National brands depend on local brand experiences to gain customer loyalty and drive local sales.

From direct mail pieces to television ads to paid search, marketers push out a variety of tactics to move their audience through the marketing funnel from ‘awareness’ to ‘advocacy.’ Local events, however, are one of the only ways to humanize your brand by giving customers a face-to-face interaction that builds trust.

So how can national brands leverage the experience of an event to move consumers down the marketing funnel toward their brand? Let’s take a step back and consider exactly what a “brand experience” is. The American Marketing Association defines brand experience as:

 “sensations, feelings, cognitions and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli (including) a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications and environments.”

According to Entrepreneur, a brand experience includes both the tonality and totality of an event. Totality (completeness and consistency) and tonality (the spirit of the experience) must work together and be consistent across every interaction. If either element falls short, your brand may have wasted an opportunity to give consumers the full brand experience.

So what does this mean for events? It means a brand experience is the consumers’ entire experience, not just his/her reaction to a specific tactic. To accomplish this for local events, a brand experience must include both offline and online elements. In addition, local dealers, agents and franchisees must complement the national brand in both online and offline touchpoints while remaining localized enough to relate to consumers within their market.

Using face-to-face tactics at local events to create a brand experience: 

Face-to-face interaction at your events is where your brand gets its time to shine. This is what will allow local dealers and agents to develop personal relationships with their customers. It’s one of few places your brand can capitalize on the trust that comes from a smile and a handshake and puts your brand in a position to make a sale.

So how can you ensure the greatest brand experience for your consumers while at the event?

Through the product and the people.

Local affiliates turn their product into an experience at events by showing what a customer’s living room would feel like with the product.

The product at a local event isn’t necessarily the product itself, but rather how you can turn your product into an experience. Let’s take a Brandmuscle client in the home entertainment space for example. Local affiliates of this client attend hundreds of events each year to represent the national brand.

To make their product into more of an experience, some local affiliates set up booths at events to emulate consumers’ living rooms. In doing this, event goers are able to imagine what it would be like to have the product in their living room. Voila: the product was turned into an experience for the event attendee.

The people are the local employees representing the brand at the event and are a huge factor in a customer’s overall brand experience. Employees humanize the brand, especially when employees are hosting or participating in local events. If employees are friendly, knowledgeable and approachable, the consumers will relate that to the brand, which will in-turn drive customer loyalty and sales.

Using social media to create a local online brand experience at events:

In today’s digital-savvy world, a big part of brand experience is tapping into your customer’s online tendencies. Social media is where a brand can integrate, engage and intrigue its potential audience.

A prime way to engage with consumers before, during and after an event is the use of hashtags. VeloSano, an annual bike ride and fundraising event for cancer research, is an excellent example of using social media to create brand experience at events. (Full disclosure, Brandmuscle is a sponsor and had more than a dozen employees participate.)

Using a hashtag before events and getting attendees involved is one way to create a social media brand experience.

Using a hashtag before events and getting attendees involved is one way to create a social media brand experience.

VeloSano used the hashtags #WeAreVeloSano and #BikeToCure before the event to generate excitement and awareness. While Velosano was charity based, for-profit brands can encourage attendees to use the hashtag using giveaways and other fun incentives that will get people talking about the brand and excited to attend.

During and after the event, VeloSano used the hashtag to keep the conversation going and to keep donations coming in for the organization. Keeping up with the hashtag, even after the event will keep the brand fresh in the consumers’ minds.

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Keep your attendees involved by using the hashtag even after the event

One of the quickest ways to ensure retention and advocacy from consumers is taking advantage of personal interactions, whether that is online or offline. Local events gives brands that opportunity to connect with their consumers on a personal level and offer them a first class brand experience.When a consumer’s’ brand experience is positive, it will push consumers through the marketing funnel, and will eventually allow them to build a relationship with the brand.

Stay tuned for future blog posts regarding specific tactics (both online and offline) to use at local events to help boost your consumer’s brand experience. 

Until then: We want to know how your brand creates a customer brand experience during events? Comment below!