Experiential marketing: Is it the future or just another almost big thing?

Experiential marketing: Is it the future or just another almost big thing?
Thad is a well-known, increasingly desired, highly valued, proven narrator, bringing with him the unique ability to convert your profit-based story into a positive results orientated marketing narrative and an internationally known integrated marketing consultant. Contact at thad.kubis@tifmc.org or at 917.597.1891.


In 2002, Steven Spielberg directed the film Minority Report, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. The PreCrime captain, played by Tom Cruise, used three psychic sources called “precogs” to predict crime prior to the event occurring and apprehend the potential criminal based on foreknown knowledge.

Advertising and marketing has been searching for a “Minority Report”-esque captain of its own for years. In the past, the discipline has attempted to use scientific advertising, predictive marketing, evaluated advertising, big and little data, and nearly any new marketing or communications trend that can or seem to achieve the goals of  ‘pre-tail’ or ‘pre-sell’ based marketing.

We have entered a world that will soon provide us with a ‘marketing Minority Report’ type tool. One can argue that the tool is already here – just hidden among the dust and ruins of the confused and weakened god of traditional marketing, digital media and non-integrated techniques.

Infact this new tool – code named MMR – is truly a convergence of media, message, medium and results. This tool combines the very best of legacy channels and media, such as print, printing, direct mail and traditional marketing, with a potpourri of new and emerging media including mobile, social, interaction, integration, metrics, analytics and offering the direct benefits such as dialogue and engagement.

Yes – this not-so-new tool is called experiential marketing (EM).

Media, as well as message, will now migrate from touch and sight – print ads, direct mail, broadcast – to an interactive haptic-based palette of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell

According to Nicole Galucci and her two books on this subject, this new tool is also known as Adversperience – The Convergence of Advertising and Experiential Marketing. I would suggest a slight variation on Nicole’s title; ‘Hapticexperience’ – The Convergence of Advertising and Marketing, with a positive assault on the five key senses; sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Think of the strategic components of a marketing effort; the brand, messaging, copy, creative, photography and media. Then, think enhancement via an experiential marketing strategy. Perhaps experiential marketing may be the most correct use of the term synergy.

Experience is provided by knowledge – knowledge offered via communications

We live in a world that demands experience – not always our own experience – as part of the buying process. We are on the verge of entering a universe that includes virtual reality tools offered by such cool technology like Oculus Rift, or transmedia leaders like Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner. Apps that support augmented reality (AR), image recognition and other new, yet to be developed technologies are allowing the marketer and the brand to not only pre-tail, but to understand by measuring the haptic (neuro science of touch) response reaction of the consumer to the brand’s marketing efforts. Accurate attribution is also part of the process of experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing therefore provides a life raft allowing the scattered information to be viewed, reviewed, analysed and used as needed.

A frequent problem has been how the brand combines (synergise) its needs with the needs and demands of the consumer (the surface of the ocean – experiential marketing lift raft works with B2C as well as B2B) as well as keeping the dialogue open and the engagement level and sales high.

As we explore experiential marketing in greater detail, this balancing act may become easier.

What is experiential marketing?

Just another ‘almost next big thing in marketing’, experiential marketing has a few different uses and, in turn, a few different definitions. Experiential marketing A (EMA) is a marketing tool or concept based on the actual experiences, melded into the brands offerings, of the consumer; buying habits, family, income, smart data and so on. Social media plays an important part in EMA. If you link social media to other non-digital and digital media the experiences become electric, exciting and generate a power or their own, sort of like a heightened crowdsourcing event.

Experiential marketing B (EMB) brings the experience of the brand, or the experience the brand wishes to present to the consumer, in the form of complex, well-planned, highly visual and interactive events. EMB is also smart and big data-based, with a slightly different point of view, but with the same end game in mind – a sale and establishment of a long-term consumer (B2B) engagement. As media converges, experiential marketing A and B will merge into a hybrid, and a new media form will be introduced – perhaps EMC (Experiential Marketing C) or MMR (Marketing Minority Report).

If you look to what has been and will continue to happen to our interaction media driven work, media as well as message will now migrate from touch and sight (print ads, direct mail, broadcast) to an interactive haptic-based palette of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

Need an example?

Consider a vacation spot that is looking to drive new visitors to its beaches. Past efforts may have included what is now called legacy media, perhaps a trade event, some testimonials, and of course social and digital media.

According to Human Condition CEO Peter Raymond, Volvo, Krispy Kreme, Heineken and others are using experiential marketing to address a number of brand needs

Today, using EMA, EMB or a combination of both, brands have the tools to fulfill the expected reactions and expectations of the consumer as well as offer in person, live, the experiences that the brand – in this case a beach town – has to offer. Sand, water, sun, food, beverages, customer beach reps – dressed in appropriate beach attire and using mobile technology to capture – immediately capture the results of those efforts.

Consider also the ever changing media landscape and the seven pillars of sales promotion; advertising, direct marketing, internet/interactive, sales promotion, publicity, personal selling and exhibitions) and you have a foundation to build upon that has never quite existed this way in the past. As they say, the planets are aligned – expect great things to happen.

Who is using experiential marketing?

Depending on the definition, more brands than you think are using this future view of marketing today. Major car manufacturers have been using EM for years, their “automobile shows” are at least to me leaders in the use of experienced, haptic-based marketing. The skill of driving, the smell of a new car, the sounds of the road, the excitement of the vehicle and the virtual test drive all fulfill the definition of experiential marketing. In May, I wrote how the ultimate wearable technology would be the AI based driverless car.

According to Peter Raymond, CEO of Human Condition, Good Housekeeping, Volvo, Tempur-Pedic, Krispy Kreme, Heineken and others are using experiential marketing to address a number of brand needs offered via direct and sub channel marketing- permanent displays, retail outlets, events, and pop-ups as tools to support guerrilla marketing.

Peter stated that when you combine the sub channels into a single focused effort you have achieved marketing and sales nirvana or EM. EM is also a near perfect tool to add partners to share in the expense as well as to benefit from the integration, the convergence of like, and relevant products each supporting each other. Shoes need socks, socks can need pants, which can need shirts, which can need personal hygiene products. You get the idea with that.

The hidden benefits of experiential marketing

Multiple sources indicted multiple direct, indirect, overt and covert benefits of including experiential marketing which are added into your marketing plans. According to my research, five much needed and desired benefits are provided:

Attendance: Consumers (B2B or B2C) like to be involved with all their senses and when you offer EM they flock to the events to touch, smell, taste, hear and of course see – being haptic is being cool.

Sales lift: Often on-site sales exceed the expected sales lift and perhaps more importantly, dialogue with and engagement of the consumer is vastly enhanced – which as all brands know can positively impact long-term sales.

Change of preference: Looking at the overall decline in traditional media, millennial consumers are ignoring yesterday and looking to their tomorrow. That means new experiences, changing of brand usage as well as in the way the brand and products are perceived. However traditional print media may decline, it continues to integrate and reach all demographic market segments.

New customers: It has long been known that getting someone to try your product can lead to an uptick in sales – think supermarket sampling. Successful EM events include hands on sense based sampling of the product offered.

Real time market research: As on-site sales are made, data is gathered and sales topics can be on-site revised to micro moment trends and other marketing intelligence gathered information.

PR and goodwill: A smile is the best response to a brand when dealing with a consumer – smiles can be followed by sales. Think amusement park, a county fair, and an event where happiness reigns, which is part of what EM is and should be.

Brands have the tools to fulfil the expected reactions and expectations of the consumer as well as offer in person, live, the experiences that the brand has to offer

I see various long standing world-known and famous events as the ‘parents’ of modern EM. Take the German beer festival “Oktoberfest” – a weeklong celebration of all that is beer and all that supports beer. Tastings, music, dance; food and eye candy such as Munich the host city. New Orleans and Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl half time and integration of the Super Bowl events into the city hosting the game, and not to forget the World Fairs of old or the State Fairs of today.

Automobile shows have been the modern sibling of EM events using tools, techniques and devices to shake, rattle and roll every human sense across nearly every known media.

Cindy Walas of Walas and Younger offers a series of AR-based tools to simply add EM to your traditional or print based marketing needs. Using an app names “linkz-im” a brand can bring a printed page to life via all five senses, track the response, build profits, introducing one media at a time.

What are you waiting for?

I often tell clients: add one media at a time. This advice allows you to correctly measure the impact of the additional, added media. I recommend the same as you venture into the world of EM. Think big, act small; expand as you see your goals being achieved.

Think sight, smell, touch, sound and taste – your marketing will benefit from the effort.


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