The convergence of social and digital media has been at the forefront of the marketing arena for many years. However, in today’s crowded marketplace, it is clear that brands who implement a cross-media focus create strategically driven campaigns and more powerful brand engagement than those just focusing on the digital element.

The combination of physical and digital presents key opportunities for marketers. Digital is able to extend a physical event/experience beyond the traditional boundaries through social, online and mobile communications, whilst the physical experience moves people to action through a sustained conversation that encourages brand loyalty in the most powerful way.

Facebook alone has over 1.4 billion active users, who spend approximately 4.7 billion minutes on the social media platform every day. The driving force behind this popularity is, of course, the ability for users to access huge amounts of social and digital content at the click of a button. Social and digital is now such an integral marketing tool for brands of all shapes and sizes, that reports are now suggesting that social media marketing budgets will be double what they were two years ago by 2018.

However, much like traditional methods of brand promotion - the foremost example being television advertising - it is only a matter of time before social and digital content reaches its saturation point and consumers begin to switch off from businesses’ attempts to promote their brand through this medium. In fact, the number of social media platforms now available has increased so rapidly over the last few years that the most popular platforms that businesses use are experiencing a decline in growth. A report published by Business Insider UK in April revealed that Twitter’s monthly active users “have grown at a slowing pace almost every quarter.”

Businesses should be careful not to put all their eggs in to one basket when it comes to brand engagement. Ultimately, the biggest global brands would survive in a world without social and digital. These are brands that have, over a number of years (and, in many cases decades), fostered strong, personal relationships founded on face-to-face communication rather than online interaction. People are inherently social, and there is nothing that can make a more powerful statement about your brand than the ability to bring people together physically through immersive events and experiences.

Experiential (or ‘face-to-face’) marketing is not simply playing second fiddle to social and digital. Instead, experiential marketing has undergone its own significant growth. Evidently big brands are continuing to see the value in reaching out to their target audiences in a physical capacity.

Take the Premier League, for example – the richest football league in the world. It is followed by an estimated 1.2 billion fans, and turns-over more annual revenue than any other football league. Fans are continually provided with digital content through the club’s social media strategies which is conveyed in innovative ways. So why then do the already highly profitable teams within the Premier League organise overseas tours during the off-season? Not only are these overseas tours financially lucrative, but they provide an opportunity for fans to engage with teams on a more physical level than would otherwise be possible through social and digital content. This facilitates a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by immersing them in a fun and unforgettable experience. Fans of the Premier League can form a deeper connection with a particular team - and it is likely that this team will win these fans for life. Overseas fans then become not just a fan of the league but of the club. In this way experiential marketing can be a far more effective contributor to a greater ‘customer lifetime value’ (CLV) than traditional, digital marketing strategies. It creates a stronger brand loyalty and enables the club to derive further business and commercial benefits from their entire relationships with the customer.

Whilst many brands create their own content to distribute digitally in the hope it will go viral, very little of it actually does. If your customers are generating your content as a result of a fantastic brand experience, they are four times more likely to become advocates for your business. This self-generated content is more credible, especially when 78% of people are only listening to peer recommendations. It’s big business to get your customers on side. Experiential activity gives them something to shout about.

The brands who are investing in creating immersive experiences for their target audiences are the ones that succeed. A survey as part of a study examining experiential marketing trends conducted on more than 1600 major corporations and organisations revealed that 84% of people believe that experiential marketing activities and events are important, very important or critical to their organisations.

“Experiential strategies are at the centre of this huge era of content,” says Mike Martin, Founder and MD of Paragon, “but they have to be engaging, entertaining, informative, and ultimately drive the Return On Investment you are looking for. Brand engagement that is truly immersive appeals to all the senses and delivers not just at live events, but in the build-up and follow up too.”


By Phil Boas, Director of Brand Engagement at Paragon

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