4 Essential Tips for Creating Lasting Experiences

By Jeff Boedges, Co-Founder of SoHo Experiential

We recently shared the results of a survey conducted by The Event Marketing Institute, one of the Experiential Marketing Industry’s foremost research authorities.  That survey determined that 8 out of 10 people who participated in an experiential marketing event said they told others about it.  To us, this was less breaking news and more a validation of what we have been saying for years: “what people want to share most is experience.” We are no longer as concerned with sharing what we’ve bought, what we have, or what we can afford.  The “keeping up with the Joneses” arms race ended when people realized that there’s always a newer smartphone, a cooler vacation, and an even “more electric” car on the scene.  So what is it about experiences, those in-the-moment engagements, which have become so share-worthy?  We have identified some key understandings about people’s motivations to share that drive our experiential marketing strategies.

The first is that experience is by definition, personal.  Even group-experiences are seen through the eyes of an individual. A personal experience is wrapped in our expectations, beliefs, prejudices, and above all, our emotions.  It’s why people go to concerts, and despite standing amongst a huge crowd, feel the artist was performing “just for them.” At the end of the day, feeling this sort of singularity is a basic human need.  

The second motivation is the driving force we refer to as “Social Currency.”  Social Currency is derived when one person takes validation and self-worth by sharing their experiences with others.  When a social share gets more likes, more retweets, more comments, it equals more Social Currency.  When your neighbor buys a scotch you recommended, DING, you’ve just deposited Social Currency.  When your friends post about a bar you recommended they check out, that’s Social Currency.

So why as marketers, should we care about what motivates sharing?  Our opinion is that consumers are so barraged with commercial messaging, from signage, TV, pop up ads, etc. (see FanDuel), it is impossible now to judge the merits of a brand based on messages that come from paid media.  Many, if not most, consumers want the endorsement of a friend or trusted confidant.  So the key becomes identifying those motivations, and creating experiences that provoke sharing, as well as having a personal payoff.  Social media serves a valuable role in the sharing of experiences, but ultimately, it’s only a venue through which we communicate, not a source of experience in and of itself.

Based on our understanding of motivations, we at SoHo have developed a few best practices we apply.  

  1. Tell an authentic story.  People are pretty smart and can smell a tall tale from a good distance.  Moreover, they can fact check anything you care to say, so stay away from BS.  Examine your brand’s story.  Every brand has one, even if it feels blasé, remember that people aren’t expecting Rudy. Relatability can top oddity.  
  2. Make your experiences unique.  Today’s consumers are armed to the teeth with gadgetry, software and how-to videos. They can, and often do, create a variety of shareable content that would boggle the minds of even the most prescient futurist. Give them something they can’t get themselves, and they’ll share it.  
  3. Keep it simple.  I bow to Guy Kawasaki and his rules on presentations for this one.  If you can’t explain what you’re trying to convey in a minimal amount of time, with a minimal number of words, you’ll lose your audience.  The same holds true for experiences.  If an attendee to your experience can’t watch one person do what you want, or read a description and get it in 30 seconds, that’s game over.  So don’t go overboard, and you’ll you reap what you desire.  
  4. Go analog (don’t be afraid!).  We have had clients that want every single part of every single event to be tied to social media and amplification.  Well, as it is with margaritas and NFL analysts, more is not always better.  When you jam the entire space with small screen add-ons, people wind up missing the important stuff – the actual experience! Think concert-goers who spend the entire show recording on their smartphones. Sure, we want to preserve the moment, but not at the cost of the moment itself. An effective experiential setup doesn’t force social media down its attendees’ throats, it inspires them to share because they had a meaningful experience.  

So to all my friends (hi mom) and business partners, don’t be surprised when 80% of your consumers are sharing their brand experiences with their social circles.  Instead, expect and embrace it.  Discover the art of providing amazing consumer experiences and watch how far word of mouth will carry your message.  Begin by examining the motivations that drive sharing.  Be less concerned with how they share, and more concerned about what they share.  Mix in a little common sense with a good deal of creativity, and the game is on.