The Four Pillars of Experiential Marketing

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Steve Olenski is among the most influential marketing writers today. Dubbed The CMO Whisperer & Distiller of Truth, he writes about storytelling in this April 8 Forbes article:

“The art of storytelling goes back to the dawn of time. It’s a device that has framed cultures and shaped societies. Stories provide context and meaning for life, work, relationships, and societal norms. That’s because stories often have characters or plots that readers can relate to and see themselves in. Or, they identify desired traits and shared goals.

And, since brands are trying to make connections with their target audiences, it makes sense that they would turn to storytelling. Yet, the use of storytelling is not necessarily a new tactic in marketing, either. In fact, I wrote about the benefits of brand storytelling in 2015. However, three years on from that research, storytelling has become more relevant due to the audience’s desire for authenticity, meaning, and emotion from brands.”

He argues storytelling is a critical skill in modern marketing, but not widely understood and much easier to get wrong than right.  Every one of us feels the heat of competition for our prospect’s attention and buying more radio ads, hitting more trade shows or printing more colorful brochures doesn’t get it done.  This is where storytelling becomes critical to connect emotionally with your audience.

In Experiential Marketing: Dan Hanover and Kerry Smith offer four general pillars of all stories:  the story, the storyteller, the medium by which the story is shared, and the listener. Those are important considerations when planning experiential events.

Olenski outlines four different pillars for the actual story: characters, place/setting, conflict/tension, and resolution.  He cautions us to be authentic when creating those components, saying “brands have been so ingrained in marketing language, sales pitches, and benefit bullet points that they don’t know how to step back and just be real.”  He quotes Taj Forer of fabl, “So much brand storytelling lacks an authentic voice, narrative, or relatable-subject matter.”

Mistakes aren’t limited to producing canned campaigns.  Olenski writes: “Priorities for storytelling should include quality, visuals, and narrative. However, these are often neglected. Other storytelling errors include not optimizing for the mobile experience where the majority of the audience likes to read these stories.”

He quotes Jeffrey Singman, VP Product, Kandy Business Solutions on three critical mistakes brands are making:

“First, brands are pushing their products and services. They believe that a story about their products and services “features and benefits” is enough for storytelling. However, it’s not. Second, they are faking it by telling stories about how much the brand cares about poverty, human rights, a clean environment or other issues without actually making a real difference. Third, brands are using too many words and not enough images.”

From the article, I want to include the final paragraph about Getting It Done:

For David Beebe, award-winning media and marketing leader, he wholeheartedly believes that CMOs and brand leaders do get storytelling. What they need to do now is get onto acting on it. He says the challenge is that many brands are still operating in a silo and strategies are designed within a media and marketing system that hasn’t changed in over 50 years adding that this is the most exciting time to work in media and marketing. “And, brands now have the opportunity to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue center. That’s the power of premium content.”

When planning an experiential campaign such as a mobile marketing tour, having an aligned story considering these factors is the difference between success and failure.  There is no substitute for connecting with your prospects and taking them on a journey in which they authentically learn about what your brand believes and the culture surrounding it.

If you have questions or want to learn more about authentic brand storytelling and how to integrates those stories into mobile marketing tours, don’t hesitate to contact someone on our team.