Do It For The 'Gram

Would you enjoy a networking event in a hip West Village hotel with an open bar and dozens of adorable dogs?

(This is a trick question.)

Jungle's own operations manager, Leslie Victori, got to attend just such an event earlier this month when the project management app Hive invited her to the Gansevoort Hotel for "Drinks & Dogs: A Networking Yappy Hour." The event raised money for Rescue City, a local animal shelter. Some of the dogs were already part of loving homes, but others had white bandanas on, which meant they were adoptable. "They had a photo-booth to take pictures, which they emailed to me the next morning," Leslie said. "It was marketing genius."

Yappy Hour Hive

By creating that memorable and exceedingly photo-friendly event, Hive and Rescue City not only spread the word about adopting dogs, but also generated a considerable amount of positive social media mentions for their respective organizations.

We Millennials call these "Instagrammable experiences". You're probably familiar with them... either directly, or through your social media feeds. If you've ever posed in front of beautiful street art, waited in line for a trendy new desert craze, or attended a free music event, you're already familiar with an Instagrammable experience.

Remember all the attention about the Fearless Girl statue that faced off against iconic Charging Bull in the Financial District? It was commissioned by State Street to advertise a socially responsible index fund. That's a lot of buzz for a few pounds of bronze. #FearlessGirl

Fearless Girl

Creating memorable events and experiences play a big role in how brands reach customers. This so-called experiential marketing not only drive sales, but also helps shape a company's image and reputation. It's also known as engagement marketing, because rather than pitch words or video at a consumer, it invites them to interact in a real-world setting. This hands-on approach lets brands show consumers not just the products and services they offer, but also what values they stand for. It evokes emotion and forms lasting memories and impressions.

Posting and sharing experiences to social media is an effortless daily action for more than a billion people across the world. According to a study by Harris Group, 72% of Millennials said they prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things. My generation also seeks to share our experiences with our family, friends, and followers.

This is an opportunity for smart brands to present themselves as an experience... a product or service that can be shared and discussed. It's always fun to post something to our Instagram page and say "Look everyone! I saw/did this really cool thing!" Experiential marketing can be a permanent aspect of a business.

I once waited for 45 minutes on a cold March night to eat at Black Tap in Midtown Manhattan. The line extended along the entire block, and both tourists and locals stood with umbrellas, buzzing about the trendy restaurant's popular shakes. It might sound extreme, but it was worth the effort... the burgers, fries, and craft beer my friends and I enjoyed were fantastic and the $15 milkshakes fulfilled every dessert-related dream we'd had as children – toppings included a range of chocolate as well as cookies, pretzels, cotton candy and even a slice of cake (are you in a sugar coma yet?).

Black Tap Milk Shakes

"We're spending a lot of time making sure that we create an experience that people will want to come back to," Chris Barish, Black Tap's co-owner, had explained to Nation's Restaurant News.

They succeeded.

My friends and I had first heard about Black Tap from an Instagram page dedicated to New York restaurants, and we all subsequently spread word of the place out to our own social media networks.

Pop-up shops are another popular form of experiential marketing. "Pop-up" meaning the temporary use of physical space to create a lasting impression with potential customers. A pop-up shop allows you to communicate your brand's promise to customers through the use of a unique and engaging shopping experience.

Just last summer, I took a trip with a few gal pals to visit the St. Ives Mixing Bar in the Flatiron neighborhood of NYC. We walked in to the beautifully decorated pop-up space in awe – and immediately started taking pictures. Visitors got hands-on experience, with the help of "bartenders", creating custom face scrubs, moisturizers and body lotions. For only $12, we each got to hand-make products to suit our individual needs by combining the bar's 100 percent natural ingredients in unique ways. We had practically full control of the product we ended up receiving – including lotion richness and facial scrub exfoliation levels. We were then invited to a vending machine where we answered a few simple questions about skincare, and received a free sample based on our answers! To top it off, there was a mirrored room with dozens of apricots (fake ones of course) suspended from the ceiling where you could pose for fun pictures.

St Ives Mixing Bar

St. Ives was able to create a new business model using feedback from the pop-up. "We are excited to open an online direct-to-consumer extension of the store to bring the same custom experience of the store to fans nationwide", said Suzanne Palentchar, Director of Marketing for the company.

How could anyone resist posting a quick picture of their personalized St. Ives creation?

Experiential marketing drives word-of-mouth, which helps create buzz around your brand and the products you're promoting. While some Fortune 500 companies are creating experiences that require NASA's budget, you don't have to spend a lot to embrace this trend. What you do need is knowledge of your audience... what they want, what they fear, and what delights them beyond measure. The focus is on creating a "WOW!" moment.

Invest some time into thinking about the ways people could interact with you, even if it seems a little silly. If it's aligned with what you do and executed thoughtfully, people will be talking – in the best way possible.

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