What does Experiential Marketing mean?
Experiential means ‘involving or based on experience and observation’.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines Marketing as:
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
(Approved July 2013)
So Experiential Marketing means “undertaking the process of marketing based on observation and/or experience” or simply practicing marketing!
No wonder people are generally confused by the term. It clearly has a different meaning to its linguistic components and so doesn’t make sense. That qualifies it as Jargon: a term that only those in the know can unlock because, in itself, it makes no sense.
So what is the received meaning?
Wikipedia lists experiential marketing under the heading of ‘engagement marketing’ and defines it as:
The Eco Consultancy cite it as
a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience.
Perhaps by looking at some practical examples we can gain a clearer understanding?
Reviewing10 good examples it is clear that the focus is to create specific events that are ‘immersive’ experiences with the aim to create awareness and appeal of the product/service. The term stunt is probably the best way of thinking of it. Perhaps we should call it what it is: Stunt Marketing?
Experiential marketing, rather than being an interchangeable term with engagement is probably best defined as Stunt Marketing
engaging the customer with the brand, product or service by creating a positive memorable experience, in the form of an event or stunt, that reinforces the brand values.
So where does this ‘stunt’ marketing fit in the consumer buying journey?
There is no doubt that Stunt Marketing is a brand engagement activity and, when well designed and delivered, it enables the customer to have a physical experience of the brand.
It is interesting to reflect that Marketers when surveyed by Marketing week for the article ‘Is Brand engagement a meaningless metric?’ in 2016 made no mention Experiential Marketing. Their answers are shown below.
And the article noted that:
Engagement for visual search is based on measuring the steps that people take while in the app, including whether it leads to a sale. But Hiwaizi says: “If the commerce happens offline, we have to be smarter to find ways of correlating the digital interaction with an offline purchase.”
So not only is experiential marketing not really in the minds of marketers, but marketers are still in search of a metric to measure brand engagement.
Perhaps the struggle is because the evolving definitions have lost the essence of what marketing really is?
The original definition of marketing was:
Satisfying customers’ needs and wants profitably
We can clarify this further by moving some words around and making it a little less elegant:
the process of enabling customers to satisfy their needs and wants in exchange for more money than it costs
Whilst unsophisticated this provides a better platform from which to understand Engagement.
Engagement, in the context of marketing, is the act of being engaging. In other words attractive and appealing. So brand engagement is the act of attracting customers to the brand. Brand engagement is therefore a measure of how attractive customers find the brand.
Ultimately the brand wants to attract the consumers money and their discretionary effort in encouraging other people to spend their money on the brand. This latter activity is called advocacy. So the ultimate measure of brand engagement is currency and goodwill. Things that can be measured in the company accounts.
So where does Stunt Marketing fit in?
Customers start with a desire. The next step is assembling list of products from which they will choose one. The first step for any brand is to get onto that list and to do that it needs to attract attention. Stunts may play a role in achieving that, but the customer increasingly wants an omnichannel experience. They want brands that engage them at every touch point along their purchasing journey, not just at the begining. They want Brands that are consistently engaging.
Our memory is long enough to recall that in the 1994 Tom Peters wrote a book- In pursuit of WOW! It explained how some companies focused on spotting opportunities to create moments of WOW in serving their customers. Back then the mantra was to empower brand representatives (employees) to be able to act when they saw the opportunity arise to delight the customer. However, the list of companies that got it then, or now, is pitifully short.
So organisations shold focus their efforts on creating great brand experiences in the moments that matter most to customers.
That requires identifying those moments and then knowing how to act when they occur to engage. In our opinion, the retailers and brands that will win over the next 10 years are those which can combine behavioural science, technology and empowerment of their brand representatives to act to create moments of WOW. Every time they get the chance!
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