Marketing, in whatever form, is all about the experience. This is the why behind how link bait and viral marketing work.
We recently moved to Southern Utah, and in our family we like to be tourists everywhere we go, even where we live. We heard about these dinosaur tracks, so we set out to find them. We had a map that had directions that appeared pretty specific, even down to having an extra digit after the decimal point of how many miles from point X to point Y. With my iPhone (sweet Maps app), GPS on the car, and our handy dandy map, I thought we’d be there in 20 minutes, see the tracks, and be on our way to the next historic site. Instead, we had a safari adventure in our minivan, with 3 young kids in the back, hunting for dinosaur tracks in 100 degree weather, on a dirty bumpy road, that lasted two and a half hours.
Now if you are still a kid like I am (and like my kids are), this was awesome. We turned down a road which ended up being more of a 4-wheeler road, having to turn around and backing into a cactus. We saw a few guys off the road, but after approaching them on foot I realized they were carrying weapons. Luckily they were harmless and gave us some hints as to where to seek the dinosaur tracks. We traveled down the road for what seemed like an eternity, all the while enjoying the beautiful Utah desert and the sweet sound of kids nagging each other. Finally, a sign; of course it was 3 inches by 3 feet with the words “Dinosaur Tracks” in a single column, in white and brown (camouflage), and a small arrow pointing the way. We turned and kept looking, another 3″ x 3′ sign. We found the parking lot, and another 3″ x 3′ sign. We walked a ways and finally came to the end of our hunt, with about 10 footsteps from dinosaurs, engrained in stone for us to stare at in amazement. This ain’t plaster of paris my friends, these are dinosaur tracks.
So, if you’re still reading, hopefully you’ve imagined our experience and smiled at least a tad. It was a blast, and tucking my kids in tonight they remember our trek of finding dinosaur tracks. What would this have been like had this rock with the tracks been cut out and taken to my local museum? We could have walked right past them. We wouldn’t have spent more than 2 or 3 minutes looking at the tracks. A portion of the visitors to the museum probably would miss the tracks altogether. And when those kids were tucked, I guarantee they wouldn’t remember the dinosaur tracks.
It’s all about the experience. There is a fantastic article written on the topic titled The Experience is the Marketing by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II. This is the inner workings of link bait and viral marketing, it is the experience the user undergoes. The experience may not last two and a half hours like my dinosaur track safari, but if the user has a memorable experience, the marketing worked. The article gives several examples, such as “The American Girl Place”. It’s not your typical toy doll store. Parents take their daughters with doll in hand to get the doll’s hair done ($20), get their picture taken together ($21.95), watch a theatrical production together ($25), and to have dinner together ($18). Yes, you can buy a new doll there, but it’s the experience that drives thousands each year, and millions in revenue, not the dolls.
In the online world, we don’t have the advantage of a physical setting to create an experience. We do, however, have many forms of medium to create an experience.
Online Mediums for Creating an Experience
First, your design and usability is the first part of the experience. Is your design clean, does it speak to your audience (high-end consumers, women, older folks, college kids, etc), are products easy to find with available details?
Second, do you offer more than just product? What about a section of all the crazy ways your product has been used (think Duck brand Duct Tape), or a photo blog of people wearing your product in different locales (like Beast Clothing)? What about an application that helps people with some aspect of your product or service, that they find useful (like our Link Search Tool). What about a viral video (think Diet Coke & Mentos) that showcases or includes your product, or is a captivating commercial that makes it viral?
Tapping into your Audience
Just because your marketing medium isn’t a physical building, it doesn’t mean you can’t tap into the physical senses of your audience. You can appeal to emotions, appetites, feelings, memories, hopes, and vanity. There’s no step by step how to and no online experience generator to accomplish this. But there is your innovation, and the imagination of your team and company.
Get Started and Create an Experience
To start, read the article The Experience is the Marketing. It’s a great jump start to making an experience for your audience, which is the ultimate in branding and marketing.