Ben Reed: Masters at work

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Have some industries mastered the art of experiential more than others? Closer’s experiential business development director, Ben Reed ponders the question…

With ever more blue chip brands directing their spend below the line, experiential marketing has become the unsuspected “medium du jour” and has been launched into the limelight like never before.

However, is there one particular industry that does experiential better than any other? With another hectic summer festival schedule this year, it is clear to see how comfortable alcohol brands are when marrying experiential activity with music in their brand plans.

This winning formula works so well because festivals are predominantly music and alcohol-led, and therefore understand that a rich consumer experience can be had in a relevant and engaging environment with the right audience.

Arguably, both FMCG and alcohol sectors have been the most switched on when embracing experiential techniques and engaging with a targeted audience. This is largely because the barriers to “convert” are relatively low in comparison to products and services in other sectors. For example, changing behavior to get someone to try and purchase a new flavoured cider could cost as little as £2 for an interaction.  Switching somebody over to a new mortgage product, however, may cost over £200 for a quality interaction and take a lot longer.

However, do all good things come to an end?

With the off trade under continued scrutiny over irresponsible drinking, where age verification issues and price promotions lead to anti-social behaviour and health concerns, how much longer before regulatory bodies, such as the Health Select Committee, further regulate drinking at festivals and other outdoor spaces?

Further intervention into the presence of alcohol brands at festivals could find us following in the footsteps of our American counterparts by offering festivals with designated smoking and drinking areas. Although these types of festivals are attracting sustained levels of footfall despite being heavily regulated (e.g. Coachella in the USA) it just doesn’t seems very British somehow, does it?

Continuing to work closely within Portman Group and CAP guidelines, we predict that brands will evolve their strategies and seek ever more intelligent ways to bring their messages to life at festivals. This will mean that we will see a shift from traditional and often overt alcohol advertising at festivals to an increase in brands wanting to engage with their consumers intelligently via both face-to-face experiential marketing and digital platforms. For example, most festival campaigns involve filming interactions with consumers enjoying brands at festivals and posting them on social networking sites, with data collected being used for subsequent e-CRM campaigns.

Experiential marketing, by its very nature, is about engagement and behavioural change and therefore can be used effectively across all major sectors – and other sectors are fast realising the immediate and measureable results that experiential marketing can provide.

Finance, technology and utilities are using experiential to better understand their consumers and build longer lasting dialogue with them to really get to grips with their hearts and minds. This approach fits perfectly with a consumer-led brand strategy and also works seamlessly with other media.

Brands now understand that consumers crave two-way relationships that traditional media just cannot offer. This is why digital and live media marketing are the fastest growing mediums.

We now find that business challenges across sectors tend to revolve around the same objectives – namely, drive sales/conversion, awareness, penetration and brand saliency. We also find that experiential is an invaluable tool in speeding up a typical consumer purchasing cycle.

A piece of experiential marketing is the purest contact between a brand and a consumer. Every part of the experience must engage, educate and excite the consumer without detracting from the overall business objective. If a brand gets this right then the rewards are there for the taking, regardless of sector.

So enjoy your 125ml glass of wine next summer while you can, in the designated alcohol area, in the rain!