Month: July 2019

The One Word That Makes Your Consumer Activations Extraordinary — and Effective

Virtual Reality Activation

Those in the live experience industry know that consumer activations play a critical role in a brand’s sales and marketing strategy. Yet amid the challenges poised by a competitive market and skyrocketing consumer expectations, brands may have difficulty standing out, let alone making a lasting impact. That’s why it’s more important than ever to embrace this word in your consumer activations: experience.

Consumers in all industries are demanding more from the brands with which they do business. It’s no longer simply about a purchase — instead, they want an experience. An immersion. An emotional connection. And sometimes, an escape.

Our Director of Marketing, Kevin Cobb, doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to touting the importance of creating experiences.

“Marketing has been turned on its head,” he says. “Many mass-media tactics are nothing but noise. If you don’t create an experience — and, by extension, an emotional connection — for and with your customer, the rest of your marketing strategy will fall short.”

At Wellington, we believe in the power of experiences so much that we’ve made creating signature experiences the core of our brand. That includes extensive work with clients across a wide range of industries, including planning and executing creative and unexpected activations.

That planning typically starts with a question: what sort of experience should we create to build a connection? If you find yourself at a similar starting point, consider the following tips to make your activations more experiential, more engaging and more effective.

The Pillars of Making Your Consumer Activations an Impactful Experience

Connect with your location. Embrace the nuances and specific benefits of your event location, including the venue itself, the surrounding city and the local culture. Look at where you’ve held past activations (if applicable) and consider opportunities to shake up your logistics. Perhaps you could step out of the convention center and into more immersive surroundings like a national park? On a smaller scale, tap into local flavors and favorite regional cuisines, engage local artists and performers and, if your activation schedule allows, plan a social activity at a local landmark or a new hotspot. The important thing is to look past the top-level trendy parts of your “where” and see what is teaming below. The things that make a certain city, venue, or group of people unique and different – and then infuse that into a part of the activation.

Be authentic. When shifting your activation strategy to an experience-first mindset, it can be tempting to sink your budget into every bell and whistle. Luxury certainly makes an experience memorable, but it’s more important to be authentic.

“Many brands tend to focus on consumer activations as doing something big and grandiose, which has its place but can also struggle to connect with people,” Kevin says. “Successful activations combine the unexpected with the authentic, which can be difficult to execute unless you’re willing to approach and think through the activation at a deeper level.”

That’s why it helps to start out with a vision. Consider these questions:

  • What sort of connection do you want to create with consumers?
  • What do you want attendees to think, and do while they attend the activation? What do you want them to do once the event is over?
  • How do you want to make them feel throughout the experience journey? (hint: if it’s just one thing, you are missing out on a whole lot of what makes us experience things as human beings…)

With that information, you’ll have a foundation on which to build an impactful, authentic experience. An activation — and any branded event — is an opportunity to do much more than make a sale. It’s a chance to build connections with your customers and other stakeholders, developing a brand loyalty that lasts long after the activation concludes. And to surprise them.

Perfect your personalization. In the “State of the Connected Customer” report by Salesforce Research, which includes input from more than 6,700 consumers and business buyers, a whopping 84% of customers said that being treated like a person, not just a number, is critical to determining where they’ll buy.

An activation is a prime opportunity to deliver a personalized experience that shows you know and understand your audience. Start on a large scale by customizing the event itself. Perhaps you want to target a younger audience by hosting an activation on a college campus. Make the most of your surroundings — and keep your audience engaged — by delivering an interactive and informative experience. A festival format, with a mix of demonstration areas and live entertainment, is an effective way to appeal to your audience’s interests. And make sure you create plenty of opportunities for online sharing (more on that in a moment)!

You can personalize on a smaller scale, too. Let’s say you’re including a giveaway in your activation. Think about the people who are signing up for the giveaway. What sort of prize would make a lasting impression and delight the winner? Thinking through those sorts of details ahead of your event is a strong signal to your audience that you’re invested in them and their interests, which makes the overall activation experience that much more powerful.

Deliver an insider’s perspective. In addition to receiving a personalized experience, attendees want to feel important and valuable (don’t we all?!). Consider adding a peek behind the curtain to your activation experience.

Delivering an insider’s view can take many different formats, depending on the specifics of your event. The key to your approach is exclusivity. See a new vehicle before anyone else, learn how a favorite product is made, get a guided tour of a behind-the-scenes locale, enjoy access to designers or creatives who aren’t normally accessible. If the opportunity is right, you could even put an attendee (or several) on stage to bask in the spotlight while they share a relevant brand story or participate in another way.

Broaden your target audience. An activation’s audience can help drive (no pun intended) the experience, which is why it’s worth examining your attendees. You likely have a core group of targeted prospects and brand stakeholders.

Are there opportunities to cater to this existing audience while also adding new people to the mix? For example, you could combine the activation with a socially relevant movement or theme that sparks a different sort of experience, one built on engagement, sharing and discussion, rather than sales. This is an opportunity to inspire a wider range of people that includes your target demographic and can help lay the groundwork for brand loyalty with a long-term payoff.

Encourage social sharing. In today’s social media-focused world, online sharing can have a big impact on a brand’s perception and long-term success. Whatever form your activation takes, make sure that social sharing is part of your strategy. Create a branded hashtag and encourage attendees to use it throughout the experience. Help facilitate Instagrammable moments with photo booths, eye-catching displays and intriguing demonstrations that make for compelling digital content. Not only will this help get more people interested in what you’re doing; you’ll also increase your brand reach and impressions.

Here’s another social media tip: remember that it’s a conversation. Dedicate at least one person on your team to watch the hashtag and brand mentions so that you can share what your attendees are saying and capturing. That makes them feel validated that what they’re sharing resonates with your brand, and is also an easy way for you to maintain an active online presence during a busy time like an activation. You could even reward people for sharing the event with their networks with surprise-and-delight tactics like a piece of branded swag or another small prize, simply for participating.

There’s no doubt that creating experiences can be challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding work. Just imagine the possibilities for how you can captivate and delight attendees in a way that also benefits your brand. If you want to talk through any ideas or get more information on the client examples we mentioned earlier in the post, feel free to contact us any time.

‘They Said it Was Life-Changing:’ 3 Ways to Make Your Incentive Trip a Cultural Experience

Fijian Basket Weaving

If you’ve planned an incentive trip, you know it can be a challenge, albeit a fun one! Since incentives are viewed as coveted rewards (often requiring hard work to achieve), expectations are high. Think bucket list, not simply another beach excursion. Regardless of what (enviable) location you choose, there’s one way to ensure you deliver an unforgettable incentive trip: make it an immersive cultural experience that connects attendees to both the place and local people.

That’s what Wellington did when planning an extraordinary incentive experience for an automotive client. After a collaborative brainstorm on possible locations, we picked Fiji for its unsurpassed beauty and dynamic culture. Now, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you deliver a more impactful incentive getaway that embraces local as much as luxury.

Understand your destination: Once you’ve selected your location, study up on its history, its customs and its people. By getting to know more about the destination, you’ll likely spot opportunities to enhance the trip in ways that are a natural fit with the local culture.

During initial conversations with vendors in Fiji, Wellington account executive Michele Woods noticed just how important customer service is to Fijians.

“They’re nurturing, always looking to take care of people,” she said.

The commitments to helping others, along with hospitality, became two of the primary themes of the trip, and attendees had an even better experience as a result.

“At the resort, guests had villa buddies and villa mommas that took care of the resort and made sure guests had everything they needed,” said Michele. “They might overhear that a guest likes chocolate chip cookies and would bake them for that guest.”

Villa buddies acted as expert guides, ready to take attendees on an adventure. If a guest wanted to kayak, for example, the villa buddy would plan a specific tour based on the water levels, the wind and what would be the best experience on that day.

“It was like having a personal tour guide, which was outstanding,” Michele said.

Experience like a local: The most effective incentive trip includes a number of thoughtful experiences combined in one unforgettable escape. Planning these smaller experiences is another opportunity to infuse the trip with local culture.

In Fiji, for example, guests attended creative workshops and learned how to make hats and baskets. Culinary enthusiasts went to a local market for fresh produce, then caught shrimp and worked with a local chef to prepare a beach picnic for the group.

Michele and her team also spotted an opportunity to tap into Fiji’s creative community. During a welcome dinner on the first night, guests browsed a market featuring painting, clothing, baskets and jewelry made by Fijian artisans. Once guests made their purchases, the wares were shipped to their homes.

Another hands-on experience? Building bamboo billy-billy rafts, then taking them for a ride down the river. One of the village buddies took the group to his family’s village for a heartwarming experience that included a traditional welcome ceremony in the village chief’s home.

Among the most memorable cultural experiences was the celebration on the last night of the trip. The resort staff came together and sang a song to the group to thank them for coming, a festive occasion that quickly became emotional.

“Our guests were crying and hugging,” Michele said. “It was one of those meaningful things that they walked away from and said it was life-changing.”

Be respectful: Part of understanding your destination and its people is learning to follow local customs, including business etiquette. For Michele and the Wellington team, that centers on one primary motto.

“We need to leave every place better than when we arrived,” she said.

That often means dealing with factors like considerable time differences — in the case of Fiji, the local time was 17 hours ahead of the U.S. And in the Fijian business community, people don’t typically work overtime, which meant that much of the planning discussions for Wellington happened between 9p and midnight.

Yet by putting in the effort to be a courteous and responsible business partner, the entire incentive experience will be even better.

“Try to be as authentic as you can to the location,” Michele said. “In every case, we adapt to the place and people we’re working with, then they get on board with what you’re doing.”

That mindset also helps foster lasting connections, both for the planning team and the guests themselves. Michele said she still stays in touch with a couple of Fijians after they bonded during the planning and the trip itself. By incorporating Fijian people and daily life into the incentive trip, we delivered an experience that left as big an impact on us as it did the guests.

“This was the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m so lucky that I was able to be a part of it,” Michele said. “A trip like this stays in your soul and doesn’t leave you.”