How to Maximize Earned Media From Your Experiential Marketing
Posted by Kim Georgeff / November 24
Good experiential marketing creates a live happening – an event, an atmosphere, an interaction – that connects consumers with a brand and its ongoing narrative. Making that experience live beyond a single event or instance is an ongoing challenge for marketers, one that’s best answered by a combination of social and earned media.
Social is relatively easy: post it, promote it, and hope that they will come. Earned media is trickier. Outside of your direct control, it relies on your ingenuity to influence the influencers. How can you maximize your experiential marketing’s earned media impact?
- Intrigue by connecting on many layers. Think beyond the free product sample. Tell the brand’s story in a way that reflects current events and the zeitgeist of the moment. Most importantly, make your experiential a chapter that continues the brand’s existing narrative journey. How it’s been done: VANS House Parties Vans canvas skate shoes are a universal symbol of in-the-know counterculture. At the House of Vans in a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a ceiling fan made from a 20-foot helicopter rotor presides over a giant indoor skatepark. Add a stage, book an expertly curated combination of up-and-coming underground superstars like Charles Bradley and old-school stalwarts like Gorilla Biscuits, make a summer-long series out of it, and invite everyone to come by. For free. Instead of tagging their name onto a sponsorship, Vans creates irresistible and ultra-relevant cultural product that demands write-ups, reviews and references.
- Invite by making it easy to share – literally and figuratively. ‘Shareable’ usually means ‘easily disseminated on social media.’ Of course you want your event media – images, video, interviews – to be in scalable capsule form so they can be posted everywhere from Instagram to Longreads. But you should also pursue the more traditional version of ‘shareable,’ something closer to it’s pre-digital meaning. In other words, people should be able to share in the moment emotionally – to feel what the experience means even if they weren’t there. Much earned media, especially on sites like Buzzfeed and Mashable, lives and dies by the immediately attractive click-package. Stirring strong emotions (surprise, wonder, nostalgia, etc.) creates a reason for outlets to post articles and slideshows about your endeavor. How it’s been done: IKEA provides a unique example of experiential marketing because simply purchasing a piece of IKEA furniture is itself experiential. you put it together yourself, a process that instills an inordinate love of the product that research calls the IKEA effect. IKEA has hosted sleepover events at its locations and partnered with Marriott to furnish Europe’s Moxy Hotels brand but one of its most significant pieces of experiential was a simple, inexpensive shelter that the charitable IKEA Foundation made for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Though not an experiential piece in the most traditional sense, the shelter tapped into a deep reservoir of sentiment surrounding human experience – soothing the desperation of being uprooted with the comfort of a warm home – that fed directly into the IKEA brand. Attractive CG diagrams and images made it easy for publications to use photos and set up slideshows. And with global unrest in the news affecting some 15.2 million refugees, the shelter generated incredible earned media.
- Include relevance for earned media audiences. Think about any viral video or meme: it capitalizes not just on something quirky, touching or surprising but also on a cultural moment. Psy’s out-of-nowhere hit ‘Gangnam Style’ came at a time when Lady Gaga’s recycled club-kid sound was at its summertime peak and most pop music sounded like love songs sung by sentient iPhones. How does your experiential fit into the spirit of the times, current events or a topical moment? How it’s been done: MINI does fantastic experiential, from its Macy’s MINI in a snowglobe to its yearly MINI Takes the States tour where MINI owners road rally en masse across the US. The tour connects with two enduring and powerful post-war memes, the strong relationship that Americans have with their cars and the personal growth associated with the classic road trip. Bonus: the MINI satisfies the American need for automotive style with gas efficiency that suits a $4/gallon world. MINI’s Art Beat campaign plugged into the fashion-forward, art-loving, enviro-friendly spirit of the brand’s British roots by taking a MINI Cooper to the streets of London outfitted with 48,000 LED lights that showed user-made video clips while blasting music. According to just one of scores of earned media results, the result was a showcase of “technical innovation, digital art interactive design” that “reflect the character of the urban visionary brand.”