Marketing Experiences, Not Products

There are two kinds of car commercials. 

There’s the car commercial, favored by small-town dealerships on local tv and mega-dealers alike, where a salesman lists the advantages of shopping at their dealership: promotions, price advantages, car specs. His tone, clipped like an auctioneers or reassuringly chipper, is persuasive and pervasive.

Then there’s the other kind of car commercial, the one where manicured hands grip a steering wheel, where desert dust flies behind car tires or snowy mountain peaks are scaled with ease, where an actor smirks from the driver’s seat. There’s the car commercial where a teen jumps with glee as she’s handed the keys, or a mom smiles widely when she discovers a bow-topped SUV in her driveway on a snowy Christmas morning.

Which class of commercial is memorable, engaging, and actually effective? The one that markets the experience of owning a new car, not just the new car itself. Successful marketing doesn’t just pitch a product, it exemplifies the reality of owning and enjoying the product, placing potential buyers in the driver’s seat (pun intended) so that they can envision their blissful future with the merchandise. 

In Mann U: Leadership Skills Development, we talk about considering features and benefits when dialoguing with customers. The features may be what physically define the product, but it’s the benefits that set it apart and make the sale. Customers buy products not simply because of their features, but because of the way the benefits are applicable to their own lives—the experience, not just the product.

The same concept can be applied to marketing, and it’s a lesson most specialty retailers could stand to learn. Across traditional marketing and modern platforms alike, specialty retailers lean heavily on their products, rather than the experiences those products provide, to get customers in-store. When wielded with creativity, marketing—be it via social media, print or online ads, or email communications—can be an effective tool in acquiring the interest, and eventually the money, of your community. But bland and blatant product pitches fail to captivate your customers and can even be detrimental to your brand. 

Take, for example, social media. We scroll and swipe for enjoyment; social media is a place where beauty thrives, and accounts that have appealing content (especially business accounts) get more engagement (ie: more marketing effectiveness). Posts that are both visually attractive and provide followers with a vision of the product experience are the sweet spot. Unfortunately, we frequently see specialty retailers posting backlit photos of new products with a caption describing the product in the most straightforward of terms. What if instead they were to demonstrate that new product in action? What if the bike were highlighted in a lifestyle shoot or a video of a happy rider? You can (and should) still provide the product details, but the focus should be on the experience the product provides so that the viewer and potential customer can envision themselves in that role. A bland product image is impossible to transpose onto real life, but provide them instead with a vision of what the product could look like in their own life, and they’ll be hooked. 

Another ineffective scenario we frequently encounter with specialty retailers’ marketing is that of the sales flyer. It takes many forms—weekly or daily, deal or discount, email newsletter or physical newspaper—and none of them are truly effective. These fliers bombard customers with a slew of sale products; the images are small, the details few, and the impact nearly nil. It’s not that the action of advertising daily deals is inherently ineffective, it’s this way of presenting them. Consider instead Target’s weekly ads: the mega-retailer shares a lifestyle photo of models enjoying the products that are on sale. In one photo, they pack a multitude of products and, more importantly, their real-life experiential benefits. If you share sale fliers with your customers, rather than pasting in manufacturer product photos, consider how you can personalize the way you present the products to appeal to your specific audience. Use recognizable faces from your retailer to perform the experiences associated with the products in order to engage with your customers with authenticity and uniqueness. 

When marketing lacks these experiential or intentional elements, it can be more detrimental than productive. If your social media, for example, is made up of poor-quality or even standardized manufacturer photos, it’s unlikely to garner the likes of your audience. If you don’t get likes, you’ll eventually stop showing up in their feed, which means even your poorly executed marketing is going to waste. And if your competitors are posting better, more engaging photos and garnering all those lost likes, they’ll be top of feed and top of mind when that customer is ready to make a purchase. 

The efforts you put into your marketing are also noticeably reflective of the efforts you put into your store. If your audience gets a flier full of boring product images thrown slap-dash together, they’ll assume that’s the experience they’ll get in store. But if it’s personalized, creative, and engaging, they’ll want to learn more about the brand behind the ad. If the fliers provide a vision of the experience of the products, they’ll want that experience you provide for themselves. 

Your customers aren’t just looking for products, they’re looking for the experience those products provide. Your marketing is the first and perhaps most important tool in communicating the potential of those experiences to your community, so wield it intentionally, authentically, and with all the appealing charm your business can muster. 

Leave a comment