UNLOCKING THE AWE: EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

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As inherent in the very nature of being human, people talk. People make promises that they can not keep, make commitments that they can not keep loyal to, and most important of all, people portray themselves as capable of doing things which they are insufficiently courageous. Inferably, being human is deceptive by nature. Yet, what remains at the end from that deceptiveness is the disappointment on the faces of the people witnessing the words, promises, and commitments.  Experiential marketing intends to avoid strategies from developing such hollow scenarios.

Proving the philosophy that “not words but actions speak”, experiential marketing intends to make potential customers experience the brand/product in a memorable way rather than expose them to externally imposed push messages. As their distinguishing point from other marketing strategies, experiential strategies intend to pull the customer towards the offering by planting seeds of curiosity, interest, doubt, and excitement in consumers’ hearts and minds when they are expecting nothing (i.e., at vulnerable, oblivious, absent-minded, or simply “regular” moments). Indeed, the unexpectedness is what breaks mundanity, forces the customer to take action even if s/he has no time, and renders the experiential moment extraordinarily memorable. Such reliance on “fait-accompli” causes the consumer to end up seeking information about and interaction with the brand voluntarily. At this point, the strategy may resemble online buzz or any mindset underlying user-generated content. Yet, the fact that the strategy requires consumers’ all five senses’ (taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight) simultaneous inclusion makes experiential marketing unique.[1]

Sometimes referred to as part of guerilla marketing and sometimes as a subset of CRM efforts, experiential strategies ultimately aim at creating awareness, engaging consumers in the brand, enabling unforgettable brand-consumer interactions, creating branded memories, and earning the loyalty of customers by winning hearts and minds.[2] The strategy’s relevance to CRM seems to be apparent; yet, one may easily wonder how such a relationship-oriented strategy could possibly be a tool of guerilla campaigns. Well, the answer is quite simple: Through boosting branded relationships, experiential tactics leave competitors’ efforts literally “ab agendo.” No matter how hard the competitor tries, s/he can not end up creating the initial effect the experiential brand created in the first place, a fact which summarizes the difficulty in coming up with memorable strategies: Experiential endows the applier with a first-to-market advantage; whereas, it leaves absolutely no room for copycats, making every single experiential experience truly unique.

The top two brands that are known for experiential efforts are Coke and Adidas.[3] Coke’s putting vending machines that distribute “happiness” (e.g., free Coke, pizzas, sandwiches, CDs, or whatever the consumer happens to wish) in key cities, campuses, and bus stops illustrates the brand’s relevant efforts. Indeed, experiential tactics such as the brand’s distributing free coke and toys to relieve stressed drivers in rush hour on crowded bridges such as Fatih Bridge and Bogazici Bridge in Istanbul (Turkey) shows how Coke becomes an emotional brand not only through its slogan or value proposition but also through experiential campaigns.

Another brand to notice the additional customer-perceived value experiential tactics grant seems to be Adidas. The brand’s interactive pop-up stores[4] (e.g., stores that give a free pair of Adidas’s newest shoes on condition consumers win specific contests within the store) and unexpected fitting room experiences that feature random visits by David Beckham exemplify the way Adidas improves customer relationships, enhances loyalty in stores, and makes emotional connections with purchasers.

Yet, when it comes to my opinion regarding the strategy, an offering does not need to be perfectly branded, contrary to the cases of Coke and Adidas. An acknowledged brand identity and the perceptual consistency it brings along would undeniably facilitate consumers’ relating to the brand. In other words, consumers would easily decide whether to react and know better how to react to the brand because they would be exposed to something relatively familiar if a consistent brand identity existed. Yet, smaller or niche brands such as those of movie or car companies could leverage such strategies much more effectively if only they tried.

For instance, just last Thursday, I saw a car filled with multiple TV screens outside a park (i.e. illustrated in the picture at the beginning of the post). At first, I thought it part of a campaign to generate buzz for Mercedes’s 2015 gull-winged models 2015 (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT 2015) because the cars’ doors were exactly the same as those of the model in question. Neurotically seeking for a logo on the tires and hood, I was disappointed to remain empty-handed. Then, remembering the upcoming (now at the theatres) Fast and Furious movie, I desperately wondered whether the car was part of the movie’s promotional efforts. The car’s unusual design, vivid colors, the loud voice coming from the Michael Jackson movie featured on its TV screens all gave the impression that the car was there to create awareness and buzz as part of some campaign trying to scream out its presence.

Approaching to the man standing beside it, I was amazed to learn that he had just re-designed his car and brought it downtown to make money. Apparently, he was collecting money from the crowd and using the car as a means to gather people around himself. As he complained to me about not being able to collect much money, I advised him that he should print personal business cards to give out to the crowd, promoting his mechanic/designing skills. At the end of the day, he was obviously talented and could make more money as a “designer-mechanic” if he redesigned even a single car owned by one of the “potential customers” in the crowd. I, however, was upset to find out that neither Mercedes Benz nor Universal Pictures had been as strategically creative as the talented man I had just met.

Considering the brief analysis above, one can suggest that experiential is the way to capture consumers through playing on the most sensitive and “human” aspect of their existence: emotions. Although labelled as opportunistic by some, such strategies are far less intrusive and privacy-invading than mainstream CRM activities that record every single consumption habit and preference for the sake of creating additional customer value by offering relevant products and marketing talk. Nevertheless, experiential seems to be THE way for a brand to keep to the ultimate promise: “I don’t do idle talk; I perform.”

[1]Please notice that the information regarding the importance of senses in experiential marketing is with reference to http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

[2]The functions of experiential marketing have been derived from a brief reading of the following source: http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

[3]The examples of Coke and Adidas have been learnt from http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

[4]This example is with reference to http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

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5 thoughts on “UNLOCKING THE AWE: EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

  1. If I had things my way all marketing would be experiential. It forces consumers to use all their senses and creates a full sensory experience that can really go a long way. Unfortunately, creating truly effective experiential marketing is a lot harder than it seems. Few brands do it, and even less do it well. Coke is a great example of a brand that’s got it down cold. Brands need to put their money where their mouth is and deliver! Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing read. Experiential marketing allows consumers to be part of the brand promise. A brand can have major ad spots on TV or social media pages, but the way experiential marketing taps into the human emotion is indeed fascinating. In the process the consumers feel more involved with the brand as well.

    Like

  3. I too think that marketing campaigns that engage consumers in an unexpected way creates not only buzz but also a memorable experience that will resonate far after the experience is over. Participants have no choice but to engage with the brand in an emotional way, thus making it more than just about products.
    Great post!

    Like

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