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3 tips for creating brand experiences millennials love

July 25 2016

Tim Smith

Marketing leaders have an incredibly complicated task in trying to optimize their marketing spend while achieving the best return for their brand. While plenty will debate the merits of spending in the traditional vs. digital spaces, it’s the experiential world that may be most deserving of your investment – especially if you want to stay relevant with millennials.

It only takes one trip to SXSW to acknowledge that we are all living in an “experience economy”. Customers are seeking memorable interactions, and brands are creating events that either pique new interests or recall favorite memories. Just take a look at the record-breaking number of downloads and the media attention Pokémon GO has garnered. In less than two weeks, the app was downloaded 30 million times, and Nintendo’s stock gained $7.5 billion in value!

Why? Because consumers – especially those in the millennial generation – want to truly engage with the brands they love. They want to immerse themselves in experiences that are meaningful to them and they want brands to be involved. According to Event Track 2016, the brands that successfully deliver on this goal will earn loyalty now, and consideration at time of purchase. In their survey, Event Track found that 72% of consumers say they view brands more positively following a brand experience and 74% say they have a higher likelihood of buying the products.

Give your customers what they want

Customers’ overwhelming interest in experiences has marketers looking to provide memorable moments – from augmenting the world right outside their customer’s door, as Pokémon GO has done, to creating elaborate productions like Labatt is doing with the Undomesticated Games.
Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum are events like #karma4detroit, an immersive brand experience we helped Credit Karma create. Part activation, part art installation, part social giving campaign, #karma4detroit generated more than 2 million social media impressions in two days, reinforcing existing customers’ love of the brand and generating awareness among a whole new legion of fans.

In creating this experience and others, we’ve learned a lot about how to develop the kind of brand events that millenials love. So, what can marketers do to ensure a great activation?

1. Bring your brand purpose to life

An immersive experience is an opportunity to demonstrate your brand values in ways that other tactics could never do. Take our recent experience with Credit Karma, for example. Their goal is to give customers the tools and guidance they need to feel good about their financial situation. When Credit Karma saw that Detroit could benefit from their help, they chose to demonstrate their devotion to their values with an event that took action.

Credit Karma Twitter Activation

They partnered with a nonprofit organization that shared the same mission, and then they encouraged the community to get involved. In exchange for a tweet, Credit Karma donated $8.50 to Operation HOPE, an organization that helps improve financial literacy in Detroit. Because of this activation, Credit Karma was able to educate thousands of Detroiters about free services in the area and also help fund additional financial resources. In living their values, Credit Karma created a compelling event their millennial audience couldn’t help but support.

2. Delight your audience with the unexpected

When big money is being spent, there is a tendency to make a brand experience so prescriptive that it becomes uninteresting to participate in, and feels staged and forced. To truly engage, an audience must discover the joy in the experience on their own and find some unexpected moments. When this happens, the event has the potential to explode into the shareable social universe. Pokémon GO became the fastest growing app of all time in part because it continually surprises the user. Players never know where a Pokémon will pop up, but they’re always excited to discover how rare it is.

Credit Karma was able to accomplish a similar sense of surprise and delight by providing its own mystery. In addition to a donation to Operation HOPE, Credit Karma rewarded machine users with a surprise gift. Vending machines dispensed prizes including concert tickets, gift cards, Bluetooth speakers, phone chargers, and more. And since prize distribution was completely randomized, every interaction held a certain amount of intrigue.

Credit Karma Brand Activation

3. Make it visual and share-worthy

In order to take advantage of our millennial audience’s desire to share their experiences on social media, we also introduced a component that was highly visual: the Karma Garden. This simple structure, built to remind the community of the dreams we’re all striving for, invited all to share their hopes for Detroit in a tangible and interactive way. The end result was a physical monument that grew over the four-day event and found it’s way to many Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts.

Credit Karma Detroit Brand Experience

Invite your customers to tell their own story

Immersive brand experiences like #karma4detroit make it possible for marketers to connect with their audience and realize a huge return on investment. As Nick Moran, a London-based expert in Escape the Room, said, “People are looking for those memories, the special things they can share with their friends. They allow people to carve out their own narrative…”

If your brand is looking for a way to start those stories and aren’t sure how to take advantage of this valuable tool, give us a call – we know how to get people talking.