Creating experiential momentum

3 minute read

How sustainably led experiences build powerful communities

As a non-traditional marketing play, experiential has seen a meteoric rise. What was once used by innovators to stand out is now a mainstay in brand marketing budgets. But with a shift to mainstream, in a rapidly evolving consumer climate, can experiential programs hold on to their authentic approach that so powerfully promotes brand loyalty? Yes, they can.

Build loyalty through values-driven experiential marketing

Brands that show real resilience create purposeful experiences anchored in sustainable values. They cut through the mounting fluff of experiential marketing to create loyal communities that evolve with the inevitable changes brought by life and market forces.

In the rush to deliver unique and exclusive experiences, there’s a danger brands don’t hear what consumers want. It’s no secret consumers are looking beyond products and services – craving community and shared values. We’re at the crossroads of a unique opportunity to replace eroding trust in conventional institutions by doubling down on brand values and using experiential touchpoints to share these directly with consumers.

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Shift your brand’s focus to sustainability

Moving through a pandemic, we’ve been gifted the chance to pause for thought. Many brands are revisiting their values and redefining them in the context of the current socio-economic climate. Sustainable values are increasingly linked with consumer spending habits and should not be ignored. NYU’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business reviewed consumer purchasing from 2013 to 2018 and found that 50 per cent of the market growth within consumer packaged goods came from sustainably marketed products. These goods grew 5.6 times faster than conventionally marketed products. There are no signs of a slowdown. If your brand values don’t directly address sustainability, you’re risking your market share.

Using socially responsible values to guide your next experiential endeavour will help strengthen your community.

Hannah O'Donovan

Dive deep into social and environmental issues

Oversimplifying sustainability – confining it to reduce, reuse and recycle – will no longer land with increasingly savvy consumers. Successful brands must go further and address a balance of social and environmental issues, exhibiting values that are about the planet and the people that inhabit it.

The greatest opportunity to demonstrate sustainable values is through a robust experiential program. It can be as simple as assessing engagement, inclusivity and impact. Using these socially responsible values to guide your next experiential endeavour will help strengthen your community.

Motivate customers to be loyal to you

A consumer’s desire to stay loyal to brands using their force for good will be your greatest asset. While simple, this equation takes holistic commitment to yield results. Here are some key ways you can show your customers your brand is worth supporting:

  • Add real value to people’s lives. Think of your consumers as citizens. Crowdsource their greatest concerns, then translate them into program pillars that address true purpose.
  • Share positive messaging. People tend to avoid things that make them feel uncomfortable – climate anxiety is real, folks.
  • Provide solutions, not stress, and engage your audience in the outcome. Make them accountable for your shared success. This will build community in the process.

    Pokémon GO developer Niantic worked with players and NGOs to help remove 145 tons of trash in time for Earth Day. Niantic offered players the chance to nominate an organization to help battle various eco-crises and thanked them with in-game rewards.

  • Replace the allure of exclusivity with wider-reaching inclusivity. Micro-experiences are a great alternative to large, centrally located events. Sure, flying influencers to a remote location to launch your product could attract attention, but it might not strike the right chord with consumers. Accessible micro-experiences are more targeted, establishing intimate connection points and providing a platform for more seamless inclusion.

    In partnership with Elle, Cosmopolitan and Oxfam, detergent brand Comfort hosted a swap shop to raise awareness about the importance of upcycling clothes and buying second-hand. The simple concept was impactful and easily accessible, allowing visitors to engage in the experience by taking in an item of their clothing to swap for a piece donated by campaign partners.

  • Assess the impact of your current and future experiential marketing programming. Review the layers of details that go into building out your experiential touchpoints and ensure they align with, and are measured against, your core brand values. Avoid trying to tackle everything at once. It will only result in overwhelm and a diluted message. Consider addressing issues like transport emissions by taking a hybrid virtual/in-person approach or producing locally rather than touring across the country. Partner with stakeholders who are tackling waste reduction in interesting new ways. Don’t settle for anything less than true diversity amongst your thought leaders and spokespeople. Consider ditching traditional giveaways and replacing them with charitable donations – to an organization chosen by your community, of course.
  • Be transparent. Explain what you’re doing and why. Trust is almost always guaranteed to increase buy-in.
  • Be proactive, not reactive. In 2020, resilience was at the centre of every brand survival story. But it’s not just about weathering the storm. Resilience involves foresight, preparedness and the willingness to take important steps before they are thrust upon us.
  • Review your brand values in the present context. Are you using experiential touchpoints to tell your audience you care about the same things? Show them you’re here to build a community that will help bring real value to their lives.

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Hannah O’Donovan
After almost a decade working with global event producers, Hannah O’Donovan founded Lovedey – a strategy studio specializing in brand consulting for social impact and sustainably led experiences. Lovedey empowers, amplifies and guides brands toward a more intentional future. See and @thisislovedey.Read more by Hannah O’Donovan