Get Your Consumers Hooked on Experience

What You (and Your Clients) Can Learn from Tailgating

By Published on .

Tom Martin Tom Martin
At the end of Sunday's Pro Bowl (the official end of football), my wife turned and with a gleam in her eye said, "Ok, time to move the trailer." The trailer she refers to is our Tailgating Trailer and its very existence in my driveway is an interesting insight into how experiences and consumers' desire to have perfect experiences drives purchase intent.

It all started with the New Orleans Saints' home opener of the 2006 Season. It was a Monday night game against the archrival Atlanta Falcons, and the Saints first time to play in New Orleans post-Katrina. Needless to say, emotions were high, folks were excited and a friend decided we all needed to celebrate this day with a tailgate before the game. We all had a great time. The Saints crushed the Falcons and the game went down in history. Then my wife announced we'd host the next tailgate. And by the end of the second tailgate, two more friends were claiming responsibility for the next one. This went on all year and after the 2006 season was over, talk immediately turned to what we'd do in 2007.

The "what" turned into a 5'-by-8' cargo trailer complete with tables, port-a-potty, portable grill, awning, generator, sound system, full bar -- the works. Tailgate responsibilities were divided up, menus planned and an official location chosen. Needless to say, we threw some great tailgates.

Reflecting on this got me thinking about how brands should stop focusing on creating events and start thinking about how to create contextually relevant experiences. Honestly, during the course of the season, I probably "sold" 50 grills, as many port-a-potties, a few awnings, and even a trailer or two to the vast number of folks that stopped by with some variation of, "Man that is great, where can I buy one?" comments.

The really interesting thing about experiences is that once you have one you like, not only will you seek to replicate it, you'll often try to improve it. Great experiences are addictive. The more you have, the more you want.

And that is what our little tailgate was for all those folks that came up wanting to know where they could buy our stuff. They tasted the experience (some of them literally), wanted it for themselves and were willing to buy things to replicate it.

We marketers should apply this insight to brand event design. We should create contextually relevant, addictive user experiences that will drive our consumer to purchase our products/services in order to replicate the experience.

Here are a few tips I gleaned from our tailgates to get you started.
  • Fill your experience with brand advocates that are there to help the consumer get the most out of the experience, explain the product (when asked) and in general, make sure the enjoyment factor is high. In fact, you might want to consider letting current users "staff" the experience instead of employees.

  • Allow the consumer to actively participate. Just think if I had let folks cook their food on my grill or use our port-a-potty. Research shows that we remember what we do better than what we see. So let them do.

  • Encourage the consumer to invite others. It's not that hard. Think Mary Kay, Tupperware, or Creative Memories, whose hosts throw fun events, which are little more than mobile buying parties. If you create a great experience, your customer will gladly share it.
In fact, just by looking at the tailgating example, I can think of a number of brands that can play in this space. Coleman, Thermos, any beer brand, any RV brand and maybe even certain retail chains like Wal-Mart, Academy or Dick's Sporting Goods. By doing so, they'd create experiential opportunities for consumers to use their products in fun, entertaining, contextually relevant environments, which will lead to positive association and likely a willingness to purchase.

Just think of it -- sponsored tailgate parties.

Is anyone at Coleman, Thermos or Wal-Mart reading this? If so, look me up. I'll put your logo on my trailer. And I need a new grill. Some guy bought mine at the last tailgate.
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