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A deeper connection with free Wi-Fi

Insight • By ALEXA GANDY • 18 October 2016

Google Station launched in January this year, partnering with RailTel and Indian Railways to provide free Wi-Fi at 50 railway stations (and counting!) across India.

This trial has proved so successful that Google plans to provide highly secure, high-quality free Wi-Fi connections to as many users as possible in public spaces across the globe.

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“We’re just getting started” – Google

According to Internet Live Stats, only around 40% of the world population has an internet connection. So when Google roll out free Wi-Fi in public places across the world, there’s going to be a lot more people going online. And that’s potentially a lot more people interacting with brands.

How can brands use this to their advantage to engage with consumers?

Deliver an experience, not an ad

Brands can better connect with their consumers by providing something more meaningful to them: an experience. Consumers are less engaged with brands that use traditional online marketing methods to connect with their audience because it fails to engage them in the way an experience does. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve seen such a rise in experiential marketing.

There is nothing like a real experience – it allows the consumer to engage up to all five senses, as opposed to merely being exposed to the brand online. Experiences create a genuine connection, helping to leverage brand loyalty, trust and sales revenue.

‘Brands can create a genuine connection with consumers via experiential marketing’

Understandably, you might think that experiential marketing events can only involve a certain number of people, whereas online marketing has an almost infinite reach.

But imagine if a brand had an audience with free access to Wi-Fi. They wouldn’t care about their data usage, they’d be more inclined to live stream, share larger videos, and engage with the brand in even bigger ways – ways that aren’t possible on your current 1GB a month data plan.

It’s easy to see how a great local experience could quickly be shared across the world.

Some examples of experiential amplified by social

Brands are doing some really interesting experiential work right now. For example, the ‘Coco-nect’ smart cup experience from Malibu uses geo-location and Wi-Fi access to eliminate bar queues, by allowing you to order a drink with a twist of the cup.

Once twisted the cup sends an order to the bar staff, along with the consumers’ location. The light on the cup changes colour to alert the consumer that the order has been received and the drink is on its way. So no more waiting in line for a drink.

Blue Cross Dogs

Animal charity ‘Blue Cross Dogs’ is another great example of a brand that has recognised the importance of experiential marketing. It engages consumers emotionally to influence buying behaviours. In an increasingly cashless society, the charity decided to trade the charity donation tins for a contactless payment option, while creating an emotional connection with their audience by involving their dogs in the process. The dogs are dressed in coats which host a contactless device in the pocket to allow consumers to safely transfer a set amount of £2 to raise funds. More can be added if requested!

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Consumers get the opportunity to engage with the dogs, generating attachment and positivity. Positivity created by the brand makes the consumer feel engaged, which means they’re more likely to share their experience on social media.

Consumers are given the opportunity to engage with the dogs, generating attachment and positivity. Positivity created by the brand naturally makes the consumer feel engaged with it and more likely to share about it on social media.

Encourage online sharing

Understandably, you might think that experiential marketing events can only involve a certain number of people, whereas online marketing has an almost infinite reach. However, encouraging social sharing amongst consumers can help brands increase their reach even further. To boost social media activity, brands can incorporate digital elements at events. As well as increasing reach, this can strengthen relationships between the brand and consumer.

Branded #hashtags displayed at events is one way to do so. This is a simple method to implement and an easy way to engage those who haven’t attended the event. Offering a free gift in exchange for a message about the product posted on social media is another method to increase activity and reach. For example, Special K launched a pop up shop called ‘The Tweet Shop’ to showcase its new crisp range.

Consumers could receive a free product sample in exchange for tweeting about the snack on Twitter. Consumers could claim their free product sample, whilst Special K could significantly increase its reach.

‘I Tweet, therefore I am..’

And people want to share on social media. Gen Z, particularly, seek the need to tell people about something they have done. “49% of people create video at branded events, 39% of which share..” Social media represents the consumer and accounts for a large part of many people’s identities. For some avid social users, if social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn) haven’t been populated with an update about the latest experience consumers attended then it didn’t happen in their world. Especially with the emergence of Instagram and Snapchat stories, people want to share what they have been up to, dependent upon how worthwhile their experience is. Not to mention FOMO – it’s real!

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Therefore, naturally, a consumer’s smartphone is a significant part of their experience. With universally free Wi-Fi coming to hotspots like train stations, brands have the opportunity to tap into the consumer’s everyday life. For example, ahead of the launch of the new Ghostbusters film, the Ghostbusters team took over Waterloo Station in London by installing a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on the station floor. This stopped commuters in their tracks and signs marked ‘Take a selfie here’ encouraged them to share the experience.

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Imagine that a brand had an audience who didn’t care about their data usage, who, because they could access free Wi-Fi, would be more inclined to live stream, share larger videos, and engage with the brand in even bigger ways – ways that aren’t possible on your current 1GB a month data plan.

This presents a truly exciting new challenge for brand engagement, and we at PSONA are already bursting with ideas – so drop us a line.