Feel, sense, think, act, relate: The benefits of experiential marketing

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Ten years ago, for most marketers, their core remit was focused on simply getting the brand out there and raising awareness by handing out samples and promotional vouchers, or pulling off stunts that got people talking.

Today, strategy has got far more sophisticated and targeted, with the aim of creating memorable experiences for consumers and giving them the chance to really interact with a brand.

Experiential, as part of an integrated communications strategy, can be a tangible way to build and deepen customer relationships. As marketers we first need to understand human behaviour and motivations, and what fuels people’s basic desires and emotions. 

Richard Edwards recently alluded to the concept of experiential being a more holistic approach to modern marketing, suggesting marketers should now be asking the following questions in the process of imagining new campaigns: 

Feeling – What will it feel like to use your product or service?
Sensing – How do customers physically sense your product?
Thinking – How obvious can you make the benefits of your product through demonstration? Can you hint at an untapped ocean of potential behind the short demo?
Acting – Changes in behaviour can be highly motivational and empowering. What behaviours will your product help to facilitate?
Relating – How does your product or service link the customer to others, to things or even to a projection of their future self?
So, if experiences are the foundation of people’s lives and conversations, and a core objective of marketing is to get people talking positively about brands and products, it should come to no surprise that "experiences" are becoming an integral part of the best marketing campaigns.

Recent research conducted by Google and Ogilvy supports this, with findings showing that consumers are more influenced by word of mouth when making purchasing decisions than by print media, TV, movies and brand websites. Coupled with studies by consulting firm McKinsey which highlight that experiential brand experience is the most powerful form of word of mouth driving activity accounting for 50 to 80% in any given product category, it is clear where brands need to invest. Living in an over-crowded competitive market place, it is even more crucial than ever for brands to invest time and money in building strong relationships with their customers.

Coca-Cola for example, uses experiential marketing to create a closer bond between itself and the consumer by immersing them in fun and memorable experiences. The Coca-Cola ‘Beat Generator’ was a customised music app which enabled consumers to mix their own music. It formed the core of a 70-day brand experience celebrating Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. As a result 9,000 pieces of music were created onsite with 2,500 retrieved online. There were 16,500 sessions on the Coca-Cola Beat Generator website and 1.78m Facebook impressions were delivered.

Brand advocates are crucial for any brand, and by rewarding die-hard loyal fans, brands can create ‘brand influencers’ who will become their best brand ambassadors. Taco Bell, for instance, invested in creating an exclusive experience for its loyal enthusiasts when launching the new Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos. Providing these brand advocates exclusive access to the new taco gave them a reason to seek out and enjoy a first taste which would ultimately result in spreading the news to their followers.

Interestingly, the venue was a flower shop in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood where representatives delivered the highly anticipated taco by using the secret password “blue bouquet”. Within the location there were hidden cameras capturing consumer reactions and within a few days of the event, the NY Taco Bell YouTube video had received over one million views.

To remain relevant, brands also now need to find new ways to extend and enrich campaigns – be it before, during or after the event. With social media audiences constantly evolving, there has never been a better moment to ensure that digital and experiential marketing go hand in hand. Digital provides brands with the perfect platform to add to the overall engagement, providing consumers with an instantaneous way to continue their relationship with the brand.

One example is Ben and Jerry’s, which took over Covent Garden as part of its Core Tour to give customers free ice-cream. To extend the activity, consumers were invited to follow the action and interact with the ‘Core Tour’ through social media. Through the tour, the public could additionally request through social media for the tour vans to stop off at their own offices and homes while they completed their journey across the UK.

In a crowded marketplace it is crucial for brands to build loyalty with their customers to ensure a lasting and engaging relationship. An effective way to cement this bond is by engaging and exciting consumers in a fun, memorable and relevant experience. As a result, experiential marketing can be more effective than any other form of marketing. However to be truly successful, experiential campaigns should not only have a clear link to the brand but also need to target the right audience at the right time in the right manner.

Jill Pinner is the founder and chairperson for Fizz, one of the UK's leading experience agencies

About Jill Pinner

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