How experiential marketing is creating a sea-change in the world of branding


Ask any consumer what they think of all the advertising messages they are exposed to on a daily basis and chances are the majority, as most surveys have revealed, believe there is far too much advertising noise – whether offline or online. A sizable percentage of consumers have also admitted that they avoid purchasing products that over-advertise.

Several months ago, I attended a local conference organized by a Canadian marketing group. I was drawn to one of the key note speakers, in particular, who made a compelling presentation on the benefits of “experiential marketing”. To me this clever approach was the antithesis to traditional advertising which is generally a monologue. Rather than sell the features of products or services, you apply innovation to draw your ad audience’s full attention to your wares. What’s more, this tactic builds brand awareness which settles longer in the mind of the consumer – allowing people to experience the benefits for themselves. As consumers are bombarded with multiple messages daily, companies ought to find a way to keep their brands top of mind and earn loyalty.

The speaker I was referring to here is Max Lenderman – a pioneer in the field of experiential marketing who is also an award winning published author, a sought after speaker and media commentator on this subject. Lenderman encourages businesses to look beyond traditional communication to get customers interacting with and living their brands. His frequently utilizes the expression/slogan, “Experience the message”.

Experiential branding vs. experiential marketing

Experiential branding refers to differentiating a product or service in the consumers’ mind by focusing on the total experience, rather than focusing on the features, benefits or attributes of the product, whereas, experiential marketing signifies integrating brand or product messages into consumers’ lives in the form of interactive experiences, rather than delivering them through traditional static media such as television or in print.

In today’s economy: buying experiences and conversations

Experience based marketing tactics which fall under the category of “guerilla marketing”, are consumer centric. The approach gives customers an opportunity to engage and interact with products and services in creative and compelling ways. The goal is to establish the connection in a way that the consumer responds to a product offering built upon emotional and rational response levels. The unique experience can turn viral as word will spread quickly to others. Therefore, the aim of the experiential marketer is to add excitement with a dose of entertainment to what otherwise might pass as lackluster.

Marketing guru Philip Kotler, in his book “Marketing insights from A to Z: 80 concepts every manager needs to know”, states that marketing experiences or designing experiences around goods and services have many illustrations. For example, great restaurants are known for their experience as much as their food. Starbucks charges $2 or more to experience coffee at its finest. A restaurant such as Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café is specifically set up as an experience. Las Vegas hotels, anxious to distinguish themselves, take on the character of ancient Rome or New York City. But the master is Walt Disney, who created the opportunity to experience the cowboy West, fairyland castles, pirate ships, and the like.

Those who follow Apple are familiar that their Genius Bar is a huge success. The concept offers its customers:

  • Free advice,
  • A well designed ambiance,
  • Well-trained & friendly staff,
  • Appointments can be set to avoid long waiting periods.

With the Genius Bar, Apple created a conversation. When you enter their stores, you experience a two way conversation along with meeting or exceeding your expectations.

Loyalty Lessons: Case studies of effective experiential campaigns

P&G’s Tide – CleanStart mobile free laundry service

Tide CleanStart first launched in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to provide clean clothes for affected families in New Orleans. The resilience and spirit of the people of New Orleans inspired Tide to expand the program and bring laundry service to Southern California, helping families affected by the wildfires of October 2007. Collectively, Tide has washed more than 30,000 loads of laundry for New Orleans and Southern California families. The Tide CleanStart truck is now prepared to help displaced residents, people in shelters and other people whose homes and personal items have been impacted by the Iowa flood.

Times Square and Toilet Paper

As posted by Jill Griffin in (Jan 23, 2008).

Toilet Paper. How do you successfully build an engaging, loyalty-building brand story around that product? Just ask the ace marketers at Proctor & Gamble and they’ll likely tell you about the 20 free, deluxe Charmin restrooms opened in New York’s Time Square for the 2007 holiday season. At the same location in 2006, the Charmin Holiday rest rooms served more than 420,000 people from 100 countries and all 50 states, so a 2007 encore was in order.

But free, family-friendly restrooms and ample toilet tissue were just one part of the unique, memorable brand story crafted by the Charmin team. First, friendly folks dressed as dancing toilets greeted passersby on the street, inviting them to visit the Charmin Holiday Restrooms nearby. Visitors then took escalators up and wove through a rope line while a legion of smiling hosts wearing Charmin apparel greeted them and upbeat holiday music played in the background. Inside the stalls (serviced by staff after every use), Ultra Strong and Ultra Soft tissue were available and afterwards, guests were asked to vote for their favorite.

Making it work

Experiential marketing should strive to:

  • Deliver a meaningful benefit to the consumer;
  • Engage people in a memorable ways;
  • Be authentic;
  • Deliver relevant communication to consumers only where and when they are most responsive to them;
  • Succeed using innovation to reach consumers in creative and compelling ways.

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