Innovative marketing is more important than ever for businesses of all sizes
In the past, marketing was a one-way street, with information from the company or brand disseminated to the public through ads in the hopes of raising brand awareness. Today, marketing is less about disseminating a message through ads and more about creating an experience that will encourage the audience to spread the message themselves.
Experiential marketing has long been in the realm of the big players with even bigger budgets. But with the rise of social media, creating an experience that can be shared is more accessible than ever. One such startup is StickerYou. Based in Toronto, Canada, StickerYou, which produces custom die-cut stickers and labels, was one of the first companies in North American to recognize the power of customization and disrupt the traditional printing industry by offering customers the option to customize their own labels using an online sticker maker. After experiencing 450 percent growth over the past five years, the company is trying something new, opening a brick and mortar sticker store as part of an experiential, omnichannel marketing campaign.
“Creating something that is striking that people want to capture and share, has become the most valuable thing a company can own if it’s done well,” says Andrew Witkin, founder and CEO. “People are making businesses of experiential places to take pictures. Everyone wants to take pics and share. That’s the power of this new media.”
Originally experiential grew out of trials – think things like blind taste tests. The main purpose was to gain knowledge and information about customer tastes and habits, and use those for later marketing initiatives. Now, experiential marketing has grown to include activations from pop ups to “Instagram walls” to interactive events, and with the advent of social media, it has become a derivative of that media. Everyone with a smartphone is a potential amplifier for an experience. To maximize marketing initiatives, startups need ongoing, real-time content.
Startups and Challenges
Startups can create experiences transiently, through one event, one location at one time, or they can consider something more permanent. “For what you might be able to accomplish with an experiential marketing campaign, you might be able to rent a retail store,” says Witkin. “With experiential marketing, the challenge is that unless you own it, it’s so ephemeral.”
For StickerYou, owning it means using the front of the store as a billboard, with a 3-storey high vinyl stickerbombed graphic that showcases the creativity of the company’s product. The interior will also have stickerbombed walls, an experience center where customers can handle the products, kiosks where customers can order online, and a sticker museum that outlines the history of the sticker. The space will also be used for relevant events, including a sticker art exhibition slated for later in the year. “From a marketing perspective, this kind of experience is the most lush, multisensory, authentic way for people to understand a brand,” says Witkin.
One challenge for any kind of experiential marketing initiative is measuring results and impact. For an experiential retail location like StickerYou: The Store, this means anything that can show engagement and clickability, from pass-by traffic to in-store purchases to event attendance and media coverage. “It’s a new media matrix,” says Witkin.
The ROI from the awareness created with a brick and mortar store, including drop-ins, walk-by traffic, etc., can be viewed against sales from the physical location as well as incremental increases in online sales. Even if the store operates at a loss, it can be worth the investment from a marketing perspective, if the impressions generated or incremental traffic to the website comes in at a lower cost per click than what would otherwise be spent with the same funds for just online advertising.
And it’s this kind of awareness that is marketing gold in today’s landscape, says Witkin. “It’s the biggest marketing trend out there.”