Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Checklist for Elevating Experiential Marketing to the Next Level

The XM Conference in Toronto’s Palais Royale, June 2, 2009 had its good points and some 'areas for improvement', but the key points Dan Hanover, Editor of Event Marketing Magazine made helped prove the point that when experiential marketing is handled strategically, it is an unbeatable tactic.

Net Take-Away From The XM Conference

Bob Garfield’s keynote was hurt by technical glitches, but most of all by the fact that he set the stage for why the marketing industry is about to go through a major shake-up (“The Apocalypse”), but left all his predictions of what will happen next in his soon-to-be-released book! Sharing some of his insights with this crowd of experienced XM folk would have seemed apropos.

Without intending any offence to the presenters, the five (5!) case studies were of little value to the veterans in the room. Value would have been generated had the clients given us a quick overview of the stats regarding quantities of primary, secondary and tertiary interactions, program breadth/duration, costs and ROI estimates (even if only broadly) and then got into what went well and what they’d have done differently. A round-table with the clients arguing XM vs. ATL/other tactics would have been useful.

The ‘Shopper Marketing” panel discussion was unfortunately rather lacking in any clear message/points, as well, in large part because there were no major retailers represented. A subject change to something like “ How XM Efforts Impact Shopping”, or having a pro-con debating team (Ooo! A couple of dinosaur agency/TV media reps vs. XM folks!) might have lead to a livelier debate. A debate over what role ‘social media’ might have in the XM sphere would have sparked some thinking.

TELUS’s Tammy Scott presented an excellent overview of why XM is where the big dollars will shift in the coming years, but the slide and her enthusiasm for XM got sidelined by the need to cover-off her case study. Still, she made several great points throughout about the power of experiential. She could be an XM Ambassador in the industry!

Although somewhat disjointed and bit frenetic, the hit of the day was Dan Hanover, the editor of Event Marketer magazine, who tossed out a flurry of key learnings about XM effectiveness that made the entire event worthwhile. He promised “15 XM Trends to Bet On”, but delivered far more (26 that I counted!). I re-organized his insights into three general categories, all of them generally making the point that when the XM segment applies the kind of in-depth consumer and effectiveness research and strategic analysis/thinking to their efforts that CPG firms and the dinosaur agencies use, XM becomes almost unstoppable because its results are unbeatable.

Dan’s points follow (plus one from the clients), with the point “ XM is Now ‘For Life’” being the single most important insight of all:

Big Picture, Strategic XM Thinking

  1. Dead” vs. “Live” Marketing Efforts: All other marketing efforts are ‘dead’, inanimate — only XM is LIVE! (What do you think consumers prefer?)
  2. All XM Agencies are CONVERTERS: XM efforts convert non-buyers into buyers — XM influences behaviour while advertising drives awareness.
  3. Re-Think XM Efforts: How can we use the experience to drive consumers from a single ‘trial purchase’ to becoming loyal users who buy 6 times in a row?
  4. XM is Now ‘For Life’: Always bring multi-year experience plans to every client RFP where each year is a chapter in a life-long ‘book’ of experiences that consumers will have with that brand. When XM agencies start thinking this way, about experiences that come back in relevant but different ways year after year, XM shifts automatically from being tactical, to being an indispensable strategic marketing component.
  5. Tactic Agnostic: Apply strategic analysis to every single XM effort — don’t just re-use last years’ program, EVER! (What’s different this year than last in the marketplace, with the brand? What can be done better/differently?)
  6. Embrace Scale: Insist on multi-media support for ALL XM efforts (advertising drives awareness!).
  7. Frenemies (point from the Canadian clients): Royal Bank of Canada now insists on a single brief for all agencies — they all must work together, dinosaurs with DM, XM, digital and promo. Budweiser does the same, because in Canada this is possible (this cannot be duplicated in the US due to scale, so Canadian case studies are becoming the gold standards for XM cross-over multimedia campaigns).
Targeting Strategically (and Following-Through)

  1. Hyper-Target (Micro-Target): Know your consumers in minute, in-depth detail (Obama’s campaign leveraged this). Xbox breaks ‘18-24’ into 16 separate psycho/demographic segments.
  2. Find the Friction: Identify the consumers’ issues/barriers with the product category or brand, then give them a ‘solution experience’.
  3. Target ‘Influencers’: There are trend-setters and there are trend-spreaders. The latter may never buy, but they’re more valuable. Who are the real opinion leaders you need to target for any given product? Volvo gave nightclub bouncers cars for a full month — only if they agreed to park them in front of the club every night and chase people off “their” car.
  4. Experience Profiling: Relevance is everything -- develop different conversations and experiences for different micro-targeted types of consumers. Sidetrack individuals who are not the target to ‘busy stations’ in order to spend quality time with the core target.
  5. Measure! (...or come up with a different experience that can be measured!): Intel’s XM budget increases year on year because they MEASURE every experience’s impact on sales and/or brand equity.
  6. Re-Contact: Always collect contact info, build DBs and send reminder/follow-up messages. (Think about how to create ‘clubs’ that consumers can feel like they’ve become involved members of.)
  7. Data-Mining/Lead-Indexing: All leads are NOT equal, cut the likely non-buyers from every herd. Rank-order high-value leads.
Designing Experiences Strategically
  1. Conversion is Key to XM, NOT Awareness: When the experience has ‘heated them up’, DO NOT let them ‘cool down’ -- drive them to commit/purchase. SMART Car, prior to US distribution, got 30,000 deposits on new cars through XM efforts. (Nokia is pre-selling the new N97 in the US to keener/early-adaptors and has an online ‘club’ for fans.)
  2. Speed Up Conversion: Use the design of the experience itself to push consumers from merely ‘more likely to buy’ to ‘current user’.
  3. Trial Focus: Use experience design to make people WANT to try the experience, not simply do it because it’s there. (Build hype and anticipation, like the artificial line-ups outside of dance clubs.)
  4. User-Generated Participation: Give them options in the experience — offering simple choices or opportunities to input both drive engagement.
  5. WOM 2.0 (word of mouth): Ensure relevant, interested target consumers are given reasons to ‘share’ the word with their cohort. Make the experience something that they’ll talk about (New Balance ‘touched’ 6,000 but drove 60,000 pairs of that model of runners). Use HouseParty.com to set up willing hosts for XM events in addition to your agency’s efforts.
  6. Backdoor “Blueprint” Viral Impact: Can you push sales surreptitiously, through unexpected, unconventional experiences? Lowes drove unprecedented home safety product sales by setting up an inflatable house at schools and giving students a home safety inspection lesson, then invited them to return with their parents on the weekend to show-off their new expertise.
  7. Condense the Distance (between the experience and purchase opportunity): Ensure that there is a way for consumers to purchase at the experience (in store), Or bring the store to them (van, pop-up store), Or arrange transportation to take them to the store afterwards, Or have online shopping available at the event, At least facilitate/drive the purchase with coupons or an incentive to go to the online store.
  8. Time Economics — Engagement Duration: Identify the optimum time period for any given demo — is 90 seconds better or worse than 180? A cell phone firm used free shoe shines to trap business execs for exactly 90 seconds. Can consumers be moved from top to bottom of the purchase funnel in 2 minutes? 3 minutes? Southern Comfort found 11 minutes were necessary to convert young men into fans, so ClickSpring created mobile cocktail-mixing schools where the experience lasted at least 11 minutes.
  9. Reduce Regions (Increase On-Location Time Spent): 7 days in 1 location has proven more impactful than 1 day each in 7 cities.
  10. Less is More! Reduce the number of products you cram into any experience -- fewer products lead to higher overall sales volume. Intel has reduced, through testing, their event booth product line-up from 95 to 11. And sales are up!
  11. Green is Now Mandatory: Build it in automatically, but distinguish between dark (seriously) green and ‘lite’ green (lip service) brands.
  12. Digital: Build interactive/online elements into EVERY experience, and track the engagements (volume, time spent, return visits, etc.)
  13. No More “Event Only” Websites!: From now on winning XM-related sites will be linked to the brand sites, not ‘stand-alones’ like “BoldBlast.com” e.g. Www.Blackberry.com/JohnMayer and www.Blacberry.com/CES

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