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About Simple Booth

Simple Booth enables businesses and consumers to easily create and share branded photos or GIFs--anytime, anywhere. It's the perfect social photography platform for experiential activations.

Consumers love creating high-quality photos and GIFs using Simple Booth HALO®. With the ability to add fun filters, digital props and branded overlays, they’ll be more excited than ever to share the images they created right there on the spot.

With the Simple Booth dashboard, brands can easily track shares, views, and social engagement on images from their activations. At a glance, see how many Facebook and Twitter shares branded photos have received. Custom hashtag performance on Instagram is monitored with a simple click of a mouse. Thanks to the Simple Booth platform, measuring the success of marketing campaigns has never been easier.

Want to chat with an experiential marketing expert to learn how Simple Booth can bring your activation to the next level?

Contact us today!

The Ultimate Guide to Experiential Marketing

“They may forget what you said–
but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Carl W. Buehner

Introduction: The Power of Experiential Marketing

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Think fast! Which would you rather do:

  • spend Saturday afternoon trudging through IKEA searching for a new mattress… or be part of an exclusive sleepover at IKEA where you test different mattresses, get expert sleep tips and bedtime snacks, and go home with a new set of sheets?
  • go to your local 7-11 for a Slurpee…or get that Slurpee at a 7-11 that’s been transformed into the Kwik-E-Mart from The Simpsons?
  • read about oral hygiene on a box of Sensodyne toothpaste …or help Sensodyne try to break the Guinness world record by participating in the largest oral hygiene lesson? (Seriously–that’s a thing.)

For most people, the choice is easy: we want the more fun option, the more unique opportunity, the more memorable experience. We want the ordinary turned upside down and sideways so that it feels like we’re doing something new and exciting.

That’s what these brands did to great success. Sensodyne may not have broken the world record, but it did get hundreds of people talking about their brand, thinking about oral hygiene, and going home with toothpaste samples and a fun memory.

The next time they’re shopping for toothpaste, the name “Sensodyne” will probably leap out from amid the dozens of other brands. And maybe they’ll put a box in their shopping cart with a smile.

That’s the power of experiential marketing.

What is Experiential Marketing?

Experiential marketing (sometimes called “live” or “engagement” marketing) is a promotional strategy that allows consumers to actively engage with a brand in an innovative way that creates positive emotional connections and unforgettable memories. The primary goal is to surprise and delight consumers with a brand experience, rather than just pushing your product.

In recent years, experiential marketing has become smoking hot. Consumers are sick of being bombarded with traditional advertising and are point-blank ignoring them. A 2019 survey that found that 40 percent of the U.S. internet users surveyed use ad blockers on their laptops, and 47 percent said they’d “prefer to block all ads completely” on mobile devices.

Instead, buyers want experiences. An investigation by Eventbrite and the Harris Group research firm, 74 percent of consumers age 18 to 34 would like to increase their spending on experiences while 55 percent say they’re already “spending more on events and live experiences than ever before.” And it’s not just the millennials. A study by Walker Group found that by 2020, customer experience will be the most important differentiation of a brand–even more than price or product.

Live marketing provides the remarkable experiences that consumers crave while allowing brands to make a strong impression that leads to enhanced sales.

What This Guide Will Teach You

If you’re looking to include experiential marketing as part of your brand’s strategy, this is the guide for you. This 7-chapter book is going to help you thoroughly understand the ins and out of this exciting and effective form of marketing. Even if you’ve already run your fair share of experiential campaigns, it’ll give you plenty of fresh inspiration to craft creative activations that’ll suit your brand and satisfy your audience.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • why experiential marketing is excellent for both consumers and brands
  • five must-have components of every experiential marketing campaign
  • the different formats of experiential activations (with examples)
  • how to measure the ROI of experiential marketing
  • ten inspirational experiential marketing examples, from the simple to the complex
  • three things you should never do in an experiential marketing campaign
  • where experiential marketing is heading in the future
  • the best way to animate any experiential marketing activation

By the time you complete this guide, you’re going to feel like an experiential marketing warrior. You’re going to be armed with all the knowledge, insights, and original ideas needed to create an extraordinary live experience that’ll make consumers love your brand–and can’t wait to share the experience with others.

Let’s get started.

Chapter One: The Benefits of Experiential Marketing

40 min left

Experiential marketing is a trend growing by leaps and bounds. In 2017, CMOs spent 21 to 50 percent of their budget on experiential campaigns. And according to a 2018 Bizzabo report, 63 percent of senior marketers plan on investing more in live events in the future, both in terms of budget and number of events.

But why?

Simply put, experiential marketing is a win for consumers and brands alike.

Why consumers love branded experiences

Who doesn’t love a great experience? From the consumer’s perspective, a unique experiential activation can be a surprising and satisfying break from routine. It may also help them to see a brand, product, or an issue in a different way, and understand better how it adds value to their lives. Exceptional experiences give people something interesting or different to talk about–or share photos of–with friends, colleagues, and social media followers.

There’s also the fascinating, science-based fact that experiences bring longer-lasting happiness to people than possessions.

A Cornell University study revealed this intriguing information in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in 2014. According to lead researcher Dr. Thomas Gilovich, experiences bring more enduring happiness partly because experiences enhance long-lasting social connectedness: "We feel more compelled to talk about our experiences and we get more out of doing so. Talking about experiences, furthermore, tends to be more socially rewarding as well."

Brands who understand how to deliver pleasurable experiences to consumers are setting themselves up for success. Not only will they make consumers happy at the moment of the experience, but they’re also creating memories that will continue to generate happiness. In fact, the research suggests that consumers delight with a brand experience may remain steady or deepen over time–well after their initial satisfaction with the actual product levels off.

Why experiential marketing is great for brands

Experiential marketing offers as many upsides for brands as consumers, if not more. Among other things, experiential marketing:

Makes your brand stand out

In this oversaturated market, it’s hard to be seen. Providing a creative, unique experience for consumers can put a brilliant spotlight on your brand, making the competition fade into the background.

Creates brand awareness

An experience can bring the full essence of your brand to life. When done right, an experience confidently communicates brand identity and values to consumers even as it addresses their needs and desires with products or services. The total experience helps consumers become aware of your brand on a deeper level than a traditional ad ever could.

Heightens interest in brand and products

Experiential marketing isn’t so much as about selling a particular product as creating an experience that makes consumers want to buy from your brand. Nevertheless, experiential activations often include hands-on engagement with the brand and the product. Since experiential activations are almost always face-to-face, it’s an ideal opportunity for brands to put the product in consumers’ hands, let them try it out, and get immediate feedback.

Boosts brand loyalty

A great experience can cement customers’ loyalty to the brand, prompting them to return to your products and services again and again. According to a 2018 EventTrack survey, 91 percent of consumers say they have more positive feelings about a brand after attending a live event or experience. It also found that 85 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service after a live event.

Generates brand advocates and user-generated content

Experiential marketing also drives word-of-mouth marketing and content generation. Give consumers a fantastic experience, and they won’t hesitate to spread word or photos of their experience on social media or sing your brand’s praises to friends and colleagues. According to a 2016 EventTrack report, 98 percent of consumers create digital and social content at events and experiences…and 100 percent share these experiences. Given that 92 percent of consumers trust user-generated content more than traditional advertising, brands can’t afford to ignore opportunities that generate organic, shareable content.

…and hey, it works

Statistics show that experiential marketing is paying off for brands. A 2018 Bizzabo survey found that 91 percent of over-performing businesses place greater emphasis on live marketing than underperforming businesses or those performing as expected.

Most of the marketers surveyed (31%) believe that live events are the “single-most effective” marketing channel–topping digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing–while 87 percent of C-Suite executives believe in the power of live marketing.

Of course, you’re only going to obtain these compelling results if the consumer experience hits all the right notes.

Let’s examine how to ensure that it does.

Chapter Two: The 5 Indispensable Elements of a Successful Experiential Activation

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Experiential marketing has incredible potential to dazzle consumers and spotlight your brand–but the experience has to be nearly flawless. Unlike digital campaigns where interactions with the consumer take place at a certain distance (if at all), live activations rip down all barriers between the brand and the consumer. Your brand’s nature, character, and values are on full display before the people you want to most impress.

While such live interaction is a powerful way to form authentic and lasting personal connections, it also means there’s nowhere to hide. A poorly thought-out concept or half-hearted effort is going to be painfully noticeable, and turn your audience off.

Don’t worry–you’re safe. After reviewing more than 100 activations, we’ve identified five components indispensable for experiential marketing success. Incorporate these elements into your activation, and the experience will be a winning one.

#1: AUTHENTIC STORYTELLING

By now, most of us are aware that storytelling is crucial to any marketing campaign. Stories help consumers understand the values and message of the brand and create personal connections that keep them loyal. Brands most commonly communicate their stories through written content, photos, or videos, where consumers can digest these stories on their own time, on their own turf.

Experiential marketing activations take the consumer’s understanding of the brand story to an entirely different level. A successful experiential activation not only brings the story to life in three dimensions but immerses consumers into the story, allowing them to experience and play a role in the story instead of passively absorbing it.

“Storytelling without experiential, that’s a book. Experiential without a story, that’s a cocktail party.”

Helen J. Stoddard, Head of Global Events at Twitter, during an EventMarketer Experiential Marketing Summit.

Creating a brand story in which the consumer plays a starring role is one of the biggest challenges in experiential marketing–but it’s also one of the most important. As always, the story should be simple, relatable, and authentic. But it must also translate into an original, actionable experience for consumers.

How to do that? Keep reading.

#2: SENSORY ENGAGEMENT

Sensorial engagement should play an enormous role in every experiential marketing activation. Stimulating the senses­–all five of them, if possible–is crucial to enticing and captivating consumers.

Visual input often gives us our first and most indelible impression of a brand. We are naturally drawn toward things that please or attract the eye, such as beautiful or colorful displays, larger-than-life objects, movement, or bright lights. Most marketers are aware of the extraordinary power of visual marketing and take care to incorporate strong visuals into an activation.

But a live marketing experience allows you the exciting possibility of engaging consumers’ other four senses. Studies have shown that “pleasant ambient scents” can play a significant role in capturing the attention of a consumer and strengthening brand recall. Certain music can impact our moods and change our purchasing choices. Researchers have noted that touch has been demonstrated to have the capacity to positively alter consumer perceptions, sometimes at the level of visual input. And it’s a no-brainer that brands with an edible product should create a memorable taste experience for consumers.

Successful experiential marketing activations integrate as many of these sensorial inputs as possible to immerse the consumer into the world of the brand and allow them to explore the product or the brand’s values, culture, or mission in diverse ways.

All sensory inputs must be consistent with your brand identity and seamlessly integrate so as not to overwhelm the consumer.

Don’t be afraid to be as creative and inspired as possible: the more extraordinary the experience, the more they’ll remember it–and want to share it with others.

#3: PERSONAL INTERACTION

Virtual worlds may be all the rage at the moment, but nothing can replace the human connection. In a live activation, having authentic, personal interactions with the consumer is critical to a successful event.

Face-to-face engagement reveals the people behind the brand or product, which helps build trust and foster an authentic emotional connection. (Ever wonder why Apple bothered to open brick-and-mortar stores when they already had outstanding sales online? Think about it.) Brand representatives and team members should be trained to draw consumers into the experience and breathe life into the brand in a way that is impossible in the digital world.

Interaction means having conversations with consumers. Listening to their pain points, desires, and feedback. Finding out who they are. At the same time, it means identifying ways for them to engage with the brand in an innovative, hands-on manner, whether through an imaginative product demonstration, sampling, or training, engaging them in a challenge, or creating funny branded GIF or photos.

The idea is to remove barriers between the consumers and the brand and allow them to feel a fundamental part of the brand.

#4: EMOTIONAL IMPACT

Remember the quote at the beginning of this book? People remember the way you make them feel. This sentiment should drive every aspect of your experiential activation. Scores of studies show that consumers’ purchasing decisions and loyalty to a brand are largely driven by emotion. Consumers care about their emotional link to a brand and frequently value the brand narrative over the individual features and attributes of a product.

“Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).

Psychology Today

If you ever doubt this, consider the market power of brand-name products. Generic products might have almost identical components, style, and function, but consumers continue to prefer the brand-name, even paying significantly more for it. Why? Usually, because of the way they identify with the brand. All top brands have a social identity that consumers connect with emotionally: they either associate with the brand identity or aspire to achieve it.

Successful experiential campaigns ensure that consumers walk away from the experience with a strong positive emotion they associate with the brand–emotions that drive them to become loyal customers. The target emotions vary depending on brand goals, values, and mission, although it’s most common to make consumers feel happy, excited, relaxed, inspired, touched, or motivated.

In some situations, brands may seek to rouse feelings of anger or disgust by bringing attention to societal problems that your brand is trying to help resolve. However, in these circumstances, you must be certain the activation counterbalances those negative feelings by suggesting positive and meaningful solutions in which your audience can participate.

How to trigger these emotions? That’s where the other three indispensable elements mentioned come into play. Sensory input and personal interactions are critical to evoking emotions. But, above all, ensuring that the activation reflects an authentic brand story that resonates with your target audience is vital.

#5: SHARE THE EXPERIENCE

It’s a mistake to think that once the activation is over, the experience is finished. The activation is just the start of the campaign. To wring every last benefit from it, brands should document the experience with branded photos, GIFs, videos, and other content, and then share this content on social media. Brands can use the images and videos to allow consumers who couldn’t attend to share in the fun, reignite positive feelings in attendees, or make others swear that they wouldn’t miss your next fabulous activation. It also opens up another opportunity for brands to engage with consumers as people may make comments on the content on social media.

Participants won’t hesitate to share an enjoyable, unique experience on social media. The activation, therefore, should have a component that allows them to easily share any photos or other content on social media. At the very least, the brand should craft a specially branded hashtag so you can quickly identify the content being shared.

Document the experience from start to finish, perhaps even offering a behind-the-scenes look at the hard work your team put into bringing the activation to life. Just keep it all going.

Chapter Three: Types of Experiential Marketing

30 min left

From the marketing perspective, one of the most exciting aspects of experiential marketing is its elasticity. An experiential activation can come in every size, shape, and form, and can be tailored to fit every budget and business. On the downside, such a broad range of choices can feel overwhelming. To help you decide which format might be most appropriate for your brand, we’re going to take a look at seven of the most common experiential marketing formats.

Event Marketing

There’s a fair amount of confusion when it comes to distinguishing between “event” marketing” and “experiential marketing.” People often use the terms interchangeably when they’re actually two distinct concepts. While experiential marketing is frequently conducted through events, not all events are experiential.

Event marketing “describes the process of developing a themed exhibit, display, or presentation to promote a product, service, cause, or organization leveraging in-person engagement,” as defined by Marketo. Although this sounds a lot like experiential marketing on its surface, much of the difference lies in the nature of the experience of the participants. An event marketing activation may take the form of a conference, trade show, panel discussion, workshop, festival, or party, but none of these inherently guarantee the participants an experience of the brand.

Think about it: if a participant attending a trade show chats with brand representatives, tests the product, and receives a sample, it’s doubtful they’ll walk away feeling as if they’ve experienced the brand. But if that brand has infused their stall with the five elements of experiential marketing, an ordinary marketing event can become experiential.

experiential marketing Honda
Honda experiential marketing

Experiential Spotlight:

Honda provided a great example of experiential marketing at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. They didn’t just put their vehicles on display–the brand created a digital scavenger hunt that awarded guests Honda swag as they met each challenge, each of which involved a different Honda product.

Honda’s pièce de résistance, however, was a digitally-enabled “Dream Machine” cannon that allowed attendees to align personal dreams with Honda products. For example, a guest dreaming of traveling the world would align with a Honda aircraft engine. The cannon would then take a selfie of the person, and then “shoot” the selfie onto a 100-foot digital wall in the showroom. The selfies appeared with animated, digital representations of their dreams and the slogan “Your dreams are our dreams.” Honda reported a 50 percent increase in dwell time and a 40 percent increase in dealership contact requires from the year prior.

Pop-Up Activations

The concept of a pop-up shop (also called “guerrilla stores”) began to gain worldwide traction in 2004 when the Japanese brand Comme des Garçons surprised consumers in Berlin with a temporary store. Since then, the idea has spread like wildfire with so many different brands staging pop-ups–everywhere from airports to farmers’ markets to inside other stores–that it’s hardly surprising anymore.

Still, pop-ups hold broad appeal because they can generate instant buzz and excitement. Brands can test new products on a small scale, or attract the attention of a new demographic by springing up in a different location. Thanks to its temporary nature, the overhead cost is minimal, and there’s no long-term commitment, reducing risk.

Because pop-ups are now so ubiquitous, it’s harder than ever to stand out, which is why pairing a pop-up with an experience (rather than letting the pop-up be the experience) can get you noticed.

experiential marketing Barkshop
Barkshop experiential marketing

Experiential Spotlight:

BarkShop Live: The e-commerce brand Bark & Co, a retailer of dog-related products, dazzled New Yorkers with their 2016 pop-up experience. The brand popped up in Manhattan for one week, inviting dogs (and their humans) to try out their dog toys in person. Already a great concept for an experience, the brand kicked it up a notch by fitting the dogs with RFID-enabled vests, which tracked the toys each dog played with most. Dog owners thus had proof-positive of the playthings their dogs preferred and were able to purchase the items on the spot through a custom mobile app.

Stunt Marketing

Stunt marketing–staging a bold, newsworthy activation in public–is a classic way for brands to introduce a new product, communicate a message, or grab media attention, quickly. Although the risk of a flop is always present, the upside can be sky-high. You only have to look as far as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Olympic Torch Relay to realize that certain events that started as publicity stunts can turn into fast and firm traditions that endear these brands to the public.

Stunt marketing can be fun or even exhilarating to observe–Felix Baumgartner’s freefall from space for Red Bull comes to mind–but experiential stunt marketing brings more personal thrills to consumers since it puts them at the center of the stunt.

experiential marketing ice bucket challenge
ALS experiential marketing

Experiential Spotlight:

Did you take part in one of the most successful marketing stunts in history? In case you somehow missed it, the Ice Bucket Challenge was a stunt that reached millions of people, from your average Joe to former President Obama. People who accepted the challenge dumped a bucket of ice-cold water themselves (or someone did it for them) on video to bring attention to the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Many people, such as several former Presidents, opted to donate to ALS charities rather than get soaked. Over 2.4. million tagged videos of the challenge circulated Facebook and the efforts raised over $220 million.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing and stunt marketing are subtly different. While the primary aim of stunt marketing is to generate buzz and attention, guerrilla marketing intends to create an original, thought-provoking experience that evokes emotion, increase sales, and heighten brand awareness.

Sometimes called “ambush marketing,” guerrilla marketing derives its name from guerrilla warfare, a form of warfare fought by small groups of independent soldiers using unconventional tactics. Similarly, brands use guerrilla marketing to reach the consumer through unconventional, unexpected, and often low-cost means.

Common forms of guerrilla marketing include art installations, flyers or posters, and street art, such as chalk drawings, paintings, and stencils of logos or mascots. This isn’t a form just for smaller brands. McDonald’s famously turned a crosswalk’s yellow stripes into a container of fries. The Casino of Venice in Italy painted a baggage claim conveyor belt to resemble a giant roulette wheel. (According to reports, visits to the casino increased by 60 percent after this installation.)

Experiential guerrilla marketing can be a particular challenge to craft, as not only do you have to surprise consumers, you must persuade them to interact with your brand on the spot. But when it works, it can be extremely effective.

Greene King experiential marketing video
Greene King experiential marketing

Experiential Spotlight:

The UK brewery Greene King provides an excellent example of the experiential version of guerrilla marketing. As both a brewery and pub, Greene King was concerned about the growth of corporate-owned drinking spots in the UK and launched an experiential guerrilla campaign to reveal the importance of the local pub. Brand ambassadors went to 50 pubs around the country, gave pub owners, patrons, and bartenders handheld cameras, asking them to talk about why pubs are special. The brand transformed these videos, made by their own consumers, into a touching YouTube video called “To The Pub.” The ad won “Best Advertising Campaign” in 2016 at the Beer Marketing Awards.

The experiential version of guerrilla marketing isn’t as common as the standard version, so this might be a particularly striking format for differentiating your brand.

Photo Marketing

Beautiful, vibrant, compelling photographs have played a central role in advertising for at least 100 years. And for good reason. Our brains are hardwired to comprehend images quicker than text. According to one study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it takes a mere 13 milliseconds to process an image, and 100 milliseconds to grasp its meaning. People process visuals a mind-blowing 600,000 times faster than text. With facts like these, failing to take use photo marketing to promote your brand is just leaving money on the table.

Today, in the age of the selfie, photo marketing is more relevant than ever. People love taking pictures of themselves having a wonderful time, and then sharing these photos on social media. As of this writing, Instagram alone has nearly 400 million photos with the hashtag #selfie– and that number leaps by tens of thousands by the day. Since people are busy snapping and posting photos anyway, it’s just good sense to incorporate selfies and photography into every marketing activation.

Experiential photo marketing is an incredibly easy way of immersing your customer in your brand. Selfies are inherently experiential since users generate the photos themselves. But your brand only has to take a few steps to kick the experience up by several notches, ensuring that consumers enjoy an authentic, meaningful experience that they’ll be excited to share.

Photo booths are powerful marketing tools integral to creating a memorable branded experience. Consumers use photos booths when they’re at their happiest, and feeling and looking their best. Brands can enhance this experience by setting up a “selfie station” on their premises, at an installation, or event, where consumers can take photographs with an irresistible branded backdrop, a green screen, or fun props, either real or digital.

experiential marketing SPiN
SPiN experiential marketing

Experiential Spotlight:

SPiN, the bar, restaurant, and ping pong social club with locations across the U.S. wanted to heighten the experience of guests by helping them capture their fun with photos. The owners decided to install a Simple Booth HALO, which would allow guests to take selfies without having to be behind the camera. To enhance the experience, they filled a claw-foot bathtub with branded orange fluorescent ping pong balls in which guests take pictures of themselves immersed in the very symbol of their brand. The photo installation is a consistently popular feature in the club.

Bottom line? Experiential photo marketing is a great way to accelerate the generation of branded content and turn customers into instant brand advocates. What’s more, with the participants’ permission, brands can use these joy-filled images for future marketing content, from social media posts to direct-mail campaigns.

Fully Immersive Experiences

While all experiential activations should immerse the consumer in the world of the brand to a certain extent, some activations are literally immersive. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including through virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).

Virtual Reality

As defined by Hubspot, “virtual reality is a form of interactive software that immerses users in a three-dimensional environment–usually by way of a headset with special lenses–to simulate a real experience.” The software often simulates a 360-degree view, so that the user feels as if they’re completely in this other world. Countless brands are using VR to bring consumers into the heart of their brand and give them an experience they can’t get anywhere else in the world.

Merrell experiential marketing video
Merrell experiential marketing

VR Experiential Spotlight:

Merrell Trailscape. To launch their new hiking shoe, the Merrell, the outdoor clothing company, designed a virtual reality world in which consumers could experience extreme virtual hikes. Using motion-capture technology, the users could explore treacherous terrain, creaky wooden bridges, and even “mini-crises” such a landslides and rock falls. The experience had tactile elements, including rope walkways and shaking wooden planks underfoot. With this experience, Merrell allowed their outdoorsy consumers to enjoy an adventurous hike while showing the kinds of terrains their rugged footwear could endure.

Augmented Reality

In contrast, augmented reality (AR) is software that superimposes a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world, resulting in a composite view. The phenomenally popular app, Pokémon Go, is a classic example of augmented reality. In that game, users sought virtual Pokémon characters that were hidden in real locations in the real world. Everywhere we looked people were wandering around searching for these virtual figures that the rest of us couldn’t see.

The app was downloaded over 650 million times and generated over a billion dollars in revenue. Brands who harness the potential of AR for a marketing experience can leave a lasting impression on consumers.

Ben & Jerry’s experiential marketing video
Ben & Jerry’s experiential marketing

AR Experiential Spotlight:

In 2018, The ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s used AR to deepen the customer experience (and relieve a pain point) on their annual Free Cone Day in Australia. Using the Shazam app, customers waiting in the inevitable long lines for their free cone could scan audio-, visual- or location-enabled points to receive interactive, educational, and entertaining content about the brand. For example, they learned that the brownies in their Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream are made by a New York City bakery who specifically trains and hire members of the community who are struggling economically struggling or even homeless. By doing this, Ben & Jerry’s was able to turn a boring moment in an exciting event into a fun and emotionally-evocative experience.

Real Immersive Experiences

You don’t have to rely on advanced technology to immerse the consumer in your brand, however. Some brands give consumers an experience by creating a brick-and-mortar representation of the brand concept or message. To promote the 16th anniversary of the hit show “Gilmore Girls,” Netflix converted 200 independent coffee shops around the country into Luke’s Diner, raising brand awareness while drawing crowds to these small shops. On Instagram, people shared over 1,400 photos with the branded hashtag #lukesdinerpopup.

experiential marketing Coors
Coors experiential marketing

Real Life Immersion Spotlight:

Coors Light brought their ice-blue mountain mascot and “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer” slogan to life when they created an Ice Cave where consumers experienced an Arctic-style rave. The ice-cold cave had thumping music spun by top DJs, brand representatives handing out thermal capes to keep party-goers warm, and plenty of icy Coors Light and other branded drinks on tap. The Ice Cave appeared in various cities throughout the UK in 2016 and was so popular Coors did a reprisal tour the following year.

Experiential Installations

An experiential marketing installation is one where the brand finds a way to incorporate itself into its surroundings. More attention-grabbing than an ordinary billboard, an installation is a creative, even artful, branded piece that people entices people to stop and stare–and take plenty of photos. Experiential installations take the concept one step further by inviting consumers to interact with the installation in some way.

experiential marketing Darigold
Darigold experiential marketing

Experiential Spotlight:

The Darigold dairy brand brought attention to their white cheddar cheese by creating an enormous mousetrap and placing it in malls, outdoor squares, and other locations in Seattle and Spokane. As people approached the mousetrap, two violinists played increasingly ominous music, virtually daring them to get closer. Brand ambassadors rewarded those who interacted with the installation with cheese samples and by entering them into a contest. Other cheese samples were distributed from a branded bicycle with a cheeseboard top. A “Say Cheese” sign atop the installation encouraged consumers to take pictures.

Experiential installations should be set up in areas with high foot traffic. Don’t forget to add a branded hashtag for the installation so that when people take pictures (as they will), they’ll have a good reason to share these photos on social media, and you can keep track of them.

Chapter Four: Measuring the ROI of Your Experiential Campaign

25 min left

The challenge of creating a mind-blowing branded experience for consumers can be an absolute thrill. Determining how to measure the success of that experience…is less so. But, of course, tracking results is a fundamental part of any marketing campaign. As popular as the activation may seem to your eyes, how will you know whether it was a true success and worth the investment?

There’s no getting around the fact that it’s more difficult to collect data and analyze results in an experiential campaign than a traditional or digital campaign. When conducting an email marketing push, you have any of a dozen metrics, from open rates to list growth numbers, to help assess whether you’re on the right track.

In an experiential campaign, crowds, big smiles, laughter, and enthusiastic chatter doesn’t deliver the same hard data–although these may be significant indicators of an effective experience. Still, with careful planning and attention, you can accurately measure the effectiveness of activations, even based on seemingly unquantifiable values.

Setting Experiential Marketing Goals

As with any other marketing campaign, defining the goals of an experiential activation is the first and most essential step to measuring results. These objectives will vary for every brand, and with every activation. Such goals may include:

  • Increase brand awareness: are you trying to get in front of a new demographic or market? Do you want to assess how well consumers recognize your brand?
  • Increase brand sentiment: are you aiming to assess how consumers feel about your brand?
  • Lead generation: are you looking to capture more names, emails, and phone numbers?
  • Building relationships: do you want to strengthen relationships with existing customers establish a connection with new/potential customers?
  • Heightened product interaction: do you want to get more consumers physically engaging with your product?
  • Verification of target audience: do you need confirmation that you’re targeting the right audience?
  • Increase social engagement: are you looking to reach a target number of followers on Instagram, Facebook, or another channel? Are you trying to prompt user-generated content?
  • Increased sales: do you plan on selling the product during the experience?
  • Creating memories: how do you want consumers to feel when they remember the experience? How can you reinforce these memories?

For best results, these goals should be defined with as much specificity as possible. For example, if you’re seeking to increase social media engagement, identify a particular number of photos of the experience you’d like to see shared. That way, not only will you know whether you’ve hit your goal, during the planning phase, you’ll understand that brand representatives must find a way to encourage picture taking and sharing.

Establishing KPI

Once you’ve identified your activation’s objectives, establish clear key performance indicators (KPIs) for each one. Again, these will vary depending on your goals, brand, and nature of the activation. Some will be obvious, such as tracking the number of email addresses captured for lead generation, or counting the number of guests who interact with a product. Others, such as gauging how well relationships were built or strengthened, are much harder to measure.

Put your KPIs place well before the activation launch because some will require but before-and-after measurements to yield useful information. Let’s take a look at X possible KPIs for an experience. Different metrics and ways you can measure them.

Participation

To keep track of attendees or participants, brand ambassadors should use people counter devices at the entrance to the event, or when people engage with the experience, depending on the value you want to measure. You can also keep account by monitoring the number of giveaways distributed or by collecting email addresses or social media handles.

Although participation numbers alone won’t tell you whether the experience was a success, these figures can tell you the effectiveness of your pre-activation marketing, especially if you’ve set a target number for attendance. If the experience takes the form of guerrilla marketing and has no advance promotion, the number of participants can help gauge consumers’ interest level in your brand or product or the originality or practicality of the activation.

Social Media Engagement

Smiling, happy people during an experience are a good indicator of positive feelings, but how to be sure your brand is resonating with the audience and not merely your cocktails or swag? Social media to the rescue.

Have a staff member monitor your brand’s social media channels, website and blog before, during, and after the campaign. Has there been a spike in visitors, followers or mentions? Have people shared a spate of photos, or videos of the experience? Have any influencers retweeted or commented on the mentions? If you see buzz about your brand, focus on relationship-building by engaging with commenters online.

Finally, we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Don’t forget to create a unique yet memorable hashtag for the campaign so you can identify mentions that are directly linked to the activation and build on engagement.

Brand Ambassador Engagement

Your brand ambassadors play a critical role in measuring the experience’s success. Train your reps to keep track of the number of engagements they have, the nature and tone of the conversations, and write down any notable compliments or complaints. Ensure that each representative uses the same criteria for engagement, or the data will be inaccurate. Keeping track of the ambassador’s engagement with the consumer can help assess brand sentiment, brand awareness, and progress in relationship building.

Brand Sentiment/Awareness

Measure the participant’s satisfaction with the brand with a short, precise survey after the experience. Using yes or no questions or rating the experience on a 1-10 scale helps to standardize answers and make easy comparisons.

You can either conduct an onsite exit survey, or send one in the days, weeks or months following the experience. The timing of each has its advantages and drawbacks. The benefit of having an onsite survey is that you’re likely to get a higher number of responses, and the memories are fresh; the downside is that the consumer might feel that it disrupts the experience.

An off-site, post-experience survey tends to result in very low response rates. On the other hand, you’ll likely receive a more accurate picture of how long the experience lingered in the participant’s mind and how it impacted their awareness or feelings about the brand, and whether they’ve made a purchase since the experience.

In both cases, it’s crucial to offer an incentive for completing the survey.

Traditional Media Coverage

Prior to the activation, alert the press and media through a press release or by reaching out to influencers, and then track how much coverage it receives both before and after activation. If you have the budget for it, use a brand tracking provider to stay on top of mentions across a range of sources. Staying abreast of the kind of press the activation receives can offer insights on brand sentiment, brand awareness, and the impact of the experience. It also can help you react swiftly to misinformation or negative press.

Sales

It can be hard to measure whether a specific sale arose from an experiential campaign unless the experience incorporates the sale of products. For example, if the activation takes place at a pop-up or in-store, it’s easy to track sales. You can track sales by creating an app for a particular experience (as Bark & Co. did for their dog toy pop-up), or creating another digital interaction, such as a brief survey, at the point-of-sale.

If you can’t directly determine whether the experience elicited the sale, monitoring sales patterns before and after the campaign may provide informative data on the number of sales before, after, and during the experiential campaign.

Chapter Five: 10 Inspiring Examples of Experiential Marketing

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Every brand can launch a successful experiential marketing campaign, no matter your business size or budget. Although many of the experiences highlighted in this e-book were produced by well-known corporate brands with ginormous budgets, there are ways to draw consumers into the world of your brand without bankrupting your business. All you need is a fantastic idea and an even better plan.

To get your creative juices flowing, take a look at these ten brilliant campaigns. They range from the simple to the complex but can be riffed upon or scaled to fit your brand’s message and finances.

1. Russian Olympic Committee: Squats for a free ride

To whip up excitement for the 2013 Sochi Olympics, the Russian Olympic Committee teamed up with the Moscow metro to give them a memorable sport-themed experience (and strong thighs). The Committee equipped the Vystavochaya Station with a “squat sensor,” which allowed people to who could perform 30 squats within 2 minutes to ride the metro for free.

Why it’s effective: The idea was simple, fun, and relevant to the brand. As the Committee intended, it not only got people thinking about the games, but the strength and discipline that athletes need to be at the top of their game. It also evoked the “happiness of being active,” as the Committee hoped: it brought big smiles to the faces of those who participated, as well as those watching.

Consider this: People like contests, even if they’re just competing with themselves. Can you design an experience that allows customers to challenge themselves in a way that’s consistent with your brand message?

2. Uber & Smartwater: Portable Selfie Stations

If you’re ancillary to the fashion community, it’s hard to generate buzz about your brand during Fashion Week. But Uber and Smartwater managed it by teaming up to install Simple Booth photo booth HALOs in the back of a fleet of SUVs during New York’s Fashion Week. Thanks to the HALO’s optimized lighting, chic influencers were able to take and share plenty of selfies while tooling around town, helping create buzz on social media, while riders relished the novel experience of having an easy-to-use photo booth inside the car.

Why it’s effective: Where people are gathered together for a fun time, selfies are bound to happen. Having a photo booth where you might not expect one–like a car–enhances the experience. Not only does it take the awkward arm-stretch or selfie stick out of the equation, it’s just more fun.

Consider this: Photos are tangible proof of a great experience. Photo booths can make a valuable addition to any experiential activation, significantly boosting the possibility of social media sharing. What kind of selfie experience would be an irresistible draw for your target demographic?

3. Burger King: “Scary Clown Night”

For Halloween, Burger King offered free Whoppers to the first 500 fans who came dressed to select Burger Kings in cities in 30 countries around the world. Countless clown-garbed burger-lovers, in some cases entire families, descended upon the royal burger joint.

Why it’s effective: Clowns may be terrifying, yet it’s fun to dress up as one, especially on Halloween and especially when it means getting a free burger. The experience brought friends and families together to celebrate Halloween in a unique way and, by having them dress as clowns, –cleverly placing them in the center of the good-natured brand war between Burger King and McDonald’s. What better way to make people #TeamBurgerKing than giving them a fun way of trolling Ronald McDonald?

Consider this: A memorable experience doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of money on elaborate theatrics. How can you set the stage and offer the right enticement so that consumers will happily create the experience for themselves?

4. Kit-Kat’s Wifi-Free Zone

In Amsterdam, the iconic confectionery brand KitKat created Wifi-Free Zones in outdoor spaces by blocking all signals within a 5-meter radius of branded benches within the zone. People in need of a break could sit on the benches and chat with friends, read a book or newspaper, or just relax and be for a moment.

Why it’s effective: Today’s world is too noisy. Most people want to disconnect but don’t know how. KitKat’s Wifi-Free Zone both reminded people to take a break and gave them the space to do so. Of course, the experience also dovetails nicely with KitKat’s slogan: “Have a break…have a KitKat.”

Consider this: An experience can also be the absence of something. What pain point can your brand experience relieve for consumers?

5. Deep Spring: Coloring Book Mural

Coca-Cola’s sparkling water brand, Deep Spring, pulled off a successful stunt when it created an enormous black-and-white mural in coloring-book style. Brand ambassadors invited passers-by to help paint the mural. It attracted such a crowd that people had to wait in line to have a turn. The heart of the mural featured Deep Spring’s tagline “sip, relax, repeat” along with a branded hashtag #AllThatsNeeded. Naturally, as each participant finished painting, they received a bottle of Deep Spring.

Why it’s effective: Collective experiences can provide multi-sensorial pleasure to participants, as well as a feeling of comradery. These good feelings can spill over to the brand. In addition, the mural was extremely photographic. Consumers are likely to have a sense of pride in their contribution to its creation, heightening the chance of them taking and sharing photos on social media.

Consider this: A collective experience not only connects people with your brand, it can connect them with each other. That goodwill and sense of community can spill over toward your brand. How can your experiential activation bring people together?

6. Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis

Seeking to shift their image away from weight loss and toward healthy living, Lean Cuisine created a touching video where the brand asked real women to weigh their most meaningful accomplishments instead of their physical weight on a large scale in Grand Central Station. The brand turned the video into an experience by asking women on social media to share the ways in which they wanted to be weighed under the hashtag #WeighThis. A professional sign painter then painted 244 of the responses on mini-bathroom scales, which was turned into a massive installation at Grand Central. The campaign was so successful that it drove a 428 percent increase in brand conversation and a 33 percent increase in brand perception–and they ran out of the product.

Why it’s effective: The brand did a phenomenal job in identifying the true needs of their target audience and creating an experience that answered those needs and connected with their emotional core–without once spotlighting the product.

Consider this: People want to feel good about themselves. How can your activation help participants to see the best of themselves–or others?

7. Globetrotter: The Weather Rooms

The German outdoor clothing and equipment brand Globetrotter came up with a winning experience when it created an in-store “weather chamber” that allows customers to try on their gear under simulated weather conditions, including driving rain, storm-grain winds, and a freezer chamber with -30C temperatures (plus wind chill).

Why it’s effective: Globetrotter puts their money where their mouth is by allowing consumers to test their products on the spot, and consumers can walk away confident about their brand choice. The experience also turns the drudgery of trying on clothes into something fun, whets consumers’ appetite for their upcoming adventures, and generates plenty of word-of-mouth buzz from those trying on clothes as well as onlookers.

Consider this: An experience can strengthen trust between the consumer and the brand. How can you craft an experience that demonstrates your complete confidence in your product or service?

8. Ripples: The #stoutie

The Ripples brand, manufacturer of a specialized printer called the Ripple Maker, teamed up with the legendary beer brand Guinness to introduce their product in an experiential activation on International Stout Day in Dublin. The Ripple Maker creates images or text on top of beverages. To allow attendees to experience the product, the brand had a photographer at hand to snap pictures of attendees and send the photos through the Ripple Maker. Delighted guests enjoyed their Guinness with their own images floating atop the thick, creamy foam. These images have been shared nearly 2,000 times on Instagram under the hashtag #stoutie in the seven months since the event.

Why it’s effective: We’re used to seeing latte art these days. Beer art? Not so much. Ripples went for the extra-unique in introducing their product, making an already remarkable experience all the more memorable. Ripples also made it easy for people to notice these selfies-with-a-twist by pairing with a known brand at a high-profile event.

Consider this: How can you ratchet up the surprise factor in your activation? Teaming up with an unusual yet compatible partner can be a win for both brands.

9. Sensodyne: The Great Sensitivity Test

The toothpaste brand Sensodyne created a multi-sensorial experience when they held an enormous event in the famous Potter’s Field in London. The event had three different zones that allowed people to engage with the brand in different ways. In Zone 1, consumers could get a 10-minute sensitivity dental check with a dentist, win prizes with a “How Sensitive Are You” buzzer game, or get free samples and advice from Sensodyne Brand Reps. Zone 2 offered guests a photo opp with a 13-foot molar, strategically placed with the iconic Tower Bridge in the background. (The photos could be retrieved online after the event.) In Zone 3, participants gathered to break the Guinness Book of World Record for the largest oral hygiene session–which included live entertainment along with the lesson.

Why it’s effective: Perhaps knowing that choosing the right toothpaste doesn’t usually weigh heavily on most people’s minds, Sensodyne went all out for this activation. There was something fun and creative to arouse the curiosity and interest of almost everyone.

Consider this: An experience can have multiple facets as long as it presents a coherent message and brand identity. Might your brand or demographic require a diversity of experiential options?

10. Google: The Bay Area Impact Challenge

Any brand can donate money to charity, but it becomes a consumer experience when the brand elicits the help of the community. Google did this to great effect when they activated their Bay Area Impact Challenge Campaign. In this drive, they pledged to donate $5.5 million to non-profits in the Bay Area. Instead of simply donating the money, it asked Bay Area locals to vote on a selection of non-profits through illuminated, interactive ads placed at bus stops, food trucks, restaurants, and other places. They collected over 400,000 votes in 3-1/2 weeks.

Why it’s effective: The experience informed consumers about Google’s community outreach program in an indirect, interactive way and made a clear statement about how much Google values the actions and opinions of the local community. Moreover, by placing the ads where ordinary people could access them, the experience touched a large part of the local community.

Consider this: How can you incorporate your local community to bring your activation to life and rouse communal sentiment and loyalty?

Chapter Six: 3 Questions to Ask to Avoid Experiential Marketing Fails

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Experiential campaigns are exhilarating when they work; cringe-worthy and costly when they flop. Every mistake may be a learning experience, but it’s better to learn from the errors of others rather than making the same ones on your own. Before you get too swept up in the excitement of an idea–or invest in it too deeply– ask yourself these three questions to increase the chances that the experience is going to land with cheers, not a thud.

Question #1: Does the experience reflect a genuine understanding of the brand’s audience?

Knowing the needs and desires, likes, and dislikes of your target audience is essential to every marketing campaign, but especially experiential activations. The main point of experiential marketing is to build a relationship with customers. If you immerse them in something that runs counter to their interests, turns them off, or offends them, then you’ll drive them away from your brand, and go viral for the wrong reasons.

You might be thinking–well, duh. While it may seem like common sense to tailor an experience to the consumers’ interests, there have been too many marketing flops where a brand failed to consider the various perspectives of their target audience to brush this question aside.

Remember that Pepsi ad that tried to appeal to socially “woke” millennials and GenZ by having Kendall Jenner create harmony between protestors and the police with a soda? Many people were furious at its tone-deafness and accused it of co-opting serious societal issues for its own gain. The brand pulled the expensive ad within 24-hours of its distribution. Although the ad wasn’t an experience, it is an example of being out of touch with and oversimplifying the consumer group it was trying to target. The same thing can happen with an experience.

Amazon’s Nazi-Themed Subway Car

To promote the show, “Man in the High Castle,” Amazon immersed New York subway riders in the show’s premise: a world where Nazis won World War II. Amazon covered all the seats of a train on a bustling line in central Manhattan with American flags featuring the Nazi eagle insignia and stylized version of the Rising Sun flag of Imperial Japan. Many people were offended by the display (the eagle is a hate symbol), and the brand removed it at the New York City mayor’s request.

Lesson Learned: It’s easy to get carried away by a concept your team believes to be exciting, provocative, and relevant, but the consumer’s point of view should be the primary consideration.

Question #2: What’s the worst that can happen?

Fergus Rooney, co-founder of AgencyEA, says marketers should always ask this question before launching any experiential activation. As experiences are live, the potential for disaster is particularly high.

What will you do if the product being tested breaks down? Do you have a back-up Brand Ambassador if the celebrity expected to facilitate the experience is a no-show? Might your product sample be reasonably expected to cause an allergic reaction in some people?

Make sure you identify the worst case scenario and come up with a solid Plan B well in advance of the activation.

Jägermeister’s Poisonous Pool Party

What’s the worst that could happen? Nearly killing your customers ranks pretty high. Jägermeister, the German drink brand, discovered when it hosted a pool party in Leon, Mexico that landed nine guests in the hospital. Desiring to create a tantalizing smoky fog, party organizers poured liquid nitrogen into the swimming pool. Unfortunately, the organizers didn’t realize that when liquid nitrogen combines with chlorine, it sucks up oxygen. The lack of breathable air caused several party-goers to faint in the water and put one person in a coma! Fortunately, everyone recovered, but Jägermeister had some explaining to do.

Lesson Learned: Scrutinize every experience from a health and safety perspective when considering elements that could go wrong.

Question #3: Does it violate any laws or social codes?

Numerous brands have tried to run experiential stunts that resulted in hefty fines, cancellation, or bad press because they inadvertently broke the law. Early in the planning process, check that you have all the required authorizations needed to execute the experience. It’s not enough to know that you have a right to be at a particular location–you must be sure you’re allowed to carry out the particular activity planned at that site.

It’s also important to consider whether the experience might reasonably lead people to break laws or engage in unprincipled behavior. Cadbury Schweppes emerged shame-faced after it had to shut down a promotional scavenger hunt in Boston. The brand had hinted that a gold coin worth $10,000 was hidden in Boston’s Old Granary Burial Ground, where Paul Revere and other famous American patriots are buried. When people flocked to the cemetery to begin the hunt, the cemetery locked its gates, fearing that people would desecrate the graves in searching for the coin. Cadbury donated the $10,000 prize to the cemetery for its “tasteless” stunt.

Paramount’s Bomb Scare

Paramount got slapped with a $75,000 negligence fine after it placed small plastic devices with red wires hanging from it inside 4,5000 LA Times newspaper racks to promote Mission Impossible III. Upon spotting the devices, newspaper buyers began calling the police to report bombs. The LA County sheriff’s office even blew up one news rack, thinking it contained a bomb.

Lesson Learned: Think through stunts from every perspective, people!

Chapter Seven: The Future of Experiential Marketing

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By now, you’ve probably realized that experiential marketing isn’t the future–it’s happening right now. And it’s not going anywhere. Freeman reported in 2017 that one in three CMOs are expected to allocate 21 to 50 percent of their budget to brand experience marketing through 2022.

As more and more brands turn to creating experiences, we’re seeing increasingly meaningful and innovative activations. To stay ahead of the game, take a peek at some of the experience trends and movements we’re likely to see in the decade ahead.

Inclusivity

For much of advertising history, brands mainly directed their marketing efforts toward a small slice of the demographic that might buy its products or services. Today, more brands are making an effort to demonstrate that their brand embraces an array of demographics. Their advertising now includes people from a diversity of races, genders, body shapes, religions, and physical abilities.

Some marketers predict that experiential marketing will also become increasingly inclusive in the years to come. Bobby Imperial, Experiential Marketing Producer of Montage Marketing Group, advises brands to jump inside the head of every target group: “[E]nvision the activation through the eyes and mind of every attendee persona. What will they see? How will key messages be delivered? How will people be treated? Who else will be present? What accommodations will we make for their needs and those of others?”

Increased AR & VR integration

Augmented and virtual reality has been hot in experiential marketing for years, but as the technology continues to become more affordable and accessible, we’ll likely see more brands incorporating it into experiences in astonishingly unique ways across industries. AR holds the biggest potential at the moment since smartphones and tablets already have the capability to integrate this technology, whereas VR requires independent equipment. Moreover, as Catmedia points out the Pokémon Go phenomenon has only scratched the surface of the AR’s potential for fascinating consumer experiences: “With AR technology, people can be directed to nearby brick and mortar locations or easily be directed to click on something and make a purchase. This is something that is currently not easily done with VR.”

Local Integration

A growing number of brands are capitalizing on local talent to enhance their experiences, according to AgencyEA. Choosing to incorporate local talent into experiences can offer numerous advantages, including giving the experience a local feel, rousing community support and pride, promoting sustainability, and lowering costs. It also provides the experience with an authentic, original flavor that will be appealing for out-of-town attendees.

Sustainable practices

There’s no question that consumers prefer brands that care about environmental issues and sustainability these days. In a 2018 Nielsen study, 81% of global respondents, across gender lines and generations, reported feeling strongly that companies should help improve the environment. As consumers demand for sustainability increases, experience marketing will likely increasingly respond to such demands. Lucy Stratton, VP of Business Development at Agency AE, notes: “When sustainability is an authentic component of an event, attendees take notice. It can have a big positive impact for the brand–and the environment.”

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this book! We hope that you’ve gained fresh insights into experiential marketing and that your mind is now churning with exciting new experience ideas to thrill your customers and differentiate your brand.

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