Pop-up Smarts From Old-School Experiential Marketing Masters
Experiential marketing – the foundation of really great pop-up – is not new.
In 1841, master showman P. T. Barnum pulled people into a moment with only five bricks and a mystery mason. Frenchmen Geo Lefevre and Henri Desgrange concocted a cross-country bike race in 1903 to help boost the profile of their sports publication, L’Auto. Columbia University’s Bernd Schmitt literally wrote the book on experiential marketing – 18 years ago. And his principles are more valid today than they were in 1999.
Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act and Relate to Your Company and Brands refined and expanded the concept, linking it to brand strategy. In it, Schmitt set forth ten timeless rules that continue to transform marketing experiences into Shopper Moments:
- Experiences don’t just happen; they must be planned. So in that planning process, be creative. Use surprise, intrigue and, at times, provocation. Shake things up.
- Think about the customer experience first, and then about the functional features and benefits of your brand.
- Be obsessive about the details of the experience. Traditional satisfaction models are missing the sensory, gut-feel, brain blasting, all-body, all-feeling “Exsultate, Jubilate” moment. So allow the shopper to delight in exultant jubilation.
- Find the “duck” for your brand. When Schmitt stayed for the first time in the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong, he found that management had placed on the rim of the bathtub a bright yellow rubber duck. He fell in love with the idea (and the duck) immediately. It’s the one thing that he always remembered when he thought about the hotel. It became the starting point for remembering the entire hotel experience. (For me personally, it was a goldfish at a Kimpton Hotel.) Every company needs to have a “duck” for its brand; a little element that triggers, frames, summarizes and stylizes the experience.
- Think about consumption situation, not product. Consider “grooming in the bathroom” rather than “razor,” “casual meal” instead of “hot dog.” Ponder “travel,” not “transportation.” Move along the sociocultural dimension.
- Strive for “holistic experiences” that dazzle the senses, appeal to the heart, challenge the intellect, are relevant to people’s lifestyles and provide relational (social identity) appeal.
- Profile and track experiential impact with an “Experiential Grid.” Examine different types of experiences (sense, feel, think, act and relate) across experience providers (in-store events, mobile, pop-ups, logos, ads, packaging, websites, loyalty programs, etc.).
- Use methodologies eclectically. Some methods may be quantitative (questionnaire analyses), while others qualitative (a day in the life of the customer). Some may be verbal (focus group or in-store intercepts), while others visual (social media interaction). Anything goes. So be explorative and creative, and worry about reliability, validity and methodological sophistication later.
- Consider how the experience changes when extending the brand into new environments: on the smartphone, in the store, at the pop-up and on the internet. Ask yourself how the brand could be leveraged in a new category, in a different medium or in a different culture.
- Add dynamism and “Dionysianism” to brand experiences. Most organizations are too timid, too slow and too bureaucratic. The term “Dionysian” is associated with the ecstatic, the passionate and the creative. So let this spirit breathe in your experiential marketing design and watch (and feel) how things change.