Traditional brands eye experiential tactics

Looking for a way to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world, traditional media brands have done everything from launching blogs to increasing video content on Web sites to launching podcasts giving the behind-the-scenes aspect of a certain story.

Looking for a way to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world, traditional media brands have done everything from launching blogs to increasing video content on Web sites to launching podcasts giving the behind-the-scenes aspect of a certain story.

For some brands, however, a back-to-basics, face-to-face approach is becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. Magazines like Wired have already used pop-up stores to extend their brands and connect more closely with consumers. And CNN is just the latest to try its hand with experiential marketing, with its recent announcement that it will start an events division that will host panels on newsworthy subjects. Sponsored by advertisers, the panels will be hosted by CNN reporters and anchors.

Jane Hauley, VP/account director in the media sector at Jack Morton Worldwide, an experiential marketing agency, says she has noticed a definite upswing in event marketing among traditional media companies in the past year and a half, particularly magazines. The agency is currently working on a multi-city experiential marketing tour for Latina magazine.

Just like any other brands out  in the marketplace, traditional media companies have had to face cutting through the clutter of an increasingly fractured media landscape. Hauley notes that several other reasons account for the increase in traditional media's use of experiential marketing.

"A lot of it simply has to do because it's a media world; people are more in tune with it," she says. "If they see something having to do with a television program or a magazine that they read, or a newspaper, there's a better chance that they are going to stop and be interested, to be engaged, and learn more. To be able to engage in that one-on-one and have a truly immersive experience with the... brand really makes it feel like you're part of it."

Matthew Traub, MD and chief of staff at Dan Klores Communications, says events for traditional media companies not only can help extend the brand, but they can also help in establishing the brand as a thought leader.

DKC works with Reuters on its Newsmakers series, which invites media to panel discussions featuring buzzworthy people. Past Newsmakers events have featured such personalities as Ted Turner. A panel scheduled for October 12 was to discuss the topic of public figures and private lives, featuring such media personalities as Bonnie Fuller and Jacob Weisberg.

"Events let people see and feel the brand in action; that's no different with a media brand than a consumer brand," Traub says. "They need to have the public's affinity and understanding of who they are and what they provide, as well."

But even experiential marketing tactics that are not aimed directly at the consumer can have a positive effect on brand perception. For the past four years, Esquire magazine has sponsored the Esquire house, which seeks to bring the magazine's lifestyle brand image to life.

The latest incarnation, in Los Angeles, will be open for three months and host a series of charity events attended by media elite and celebrities, which ultimately extends to the consumer's overall experience of the brand, says Kevin O'Malley, VP and publisher.

"The challenge for any leading brand today... is to continue to find ways to intersect with the consumer in a way that lets your brand live and intersect with them through multiple touch points," he adds. "You just have to be in as many of those outlets as possible."

The four years Esquire has used the house as a marketing tactic have been record-breaking in terms of ad growth, circulation vitality, and editorial excellence, O'Malley says.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence. But for media companies looking to connect with an often disconnected audience, it's certainly worth a try.

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