Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Many Definitions of Experiential Marketing (and Does It Matter There Is Not One Universally Understood Definition?)

I launched ExperienceTheBlog with a post that defined "Experiential Marketing." I offered the definition we use at Fullhouse:

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 in that definition represents a discrete and important aspect of Experiential Marketing--planning, strategy, and audience definition; sensory experiences; being desirable and memorable to consumers; fitting the brand; measuring success; and being channel agnostic.

This week, someone in our agency suggested that the term "Experiential Marketing" is simply too misunderstood to be of use in communications. It was suggested the term may cause more confusion than help when it comes to defining our agency's services, benefits, mission, and vision.

The reason for the confusion is that so many event agencies are rebranding themselves as experiential agencies. As a result, we repeately run into propsects and clients who, upon hearing we specialize in Experiential Marketing, will respond, "I didn't know you do events!" (For the record, Fullhouse provides strategy, development, and management of communications technology that creates memorable experiences intended to increase brand awareness, preference, and consideration.)

Clearly, event agencies are part of the experiential marketing concept, but an experiential marketing effort doesn't need to include a real world event. Or, at least, not in my definition. Or, for that matter, in the definition of many others.

I thought I'd share the varied definitions I ran across when searching Google for the term “Definition ‘Experiential Marketing’”. The results reflect a wide variety of perceptions:

  • Wikipedia: Experiential marketing attempts to connect consumers with brands in personally relevant and memorable ways. The alternative term customer-experience marketing emphasises the idea of communicating the essence of a brand through a personalised experience.
  • AdventResults: Experiential Marketing connects audiences with the authentic nature of a brand through participation in personally relevant, credible and memorable encounters. Whereas traditional marketing has focused on mass communication using rational, left-brain directed persuasion, experiential marketing focuses on making a personalized connection using emotional, right-brain directed involvement.
  • Marketing.Science: Marketing that gives customers in-depth experiences with products in order to give them enough information to make the purchase decision.
  • Fast Company: This is an interesting blog post that lists several definitions:
    • Marketing that involves one or more of the senses.
    • Quotes this from the International Experiential Marketing Association: "Businesses will live or die not by the attributes they promise, but by the experience they offer customers at every touch point – in the store, at the website, with the product, and through events and advertising."
    • And, of interest to the question of event vs. experiential marketing, the blogger notes this: “My own interest in Experiential Marketing is strongly based in event organizing, though I don't want to limit the practice to discrete events. However, I will be pursuing my fascination with such marketing experiments as Charmin's bathrooms in Times Square, images and videos of which have proliferated online.
  • Promo : “Live, one-on-one interaction that allows consumers to create an emotional connection with brands.”
  • Experiential Marketing Forum: Experiential marketing gives customers an opportunity to engage and interact with brands, products, and services in sensory ways that provide the icing on the cake of providing information. The term "Experiential marketing" refers to actual customer experiences with the brand/product/service that drive sales and increase brand image and awareness. It's the difference between telling people about features of a product or service and letting them experience the benefits for themselves.
  • Decent Marketing: Connected relevance + meaning + interaction (The experience makes sense for both the brand and the person experiencing it . The execution should have a lasting impact and be memorable or in some other way meaningful to the consumer. The consumer should have some degree of control or interaction.)
  • Digital Squeeze: Interacting in person and bringing your brand alive.
  • Experience the Message: In 2006 survey, 62.9% of marketers agreed with this definition: "A company's ability to utilize various methods of marketing, thus enabling its target audience to experience its brand, services and products. Examples of experiential marketing methods include live events and gatherings; Web-based events, webcasts and podcasts; and product or service demonstrations and/or test-drives."
  • The 15th link on Google was to the definition noted above on this blog.
What do you think? Does it matter that the term is not universally understood? Do you have a different definition?


Wangui said...

The concept of experiential marketing is brought out quite well in the movie ,"The Joneses"....watched it? I highly recommend it....

VabMedia said...

This a Very is a interesting question about what exactly is "experiential Marketing". My employer's company has been branded activation and experiential marketing since 2001. Although i agree with you that in can happen online, most agencies like MKTG and MKG do most of their services based around actual events that have live attendee's showing up. Whether it is mobile tour, a new flag store, or simply a product launch. The Event photo activation that happens with getting consumers to share photos from the events is certainly a big part of the online experience happening. Nice article.