What’s On

Bringing the brand to life

Today’s consumer is seeking more engagement from brands and expects more from the ‘brand experience’. The classic billboard is a one-way delivery of a brand’s message while experiential marketing offers a real dialogue with consumers resulting in a deeper, sensory and emotional connection, and more importantly, a memorable one, that’s amplified by social media.

Connecting with the consumer is at the heart of experiential marketing. In this age of all things digital, it’s critical to engage with the consumer on a more personal, physical level; one that would not be possible through digital or social. People value real conversations and these types of immersive experiences can have a lasting impact on the relationship customers have with your brand.

Experiential marketing arrives off the back of various social trends like immersive theatre and pop-up events. While living in New York, I attended a fun evening where we were challenged to solve a puzzle on the streets of Manhattan with the help of shop owners who were in on the experience. That’s the kind of cultural event we’re following.

Content and culture
Last year, The Economist published an article that explored the idea of using insects to feed the ever-growing global population, projected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century. It suggested that insects are a low-cost, high protein alternative to feed the world sustainably. As a way of bringing our content to life, we launched a branded trike serving ice-cream containing insects on the streets of sweltering hot Hong Kong and encouraged people to join the two billion people who already eat insects.

Leveraging digital to extend the physical campaign was key to creating more powerful and lasting brand engagement. At the start of each day, we posted the whereabouts of the trike on our Facebook page. To our delight, we actually had people contacting us directly, eager to learn where we would be next. We also posted a series of videos of customers sharing their view on why eating insects makes sense.

People love taking photos of food, and enjoy sharing these photos with their friends, particularly in Asia. We recognised this trend and partnered with a photo-sharing platform called Pixsta so that we could take a photo of customers trying insect ice-cream and email the photo to them immediately. The email included an option to share the photo with their friends as well as a link to our content hub, and an introductory offer to subscribe.

From the moment people landed on the hub they were tagged, which enabled us to re-target them with relevant content. While the campaign was centered on creating a real live connection between the consumer and The Economist, it was the integration of digital technology and social media that really amplified our reach. From that campaign alone we recruited nearly 700 new subscribers.

When we rolled out a similar campaign in Singapore, we worked with a company that shared relationships with property owners. That helped us get the appropriate approval to access specific buildings. In Singapore, you aren’t able to set up shop anywhere, but what this enabled us to do was connect with the demographic from some very large CBD offices, assuring us the right foot traffic. We were also able to react speedily and nimbly to daily learnings, tweaking the times we set up to match the footfall that happens around 10 am, when office workers are settled and pop out for their morning coffee.

There’s great potential to integrate Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in Experiential Marketing, and we are testing this by placing chips onto coffee cups and on promoter badges. Once scanned, customers will be taken to the content hub immediately. If they don’t subscribe on the spot, they will walk away with the hub on their phones and can choose to subscribe at a later time.

Immersive experiences are key to brand engagement and need to consider each touchpoint, at the live event, leading up to and following the event. It’s an area that has significant growth potential in Asia and we’re excited to see how it evolves in helping us extend our reach.

How to succeed in experiential marketing
1) Relate the experience directly to the brand. We didn’t think, ‘what experience do we want to create?’ We said, ‘what content do we have that would form the basis for a great experience?’

2) Consider the dynamics of each market. Adapting to cultural differences can go a long way in making it a success.

3) Invest time in training your staff because they are your brand ambassadors. Help them become motivated and excited.

4) Be nimble and prepared to respond to the unexpected. There’ll be a lot of learning in the first few days of launch, some of which may not have been expected. Adjust your plans accordingly and quickly put in market.

Grace Hahn

Grace Hahn is the Economist’s Director of Circulation and Group Marketing for Asia-Pacific.