology played a major role in each setting. 

The results? 71% of participants shared their experiences, launch events generated significant media attention including coverage in CNN and the Associated Press, and importantly, it provoked dialogue and catapulted awareness of some of the world’s most challenging healthcare issues.

Viva Takeaways

1. Experiential marketing works for B2B brands too. It all starts with your customer and creating an experience that is engaging AND presents an opportunity for them to experience your product or service first-hand.

2. Serious products and services can also be experienced. 


Laura Sheridan
Laura Sheridan, Founder & President of Viva La Brand has a proven track record of effective branding and advertising, spanning over twenty five years with some of the best in the business: Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago; Hill, Holliday and Polaroid in Boston; and, Progressive Insurance and Viva La Brand in Cleveland. Laura founded Viva La Brand to offer large and small organizations alike strategic marketing expertise to catapult their visibility, growth and profitability. Viva La Brand develops effective brand strategies and conducts ad agency searches that successfully match clients with the optimal ad agency partners. Laura is proud to work with smart, innovative leader Brands in a wide range of industries from health care to manufacturing to technology and financial services. In addition to her work with clients, Laura is an author and speaker on all topics related to Brand.
More articles by: Laura Sheridan
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