“Consumers don’t like to be marketed to…” Joan Chow, CMO, ConAgra
ConAgra, which has several brands and products under its umbrella, has over 17 billion in annual revenues. It is certainly safe to say they must be doing something right in the marketing department. Yes it is safe to say, and something has to change in order to keep their market share and revenues high.
What Ms. Chow has identified with this statement is that marketing has and will continue to change from the existing promotional and transactional to the more engaging so that the marketing itself is useful and experiential to the consumer. No longer does the “buy one, get one” apply. It is steadily being replaced with “how to” content from marketers who understand what motivates the consumers to behave the way they do. Having insight to your consumers is having a keen understanding of Why consumers do. What they do is secondary if you can meet that understanding with content that speaks to the consumer how they want to be spoken to. This may fly in the face of your time-tested approach to marketing, go against the personality of the brand or even the character of your organization. The fact is, if you do not connect with consumers on this level, they will ignore your products and brands.
An example of great experiential marketing is the battle of the antiperspirant/deodorant business. Old Spice and Axe locked up their respective markets, providing an experience that speaks directly to their consumer. Essentially, they pinpointed the irreverence that everyone has towards underarms. No one likes to truly talk about odor, wetness, protection, etc. However, what they did realize is that the consumer ultimately wants to smell good and be dry because they want to impress the members of the opposite sex. Their campaigns were focused on driving home the meaning that if you use our products, you will be successful impressing that special someone. Old Spice and Axe drove this notion throughout the brands and extended it to other products that were a hit and captured market share and even created new markets for men’s body spray, hair gel and the like.
What is the next evolution of experiential marketing?
The “How to” style of content is going to drive more and more engagement externally with your consumers and internally with your employees. Most traditional marketing organizations are not set up for this to happen organically. The traditional titles of Marketing Manager/Director are slowly being replaced with Brand Manager/Director and Consumer Experience/Engagement titles. The goal of these new job titles is to make marketing more human, believable and more trusted. Consumer experience matters more than the marketing offer. Employee Engagement is more important than data analysis. Content strategy is the path to make it successful.
So, how do we have more open, less promotional and more useful product and brand experiences? We have to help cross over from marketing into product/brand operations and strategy. Ultimately and continuously reinvent how consumers experience products and services on any level.
Organizations need to take the traditional, behind the scenes insight experts and help them take center stage with products and brands and help them become the employee spokespeople—adding value and answering questions that your consumers need and want. These insight experts have the creative understanding about what makes your consumers behave the way they do across the spectrum of their lives. Find and create opportunities to engage with your consumers using the product or brand as the impetus to connect as the center of the content strategy.
Driving experiential marketing in your organization:
- Focus on the experiences not the promotion. Get a new understanding of your consumers’ lives and look for spots, locations, times that the product or brand intersects (or could intersect) and create the relationship between the consumer and product.
- Support broader team integration. To make the shift from promotion to experience, it is going to require the teams from creative, research, brand, product, etc. to integrate more and exchange ideas and build new platforms to create value for your consumers. Value is created by answering, over and over for your consumers, “how to” engage with the product at life’s intersections.
- Provide space, time, tools and flexibility in how your teams engage. Do not be prescriptive as marketing once was. Give latitude and leeway as to how the team engages, learns and creates. Take them out of the cubes and offices and give them a process to interact and develop ideas for the consumer, not the brand.
- Data alone cannot create experiential marketing. Supplement your investment in data acquisition with a way to interact directly with your consumers. Put the team in a room with the consumer and talk, discuss and learn about who they are, why they behave the way they do, not just what they are doing.