When Experiential Marketing Works

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On a trip to Disney World I had the opportunity to take in the Test Track at Epcot and was able to witness experiential marketing at its best.  The Test Track is presented by General Motors’ Chevrolet and involves the design and testing of a virtual concept car.

In the first stage of the pavilion, participants are given an opportunity to design a concept car. They can customize the shape, color, engine, along with several other features.  Participants have a set amount of time to design the vehicle before moving into the next phase.

The ride portion of the test track is where participants test their concept car.  Each vehicle is assigned a code that is loaded to their magic band or Disney card, so when they enter the ride stage, the code can be loaded and used to test their specific vehicle under a number of parameters like capability, efficiency, responsiveness and power.  This is where the fun begins as participants load into a vehicle and go through a series of test tracks.  Once the ride is complete, they receive information on how their concept car performed.

Following the ride, participants can take part in a number of interactive experiences.  They can create commercials for their concept car, take pictures with other Chevy concept vehicles in a showroom and a take part in a digital driving table that allows participants to drive a mini version of their car around a track.

Experiential marketing is all about helping consumers experience a brand. It’s objective is to stimulate as many senses as possible in that experience and to create a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the brand.

As I walked through this pavilion and witnessed the excitement on the faces of many of the participants as they tested their concept cars and posed for pictures, it was evident to see that the Chevrolet Test Track is one of the best examples of experiential marketing that I’ve seen.

You Want Me to Sponsor What?

How to make the most of your sponsorship initiatives as a small business owner.

As most small business owners know, the number of requests for sponsorship and other forms of support can be endless.  They range from opportunities to sponsor a local bike race or charitable campaign to providing donations for a silent auction event.  You name it…..your business has been asked to support it.

Before I continue I want to make the distinction between a sponsorship and a donation.  Sponsorships are essentially another form of advertising – you provide support, financial or gift-in-kind, and in exchange, receive an opportunity to get in front of event participants through a display of signage or another form of advertising.  A donation, on the other hand, is a contribution (financial or gift-in-kind) to an organization with really no strings attached.  In general, donations that are provided to a registered charity qualify for an income tax credit, while sponsorships do not.

I’m going to address sponsorships.

I do believe that supporting the local community and charitable causes is important. But I really feel business owners have to be more strategic with how they make these sponsorship decisions.

As a business owner, you need to consider if the request for support has a good “F.I.T.”:

Forecast – Know what you hope to achieve on a business level by providing support. Will your involvement in the event help you reach your company objectives?  For example, if one of your business objectives is to create awareness of your business or product, you may consider sponsoring a major event in the community.  If you hope to increase brand recognition in rural communities, you may want to look at sponsoring community “sports days”.  Always consider your own objectives.

Impact – Does the event or organization have a positive image and will your involvement have an impact?  It’s a good idea to align yourself with organizations and events that already have strong support.  It’s equally important to make sure you activate a plan if you do decide to go ahead with the sponsorship.  Often organizations dish out money to sponsor an event, but then never do the follow-up to ensure they receive all of the benefits that come with that investment.  If your company is entitled to a full-page ad in an event program, make sure you get that ad, and take some time to craft a message that will communicate something of value about your business (not just your name).  For even greater impact, look for opportunities that offer exclusivity.  This will help remove your competition from the mix.

Target – Does the event or organization align with your own brand and what your business represents or believes?  Will your participation give you access to current or potential clients?  It’s important to consider sponsoring events that make sense for your business.  For example, if you operate a local dress shop, then sponsoring an event like “Dress for Success” makes complete sense.  Or if your business is a construction company, then “Habitat for Humanity” might be the right initiative to get behind.  Spend some time targeting the right events and right group of people.

So the next time you get asked to sponsor an upcoming event or a worthwhile organization, take a few minutes to consider its “F.I.T.”.