How Experiential Helps Brands Break Barriers to Entry

As a lifelong hockey fan, I’ve always felt a tinge of jealousy about the NHL being less popular than the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Why don’t people love my sport?

Without veering into a tangent about the league’s shortcomings – which, I can assure you, I am fully capable of – I’ll offer a simple explanation: there’s a barrier to entry that is attached to becoming a hockey fan. Outside of those who grow up in colder climates, not many people are exposed to the sport in their formative years. And, even worse, many of the hockey fans that want people to love their game are the first people to give those learning the game a difficult time.

So, what the heck does that have to do with marketing? Well, this very barrier to entry that exists for the NHL applies to many things in life. Whether it’s something as trivial as sports or something as important as personal financial management, consumers that don’t understand your product and how it fits into their lifestyle are likely to avoid it altogether. Let’s take a look at a couple ways that brands are breaking through barriers to entry to build lifelong advocates.


While some product offerings, like a new soda flavor, are self-explanatory, others are a little less tangible. Take insurance, for example. We all know that insurance – whether it be health, auto, life, or home – is important, but the average consumers would hardly consider themselves experts on the topic. That’s why, when insurance companies are innovative with their services, they have to make it easy to understand.

When John Hancock launched the HealthyFood initiative as part of its Vitality program, the brand knew it had to turn to experiential marketing to communicate the benefits to consumers that might be shy to start a conversation about life insurance. That’s where we came in.

Inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall in NYC, we brought the ideas fueling the HealthyFood initiative to life through the John Hancock Vitality Marketplace. Mimicking the look and feel of a grocery store, the marketplace included six separate stations, each of which offered a decision that consumers are confronted with on a daily basis. Looking for a light snack? Choose between avocado on a cracker or jelly on toast. With each of these decisions, consumers racked up points to earn prizes ranging from vegetable-shaped stress balls to mini blenders – illustrating practical examples as to how consumers could benefit from John Hancock’s latest idea.

Ultimately, the event proved to be a huge success, with the average consumer sticking around for 24 minutes and walking away with a newfound understanding of the life insurance sector.




Building Community

When done right, community building can serve as a really effective way of connecting with customers. Rather than the one-way communication that is advertising, community building is about fostering meaningful conversation. While it can be more effort for a brand, the rewards can prove immense.

Just ask Rapha. Rapha, a U.K-based cycling apparel brand, has a network of clubhouses across the world which serve as meeting places for road cyclists and fans of the sport. Inside of each space, you’ll find a retail area stocked with the latest products, a café serving coffee and food, and an extensive program of live racing, rides, and events. After all, the cycling community is a small one with fervent fans. By bringing them all to the same place, Rapha does an excellent job of building a community around its brand.

Rapha isn’t alone, either. Bandier, the upstart U.S. activewear company, is set to open a 27,500 ft2 studio in NYC’s NoHo neighborhood. It won’t just sell the brand’s merchandise, though. Instead, “Studio B” will feature a full fitness room, healthy-food café, and a sneaker shop with a treadmill for customers to test out potential purchases. In addition to fitness classes, Studio B will have amenities like showers and hydrating face masks to give guests a luxurious experience – further tying the brand and its products to the active and fashionable consumer lifestyle.

At Inspira, we create innovative ways to educate consumers, build community, and break through barriers to entry. Contact us to learn how our suite of experiential marketing services can help grow your brand.

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