How to Do Interactive Marketing the Right Way

Two ads illustrate just how slight the difference is between pulling off excellent interactive marketing and bombing on a global stage.

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By AJ Agrawal

Burger King | Youtube

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As with most business strategies, interactive marketing can be done very well -- or very poorly. Regrettably, Burger King recently made just such a major interactive gaffe.

Related: Burger King Gets Burned in Twitter Duel With Wendy's

The company's motivation was solid: Get an artificial intelligence platform to be its sales partner. How? Burger King ended a commercial not with a call to action but an odd challenge: "Okay, Google. What's in a Whopper?"

The point was to make Google's AI device, the Google Home, respond, and it did, as did Android phones. As expected, these devices linked to the Whopper's entry on Wikipedia, which Burger King had carefully pre-edited to define its burger combo in yummy terms.

The problem? Viewers with a mischievous streak quickly redited that entry, replacing, for instance, "meat" with "child" and one of the ingredients with "cyanide."

The ad garnered attention all right, but not the right kind; and critics called Burger King out for being gimmicky and invasive.

Of course, the fast food chain wasn't the only behemoth to dance with interactive marketing. McDonald's did, too -- but brilliantly. Its ad featured actress Mindy Kaling requesting viewers to ask Google "where Coca-Cola tastes so good," prompting all those millennials to do just that. McDonald's name was not even mentioned -- but was obvious. This strategy produced kudos, not thumbs down, from the marketing world.

These examples illustrate just how slight the difference can be between pulling off excellent interactive marketing or bombing on a global stage.

No wonder executives everywhere are engaging in serious due diligence before giving the green light to any interactive marketing campaign. They realize that with the immediacy of a social-driven population, wiggle room is virtually nonexistent; still, they can't afford to ignore this emerging trend.

Interactive: Heating up marketing departments

Interactive marketing comes in numerous forms: content marketing, trigger-based marketing, event marketing -- the list goes on. But what really matters is that all interactive marketing has a stickiness that binds the user to the marketed product or service. It's symbiosis, a give-and-take relationship.

You can foster successful relationships using interactive marketing, but only if both parties get something out of the deal. In the case of Burger King, that didn't happen because its approach was off-putting. For McDonald's, a win-win scenario was established because its approach felt less like a hard sell to the consumer. Instead, it was all about the experience.

Just ask Danielle Narveson, director of strategy at inbound digital marketing firm LIFT Agency, who's passionate about interactive marketing. She understands that people are willing to pay more for brand experience -- especially when the experience meets the client need for relevant, high-quality service.

Related: 4 Secrets to Better Interactive Social-Media Content

In some cases, consumers are willing to pay as much as 10 percent more for a brand with an associated experience than for the same product without. This is the case with grocery home-delivery service Instacart. With 55 percent of shoppers in a 2015 survey having said they were open to a online grocery service, the success of this kind of experiential brand is much more likely in today's market than than it was just five to 10 years ago, Narveson told me.

Narveson's observation explained why leading media-buying companies like Coegi are recommending practicality over pure quirkiness when it comes to well-targeted interactivity and audience participation.

Coegi President Sean Cotton noted to me the power of coordinated advertising that reaches the consumer at multiple touchpoints simultaneously, and that audience's increased likelihood of consumer response to the brand -- the ultimate goal.

Burger King's bungle illustrated how painful an effort at interactive marketing with the wrong approach can be. In contrast, a well-thought-out campaign has big benefits, so it's worth considering what tactics will make sense in this evolving world of one-to-one selling. Here are several to consider:

Use live video-streaming.

If a giraffe's live birth can attract more than 232 million viewers, it's time to sit up and take notice. When Oliver, the spindly-legged baby, came into the world in April 2017 at a Connecticut zoo, he was long-awaited, thanks to a continuous live video stream from the zoo's facility housing Oliver's mother and father.

The zoo used the experience to drive donations and impart animal education. Similarly, your business may be able to make use of live streams as well. Start small by streaming a talk, event, chat, product demo, etc.; then, evaluate, experiment and repeat.

Make the audience part of the marketing.

Stay on social media long enough, and you're bound to see tons of calculators, quizzes and infographics come your way. What makes those vehicles so effective? They grab your attention and draw you into the story.

Your input is what makes these marketing experiences feel a little unique, a little different and a lot more customized.

Grab attention with powerful content in unexpected places.

When was the last time you abandoned an online shopping cart? Chances are good it wasn't long ago; stats say the abandonment rate is inching toward 70 percent. If you're in the ecommerce space, you can use abandoned carts as catalysts for innovative interactive marketing touchpoints.

"Come back and reclaim your cart" emails can be straightforward, funny, touching or rewarding -- whatever you choose. The goal is to make patrons finish the checkout process with a great feeling about the company.

Hyperpersonalize the experience.

The 2013-2014 "Share a Coke" campaign may have been one of the most widely seen interactive marketing campaigns ever. Around the planet, beverage buyers were tempted to buy more Coke than they might normally have because of common first names adorning the bottles.

And they didn't stop with the cash register: They tweeted, added hashtags and blew up the internet with fun. The movement drove revenue and gave everyone a reason to buy two Cokes: one for themselves and one for a friend who shared a name with a bottle.

Related: Top 10 Customer-Centric Marketing Trends for 2016

Like it or not, people are getting accustomed to interactive marketing. So, invest in appropriate strategies relevant to your industry to see how it can transform your relationship with your customers.

AJ Agrawal

Founder of Verma Media

AJ Agrawal is the founder of Verma Media, a marketing agency that focuses on emerging tech, like blockchain and AI, and on cannabis companies.

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