15 years ago, how did a brand reach consumers? SEO had barely been termed at this point. E-commerce showed hope for the future, grew exponentially at a quick pace, and was a new arena gracing the scene of marketing, but was still a new/foreign idea. There was a time and place for marketing ones’ product/brand. Enter social media, or perhaps a better way to put it? Cue centerstage debut. Platforms for interaction caught fire and began to shift the way in which brands reached their target markets. From the birth of a monster lovingly called “Facebook” in 2004 to the transition toward mobile social accessibility which gave consumers their first experience enacting the normalcy that would become constant, continual connectedness to the marketplace. What happens when one is always “in the know?” They want more. They need to be convinced of genuinely wanting to buy Brand A over Brand B, and in order to keep the attention of social media crazed millennials, experience is what consumers want. Essentially, the marketplace demands the chance to all but taste the new entree offered at Chili’s, all but test drive the new Mercedes C Class, and all but try on the new, lightweight Nike running shoe promising to entice you from the couch to a 5k.
Marketing an “experience” that a certain product provides allows for shared, interactive consumer experiences on social platforms. This is a 180 degree shift from simply marketing said product to incite increased sales. Experience has become the king of marketing due to the fact that everyone is expected to talk about products and collaboratively decide how they feel about them via social media. Lets take a look at a few instances of this early social media experience sharing trend to analyze this new social approach from the ground up.
This experiential marketing offered via Facebook, Pinterest, etc lit a fire for stay at home moms who had a new toy called social media. Looking at the parent demographic embracing social media, stay at home parents now had the chance to obsessively rave about certain brands while clobbering others due to their personal EXPERIENCE with products. Johnson’s Baby Canada tripled their Facebook follower count in just THREE weeks through a 2011 baby photo campaign with the winner’s “cutie-pie” getting to be featured on a Johnson’s Baby product bottle. Lets be honest. What parent, be it the PTA president type parent or the career-driven parent fully dependent on a nanny, doesn’t believe that their kid is in fact the cutest kid? Of course consumers buying Johnson’s products thought their child was the shoe in for the prize money and publicity. This inspired participation, chatter, and buzz for the “most trusted, gentle baby soap in every household with children.” They painted a picture of foundational trust, got their target demographic in on their brand via a social media photo contest, thus creating a shared EXPERIENCE for people to chat about.
Lets look at how experience shaped another noteworthy social campaign, Evian’s “Live Young” concept. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQcVllWpwGs
The scene is one that makes me drop my iPhone and scour for the nearest bottle of youth-giving water that is Evian. Babies on roller skates having a blast and embracing their youth all because Evian provides a youthful and refreshing experience. Hello… who wouldn’t want to drink from this fountain of youth? I sure would love to have the energy of a roller skating baby. Evian was offering an experience, and to put it simply: experience sells. The positive consequences associated with this brand’s campaign caught fire via social media. But my main question is this: what is the next step beyond the current, insatiable desire of brands to paint an experience that demands response from consumers? Well, it goes by the name of virtual reality. Why not have consumers step directly into a 360-degree scene that allows them to see every angle of the environment being painted by brands? VR is here, folks, and in my opinion it will affect an increasingly immense margin of buying decisions in the future.
In March of 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus. Oculus is a company that builds wearable technology allowing individuals to step directly into a virtual scene. Why would the front-running social media platform be interested in a tech company that mainly targets video game immersion experiences and is entering the federal market in order to produce technology that could potentially improve military training methods? Well, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, best answers this question himself. Zuckerberg explains, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.”
VR is the perfect profile of the next step providing consumers toward an immersive, connected experience. With Facebook embracing this innovation at the pretty penny of approximately $2B in acquisition costs, I believe it’s safe to say that VR will be commonplace from this point forward. 5 years from now, we’ll probably look back and be analyzing how VR impacted social marketing trends and laughing. But for today, we can expect this change to become prominent and influential for brands to embrace and look forward to watching this unfold!