• James Somerton

A Marvel Of Marketing

If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you’re aware that the right customers are becoming more and more difficult to find. That brand loyalty just isn’t there anymore. But some brands… well, they’ve diversified and focused on experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing is a tool in your marketing toolbox that very few brands actually utilize. Everyone thinks of digital diversification (websites, social media, online video) but not a lot of brands focus on the experience of being a customer. The 360-degree view of what it means to be the purchaser of a product.

So what exactly is experiential marketing? Unless you’ve got a marketing officer breathing down your neck, you may not know. Well, it is a growing trend that involves marketing a product through experiences that engage the customers, and create emotional attachments to said product. Tangible, physical experiences are used to reinforce the value proposition of a product and make customers feel as if the product is a part of them.

There are a lot of things that differentiate traditional marketing from experiential marketing. Experiential marketing focuses on offering sensory, emotional, cognitive, and rational value to the consumer. It also intends to create a synergy between perception, consumption, and brand loyalty.

It’s a sort of… holistic form of marketing. Something that Apple perfected under the leadership of Steve Jobs. The communal experience of theorizing on message boards as to what the next big product release would be… Watching live (either in person or online) as Jobs announced the new product and walked you through the new features… and then lining up together to buy it.

Marvel Studios, Disney’s most successful recent acquisition, has also perfected this. Beyond fans theorizing about what the next movie will be, who will play which characters, and what comic book storylines will make it to the big screen… There’s also the communal viewing experience of everyone showing up on opening weekend. Marvel’s brand has gotten so good at this that they barely had to advertise their latest giant blockbuster Avengers: Endgame. A movie that purposefully did not show the most exciting parts of the movie in the trailers. It advertised itself as a sombre, even depressing movie. But the experiential marketing worked so well that Endgame had the biggest opening weekend box office of all time, and eventually went on to become the biggest box office hit of all time (Not adjusted for inflation. No one is ever likely to come close to Gone With The Wind), beating out James Cameron’s Avatar… which Disney also owns after their purchase of Fox Studios.

Now, not everyone can be Marvel and Star Wars… or Disney in general, really. Walt Disney basically created Experiential Marketing by letting you visit your favourite Disney movie characters in the Disney World and Disney Land theme parks. But every brand, no matter how small, can take the principals Disney and Apple follow and use them for their own gain.

Can’t make 22 movies in ten years? Well, that’s pretty understandable. But you don’t need movies to get people involved! Write blogs! Blog about your products, your industry, your people, your plans for the future. Make videos that show the behind the scenes working of your brand. How ideas are developed, and the team behind them. Organize events! If you’re launching a new product, don’t just do a press release. Have an announcement, and livestream it. Use video, photos, and graphics to enhance the announcement. And promote the announcements for days, even weeks beforehand. Focus your social media single-mindedly on the upcoming announcement. Tease it. Build up the excitement!

And finally, assign a brand ambassador, and make sure they’re not a corporate communications type. Someone who is genuinely excited about the things you’re doing, and not because it’s making them money. Steve Jobs was such a good ambassador for Apple that people said that when he spoke, he created a Reality Distortion Field. No matter what he was describing, it was the most amazing thing on earth. Kevin Feige of Marvel has the same effect on people. He’s a fan. He’s a showman. Just look at the video of him announcing Captain America: Civil War from 2014 to see what I’m talking about. And before Kevin Feige, there was, of course, Stan Lee. Find a person like that and put them front and center.

Marketing shouldn’t just be analytics and ads. Marketing should create a feeling of love for your brand. A new product, a new movie, a new magazine issue… they should all be cause for celebration. And make your fans and followers feel welcome to that celebration. To that experience.

James Somerton