written by: Leung Yin Sheung, Wini

Experiential marketing helps brands to build a relationship with consumers by engaging them to participate in a first person brand experience. With the rising importance of the digital channel, no one could deny its importance in the everyday life of consumers. It is worthy to take a closer look on how experiential marketing could blend in with digital promotions effectively.

There are a few noteworthy trends shaping the advertising industry. First, consumers at large disapprove interruptive advertising. According to the report published by PageFair in early 2017, there is a 30% increase of Ad-blocking users annually. Second, Google and Facebook are monopolizing the digital advertising industry. Over 70% of total digital advertising revenue in 2016 went to Google and Facebook, which soared by 10% from the previous year. Third, Chat Apps are now enjoying growing popularity close to social media. The monthly active users of Messaging Apps have surpassed social networks in 2015, according to BI Intelligence.

To avoid the negative sentiments stemming from hard-selling advertising, experiential marketing that creates emotional values or product trials could be an alternative for consideration. Here are some examples.

Google (Bay Area) Impact Challenge
Google engages users in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by inviting public votes through on online voting platform and interactive posters in San Francisco. The voting results will decide the distribution of USD5.5 Million to 10 non-profits in Bay Area to build a better community in 2015. 400K votes are collected in three and a half weeks. 72% of consumers view the brand positively since they enjoyed the participative experience. It is also highly likely that they are going to preach to their friends and family about Google’s CSR efforts.

Zappos Out-google Google with #PaidwithaCupcakes
Zappos, an on-line shoes and clothing store, successfully ambush Google’s Photo App launch promotion in Austin by exchanging Google’s cupcakes giveaway with Zappos’ products for free. Zappos set up a simple booth beside Google’s photo App promotion truck. After users take pictures using the new Google photo App and get a free cupcake, Zappos ask consumers to exchange the cupcake for a box of Zappos product. Zappos cleverly steals the influence of Google for with a gimmicky experience which turns out great. 74% of consumers who received Zappos products says the brand experience increased their intention to buy from Zappos. The respondents may well become new customers of both Google and Zappos eventually.

Lean Cuisine #weightthis, Weigh what Matters
Lean Cuisine, whose marketing used to center solely on weight loss, launched a campaign without the diet-centric message in 2015. In New York’s Grand Central Station, the passengers can write down what they want to be weighed on the scale rather than their weights in pounds. The board with “#WeighThis” in large text can increase the participants’ intention to share their experiences with this hashtag in social media. Meanwhile, the promotion video clip are posted on Lean Cuisine’s Facebook fan page, inviting people to share their own accomplishments with the hashtag #WeighThis. The campaign generated over 204 million impressions, and the promotion video gathered over 381K views, 3.1K reactions and 636 comments using “WeighThis”.

Leverging the Google-Facebook Dominance
The implementation of the above campaigns fully acknowledged the dominance of Google, Facebook, Live video and #hashtags. They become tools within the experience marketing process, complementing between the on-line and off-line executions.

Chat to Experience
As regard to chat apps’ emergence as a strong player in the digital era, WeChat is already making a great head start to help brand marketers to monetize with many features and functions. Snapchat is trying to go big with Snap Discover and Snap Live. It is yet to conclude how experiential marketing could potentially be incorporated into WhatsApp’s anti-ad ecosystem. One thing we know is WhatsApp is already sharing its users’ information with its mother company Facebook since 2016. Chat apps are making every effort to become a marketing promotions platform. Perhaps not for long, a lot more innovative tools will surface to rock the advertising scene.
To conclude, with the rise of the digital advertising, experiential marketing promotion should be designed to intertwine offline and online efforts to keep up with latest advertising trend.

Use of Ad-Blocking Software Rises by 30% Worldwide, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/technology/ad-blocking-internet.html?_r=0

How Google and Facebook Have Taken Over the Digital Ad Industry, http://fortune.com/2017/01/04/google-facebook-ad-industry/

Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks, http://www.businessinsider.com/the-messaging-app-report-2015-11

Watch Zappos Cleverly Punk Google by Ambushing Its Cupcake Truck http://www.adweek.com/creativity/watch-zappos-hilariously-punk-google-ambushing-its-cupcake-truck-austin-167314/

Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis, https://www.facebook.com/LeanCuisine/videos/10153011398571325/

No Longer Anti-Advertising, WhatsApp Opens to Marketing and Sharing Data with Facebook, http://adage.com/article/digital/whatsapp-marketing-share-data-facebook/305602/