We’ve all heard it: millennials value experiences more than material goods. Guess what: it’s not just millennials. As more and more time is spent glued to screens, there is a groundswell of desire to get out, get together, explore, experience and be touched by emotions, kindness, learning and a feeling of belonging.
One might think, because we now have so many digital channels to stay connected, chat with new people from around the world, and find out news about anything, at any time, we should be the happiest, most well-grounded society. Yet studies show that, unfortunately, one in five Canadians report being lonely. And it is a global issue. It is well-documented that social isolation can be more detrimental to your health than obesity or smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. As we have become hyper-connected, it seems we have also become disconnected from each other.
Making Connections Through Experiential PR
So, what does this problem have to do with communications and communicators? I believe we can play a vital role in helping brands become connectors and motivators. We can create experiences that help people reconnect, get out from behind their screens and try to build a more social and empathetic society… all while enhancing brand strength. Now that’s brand purpose: re-introducing consumers to the outside world as a place to make meaningful human connections. Through Experiential PR, brands can tap into emotions and involve consumers in experiences that are memorable, social and uplifting; getting people talking, thinking and feeling like they are a part of something. Here are just a few ways to achieve that.
The Art of Surprise & Delight
A brand-oriented Surprise & Delight is based on a simple premise: making people stop in their tracks by creating a feeling of happiness or gratitude for being able to experience a brand in such a unique way. It makes those endorphins sing and elevates a brand into being part of joy.
Surprise & Delights are an important part of the Strategic Objectives PR Toolbox. By creating an unforgettable experience, a brand can create an indelible connection which results in loyalty, cherished memories and even sales. For Oreo’s 100th Birthday, we surprised and delighted more than 15,000 consumers by throwing a public celebration for the brand and creating the biggest Oreo anyone had ever seen. Consumers sang Happy Birthday, were treated to a sampling of limited-edition Oreo Birthday Cake Cookies, and everyone was able to have their picture taken with our massive Oreo cookie. Everyone shared brand love on their favourite social platforms and even news media couldn’t resist reporting on this Surprise & Delight.
When one of our retail clients wanted to assert the accessibility and affordability of their stylish clothing, we took over and styled a downtown streetcar to ferry fashionistas across town to explore a pop-up shop. Travellers enjoyed giveaways, snacks, and even an on-board fashion show. From inception to creation, Surprise & Delights can assert brand messaging and create positive feelings that foster relationships to transform consumers into longer-term brand advocates.
Mobilizing a Movement
As emotional beings, we are looking for purpose and want to connect with likeminded people and communities. Consumer trust is at an all time low and we are looking for something to believe in – this could be a cause, or a way to make a difference. Causes can be quirky in nature (like the great ‘pineapple on pizza’ divide) or as deep as the survival of the planet (like the realities of climate change). Consumers want brands to take a stand and know what it stands for; well beyond its products. If truly authentic, there is a tremendous opportunity to mobilize brand advocates around shared values, and to invite consumers to weigh in and join the movement.
This type of cause-related Experiential PR transcends traditional marketing and uses the power of the brand to draw attention to important issues. It empowers consumers with a purpose and gives a brand, purpose. Consumers want to participate, they want a voice, and brands can provide this through even a simple action, while achieving big wins for the issue, and for their reputation.
To celebrate the launch of Fair Trade sourcing of cocoa for all Dairy Milk bars, we sparked thousands of meaningful conversations about sustainable practices. Street activations in Canada’s major cities became events where Canadians could pledge their support and sign larger-than-life banners for the cause. We also gave Canadians the authentic experience of meeting a hero of the movement – a cocoa farmer representing his community in Ghana, that would benefit from the sourcing practices. Canadians received the reward of feeling good and helping to make a difference; a thank-you expressed through a Dairy Milk bar.
The Body Shop was a pioneer of Experiential PR. Mobilizing consumers for social justice was part of its DNA. Its leaders believed in the power of business to activate and give social purpose to even the most frivolous of products. When the brand wanted to build awareness for one of the grittiest of issues: Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth, we took our message to the streets. To complement a strategic communications program that connected with the public, media, governments, opinion and community leaders and NGOs, we knew that Experiential activations were essential to create grassroots support and street buzz. Guerrilla-style ‘Stop Traffic to Stop Sex Trafficking’ takeovers turned heads, promoted on-the-ground engagement, spread the word and put the issue on the public agenda.
We marched in the streets, we marched on Parliament Hill, and everywhere we went we asked people to sign an online petition in support of national action to help stop sex trafficking. PR mobilized a nation! More than 550,000 signatures of support were gathered, which became part of one of the largest online petitions ever on the topic and was ultimately presented to the United Nations. The program inspired legislative change in support of tougher treatment of sex traffickers; a true testament to the power of Experiential PR in uniting hearts and minds to make the world a better place.
Experiential + Social + Digital PR = Better Together
Experiential PR is a great tool to unite people through real-world, first-hand experiences. And, while it aims to create meaningful memories for every person the activation touches, it also has long legs in the content world. By developing a holistic communications program around the activation, you can engage people well beyond the geographic limits of your events. Sharing eye-catching content and involving interactive social and digital elements allows you to spread your message and brand purpose far and wide, while eliminating FOMO and thrilling those experience-seekers who would love to be part of your brand.
Five Tips for Winning Experiential PR Campaigns:
- Be creative and strategic. Create highly visual experiences that reflect brand purpose and are designed to authentically merge with consumers’ cravings for experiences that are meaningful to them.
- Create memorable interactions. Go well beyond the five seconds it takes to hand out a product sample.
- Ask people to do something simple, quick and smart. Actions speak louder than words and are certainly more memorable. An action can be photographed and shared on social. But don’t make people work too hard! Remember we are out to delight, not challenge or exclude.
- Consider a 360-approach. An experiential activation can be the centre of a holistic marketing strategy, and the proof of your words. Actions speak louder than words. A brand’s actions can authentically proclaim its purpose. Use social and digital amplification to expand the reach of a single IRL activation. Successful Experiential PR also has tremendous potential to achieve significant earned coverage.
- Surprise. Delight. Inspire. Invest in Experiential PR as you would in other marketing tactics to reflect the quality and personality of the brand.
For more information on how Experiential PR could work for your brand, please contact us.
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