The mortgage industry is fiercely competitive, especially among lenders. This killer competition is the driving force behind the industry’s adoption of some of the most forward-thinking strategies to capture the minds of the various audiences it serves, both on the direct-to-consumer side and business-to-business side. Many marketing departments get caught up in the execution of tactics designed to drive business volume, but need to take a step back and determine how well those tactics really communicate their brand and whether those tactics will ultimately be memorable and connect with the audience on an emotional level.
Enter “experiential marketing.” Let’s start with a definition: According to Wikipedia, “experiential marketing is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages consumers to participate in the evolution of a brand. Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, experiential marketers believe that consumers should be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs, developing a relationship with the brand.” Basically, it’s the process of using positive customer experience as a powerful component or as a foundation of your marketing strategy.
Experiential marketers think in terms of involving as many of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing) of their target audience as possible in order to gain the most benefit in connecting with them on an emotional level. The more senses involved, the better the recipient will remember your brand.
Here are some tips for creating memorable brand experiences:
- Be creative. Pull together a small group of people that really understand your brand and your target audience to brainstorm ideas. No idea should be criticized as this is not the time for evaluation…you want to have fun and inspire creative thoughts. Think in terms of what you want your customer to “feel” when they connect with your brand. Do you want them to feel inspired, excited, at ease, amazed, satisfied, cheerful, hopeful, etc. and then develop the experience from there.
- Appeal to as many of the 5 senses as you can within the experience you develop. It goes without saying that the better you do in this area, the better your chances are of striking a nerve with your audience that could have a tremendous payoff.
- Simplify. It is highly likely that you may stumble upon an idea that is great but can’t be accomplished within your budget range. Or, it may require too much in terms of time or human resources. So the goal at this point is to break the idea down into its critical components and look for ways to accomplish the goal in a manageable way that’s on budget.
- Stay professional. When preparing your idea for execution, you may be having a great time doing so but it’s important that professionalism in all aspects is maintained. What you think might be fun or funny during a brainstorming session needs to ultimately be controlled so that you don’t offend anyone or veer off course in a way that is inconsistent with your brand and the business you’re in. A good nights sleep should do the trick for your team and give you a fresh perspective in the morning.
- Integrate social media. Your audience should be able to easily communicate their experience in social networks to spread the word. Depending on the idea and where it takes place, there are a variety of things you can do including developing a landing page, hashtag, video, G+ “hangout” and much more.
Here’s a video of a full-blown campaign launched by TNT network in April 2012 in Belgium to help you understand experiential marketing at its finest. Coming up with great ideas can be difficult, so you might watch this video and “backwards engineer” it given the tips recommended above to get a feel for how the creative team came up with it. What did TNT want their audience to “feel” from this experience? How many senses were incorporated? How do you think they simplified the original idea, kept it professional and integrated social media?
Now, of course this is an extreme example that no doubt involved a massive budget, but now you get the idea.
In the mortgage industry, the question becomes, how would you best convey the experience of working with your brand?
Here are some ideas designed to stimulate your creative thoughts that don’t require securing an enormous budget.
- Video testimonials: This one is the easiest to integrate immediately, with a very low budget threshold.Consumers don’t trust actors/actresses or other public figures they see promoting a product or service anymore. They’re smarter than that…they understand these people are “purchased.” But they DO trust others’ experiential advice like you would never believe. Customer testimonial videos capitalize on this trend. They don’t need to be especially slick or “overproduced,” they just need to be unscripted and truthful. Here’s an industry example brought to you by Quicken Loans:
- Enhanced Local home and garden show events for the consumer-facing side of the industry: Creating an experience can be done, simply, with a very low budget threshold. Give qualified booth visitors an opportunity to experience what it would be like to work with you. If you’re a lender, for example, and you’re setting your sights on an upcoming local home and garden show you’ll be attending, I encourage you to think outside of the booth, so to speak. Think beyond the brochure stack, business cards and pens with your corporate name on them. You can keep it as simple as creating an experience with your company right at the booth by integrating a theme: having a home loan counselor on site dressed like JP Morgan, a credit repair specialist dressed as an old-school accountant, someone specializing in new construction wearing a hard hat, etc. You get the idea.
Pick people from your company who have a superior “bedside manner,” if you will, and have them dress according to their roles in a fun way. This just requires a bit of imagination. Have a place where they can take prospective borrowers away from the action surrounding your booth to sit down and provide expert counsel, giving them the chance to experience your company. Your reps may provide an on-site preapproval certificate or printed-out action plan generated by your reps to help potential borrowers recall next steps and envision homeownership.
- Memorable industry trade show experience: The annual MBA trade show is ripe for experiential marketing events. At these shows, you see three levels of marketing…
Level 1 is the “giveaway” booth. The giveaway booth has brochures, business cards, pens, key fobs…all designed for potential clients, qualified or not, to put in their convention bags and move on. The booth visitors are approached by a salesperson who tries to drag the attendee into the booth and talk with them and give them some type of product demo.
Level 2 is the “please come see me booth.” This booth attempts to take the booth experience to the next level by giving away anything from junk food to car leases to bicycles to Harley-Davidson motorcycles and more. These are great booth draws, but they leave the “experience” with that company out of the equation. The only experience they have is that of a company rep handing them a bag of popcorn or being lucky enough to select the right raffle ticket.
Level 3 is the true “experiential” display or opportunity. This may occur at the booth itself or at a company-hosted event off the convention floor.Here’s an example. We had a client, Triad Guaranty Insurance Corporation (TGIC), a mortgage insurance company. Our goal was to create an event for the annual MBA show, which was in Chicago that particular year. We wanted to do something that would be genuinely fun for both TGIC and for its current and prospective clients. Accordingly, we developed an experience that integrated a night of comedy starring the CEO and other key executives that took place at Second City.
At this event, key executives were brought on stage and incorporated into the comedy routine. Certain clients and other audience members were also invited on stage to participate, and others could participate, if they wished as well.
The response to the event was overwhelmingly good. Those who attended other events at the MBA show remarked that TGIC had the very best event of them all, beating out high-dollar events held by some of the industry giants. The total budget was miniscule compared to the amounts spent by their competitors and many others.
By comparison, a night of free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres attracts people looking for free drinks and food, leads to forced conversation in some cases and attendees armed with business cards milling around all trying to sell each other something.
Make the experience with your brand the focal point, not the free drinks and food.
- Homebuyer seminar or user workshops that educate AND entertain: Whether you wish to conduct a homebuyer seminar or if you’re a company demonstrating your technology to industry executives at your location, at a trade show or via GoToMeeting, develop an experience that integrates your people with the people in attendance in a memorable way. Focus on “edutainment.”
Edutainment is when you have content that has both a high educational and high entertainment value. Some ideas include animations, humor, parodies and direct audience involvement. The production needs to strike a proper balance between the educational aspect and the entertainment aspect so as not to detract from the intended goal.It’s not uncommon for those in charge of such productions to get a bit carried away with the entertainment aspect, losing the audience in the process. The purpose of edutainment is to give your audience a positive, memorable brand experience with great information so they will remember you at the right time.
The goal of an experiential event is to engage as many of the senses as possible. The more senses involved, the more unforgettable you become! It’s essential that the experience people walk away with is positive, so planning and creativity are important.