Grocery. Beverage. Personal care. Over-the-counter. Household cleaners. If you’re working in CPG marketing, or marketing for a product in the consumer packaged goods (GPG) industry, then you should be incorporating brand experiences into the mix.

Go to a big box store, and you’ll be inundated with choices. CPG marketing requires you to craft brand relevancy, so people reach for your brand amidst the others on the shelf. Brand experiences allow for the level of brand building that churns loyalty. (Tweet this!)

CPG Marketing

1. Experiences go hand-in-hand with word-of-mouth marketing.
For most of us, we rely on word-of-mouth recommendations to discover and trial new CPG brands. We trust word-of-mouth more, too. We’re trusting traditional and digital ads less and less.

Recent research shows that in-person word-of-mouth is much stronger than digital word-of-mouth when it comes to CPG marketing. A heavy social media-driven influencer program can certainly be an important way for you to raise brand awareness. Yet, brand experiences can boost the word-of-mouth marketing you’ll need to support those influencer posts. Inviting a blend of micro-influencers to your brand experiences may be a solid way to gain traction in both worlds. And of course, getting participants to tell their own moms, daughters, friends about the product is a definite win.

Experiential marketing can help you accomplish many goals, not limited to:

  • Challenge leading brands. Challenger brands know how hard it is to convince people to switch brands, or even try a new one. Give shoppers an in-person opportunity to trial the product or learn about the brand. As more and more trial the product, they’ll be more willing to share and recommend the product. Plus, because so many of us are online researchers before making a purchase, brand experiences can spike the branded searches for your product and help your SEO score to compete better online and offline with the industry leader.
  • Increase brand awareness. Brand experiences can break through the noise differently than other forms of advertising. People are more likely to talk about the experiences they’ve had over the ads they’ve seen.
  • Collect feedback and data. Brand experiences are also great for marketing research. With direct communication to shoppers, you can get feedback and collect data insights. Perhaps you can survey for new flavors, package designs or lifestyle uses. When someone feels invested in the success of the product, they’ll be more willing to follow it and share it with others.
  • Claim your authentic positioning. Experiential marketing allows promotion of the holistic brand: your values, your culture, your authenticity. Stake your reputation or change perceptions. Once people understand your real identity, they’ll be able to frame your brand appropriately when talking to others.

An interactive experience gives people something to talk about, a memory to share. When your brand is in the heart of that experience, you benefit from the word-of-mouth promotion that will result.

2. Elevate your toothpick sampling to something more meaningful.
In today’s digital age, humans crave real world experiences more than ever. Not just short blips of forgettable engagement but rather meaningful moments that will offer them real value.

We see a big divide between ‘sampling’ and ‘experiential sampling’. One, the kid at the mall with the chicken sample on a toothpick shoving his gloved hand out at you as you busily walk right by. (Blah!) The other, a memorable interaction that is mutually beneficial to both brand and consumer. If high sample quantities are the only goal, then toothpick sampling via field marketing efforts could suit your needs. Like the kid at the mall, if someone likes what is on the toothpick, they may immediately stop to have a quick lunch. But on the other hand, experiential marketing can raise brand awareness, change perceptions and drive advocacy. Experiential sampling can result in the CPG brand ending up on the next grocery list…and on the next several lists.

In experiential marketing, we try to find more meaning or purpose to the interaction than just a one-way approach to sampling.

Examples of how to turn your sampling into brand experiences include:

  • Social vending machines. These are socially activated vending machines that use social capital, not real money, to vend the product. Suppose a young woman steps up to a vending machine, tweets out a branded post, then receives a free sample of lipstick from a beauty line. Later, after she’s tried the lipstick, the brand could reach out via social media to ask for feedback. And this could lead to a really amazing social exchange featuring creative user-generated content.
  • Pop-up shops. In CPG marketing, we often rely on our retailer partners to push our product. Imagine, however, if you would design your own retail location. Many CPG brands are experimenting with temporary or seasonal pop-up stores in key markets. This pop-up marketing allows them to reach new audiences and deliver exceptional experiences. Here, they can ensure the right product information is being shared directly with buyers, as well as their influencers and industry media. Most of these are very creative spaces that allow for hands-on engagement. Pop-up shops are a great way to test a direct to consumer model, as well.
  • In-store events. Consider supporting your distribution channels with in-store or point-of-sale activations. Again, not just the toothpick sample but something that fuses retail with entertainment. We call this retailtainment. Food brands can partner with retailers to create a series of on-site cooking classes. Wine brands can host tasting and cheese pairing events. Makeup brands can host on-site consultations or encourage participation in a fun ‘model-for-a-day’ photo shoot. A children’s brand could include a coloring wall or play area near the product display. Health brands could host fitness challenges. During which, your sampling or product demonstration becomes interactive and memorable. The trick for some brands, based on your unique positioning in the marketplace, is to not lead the event with a special offer. That creates buying habits that follow the deals instead of the brand, itself. While an offer may be part of the campaign, you want to focus on how your brand fits their lifestyle for the long-run.
  • Relevant surprise and delights. Whether it’s through a brand partnership or a proprietary event, such as an interactive installation, PR stunt or guerrilla tactics, show up where your audience may not expect you to – and then wow them. Two examples include:
    • Swedish Fish, the sweet candy, partnered with aquarium attractions to create sampling opportunities which enhanced the guest experience. These included photo opportunities and other fun elements, such as a webcam on a fishbowl of candy. There’s a clear alignment between the fish-shaped candies and the aquariums, and it worked well culturally in the family-friendly environments.
    • Nature Valley, the General Mills granola bar brand, has a partnership with National Parks Foundation. Their products align well with hikers and a conservationist culture. To highlight this, they created “parklets” – turning parking spaces into lovely outdoor spaces that drew people outside. They’ve also done some cost-effective sampling on ski slopes and even set up a tennis match in the middle of a British mall around their tennis-themed campaign. They niche to the right audience for amazing sampling results.

To move from product distribution into experiential sampling, you want to increase the dwell time someone has with the engagement. Trained brand ambassadors can connect the dots for a consumer; for example, they can call out the key ingredients as the consumer is tasting the flavors for themselves. It’s not enough to let them taste it on the go. To make the experience more salient and memorable, create an emotional reaction for each participant.

Every experiential campaign is unique, and the creativity endless. To add it to your CPG marketing plan will take some strategy work to make sure it hits the mark appropriately. Your creative team or experiential marketing agency can certainly help lead this process.

People love their freebies. Free samples are a good tactic to encourage product trial in your CPG marketing plan. But do so with caution. The sampling should be experiential for best results.

3. Give retailers better experiences to gain better shelf space.
What’s cool about experiential marketing strategy is that it isn’t isolated to consumer buying habits, only. There are many B2B experiential marketing benefits, too.

How do you pitch to a new retailer chain? How do you gain more shelf space? If you put your creative mind to it, you can probably think about ways to improve your interactions with all of your distribution partners, experientially.

Offer your resellers special events to learn more about your product and trial it for themselves. Or invite them to a factory tour, so they see the detail to attention you’ve put into perfecting your processes. You can also provide them with point-of-purchase activities that improve their own foot traffic or shopper experiences. When you find ways to provide more value to your retailers, they’ll be able to position your product better, sell it more and drive sales lifts.

By incorporating brand experiences into your partnership marketing programs, you will build stronger relationships.

4. Tackle marketing objectives regardless of the point of sale.
CPG marketing considers brand recall and perception across numerous touch points. A shopper may be purchasing the category at a big box store, a grocery store, farmer’s markets, through a website or on an app. By turning to experiential marketing for CPG brands, you can influence the product choice regardless of any new points of purchase that are introduced to your audience.

When you influence your audience in culturally relevant ways through brand experience, you affect a consumer’s perception. You want the CPG product to become a part of their daily life. So regardless of where they shop, they’ll choose your brand. It won’t even be a thought; you will just be what they use.

Your experiential marketing strategy should also think about the feel-good moments your audience has when using the product. Is there an experiential element to the packaging? Does your content marketing plan tie users together? Is there a way to connect and engage with them post-use? Because CPG products are consumable, the brand experience cannot be a one-off event. Commit to improving your relevance at every touch point – and beyond.

CPG brands who create that level of experience – from promotion through use through reorder – will win in the heart and minds of consumers.

To explore how to use brand experiences in your CPG marketing plan, schedule a call with our team.