Buy the car… get the sexy woman to the Himalaya’s while saving the earth.
“Sex”, “macho” and “saving the earth”
The biggest challenges facing experiential marketing agencies are similar to those facing advertising agencies that handle the automotive business. At some point, you run out of talking points and cool ways to promote, the creative aspect gets tougher and tougher. I have always admired companies that handled and retain automotive customers, not an easy task when it comes to marketing messaging. Creative juices are limited. Elements for advertising are;
- a) four wheels,
- b) the vehicle body (and many of those look the same)
- C) same basic equipment inside.
All presented slightly differently but still pretty much ALL identical. Thus, forcing automotive ad agencies to (pardon the cliché) REALLY “get outside the box” or in this case the car. So, many of these agencies use emotional appeal and WOW factors, i.e. “drive this car… get the sexy girl”; “drive this car to scale the Himalayas”; “drive this car and save the earth”… “Sex”, “macho” and “saving the earth” sells. However, not so simple when it comes to the real people, complete strangers, that you engage on the asphalt and the main job is to coerce them into your store.
There are two types of experiential marketing that can build the brand experience one-to-one:
- Experiential On-Site: Creating or being part of an already existing consumer brand experience that is large and organized (by either a promoter or the event company itself) to promote products, brands and services on site at an established venue. (i.e. Expos and Festivals such as Super Bowls, CES in Las Vegas, Time Square New Year etc.). These are usually held at established and recognized venues and have a lot of interactive activities for engagements with consumers.
- Experiential Grassroots: This is a brand experience at the store or smaller community event that is very granular. Marketing is done, often, in front of the store or venue that is being promoted or within a few blocks of the location. The goal of the “street team” is to get people from down the block, from across the street or just walking by the store into the retail location. This is accomplished by literally stopping them, engaging, and educating them on the product or service. This message has to be compelling enough to get them to “want” to go into the store to find out more about the product and to ultimately purchase the product. The Brand Ambassador must literally “hand-off” the prospect to the store personnel to “close the deal”. The agency is now at the mercy of the store associate to make the sale and receive credit that this sale indeed took place directly as a result of the agency being on site. Sounds simple right…?
Selling Cars Vs. Experiential Marketing
I make this comparison of the automotive dealer agency vs. grassroots experiential marketing arena because there is only so much we have to work with and budget limitations plague us to minimize the engagement costs to achieve (often unrealistic) sales results. Our tools to achieve these results are often the bare minimum and include two brand ambassadors, a stack of flyers, a few promo/giveaway items (we have one client that keeps the cost of each promo item under a dollar and has done so for nearly 12 years!) and, as previously stated, a sales goal that “has to be hit” back at the retail store for which we are promoting. Just like those ad agencies with the basic car models and shrinking budgets, we have streets, blocks, strip malls, small retail areas (the larger city bodegas are a real challenge) and we often have 5-10 repeat trips a year so the scenery and, for that matter, psychographics in the area does not change. Also in many areas the grassroots challenges involve not only “what” to execute to create front-of-store sales but we often run into not having the city permits (so often we rely on the owners or store managers to know their area and to also know about sign ordinances, handbill permits, temporary sidewalk displays, etc.) in order to execute the tactics that we have created based on the dynamics of a certain area. Add to all of this the challenge of looking for the new, different and often bizarre tactics to get your client’s location noticed in the best way possible. The agency has to completely understand and identify the individual shopper/prospect.
Most of today’s experiential business involves a one-product execution. But, that product could have many different line extensions or key messages built around it. This makes it even more critical to target the right message to the right audience using the right brand team. Again, know what hits your audience’s hot button. The only way you will know that, is by researching your execution area:
- HH Size/Income
- Psychographic – Hobbies and Habits (music, health food, exercise, art?)
- Commuter Habits – the days of engaging from 9a-5p are GONE. Do they use public transportation, or are they like Californians that can’t survive without their cars. If they take public transportation…GET ON AND GO WITH THEM!
Passengers Standing On Busy Commuter Bus
Getting from “pavement to payment”
Getting from “pavement to payment” also relies on a good in-store team employed by the client. Results are much better when you are pushing customers into stores/doors where the staff is on top of their game, they know the product, they are personable and sales oriented…plus they respect and recognize what you do and the importance of having a brand team at their disposal to increase store traffic and ultimately sales. So what if you don’t have the “A” team at your disposal inside the door you are promoting…well do some pre-education on your store event; ask your client to let you meet with store personnel ahead of time to review the strategy and even set goals for the event. To get to the “payment” part of the “from pavement to payment” the in-store team must realize that the hand-off process is the goal of all the brand ambassadors on the guerilla team. Once that hand-off has taken place the in-store staff is to take that prospect and relay them ultimately to the close of the sale via more in-depth product knowledge and fulfilling a need that the brand ambassador was able to identify so he/she knew to pass them on to store personnel.
So here is the topline to get your prospect from Pavement to Payment:
- Know your customer (previously covered)
- Create a strategy and execute a tactic that can be relatable to your consumers
- Educate the store personnel on what you are doing and how you are doing it, especially how you are going to hand-off the prospects to the store staff
Once again the key (and as mentioned numerous times before, the biggest challenge) is the tactic for the engagement:
- Make it NOTICEABLE (do something with great visibility) and lends itself to a ten to thirty second educational interaction to peak the prospect’s interest.
- The more you educate the easier it will be for the relay to the store personnel.
- IR-Instant Reward- with over 5,000 messages coming our way on average every day, and our body/brain exposed to over 9.8 hours of messaging in our daily environment* your messages are better received and when you hand your prospect an item…a simple pen will do the trick…be assured that flyer, card or ???? gets in their hands, and a “gift” will get your collateral read. Plus, this is considered take-home-media so make sure that it’s branded. Take it one step further and put a map on it so that once you give them something they can find the store easily if you are not recruiting directly next to the store.
So many businesses think they can hire Brand Experts for $8 an hour and turn them loose to achieve a “from pavement to payment” strategy for a store. I’d be lying to say it can’t be done, because it can…for a short time period and on a very simplistic level it can be done. For a few hours, those non-skilled (they won’t be professional promo people at $8 an hour, or at even double that), untrained…adults (usually at this rate it’s teens or very young adults just looking for a quick gig for pay…probably not a lot of permanency either). They do have to be older than 16 or the labor law enforcement will come a knocking. Most of our clients want good brand representation including the correct demographical and pyschographical profiles. A truly skilled Brand Expert takes pride in their work and performs as if they are on stage in the starring role….because they are compensated according to their performance….and at a much higher rate than $8…but worth every penny.
So the next time you see a Brand Expert at a strip mall, on a street corner in uniform and performing for you…remember they have a goal and it’s to get you from “Pavement to Payment” …and that they didn’t just show up on that street corner without a lot of planning, strategy, training and a desire to close a sale for the client. You may have never thought of the process of Experiential Marketing to drive people from outside a store into a store willingly and then to get them to open their wallets is Rocket Science…you might want to think again!
*SJ Insights and Statistics-9/29/14
Clare Wynne is President of M2W, Inc.
An experiential marketing company with activations all over the nation and beyond.