By Alison Davis.
Marketers are using this strategy to combat clutter. How to leverage the concept for employee engagement
Ask any marketer what keeps him up at night, and he’ll respond as Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing officer for Mastercard, did in a recent Adweek article: “It’s more and more difficult to succeed through traditional advertising. With the amount of clutter you’ve got to cut through . . . and the attention span of the consumer going down, how do you get past that hurdle and inspire consumers?”
Companies face the same problem when trying to engage employees in the organization–in understanding and supporting the business strategy, change and even topics like pay and benefits. Employees are so busy and so overloaded with information that they often skim through communication or even skip what doesn’t seem immediately relevant.
The result? Employee miss even critical information. As a result, they don’t feel deeply invested in the organization and don’t feel connected or understand how their work contributes to the company’s success.
To conquer this challenge, organizations need to adopt the same strategy that top brands use to create a meaningful, memorable bond with their products and services. That strategy is known in the advertising world as “experiential marketing.”
For brands, this means that rather than “looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages,” marketers involve consumers–in an in-person event, in an online activity (like creating or sharing content) or in a combination of experiences in which the consumer actively participates.
For example, Adweek describes how Jaguar created a virtual reality high-speed car chase that put consumers in the driver’s seat. And to launch its new caramel flavor, M&M’s transformed a dozen billboards in New York City’s Times Square into an augmented reality arcade where people could play games via their smart phones.
Here’s how one expert–Bryan Icenhower, president of the agency IMG Live, describes the power of experiential marketing: “What takes traditional advertising weeks, months or years to do, we can do in a moment. Experiential is a uniquely fast and effective way to build brand awareness through one-to-one connections with consumers. It engages all five senses, sparking emotions that form lasting memories which have been shown to drive brand loyalty.”
How do you apply the principles of experiential marketing to employee engagement? Here are five ways to start:
- Rethink your objectives. Rather than focusing on providing “news” and other information, shift to involving your employees. Of course you want to give people access to information, but what employees need most today is the opportunity to connect–with leaders, their manager and each other. That means they need events and forums to come together both in person and virtually.
- Turn every large-group meeting from one way to participative. Since you’ve wasted too many hours snoozing through presentations, I don’t have to tell you how most internal conferences and summits are deadly dull. It’s such a waste of time and money to bring people together, only to bore the heck out of them. Instead, use the power of participation to not only make the event memorable, but also to gather feedback, generate ideas and solve problems.
- Give employee town hall meetings a major makeover. I spend a lot of time trying to understand why town halls have become so predictably static. Is there some kind of conspiracy going on that causes leaders to use dense slides to present too many details and to limit employee involvement to a short, stilted Q&A session? It’s actually easy to use today’s technology (like text polling) or best-practice facilitation methods to transform town halls into true experiences.
- Unleash the power of play. One of the reasons experiential marketing is such a phenomenon is that people want to be involved in experiences that are interesting, stimulating and fun. And heaven knows that, in today’s stress-packed work environment, we need a lot more fun. Plus, according to Psychology Today, play has meaningful benefits like boosting creativity and building relationships. To introduce play, facilitate collaborative games and interactive exercises online.
- Activate internal social media. Many companies have introduced some kind of social platform, but most still struggle with the role of online networking in their organizations. My short answer: social media provides an effective way to encourage employee participation. In fact, it offers the key to changing the dynamic from one-way communication to everybody into the sharing-and-connecting pool. Social media requires care and feeding; it’s not a matter of “build it and they will come.” But, especially if employees can participate on their smart phones, social media has tremendous potential to involve employees.
By now, I’m sure you’re getting the idea: Follow marketers’ lead by transforming the employee experience from passive recipients to active participants.