I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I experience and I understand – Confucius, 450BC
While some forms of experiential marketing existed since prehistoric times (i.e. word-of-mouth), most marketers today are not aware of the full extent of Experiential Marketing. We know what it is about — the emotional connection, the face-to-face interaction, and the brand relevant experience. We know what it can do for our brands. But do we truly grasp the characteristics and returns of Experiential Marketing? And do we truly implement experiential campaigns?
Experiential marketing has many faces. It utilises many a platform to communicate the specific message to the correct target market. As traditional marketing platforms evolve, so do the needs of the consumer to be satisfied by the branded world. We cannot merely stage a marketing campaign, without a specific and unique experience, in the hopes of catching the eye of the consumer. Traditional marketing has become a secondary gizmo to the experiential world, where the golden experiential thread is the synergy that binds all the relevant marketing platforms together. This red thread will ensure that all the marketing platforms work in tandem with each other and speak to the consumer in order to create an extension to the brand experience.
In order to understand the power of Experiential Marketing, I have to reflect on the characteristics of Great Experience Marketing (a checklist as utilised by Toyota Marketing, USA). Experiential campaigns should have the following characteristics: “Customer-centric, Authentic, Interactive, Immersive, Brand-personifying, Ego-satisfying and Sustainable”. Not all campaigns or experiences can be classified as experiential. Just because there’s an event or an experience, doesn’t make it a populace-friendly foray. Only true communication (experiential marketing) captures the correct audience at the right place at the right time and reflects these characteristics.
As marketers, we get so entrenched in the buzzwords and jargon — that we actually forget what our purpose is. We have the power to manipulate the sine qua non of marketing a company or a brand and its products. And in this epoch, we have to ensure that our campaigns add to the brands’ bottom-line. Through utilising effective experiential marketing as a methodology, we will create consumer trust. Without trust, there is no interest, no trial, no loyalty — therefore no sales.
It is imperative to utilise the power of experiential marketing to embrace your customers in a time where financial restrictions might limit or even jeopardise your campaign. As it is all about the experience, these don’t always have to be million dollar experiences. It is about being innovative and creative to truly create an experience that benefits the customer. A very simple experience may well be like a case study presented by Avon in the US, where hair stylists were recruited to educate the target market about breast cancer awareness, in their daily environment.
The power of experiential marketing understands the customer, the brand, and how to communicate to them effectively. It therefore moves through time and space to connect with the consumer in a fourth dimension. It is in this fourth dimension where the brand objectives, the experiential platform and the consumer reality intersect.
Companies have to reassess the motif behind creating customer- and employee-centric experiences. All of these experiences will be done in vain, if there is no personalised experience with the company, the brand or the product. As much as experiential can build a brand, there is also a danger for faux-experiential to damage the brand. Especially when the wrong message is communicated or even when the incorrect marketing medium is utilised. This then becomes disruptive marketing again, falling back into the path of traditional forceful marketing which does not benefit the customer.
There are two trends that I would like to highlight. These trends are supportive of the experiential ethos and assist with targeted communication to the customer. Firstly, there is a vivid increase in the integration of Digital/New Media into experiential marketing campaigns. This platform becomes an integral form of extension to most campaigns, as long as it is relevant and contributes in the continuation of communication post the customer-centric experience.
Secondly, another growing trend is the multi-agency integration model. This is where traditional agencies collaborate with experiential agencies to truly determine an integrated strategy and contribute to a 360-degree campaign with a strong red thread.
As the demand increases for brands to have a successful relationship with the consumer, there’s an increase in the selection criteria that customers use to identify the brands they support. We need to continually think creatively and exploit inventive approaches to liberate brands in the minds of the consumers. Let’s stay true to our raison d’être, and bring brands to life by introducing truly experiential campaigns. Let’s experience to understand!