Customer Experience

Forget what your parents said. Why talking to strangers will grow your brand.

January 22, 2024
Pete Sena

So maybe you’ve swiped right on strangers or joined them in social media comment wars but lately how often have you spoken to strangers IRL? If the answer is never. You’re not alone, but we have news for you. Before we tell you what’s up, you have to put down your phone and listen to us as if we were in the room next to you. Despite our obsession with everything digital, the real key to attracting and retaining new customers is in interacting with these strangers in person. Why? Real-life human connections release certain neurochemicals that help build trust, create bonds and evoke pleasure that can’t happen without our physical presence. That’s why experiential marketing is more valuable than ever. Meaning what your parents taught you as a kid should be forgotten as an adult. Talking to strangers is a great idea as long as it’s in person. It won’t just fill you up, it’ll do the same for your company’s bank account, and who doesn’t want that? 

Why you should stop solely communicating with your audience digitally. 

More Loyalty: 91% of consumers say that participating in in-person brand events and experiences makes them more likely to buy, and a whopping 40% feel like they have increased brand loyalty after these in person interactions. So what’s going on? We can’t say for sure, but our brain gives us some clues. Developmental psychologist Susan Pinker says that “Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters.” For instance, a handshake, high five or simply making eye contact alone releases oxytocin, increasing trust and a sense of genuine connection. Talking to someone in real life also lowers cortisol levels, which means less stress and likely more enjoyable, memorable conversations. And dopamine, our pleasure neurotransmitter, is also released during positive in-person interactions. The result? People associate feeling good with your brand.

Better Feedback: When you get in-person feedback, you are gaining information from different human senses, which means more holistic data to improve future marketing strategies.

More Buzz: People talk, especially when an event is splashy. That means not only will people hear about your event through social media and press, people who couldn’t make it will likely want to find out how it went, making them more likely to go to your social media accounts afterward to get the scoop. 

5 ways to connect with new customers IRL.

  1. Product Launch/Demo Parties: Invite customers and potential ones to celebrate your latest drop or demo your current products. They’ll not only associate a fun night with your brand, they’ll feel like they’re a part of your success, making them more likely to stay loyal. Also, allowing them to interact with your new products with all of their physical senses will not only be more interesting, but also more memorable.  
  1. Brand Activations: Put together events, campaigns, or strategies that facilitate direct engagement between your brand and your target audience. This is a great opportunity to bring your brand’s values and personality to life, giving your customers and potential ones the sense that they’re not only connecting with an authentic brand but also a good one.
  1. Partnership Events: Partner with a successful brand that not only shares your company’s values but also increases the amount of event attendees i.e., more potential customers for you.
  1. Innovation Summits: Host events that feature new technologies, trends, and cutting-edge solutions within your industry. 
  1. Interactive Workshops: Create workshops to teach potential customers how your brand can be used practically to not only solve certain problems but enhance their lives. 

4 brands who benefitted from talking to strangers in person. 

  1. Lululemon Sweatlife Festival
    The brand hosted yoga classes, workout sessions, wellness workshops, and interactive experiences, bringing together fitness enthusiasts, wellness experts, and brand ambassadors. People got to break a sweat, learn new moves, feel good and connect all in the name of Lululemon. 
  1. HubSpot INBOUND's Deep Dive Workshops
    These in person workshops haven’t just been helpful for attendees who get to experience specific marketing or sales challenges, they’ve also helped businesses start to scale, careers blossom, and build a community of loyal customers. 
  1. Digital Surgeons EVO Experience
    We created a digital experience and destination for this brand that facilitated even greater conversations throughout the wider fighting game community. In helping players connect better – both in person and virtually – their player registration went up by 81% with a 1380% increase in returning players. 
  1. IKEA’s sleepover event
    To strengthen their current customers and attract new ones, IKEA offered a sleepover event in honor of World Sleep Day. Attendees could pick their own bed linen, and then explore certain sleep-themed activities like ASMR, a silent disco, sleep workshops, and more.  

Despite the ease of connecting digitally today, I still find that hitting it off with a stranger face-to-face is far more meaningful, and as a result, more memorable. But as of late, people not only seem disinterested when I try to engage them in real life conversations, they look downright scared. Most recently, I was waiting in line for the bathroom at a restaurant, and I tried to strike up a conversation with another person waiting. They looked at me like I was crazy. And this person wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to talk. Scanning the restaurant, I noticed that more people were looking down at their phones than they were conversing with each other. What does this mean? People aren’t just missing out on great conversations, they’re forgetting the power of real human connection, and consequently, they’re losing customers. So what’s the new lesson? Don’t avoid strangers, talk to them IRL. Even better? Bring them together through experiential marketing around your brand and engage their physical senses – whether that’s by facilitating high fives, great food, engaged eye contact or something else you can’t get online. You won’t just foster more meaningful human connections (the whole point of being human!), you’ll grow your customer base and your brand. 

Thanks for reading.
Pete Sena
Spread the word!