Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What is Experiential Marketing?

If you ask 100 marketers to define "experiential marketing," you will get 100 answers. Perhaps even more.

The term is often misused to describe event marketing, which is promotion of a brand through sponsorship of or participation at an event. But while event marketing is a part of experiential marketing (XM), XM is something more.

The definition we use at Fullhouse is:

Deliberate encounters
that engage consumers' senses
to create lasting impressions
that drive our clients' brands
in a measurable way
online, in the physical world, or both.

Each line of this definition is meant to illustrate an important aspect of XM:
  • Deliberate encounters: XM requires careful planning, or at least good XM does. This includes defining the target consumers; identifying their wants, needs, expectations, and state of mind; carefully engineering the intended brand experience; creating a plan to draw the right consumers into the experience; establishing desired outcomes; and executing the mechanisms to measure success.

  • That engage consumers' senses: An old Chinese proverb goes: "Tell me, I’ll forget; Show me, I’ll remember; Involve me, I’ll understand." Parents and teachers have always innately understood this, but for decades marketers have settled for merely showing and telling. Now that consumers are increasingly tuning out TV ads, skipping radio, avoiding newspapers, and blocking online banners, smart marketers are finding ways to get, use, and keep consumer attention by creating experiences for more than just the eyes and ears.
  • To create lasting impressions: In today's world, we encounter hundreds of brand messages every day, but how many of them can be recalled or have any impact (even subconsciously) on our decision making? True experiences engage us, and in doing so, change the way we think or feel.

  • That drive our clients' brands: Creating an experience is easy--just punch someone unexpectedly, and chances are they'll recall that experience years later. XM doesn't merely create an experience, or even just a positive experience, but finds the appropriate unique experience that says something particular about a particular brand, thus changing consumers' relationship with the brand.

  • In a measurable way: You cannot improve or evaluate what you cannot measure. While some of the metrics used in XM borrow from traditional media (such as simple counts of the number of people who visit a site or enter an event), the best measurements help marketers understand that they've reached the desired audience and have had a real impact on their brand perceptions or their actions.

  • Online, in the physical world, or both: XM is too often thought of as being a physical medium, but it is clear that consumers are increasingly finding engaging experiences online that keep them coming back for more. The best XM doesn't settle for just one medium, nor does it settle for a single short-lived experience, but instead creates a brand relationship that can continue and grow over time, making the best possible use of the physical and virtual worlds in which consumers live.
What do you think of our definition of XM? I'd welcome your thoughts, insights, gripes, and other feedback.


Sean said...

I enjoyed your explanation of Experiential Marketing. I completely agree with each area of your definition and evaluated our experience marketing proposition to your definition.

At Sports Capture we focus on Celebrating Golf's Experiences We "deliberately" designed a memorable, measurable process to a well defined and highly desired demographic (golfers). We add value for our resort course partners and additional brand partners by enhancing the guest experience, increasing on-resort spending & new revenue for our brand marketing partners.

We "engage" with each guest at the ideal time when they have just completed an enjoyable day, a wonderful course and a great day with friends. Not during emails, rush our or during TV, but a perfect time to make a lasting impression.

We do not create the "lasting impression" the player and the course accomplishes this on their own, but we provide a personal gift uniquely delivered that packages the lasting impression for each guest to take home and relive again and again.

And finally we also determined two mediums to deliver our experiential marketing, both on-line and in-hand. Both are delivered with a personal interaction, but both provide different value propositions.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to use this as a type of exercise to test our awarding winning capability against your various benchmarks.


Augie Ray said...

Thanks Sean. I appreciate the feedback and the real world example for your own brand.

Vivien said...

Is experiential marketing a post transactional paradigm that is an extension of relationship marketing??

Augie Ray said...


I appreciate the question, although I am not entirely sure I understand it. If I don't give you a thorough answer, feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, and follow-up questions!

I do not see Experiential Marketing (XM) as "post transactional," and while I think smart XM should start or enhance a brand/consumer relationship, I think it's possible to have an XM program that doesn't feed data into a CRM system or program.

As noted, I think XM lacks a single, recognized definition, so you can take this with a grain of salt, but I think XM is about creating a compelling, emotional experience. This can happen before the transaction to create awareness, consideration, or trial or after the transaction to create loyalty, resue, or influence.

I also think an XM program can happen with a complete stranger who remains a complete stranger. I don't think this is a best practice, but a consumer could interact with a real-world or online experience and not be forced to register or provide their information. So, while XM can enhance relationship marketing by encouraging the furnishing of data, this is not a requirement of XM.

Perhaps an example might be of assistance. One online program I respected a great deal was the BMW Films program, which featured exciting, emotional short films produced by famous directors and featuring BMW in key roles. The program was very buzz-worthy and created an exciting online experience for consumers.

This program was pre-transactional. It was designed to improve BMW's brand consideration and associations with key brand concepts such as quality, performance, and excitement. One could view the movies without registering, but those who did register would be alerted when additional shorts were made available.

The BMW Films example doesn't meet everyone's definition of "Experiential." Some claim XM requires a 1-to-1 interaction, some suggest it requires a real-life interaction, and some feel it isn't experiential unless the consumer touches the product. I disagree--I believe anything that creates a compelling and memorable experience that is welcomed by the consumer and that alters perception or awareness of the brand is an effective XM program.

Does this help, or have I answered a question you didn't ask?

Sunaina Sharma said...

Though, generally I just go on posts, read and move. But this one, I had to leave the comment.
I really liked your post on experiential marketing, i was on look out for notes for my first lecture on Experiential Marketing and it was worth visiting your blog, bookmarked as well.