CPG Needs Experiential ... And Here's Why

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 1, 2017

For years, CPG marketers have been feeling the disloyalty of younger consumers. Millennials are the first generation to live by the mindset that relevancy begets loyalty. They want brands that reflect and connect to their unique identity and not that of their parents. In 2017, only ten CPG companies made Business Insider’s Top 100 Brands Millennials Love list, and only one, Coca-Cola ranked fifth, made it into the top ten. The ten CPG brands featured all had one thing in common: a clear appreciation for the power of experiential marketing. Experiential plays a powerful role in driving the how, when, and where millennials spend their dollars and willundoubtedly become one of the most influential and relevant engagement channels for the generation to follow….Generation Z. For legacy brands, experiential marketing is incredibly important as it inspires people to action and force CPG marketers to rethink how they connect with people outside of the aisle and beyond the screen.



So why aren’t more CPG brands leveraging experiential in their marketing mix?

Well, most CPG marketers either don’t get the discipline or just don’t see the benefit of the channel. CPG marketers care about two things — increasing buy rate and building brand equity, and experiential doesn’t neatly check both boxes. Experiential does offer a direct point of engagement between the brand and its target that is personal, visceral, and transformative. The Cheetos Museum is a perfect example of how experiential can revitalize a legacy brand, making it relevant to a new audience. Cheetos saw that millennials were reaching for healthier snack alternatives over a cheesy, crunchy, satisfying bag of Cheetos. The brand had to find a way to drive sales and increase consideration. Instead of relying solely on traditional channels to spread a “buy more” message, Cheetos leaned in on experiential, crafting an integrated brand experience that encouraged millions of Americans to get their fingers cheesy again and take a closer look at each Cheeto in the bag. 

Experiential marketing is more than just a cool event or handing out samples on the street or at a music festival. Experiential marketing is about creating a moment that can become a movement around a brand. People, particularly millennials, want to be a part of the conversation and not just accosted by the message. Experiential offers CPG marketers the ability to create conversations that place people’s interest at the center of a brand, and the brand in the center of their lives. Brands like Kleenex, have leveraged experiential to do just that. Kleenex’s 2012, Softness Worth Sharing Campaign, went beyond traditional sampling to create a social movement that inspired people to not just share the product, but also share a moment. 

So how and where should you start?

  1. Get in bed with the customer (and the consumer). Understand the passions, interests, values, and behaviors that shape how they engage within the category and use those insights to curate scalable, hyper relevant, socially-driven offline brand experiences that help them think differently about the brand.
  2. Stop thinking (and planning) in silos. Marketers can’t measure the impact of experiential if it isn’t a part of an integrated planning approach. A one-market, one-off event can’t drive long-term loyalty.
  3. Focus on Ideas, NOT tactics. Sampling is a tactic, as are pop-up shops, music festival activation, on premise give-a-ways, etc. Tactics grab the attention of consumers in the moment, but they are fleeting over time. Ideas shape brands. CPG marketers should view experiential marketing as another channel they can use to bring a big idea to life.
  4. Map the journey. Not the consumer journey, but the experience journey. How consumers experienced a brand in 2014 should not be the same in 2018. People are fluid, and marketers need to understand how to leverage their brands to create unforeseen value for the consumer. Adidas Green Light Run did this by using experiential to address a key pain point of a consumer segment – the urban runner. City running had become a point of frustration for avid runners. So the brand created a street running experience uninterrupted by traffic lights, people, cars, etc. The experience was simple and scalable across global markets and media
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