Soho Experiential Brand Loyalty

Why Experiential Marketing Creates Unparalleled Brand Loyalty

By SoHo Experiential Co-Founder, Rick Kiley

The marker of long term success for brands is customer loyalty. You can survive for a while on the promise of an idea, or by catching a trendy wave, but continued success over the course of years, or decades, can only come from one place: customers who wish to use your product or service over, and over again. Companies invest millions (billions) offering perks to their most important customers  (Frequent Flier miles/your name in lights/early access to ticket sales) that play to their values, in order to retain these loyalists for as long as they can.

In the time of big data, when I can simply think about vacationing in Hawaii while on the subway to work and then have Google show me an ad for what I want as soon as I boot up my computer, it’s become easier and easier for companies to identify their loyal customers and maintain that relationship with ease. Since so many exceptional loyalty management programs and tools are available, the marketing question that remains is always “How do I create loyalty where none exists?” Luckily, a high-quality brand experience answers this – but how, and why?

First, we need to define a few terms and address some very light human psychology. At SoHo Experiential, in order to create an effective brand experience which will create loyalty where none exists, we first identify moments of Social Anxiety that our clients’ brands are connected to. A simple example I use often is this:

You’ve invited someone out on a first date, and you want to make a good impression. It’s a nice restaurant, you are seated by the Maître D, presented with the menus, and a wine list. You would like to order some wine, but the wine list is 200 deep.

It may seem trivial, but this is a moment of Social Anxiety. If you want to impress your date, and you know how to select a good wine to go with your meal, and s/he likes it, your social status is elevated in your date’s mind. In moments like this, if you can effectively navigate the circumstance, you display what we refer to as Social Confidence.

Why is Social Confidence important? There are people far more qualified than I am to talk about the importance of our status in the eyes of our peers, would-be peers, and larger communities; but, the short version is that components of our self-esteem are derived by how we are seen by others, and how we perceive others see us. Elevating our social status makes us feel really good.

Furthermore, we live in an age of increased Defense of Choice. Once upon a time, there were far fewer choices for the products and services we use. Before the California wine boom, casual wine drinkers were limited to brands like Concha Y Toro, Gallo and table Chianti; but now you can get high quality vino at any price you want from hundreds of wine growing regions around the world. As a result, now more than ever, when you make a choice, especially if that choice is unfamiliar, people will inquire as to how and why you can to that choice.

So, where does experiential come into play? How does it create loyalty? As you may have guessed already, we try to address those moments of Social Anxiety, by providing Social Currency – the insight or know-how that will elevate social status – and turn those moments of potential anxiety into moments of Social Confidence. Brands that deliver this currency for consumers make a difference in their lives, earning their loyalty in the process.

Returning to our wine example, if a wine brand teaches someone how to order a great wine off the menu that pairs well with the meal, and impresses his/her date in the process, that consumer will be forever grateful, buying that wine brand time and time again.

Research shows that this loyalty results not only increased direct sales, but in increased advocacy as well. Individuals with new social currency are eager to share what they have learned. They proactively pass it along, influencing peers while elevating their social status in the process. At SoHo, we believe that peer conversion, driven by brand loyalists, is the key to unlocking business growth, and experiential is uniquely positioned to deliver this customer behavior. Shopper marketing can’t, because “it was on sale” isn’t a Defense of Choice that elevates status. Ads rarely can, because they don’t provide enough authentic social currency to be impactful in our lives. Short of direct peer trial/recommendation, there just isn’t another way to communicate meaningful social currency than an immersive, and authentic, brand experience.

So, if you are looking to create some loyalists, look for that moment of social anxiety connected to your brand, and design a memorable engagement to turn that anxiety into confidence.

Or call us, and we’ll help do it for you.