Some things are timeless. That’s because human nature doesn’t change much over time. Everyone is talking about experiential marketing, but in truth, that’s just the jargon du jour. The brand experience has always been everything. Getting people to engage actively with what you do and why you do it is all about how they experience your brand. We’re going to look at the pillars of engagement, but first, let’s break down what comprises a brand. Your brand is people’s collective perception of these things:
Your company and your people:
What is it like to work with and work for your brand? Are you an industry leader? An innovator?
How does it feel inside your owned media environments such as social media, blog and website, and your offices, stores, restaurants, or wherever you are IRL. Is the experience consistent across all of these?
Your products and services:
How’s your stuff? Is it awesome? Does it keep your promises?
What is the thing that differentiates your brand? What can you offer that no other brand can? And how does that intersect with people’s passion and/or pain points? Our client Michael Tavano is unique through his whimsy, which is grounded in solid design principles and thoughtful execution. But it doesn’t get more whimsical than his signature Pooch Palaces and Penthouses, which drew the attention of the Los Angeles Times, Traditional Home and House Beautiful:
Do you stand for something? Do you give back to your community or causes that reflect your values? Do you align your brand with others that hold like values? Do you offer work/life balance? Do you consider the environment? These are all points that reflect your brand ethos.
Think of your brand as a living person. What is the voice of that person? Is it youthful, perky, precise, authoritative, funny, intelligent, innovative, imaginative? Whatever the voice, it should be brilliantly reflected in your name and tagline and it must sound the same across all of your platforms.
What does your logo say about you? What about your colors, your fonts and most importantly your images? Make sure this look has continuity across everything – print, digital, brick-and-mortar, events, collateral, products, uniforms, delivery vehicles, even your 404 message. Everything. So wherever your brand is, a glance is all it takes to identify it, even without a logo. Whether you like or don’t like the look of Restoration Hardware, it is meaningful that professional designers and consumers alike will walk into a room and say it looks “so resto.” The look is so powerfully curated that the brand itself has influenced trends in home design, and real estate stagers are incorporating it to help sell luxury properties. In another sector, luxury gourmet foods, have a glance at part of the Instafeed of UK based @matchaeologist. Their entire feed has images and videos with the same lighting style and the same clean black, white and vivid matcha green colors. No wonder they have built their business up largely using Instagram:
Once your game is super tight you’re ready to invest in outreach. Consider the experience people will get from your marketing. To foster engagement, brands have to set aside internal goals and instead be constantly mindful of how the experience will serve their audiences. Ask yourself:
Will they notice it?
In order to engage, people first have to see you. This has to happen amidst the nosiest, most complex multi-platform, multi-faceted, multi-media environment in the history if time. With thoughtful design and art direction, you can craft the initial exposure to invite people in to the brand experience visually. For example, why did we start this post with that video? We know columns in an enfilade will draw your eye because humans love images with enfilade and the ancient columns make it feel majestic and important and thus worthy of your attention.
Quick tip: humans respond best to images that are positioned as if the viewer is inside looking out, and they often respond negatively to images that look into a wall.
Will they trust it?
In the digital world, reputation is currency. If you’re minding the various areas of your brand makeup, above, your brand should be trustworthy. Keep track of your reviews everywhere. Make sure your messaging is also appearing on platforms and in media with editorial or community environments that are trustworthy. For example, choose media outlets that are experts in your market sector or general media that have either been around for a long time or if new are known for innovation and success. Influencers are the new testimonials: build trust with native content by credible sources in relevant places where your audience is looking for advice and information. Like our sponsored post for client Crypton Home Fabrics on Architectural Digest’s Instagram.
Quick tip: In the digital world, where you say it is as important as what you say. Go with trusted media brands and align with trusted influencers, avoid those who will say anything to make a buck.
Is it relevant?
People will only engage with your content if it is relevant to them. We work in the design space, with people who create interiors and things that go in interiors. SO even though we’re an ad agency, one glance at our Instagram feed screams design:
Is it delightful?
The serious and design-forward nature of that portico may capture an audience, and it may say we know something about design, but does it appeal to people’s emotions? The part of the brain that makes purchase decisions is actually an area with no language skills. An adorable cat curling up for a sunlit snooze will delight your soft and fuzzy side, and you may begin associate our brand with things that are soft and warm. We like that, because we’re a warm brand. It underscores our heartfelt tagline “put people first.” Which brings us to another important tool for delighting people: make sure your images and your messaging pay each other off beautifully. In doing so, you are nodding and winking at the audience, they feel they’re in on it with you.
Quick tip: A video, a live-streaming story, even a gif or a slideshow-style post will usually outperform something static in terms of engagement.
Is it worth their time to engage?
People are time-starved. To get people to engage in a marketing campaign, brands need to quickly communicate what they’re offering exactly. What’s in it for your audience to engage with you? Are you providing humor, a video, a celebrity encounter, some exclusive news or rollout, a sweepstakes, a sneak peek or behind-the-scenes exclusive, a game or quiz, a custom or bespoke experience, an event whether it’s virtual or something real like a party, a show house or a pop-up?
Quick tip: Don’t try to force the type of behavior you want. Instead, invest in enough research, including social listening, to know if what you’re offering for engagement is something the target audience already wants, needs or loves.
What is the call to action?
For each element of your plan, establish and clearly communicate what is it you want people to do. And make it as easy and fast as possible for them to do so. This is what elicits the actual engagement. Be clear in asking for the behavior or use tactics and platforms such as Instagram where the CTA is implicit. Common CTAs include: comment, share, post, tag, RSVP, attend, get more info, enter, make an appointment, subscribe, make a purchase. Our recent program with Domino and our client Crypton Home Fabrics asked people to post and tag a picture of their dog in a gorgeous interior. The engagement was tremendous.
Quick tip: Buttons are magic. Give the desired action a button and make it as obvious as possible.
Where does it lead?
This part seems so basic, but you’d be amazed how many brands focus on the tactic and how it looks or the little details like the swag bag or the prize, that they actually forget to carefully organize this piece. We’ve had clients ask us to organize digital campaigns without a thought to where people will land when they click through, or how that landing page is crafted to delight, engage and elicit the next desired behavior. We just had a brand come to us wanting to sponsor an entire designer show house to promote a product that has no place where anyone can actually purchase it. We let them know that would not be a good use of their budget.