Can content marketers embrace the experiential?

As Hearst begins broadcasting content on giant LED screens in New York, what can content marketers learn from experiential marketing techniques?

The US publishing giant Hearst has unveiled its latest content venture: HearstLive. It takes the form of a multimedia installation at Hearst Tower in Manhattan – enormous LED screens showing curated content from its 360 brands and media partners.

Hearst president and CEO Steven R. Swartz has described HearstLive as “’an LED sculpture’ merging news, information and entertainment”. Passers by on the corner of 8th Avenue and West 57th Street are treated to a selection of content from across the Hearst empire – from Cosmopolitan fashion and lifestyle features to live news.

More than simply a fancy billboard, a team of editors selects the content that is displayed, which is updated three times a day. Around 100 stories a week feature on the 50 feet long, nine feet tall screens.

Filling the physical space

The idea shows Hearst curating and placing its content away from the digital world and into a real life experience.

Content marketing comes down to engaging an audience in the product, service and values of a business or brand. And in an increasingly full digital environment, this could well mean branching out to a physical experience for the audience.

In the case of Hearst, with over 300 print magazines such as Esquire, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, it still deals with a physical product – a sense of quality and traditional values. So HearstLive, a top quality, highly visible centrepiece, fits its brand as a historic, traditional American staple.

Where Hearst may be uniquely placed in the industry, with a raft of content to mine, content marketers for any business can still provide a sense of experience in their output.

Experiential marketing

For some, experiential marketing’s home is in retail. Turning stores into event spaces and boutiques has become one way retailers have attempted to fight off – and outdo – the rise of online shopping. Clothes shops become as stylised as fashion shows and coffee shops like taste emporiums.

Pop-up stores provide another example of providing the kind of unique experience that will attract an audience.

Experiential marketing also comes alive through stunts – often pulled by businesses on unsuspecting members of the public.

One particularly elaborate ruse came from Virgin Atlantic with No Ordinary Park Bench. Whoever sat on the apparently normal bench in New York would find themselves waited on by Virgin staff. Champagne and fine meals would appear, as well as the ‘in-flight entertainment’. Some chose video games, whereupon a cast of characters would act out the gameplay in front of you. Others went for drama, where a cast in period garb would perform the action.

Adding content to the experience

In their truest senses, experiential marketing and content marketing are not two streams that necessarily cross.

Experiential marketing used to provide a 1:1 effect, where the customer has the brand experience on a one-on-one basis. Ideally, they then spread the business message far and wide among their friends, family and colleagues.

This is no longer the case, as social media and the ubiquity of smart phones means any public experience is pushed way beyond the 1:1 dynamic.

Hearst has added a level of content to their experiential presence – and has the resources to do so.

But regardless of the riches or resources available, there will always be room for an innovative editorial voice in content marketing.

It could be a weekly round-up newsletter, or a ‘day in the life’ video looking at different roles within your business. Or how about a daily blog commenting on key trends and current events?

Content Cloud is a useful tool for finding freelance content creators, from writers to videographers, all fully contactable and with their portfolio available to view.

You don’t necessarily need your name lit up on a Manhattan tower block, but it’s vital to throw some light on the type of unique experience your business offers.

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