Experiential reach goes way beyond those directly experiencing a Campaign says Alex Smith.
Ah, “Reach”. Experiential, meet thy nemesis.
The same dance has been performed for over a decade now. Experiential agencies brag about the influence their campaigns have on consumers, while their clients reply “well, it had better do for £4.26 cost per contact”. The agencies then mutter something about “marketing mix”, and we start all over again.
Everyone has a point here, and ultimately they compromise, accepting it as inevitable that “reach” and “experiential impact” are two ends of a see-saw, and we must choose between them.
The truth is, this isn’t completely accurate; and here’s why:
Once again, we are seeing experiential suffer from being viewed through the same paradigm as other forms of marketing. In a previous blog I’ve explored how, unlike TV, print, social, and so on, experiential has no “format”. A TV ad’s “format” is 30 seconds of video in an ad break; a print ad’s “format” might be one full page of a magazine; meanwhile, experiential sits outside of this – whatever your idea is, that is your format. This paradigm has had a similarly misleading effect on reach.
With other media channels, we “get” reach. We’re dealing with an isolated media unit, and we just look at how many people it gets put in front of. How many people were viewing that TV show? How many people read that magazine? How many impressions did that Facebook post get? And so on.
Applying this same logic to experiential, we end up simply asking: “How many people got the experience?” The answer to this question is the one that inevitably falls horribly short of the other options on the table. However, while this logic is appealingly neat and tidy, it is also fundamentally flawed, because with a piece of experiential the people who actually “experience” it represent only part of its impact. In fact, in some cases, your direct contacts barely matter at all – you’re really communicating with people who never come near your experience. Understanding this unique characteristic of the discipline and designing your campaign accordingly is crucial to releasing its true potential.
By way of example, consider the recent Shinebright Studios campaign for vitaminwater.
In essence this campaign communicates vitaminwater’s brand idea that they help creative people “shine bright”, by creating a free gallery space where up-and-coming artists could have their work exhibited and promoted, where people could attend inspiring workshops, and just generally get a leg up.
Over the course of its existence, roughly 10,000 people went through its doors. OK, sure they had a great time, but that volume of people hardly made the idea worthwhile, and if the measurement had ended there the campaign would have represented pretty dubious value for money.
But this barely measured a fraction of the studios’ impact – it was just the beginning. Because it was a “portable idea”, just being aware of its existence had marketing value. If you knew vitaminwater had opened this gallery, then you would get what the brand is basically about, and the key marketing communication would have been made – regardless of how you heard about it.
So, to add to the 10,000 people through the door, you also need to add:
–Word of mouth – the multiplying effect of people who visited telling others what vitaminwater was up to.
-Sampling invites – 100,000 samples were distributed to key people acting as “invites” to the studios (once again, whether or not they went, they knew about it).
-PR – This took many different forms, but just to paint a picture the launch even alone received 23 different pieces of coverage and a reach of 11,000,000.
-Partnerships – Again, there were many different tentacles within this, but studio relationships with the Protein group of titles, The School For Creative Start Ups, UAL and so on each garnered additional coverage.
These are just some topline examples, and this is before even touching on the social angle, but the general point is that the core idea – the existence of the gallery – was actually communicated in a myriad different ways, some more effective than others, but ultimately adding up to a unified campaign with huge “reach”.
Ultimately, if the idea is right, just the knowledge that you’ve “done it” might be all the information you need to have a powerful communication on your hands.
I’ll leave you with a current example that anyone in London will be familiar with. All over the tube recently were ads for the Red Bull Air Race at Ascot. Ostensibly these were ads for the event, to try and sell tickets. But beyond this, more importantly, they were fantastic brand ads, as even if you have no intention of actually going to the event, you now know Red Bull are doing it, and you are given more ammunition to believe in their “gives you wings” purpose.
They could have instead just done a standard ad campaign with creative featuring stunt planes, but it would have been a far weaker communication, as well as not having the dozens of other reach channels that the event is going to open them to.
And on top of all this? Merchandise and ticket sales probably earn them a bit of money on the side too.
So next time you’re considering mass awareness, give a little thought to experiential as well. When it’s done right, nothing you do will travel further.