Last July, Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso was about to take off from the Narita Airport, on his way to the 2015 G20 summit—a meeting that comprises finance ministers and central bank governors. As Pokémon Go was ready to launch in Japan the very same day, the minister took the opportunity to predict that the game’s experiential marketing approach would successfully lure out hikikomori (young, reclusive adolescents who spend most of their time indoors) and otaku (geeks): “Shut-ins and otaku are all out there now playing Pokémon,” said Mr. Aso, “which is doing what psychiatrists couldn’t.”
Was he right?
In order to answer that question, we first have to explore a larger question—one that many marketers ask themselves: if you can’t bring consumers to a branded experience, can you bring your brand experience to your consumer?
Mobile tours, pop-up experiences, and other experiential marketing activities are all effective tactics, but they’re also time-consuming and expensive to plan and execute. As an alternative, there are experiential strategies that can put a brand in the hands of the consumer. Here’s a closer look at six experience-based marketing strategies, and the role experience could play as part of your brand’s content strategy.
There’s no doubt about Google Cardboard’s ability to, as New York Times Senior Editor Sam Dolnick explained in an interview with The Verge, “evoke the feeling of actually visiting a new place.” In November 2015, the NYT shipped Google Cardboard headsets, alongside its own virtual reality app, to more than one million of its subscribers; last May, they shipped to 300,000 more. And when a publication that has been bringing the world to people’s living rooms for over 165 years makes the move toward VR, marketers need to pay attention.
Disposable VR headsets have a long way to go before their retirement—especially considering that the technology doesn’t exist in every household as yet. But the next level of sophistication in experience-based marketing technology will be brought about by the marriage of VR with artificial intelligence through Google’s new Pixel phone and Daydream View headset. As Jon Mann, UX design director at Artefact told the MIT Technology Review, “AI…allows us to skip the tedious launching of apps and think about getting experiences delivered to you as soon as you ask, in a highly immersive way.”
For brands, VR and AR present real opportunities to literally place the world of your brand (or the world at large) into the hands of your consumers. And with low-cost alternatives such as Google Cardboard, or by creating unique experiences users can immerse themselves in through existing technology like Pixel and Daydream View. Not only does this allow your consumer to enjoy an experience they couldn’t get anywhere else, but it allows them to do it on their own time—and as many times as they want. If consumers love the experience your brand provides, traction’s sure to follow.
Live video streaming allows brands to bring an experience to their customers in real time—and it’s the next natural step forward for a brand’s video content strategy. Beyond being a cost-effective marketing technique (after all, more often than not it’s just a matter of showing up and recording an event), live video can be used in an interactive way just by enabling comments in real-time or hosting an “ask me anything”-type event.
Many brands are already taking advantage of livestreaming in their content strategies. Nestlé, for example, ran a campaign on Periscope to promote Drumsticks, and Spotify used Meerkat to provide video coverage of the South By Southwest music festival. By covering live events that relate to your brand experience, you can put your customers in the middle of a relevant event that speaks volumes about your brand’s values.
Social media allow businesses to include their customers in events simply by clicking to opt in. HubSpot listed Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThis first among the seven coolest experiential marketing campaigns it had ever seen. In the campaign, Lean Cuisine invited women in New York’s Grand Central Station to “weigh in” by allowing them to choose how they really wanted to be weighed. Women opted to be measured by things like “being back in college at 55,” “caring for 200 homeless children each day,” and “being the sole provider to four sons.”
It’s easy to imagine how something similar could be done through social media alone, relying on contests, polls, live chats, and other creative experiential marketing tactics that can serve as instances of experiential campaign where people can participate from home.
When Lean Cuisine organized its event, a visible hashtag display in large text was enough to get 204 million impressions. There’s an important lesson in there for brands: Whether it is at a public location or at home, the key to these events lies with letting people have a good time—so it’s important not to interrupt with brand messages.
As with hikikomori and otaku, if the most reclusive art lovers won’t put a foot on the street until the next PS1’s blockbuster annual courtyard installation, brands can get to them at home with healthy doses of the things they love most. In that case, could digital art become a new type of content marketing, with brands sponsoring artists as a way to showcase their own creativity?
I can’t see why not. After all, Louis Vuitton and Nike have used digital art with good results. And SYZYGY Group’s yearly experiment with artists such as Barcelona-based brothers Juan and Alejandro Mingarro have proven that artful content, measured against blogs and social media posts, wins by landslide in reach and positive feedback.
This is the Mingarros’ work for SYZYGY Group—it features 20 things that happened on the internet in 2013. Can you spot them all?
By sharing their expertise, brands prove that they understand the interests and pain points of their consumers. In that way, brands can use video to connect with customers on a more human level.
Apart from explanatory videos, tutorials, and customer stories, video content may serve to integrate brands’ offline efforts into their digital strategies, allowing customers to feel involved in their day-to-day activities without leaving their homes. Take, for instance, Mercedes-Benz’s StarView project, which allows customers to watch technicians perform health checks on their vehicles—and to receive a copy of their video footage in the mail when they’re done.
According to ComScore’s US Mobile App Report by ComScore, 80 percent of all growth in digital media engagement in the past three years came from smartphone apps. With that data in mind, what’s the most effective way for brands to turn these apps into experiences?
The perfect formula for mixing apps into experience-based marketing can be found in Michelin’s guide apps and e-books. The brand’s content-based apps put the imagination at work even before the trip begins—they always make me think of Jukes Verne, traveling all around the globe without leaving his office, thanks only to his delight in exhaustive research.
Marketers can use apps as content hubs and offer centralized access to all their digital content on mobile—branded, curated, user generated or sponsored—together in one place.
These six strategies are successful ways to bring branded experiences into the homes of consumers. Done right, it might even bring promenaders to the streets and into the physical stores. In that way, experience-based marketing contains a double call to action. As Alex Tullet, a young Australian game designer with anxiety that didn’t use to go out that much put it: “I just evolved a Staryu into a Starmie [Pokémon characters] on my walk to work this morning—turns out it’s shorter than public transport. I wouldn’t have known that without the excuse to go for a walk.”
Did Taro Aso’s prediction about the hikikomori turn out to be true? Obviously, they’re not crowding the streets, but we don’t even need to watch it in the news to know that Pokémon Go lured out at least some shun-ins to chase the little anime monsters—and to share in the broader Niantic experience.