Once you’ve achieved CLARITY in your mission and ENERGY with your strategy, there’s one last element that’s absolutely essential to inspiring your membership: a SPARK that evokes inspiration by providing members with an experience of your brand.
A memorable, positive brand experience inspires people to forge high-quality connections (1), explore new possibilities, and work towards goals. Additionally, it will help break the cycle of acquisition and retention because your members will become loyal advocates for your organization.
Your annual event is your biggest opportunity to create a spark. It’s your strategy coming to life. It’s also your chance to set up optimal conditions for inspiration, engagement, and—ultimately—mission fulfillment. Recent research suggests that the best brand experiences are multisensory.
Engage the 5 Senses
Consider what people will see when they walk through the doors of your exhibit hall. What will they eat and drink that might help them associate your brand with value? What kind of music will you play in the lounge areas—upbeat techno or smooth jazz? Will they connect better sitting in rows or roundtables? Consider whether your crowd is more interested in the smell of flowers or fresh-baked cookies. Do you have an interactive element, such as game playing or team activities? Every detail should be a spark of inspiration that offers value to your audience AND reinforces your mission.
Does this mean you need a sound and light show to attract Millennials, for example? Scented candles in the restrooms? Extra fuzzy couches? That depends on your Millennials. Nonetheless, your event does need to be welcoming, engaging, positive and memorable in order for it to be a spark of inspriation. Some gimmicks might be necessary, but avoid sensory overload. As we’ve mentioned so many times, you have to offer value for inspiration and connection to take place. If not, you’re just part of the babble.
It’s important to note that creating a spark of inspiration is not a passive endeavor. You can’t simply wait for members to show up and have whatever incidental experience with your brand. It’s your job to intentionally and deliberately craft a brand experience that will engage your members and move them to action. It’s within your control to encourage insporation to happen. (Cue Jack London and his inspiration-seeking club).
Use Brain Power
Sensory experience is backed up by some pretty convincing brain research. Science tells us that 90% of decisions are made in the emotional center of the brain. We also know that storytelling will get you farther than language when it comes to engaging people emotionally. Accompanying visuals are better than stories alone. And other sensory items—such as scents, textures, and music—can further enhance your message and create that spark of inspiration your organization can’t live without. What’s more, sensory items are powerful triggers of memories. You can use the same colors, visuals, smells, or textures in your marketing after the event to continue to engage and inspire members throughout the year. (Check out our past work on sensory marketing HERE.)
Learn To Surf
For a lesson in brand experience, take a look at clothing retailer Hollister. Walk into any Hollister store and be instantly transported to a beach in Southern California. Each store looks like a beach shack, complete with palm trees, beach balls, and sections for “Dudes” and “Betties.” Television screens display real-time surf conditions from Huntington Beach pier. The air is scented with the brand’s signature fragrance (available for purchase, of course). A curated collection of beach tunes plays over the speakers (also available for purchase). All indicators suggest to the shopper they have entered an authentic SoCal surf shop.
Hollister’s brand experience not only creates a spark that entices customers to purchase; it inspires them to adopt a lifestyle. In addition to making repeat purchases, loyal customers advocate for the brand through their appearance, behavior, music and even their smell. The interesting part? Hollister is not really a surf shop. It’s a division of Abercrombie & Fitch dreamed up in an office in Cleveland, Ohio.
We’re not suggesting you fabricate a story to please your members. Chances are your organization was founded on a pretty incredible authentic story anyway. The key is to bring it to life with clarity, energy, and spark. If Hollister can be so successful with a fabricated brand experience, imagine how you can move and inspire your base with an authentic one.
All 3 Elements of Inspiration
Communications coach Carmine Gallo once said “Steve Jobs does not deliver a presentation. He offers an experience.”
Great brands and business success stories don’t happen by accident. The savviest marketers craft a story around their mission, they know their audience, and they execute a killer strategy that will engage and inspire. Lastely, they carefully and deliberately create a multisensory brand experience in which inspiration can take place. They feed inspiration by engaging all the senses. They fan the spark into flames by delivering value. And they achieve results in the form of loyalty, retention, and advocacy.
(1) Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.
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