Stuff is out, but organizing small spaces is very in. Just ask Marie Kondo believers. In fact, the home organization business earned $16 billion in 2016, and the industry is expected to top $19 billion by 2021.

Hoarding memories holds much greater interest than saving lots of things, especially among Millennials and Gen Zers. If your brand doesn't spark joy and survive the clutter purge, your products won't gain traction. They'll merely gain dust in a warehouse. To salvage future sales, you need to build an emotional connection through experiential marketing strategies.

Welcome to Experience Nation

Want proof that Americans will trade tangibles for memories? Check out the average closet. It's gone from holding an average of 164 garments in 2017 to shelving around 136, according to thredUP. Many people in their twenties and thirties are struggling to pay back college loans and move out of shared apartments or their parents' homes. They don't have the means to acquire loads of possessions or the desire to schlep them across town -- or the country -- when they relocate.

That doesn't mean they're becoming Scrooges, though. They're still eager to spend money on things that evoke feelings. Most people have some version of these items in their homes already: the dog-eared first-edition Hemingway that's been handed down through several generations, the early painting by an ancestor who blazed a path of renegade glory to become an artist. Today consumers at all stages of life want the majority of their stuff to elicit a smile or a contented sigh. If it doesn't, it's clutter.

At the same time, younger individuals have a penchant for filling personal time with experiences they can carry for a lifetime in their hearts and minds. Eventbrite research indicates that three-quarters of Millennials would rather do something than own something. Gen Z takes it a step further by eschewing obvious signs of affluence in favor of the quest for fleeting "you only live once" moments.

Breaking through this barrier against conspicuous consumption requires businesses to commit to elevating the way users interact with their wares. Sophie Kong, account director at experiential marketing company ASV, writes that this method of connecting on a deeper level with buyers needs to be part and parcel of any company's early brainstorming. "Experiential marketing helps brands determine whether their message sparks joy, whether it triggers much-needed change, and whether it brings value to the consumer," she explains.

Certainly, some products fall into the experiential marketing category more easily than others. But no connection is impossible. Think about how Harry's razors used innovative, fresh positioning to transform a hygiene tool into a symbol of youth, frugality, and quality.

If you're struggling to become uber-relevant to audiences, think beyond your offering's differentiators. Below are a few ways to build an experiential marketing campaign that positions your product as being worth the counter space.

1. Identify your target emotional connection.

Your big product is basically colored wall glue. Not too exciting. Or is it? Dulux decided that its premium paint was worth celebrating, so the company sponsored Dulux Color Runs. At the start of each untimed 5K event, participants wore only white. By the finish line, they'd been hit by showers of colorful powder and looked barely recognizable. The result was a link between Dulux and fun, which isn't an adjective most people use when approaching a painting job.

Dulux proved that any company can engage its potential users. You simply need to create a bridge to nurture feelings. Start by diving deeply into your customers' likes and dislikes. Conduct more than a cursory investigation. Just be sure that if you promote an activity, it has a natural fit with your messaging or product.

2. Immerse customers in the details.

At Tsubaki Salon, Japanese pancakes pack the menu. However, customers spend just as much time watching the pancakes jiggle as they do enjoying the flavors, due to the restaurant's deliberately wobbly tables. The tables are slightly askew to make the pancakes do a subtle dance, and diners come in droves for this intricately designed, delicious encounter.

This is the type of joy that Marie Kondo aficionados swear adds depth and purpose to their lives. Your role as a marketer is to create this type of deep, almost ethereal immersion with whatever you offer the public. Find the tiniest aspect of the way people interrelate with your brand's output. Then, intensify it in imaginative (sometimes even meticulous) ways.

3. Emphasize experience over product.

Kids get nap times, but it's adults who really want them. Last year, Casper opened The Dreamery to promote not just its mattresses but the feeling of refreshing, rejuvenating sleep. The e-commerce startup opened a nap bar in New York City that allows consumers to pay for up to 45 minutes of Zs on a Casper product. The experience dovetails nicely with Casper's focus on health and wellness without forcing the sale: It's pampering without pushiness.

Steve Olenski, master principal sales architect at Oracle, highly recommends guiding users toward merchandise through this type of unique memory engagement. "You're not advertising a product," he writes, "you're letting consumers see and feel what their lives would be like with it. You're creating an association between your brand and those positive vibes."

Let other companies worry about their goods getting the chuck-it-out Marie Kondo treatment. Focus your initiatives on experiential marketing to generate tight bonds between you and your customers that won't be tossed with next week's recyclables.

Published on: Jun 14, 2019
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