It’s not a science fair, it’s a brand experience

Strengthen community relationships with experiential marketing
By: | Issue: January, 2019
January 3, 2019

Former Disney head Michael Eisner said brand is the result of “a thousand small touches.” He turned Disney’s magic into an enduring family brand of fun.

When it comes to school events, an administrator can be the steward of their school brand just as Eisner was for Disney. It’s your opportunity to treat families to the magic of your school’s unique touches.

Every school calendar announces events. Harness the power of these events to bolster relationships in this connected world. District experiential events can be loud, proud and public. There’s also authenticity and power in the small touches that create school building-level programs.

What is experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing is a business technique that translates well to school settings. In Robert Rose and Carla Johnson’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing (Content Marketing Institute, 2015), data proves the value of experience as a tool for connecting communities. Chances are you’ve been part of a brand event and experienced three foundational elements:

• a live, interactive and multisensory experience that is the center of a bigger brand-building effort

• strategic, emotional brand touches of social, digital and mobile that take place before, during and after the event

• Follow-up with the engaged community, bolstering memory and feeling

Build an event that is more than a fleeting moment. Give lasting memories to those who experienced an event together.

Digital and social channels will engage those who missed the event, such as working parents and distant family members. This engagement allows the school-to-stakeholder relationship to grow.

Let’s get ‘phygital’

“Phygital” is a portmanteau of physical and digital. Brands are taking traditional face-to-face events and partnering them with digital themes and visuals that are driven by social media. Any event, from a science fair to a parent meeting on cybersecurity, can become an experiential marketing event. The event committee can “think phygital” by planning a sequence of experiences that happen before, during and after an event:

• Before the event, post short articles crafted by students, staff and other stakeholders on the school website. Use Facebook pages to promote the experiential aspect of the event. Use all avenues to market the event in an omnichannel approach that gets the word out. Pick up the phone and find community partners to support the staging of the event.

• During the event, leverage phygital time to creatively engage participants with a unique set of hashtags. Use social media polling, short contests, games and video challenges that encourage participants to share digital images.

• After the event, keep the conversation going by encouraging all to like, share, retweet and comment online. This bonding process creates community pride and satisfaction.

Why should school leaders care?

Data shows that experiential marketing gets the attention of millennials who are a big part of your parent community. A smart school leader can elevate interest in school events by raising the experience level of the event.

In this way, even a traditional school spelling bee can become an experiential event, which can lead to more productive relationships in communities.

Use your own touch. Become the true steward of your school brand and create a relational experiential-marketing event in the new year.

Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York. She is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.