For an exclusive report, events and activations agency Verve and Coyne Research unearthed the power of brand experience
There once was a time when TV and traditional above-the-line media sat firmly at the head of the table; successful and loud, they rarely had to share their seat. But then consumer habits began to shift and gradually the table plan began to change. Other parts of the marketing services provided answers to the jarring, new habits of this elusive consumer.
These new dynamics helped alter Irish marketing considerably, allowing experiential time to shine. However, until now, there was an ongoing question mark dangling over experiential’s head, because no one had really explored the metrics of its impact. Verve CEO Ronan Traynor commissioned Coyne Research to put the ‘hard to measure’ allegations to rest.
A sample of 1,000 Irish adults from various backgrounds were interviewed to ensure they got results that were nationally representative. For the first time in Irish marketing research, they got opinions about free samples, brand experiences, pop-ups, brand events, influencers, TV ads, social media, coupons and any BTL channel at which you could shake a stick.
So, what did they find?
Marketers are increasingly expected to deliver profitable growth, the sustainable kind. CFOs want hard numbers and tangible success metrics whereas people want enjoyable experiences – experiential lives in that sweet spot between the two. The seminal research found that 82 per cent of those taking part in branded experiences said that it has a positive impact.
Half of them go on to buy something from the brand, solely down to the influence of the branded experience. The proof was in the dairy-free pudding following an experiential Alpro pop-up in 2018 where 82 per cent of all visitors said that they were ‘extremely likely to purchase’, rising to 92 per cent in the core target audience of females age 25-44.
When surveyed six weeks after the visit, 84 per cent had actually made a purchase. (Research conducted by Mindshare, April 2018). All the research points to one thing; brands need to adjust the role that sampling and experiential play in their marketing mix. With increased trust, sales and brand advocates, now is the time to engage further in brand experiences.
Ten of the world’s top brands are spending more on their experiences year-on-year. A recent report by Barclaycard found that consumers have been spending more and more on the experience economy. While overall consumer spending was up by 2.8 per cent, spending on experiences is increasing faster, with budgets on entertainment rising by 12 per cent.
Unquestionable value: Verve chief executive Ronan Traynor and Lesley Kelleher, deputy managing director, Coyne Research, explored the metrics of the experience phenomenon for this exclusive study for Marketing.ie. Anecdotally, it was known that brand experiences work, but how are they measured? Many events and activations take place away from the place of purchase, so is the value properly communicated? Photo: Dermot Byrne
BRANDS WITH PURPOSE
Brands with purpose talk less, do more. So, before we talk trust, we need to talk about purpose. Today’s consumer is generally good at spotting the hype. They want campaigns with meaning; ones that don’t just talk the talk. The Verve/Coyne research study found that 71 per cent of Irish consumers want brands to back up what they say with action.
People have never been so politically aware; climate change is on everyone’s radar and the waste created by brands no longer goes unnoticed. Social purpose is one of the many ways brands can address local and global challenges, like climate change. Verve recently activated Coca-Cola’s global commitment to a World Without Waste initiative in Ireland.
The agency created an activation called Melodic Wood at sustainability festival All Together Now. The event saw used cans being turned into real native trees with festival goers helping to co-create the experience by pressing aluminium cans into leaves in a clearing of recycled trees. Each leaf represented a donation made by Coca-Cola to the Native Woodland Trust.
Do-gooders are the new cool kids, with younger cohorts being more likely to connect with a brand that supports causes in which they have an interest. As if brands did not have enough to work on, eight in 10 millennials believe it is important to them that brands exceed their expectations. But it has to be authentic, different and innovative. So no pressure.
TRUST EARNED, NOT BOUGHT
Irish brand owners keen to devise an action plan to improve Mother Earth should know that now is the time to talk about trust. Trust levels are at an all-time low globally. Confidence in the media, governments, businesses, financial services and NGOs has taken a battering. With scandals like Facebook’s use of personal data and the rise of fake news, it is no surprise.
Trust is one of the most valuable intangible assets a business can own. It does not appear on the balance sheet but without it a company fails. The study shows that brand trial is essential to growing trust, with 81 per cent of all adults more likely to embrace a brand they have tried. Seeing is believing with 66 per cent of millennials more positive towards a brand they have experienced. Want a converted consumer? Put your money where your mouth is and let them trial your brand, showing them that you are not all talk.
Using trust, marketers can develop brand advocates, because nothing is more powerful than genuine word of mouth. The research shows that 71 per cent of Irish adults will tell a trusted friend about a positive brand experience, while it is worth noting that only 36 per cent of people are ‘very likely’ to buy something that has been recommended by an influencer.
With Estee Lauder spending 75 per cent of their marketing budget on influencer campaigns, the strategy is far from dead, but disingenuous partnerships and oversaturation of ‘influencer culture’ has tarnished the image of this form of targeting. Again, branded experiences can deliver the goods. We live in an age of rampant cynicism and sometimes the only way to convince consumers is to let them experience your brand positively for themselves.
RISK IN AVOIDING RISKS
In this age of self-discovery and the quest for personal meaning, both Gen Z and millennials want to feel part of something bigger. Take last year’s Nike ‘Just Do It’ campaign where the brand famously aligned with NFL quarterback and political activist Colin Kaepernick. It was a hugely polarising move for the much-loved US sportswear brand in today’s populist world.
Nike used the copy ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything’. At first, the backlash was intense with brand stocks dropping and a less than glowing review from Trump. But eventually, the brave stance inspired massive public support. The tides shifted with the campaign garnering huge organic support from various well-known celebrities.
The campaign broke all media records and their stocks even pushed back beyond their original high with billions being added to brand sales. The research shows that 62 per cent of millennials believe it is important that brands act innovatively and try new things. They care for the development of their personal brand, so why not also for the brands they consume?
Mark Zuckerberg once said: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world’s that changing quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risk.” Brands have to know when to scrap their old model and start again. Take Lego. Back in 2000, the famous toy brand was on the brink of collapse with sales down 40 per cent and debts snowballing.
Instead of launching new products in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, Lego took the huge risk of halving its inventory of bricks to strip the brand back to its original power. It also worked alongside child psychologists to develop new insights which resulted in product teams expanding the core market to target girls and adult Lego fans for the first time.
REWARDS ARE THERE
The biggest opportunity the research uncovered was that 75 per cent had not taken part in a brand event in the past year and 70 per cent of all adults had not received a free sample in that time. Yet, with conversion rates from sample/experience to purchase hovering around 70 per cent, why is it that brand owners in Ireland turn a blind eye to such a lucrative strategy?
The research showed the full power of the branded experience and all the many benefits of making it a strategy. Now, not only will experiential go to the ball, they will use the ball to convert the guests into loyal consumers with intent to purchase while they are at it.
A SEAT AT TABLE
Verve designed and produced the launch event for the Aer Lingus rebrand as 500 guests gathered in Dublin Airport’s Hangar 6. The event was held ‘airside’ which demanded strict security access procedures. On arrival, guests entered through a welcome tunnel saluting airline staff. A 39-metre screen lifted towards the roof as 50 metres of custom drape was dropped to reveal an Aer Lingus Airbus A330.
The saying goes that people will not always remember what you have said, but they will recall how you made them feel. With experiential, you can make them feel, think, taste, laugh experience, savour, explore – the reactions are limitless and the possibilities endless. So, look at the branded experience as your secret weapon at a time when brand claims no longer cut it.
The study showed that 60 per cent of millennials claim that events and experiences make them feel closer to the brand. Yet three in four of adults did not participate in a brand event in the past year. Ronan Traynor says it is worth letting those numbers sink in and ss the tides of marketing change, more brands can make an impact by riding the wave of experiential.
Sources: Findings from Coyne Research, July 2019, unless otherwise stated