Clocking up the kilometers walking around ISPO last week, it was fantastic to see so many brands harnessing the power of engagement marketing. Otherwise known as experiential, live or even brand experience marketing, it’s an approach that shouldn’t be underestimated.
When well executed, it’s a two way communicative process tailored to spark conversation and interaction. A process that authentically resonates with the consumer on a personal level. If engagement marketing were a watercraft, it would be a submarine. Establishing relationships by diving the audience in stealth like fashion to the deepest depths of the brand.
As with every target audience across every market, the sports market target audiences are inundated on a daily basis by a plethora of messages. Sometimes these can be perceived as contradictory, all in the favour of remaining competitive of course. When it comes to brands in our industry, it’s messages of being the lightest, softest, driest, fastest, most durable and sustainable etc.
The resultant factor when brands lay claim to the same USP; less trust and resonance across the market. With brand values under constant scrutiny, marketing claims and messages need to be substantiated. Queue engagement marketing.
In it’s purest form, this could simply be incorporating a basic product test element on your booth. ISPO has always been a great opportunity to invite the industry on stand to share experiences. A kind of, this is our product, this is what it can do, give it a go kind of vibe. This year was no different.
Jack Wolfskin simply displayed their new water repelling down technology via a jacket and a water tank, inviting ISPO visitors on the booth to experience for themselves that the product was still bone dry. A positive brand experience over within a few seconds and fuelled by a small dose of passing curiosity. Similarly OutDry, Sympatex, Arc’teryx and Volkl all displayed basic yet effective product tests, experiential elements and ways to engage with their brand. It would seem even ISPO are also advocates of engaging, featuring large-scale interactive books with pages turned by the wave of a hand on their ISPO Awards booth in B1.
Canada Goose however notched it up a level with their ‘Thermal Experience Simulator’. Unified with their ‘For Those Who Know’ strapline they aimed to increase the amount of people in the know by inviting booth visitors to experience the collection first hand in chilly sub-zero temperatures.
When it comes to providing an all-encompassing immersive brand experience on booth, K2 Skis hit the nail bang on this year with their ski factory inspired concept. Like stepping into a factory realm, products where subtly displayed in manufacturing situé amongst materials, tools, a cafeteria, reception area and the production line. It’s a rare occasion over ISPO to forget you’re at the show but K2 had me thinking it was time to clock on and start shaping. Well played.
Genuinely interacting with the target audience on a personal level is one of the most challenging aspects of engagement marketing. When successful, it can sky rocket a brands status and increase positive consumer perceptions.
As a skier, stand out examples that hit a home run could be seen from those brands seeking to connect, engage and educate around avalanche safety. Most notable would be the continued efforts from Ortovox with their Safety Lab Academy and more recently, Salomon’s Mountain Academy due to launch Fall 2015.
Due to the unstable snowpack this season and in light of all of the unfortunate headlines in the news, a very timely, relevant and attentive message from these guys and others embarking on the mountain safety education mission.
ISPO 2015 also saw alpine brand Mammut bring the experiential adventure to life with accessible augmented reality. Suitably named #project360, Mammut invite fans of the brand to embark on various interactive ski and climb routes both at the show as well as at home thanks to a specially developed oculus and smartphone app. Fair to say, they have successfully delivered an engaging visionary experience to the masses in a fun and interactive way.
So while many brands are realising the potential marketing clout achieved through the engagement approach, many remain heavily reliant on the more traditional methods. Continuing with a sort of ‘our brand values and ethos is true through and through along with our products are better just because we say so’.
Interacting, engaging and communicating on a personal level are perfectly achievable marketing approaches in the context of the sports market. With increasing competition across the industry, tailoring marketing efforts that resonate with the audience is key. It’s time to take a step out of individual brand environments forget what we already know about specific values along with product knowledge and imagine how the target audience perceive brands, claims and marketing message in 2015.