• Experiential Marketing Simplified


    Experiential marketing might sound like just some more jargon, but the concept is quite simple really. It’s an innovative way to market a product that’s high on the ‘touch and feel’ factor. It focuses on the consumer’s side of the marketing process, something that all good and effective marketing techniques should do.

    The definition that most marketers work with is:

    “Expe­ri­en­tial Mar­ket­ing con­nects audi­ences with the authen­tic nature of a brand through par­tic­i­pa­tion in per­son­ally rel­e­vant, cred­i­ble and mem­o­rable encounters.”[1]

    “Experiential marketing is a form of marketing that creates an emotional connection with a consumer. It’s the actual customer experience with the product and service that resides in the customer’s consciousness. Using one or more of the senses such as touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing – Experiential Marketing seeks to establish a touch point or connection with the customer – connections in the form of experiences that are personal, memorable, interactive and emotional in scope.”[2]

    Experiential marketing is all about concentrating on the customer’s emotions and experiences. It has been seen that for various kinds of products, mostly low-involvement impulse purchases, an emotional appeal works much more effectively than a rational appeal. Think about it. Suppose you’re at a supermarket. You’re tired and weary after all the shopping. All the walking around, carrying heavy bags, has made you hungry. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, the smell of rich, aromatic coffee beans hits you, coupled with the sweet aroma of freshly baked brownies. You instinctively walk over to the café situated inside the supermarket and spend obscene amounts of money on food that you could have probably gotten at a cheaper rate outside. But you don’t think of that because you’re tired and hungry, and want immediate satisfaction. All this wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been hit by the delicious smell of coffee and cake. This is experiential marketing. Making the customer experience the product for himself or herself, first hand, so he or she is almost under compulsion to make a purchase.

    The goal is to establish a memorable ‘connect’ with the consumer by playing on the 5 senses of a human being- sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. This essentially works on the right brain- the ‘creative, free thinking, emotional’ side- of the consumer.

    experiential marketing

    A few examples of a good usage of experiential marketing are discussed below.

    Let’s start off closer to home. Mahindra Tractors wanted to launch a strong hydraulic tractor that enabled farmers to plough the field more efficiently. For this, they launched a campaign called ‘Hy Tech’. To showcase this technology to the farmers, Mahindra engaged them through a technique in which sensors were fixed to the hydraulic and a large LCD monitor was placed for the farmers. This captured the movement of the cultivator on an ECG graph. The farmers easily understood the functioning and effects of the hydraulic tractor. They could see the tangible benefits for themselves before making the purchase. Moreover, the recall value was higher, since the farmers could themselves try out the tractor. Also, the unique way in which they could see the effects, the usage of the LCD monitor, etc. all contributed to a more involved experience, and the sales graph went shooting up.

    Another example is TVS. TVS launched a wedding campaign promoting its bikes, to capture the maximum target audience as the wedding season swept a greater part of North India, especially Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Mobile vans made on a ‘wedding theme’ were used to create awareness and promote the newly launched bikes, which were named StaR sports and StaR city (ES spoke variant) across 50 districts. This was done through demonstrations. The whole initiative was a tremendous success, generating more than 50,000 enquiries in just 1000 days. TVS became somewhat of a buzzword in Uttar Pradesh since they captured on the one thing that is very Indian and breeds a community feeling- our weddings.

    Whirlpool, the consumer electronic durables giant, launched a campaign for Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The audience experienced the brand functions via road shows, small kiosks and interactive sessions. The promotional activity generated over 600 enquires in 75 days.

    These are just a few of the many Indian companies that have dipped their toes into the waters and experimented with experiential marketing tactics.

    Experiential marketing is highly effective because it cuts across the advertising clutter, and appeals to the consumer at a direct level. It also serves the purpose of creating a higher recall value, and is thus, a more efficient marketing technique. However, pitfalls do exist. It is difficult to measure, for one. It is can also be more expensive to implement, because rolling out a mass campaign is difficult, and requires greater investment in terms of time and resources. There are ways to use this tool smartly though.

    It can be used in many different innovative ways. For example, after the release of Star Wars III, Wal Mart, which was the licensed distributor of star wars products, used promoters, tents and a person dressed as Darth Vader to pull the crowd. More than 2500 people were hired and trained for the event. Suffice to say, it was a huge success. Hindustan Unilever Limited has been using experiential marketing since 1996 when it launched the Pepsodent Dentist interaction with free dental check-ups, interaction with dentists, touchscreen kiosks, etc. It also set up Lipton Tea kiosks serving mocktails, health beverages made from HUL brands as well as ice cream. But experiential marketing isn’t just for the big guys. Small companies can use it very effectively too. For example, chocolate tasting events, demonstrations at craft shows by toy-makers[3], etc.

    As can be seen, experiential marketing can be done in a variety of ways. There just doesn’t seem to be a dearth of ideas. It’s of little wonder then, that most companies these days are going the Experiential Marketing way.

    [1] http://adventresults.com/2007/10/30/definition-of-experiential-marketing

    [2] http://web2pointzeromarketing.blogspot.com/2008/03/definition-of-experiential-marketing.html

    [3] http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/205988

  • Sponsorships in Sports

    ‘Sports’ is a hot marketing property. Something so irrational can evoke such strong emotions at individual and collective level that it is difficult to match the passion generated by it. And everyone knows that marketing thrives on emotions. Traditionally, the bulk of marketing budget has always gone into advertising on popular mediums like television. But it is no longer the era of single channel on air where one used to give 100% attention to the advertisements. Now people have options of 100 channels to switch between while your advertisement is running. They have the technology to skip your ads. They have internet on their smartphones. They now have a hundred similar things to turn to when you interrupt their entertainment with intrusive ads. You don’t have their attention for your advertisements. It is tough to capture their imagination if they are not even paying attention. This is where sponsorship comes in. Something which is a subtle part of your entertainment or even entertainment in itself. One of the formal definitions of Sports sponsorship known to us is “The acquisition of rights to affiliate or directly associate with a product, event, team or person for purpose of deriving benefits related to that association.” Sponsorship offers much more than advertisements: Brand awareness, live audience, on site sampling, client entertainment, employee branding, consumer connect & interactivity to mention a few.

    Broadly we can categorize four levels of sponsorships in sports. At the lowest level one can sponsor a player. This is the lowest level of involvement and also involving highest risk. Next level would be sponsoring a sports team. Again, it is a risky involvement and also costlier than a single player. Higher level would be sponsoring a tournament or event. The highest level would be sponsoring the passion of a sport itself. Association of fans is purest and deepest at this level.

    Let’s talk about sponsorship at the level of individual players first. Traditionally firms only used players for advertisement but these days the sponsorship has taken a more holistic shape. You will see players involved in product launches, promotion drives, customer engagement and even product designs now. We have seen innovations from firms involving their brand ambassadors. Firms like Nike and Adidas have launched products based on the players it signs. The most popular example would be the Air Jordan brand of shoes and athletic apparels launched by Nike in collaboration with Michael Jordan. And this was way back in 1985. In India Adidas signed Sachin Tendulkar in the 1990s and made special shoes for him. His sponsored bat is also personalized with special inputs from him and called ‘Adidas MasterBlaster Elite’. Obviously, categories that are a better fit with sports can make more of their involvement with players. Sports apparels, energy drinks and other products which are involved in the game directly or indirectly have a better fit. Nike, Adidas and others will always be involved with sports because this forms a major target segment of their business. They would like to associate themselves with characteristics of sports and how they represent the same values & attributes displayed by their brand ambassadors on the field. Sponsorship of an individual also comes with a certain amount of risk. You are banking on his future on-field performances which no one can guarantee. Another risk comes from a player’s off field image. A lot of times they get embroiled in controversies and the firms associated with them have to suffer. Tiger Woods made life difficult for a lot of firms who had to decide whether to continue their association with him after he was in news for all the wrong reasons. Of course, betting on an already established player is safer but is also costly at the same time. That is why a lot of firms like to bet on players when they are young and reap the benefits if they make it large on the international stage.

    Next level of sponsorship would be to sponsor a whole team. It could be a national team like Sahara and Wills have been involved with Indian Cricket Team in past or it could be clubs like Manchester United being associated with Vodafone. Now this is again a risky proposition in terms of on-field performance and off-field controversies but the benefits are greater here and usually at a higher cost. Costs are high because the association needs to be for a fairly longer time to reap some substantial benefits. There is certain goodwill attached with the brand Sahara after their association with the cricket and hockey teams of India for so long. Apart from getting a big slot on their jerseys, you can have players endorse your brands, make them attend your product launches and even use them as perks for competitions for brand activation. A lot of competitions have been organized which promise rewards such as spending time with your favourite teams and its star players. Similar programs are used for motivating channel partners. These sponsorships also provide the firms with premium passes and exclusive reach to some of the premium events which helps the sales team in their B2B efforts.

    We now move to a much safer level of sponsorship. Sponsoring a whole tournament is comparatively a much less risky deal. Mostly, you know the kind of benefits you will get irrespective of the performances of individual players. Though sometimes, when the popular teams or players are knocked out too early, the tournament loses a lot of spectators. This is what happened when India and Pakistan were both knocked out of 2007 world cup in the initial stages. Still the loss would have been much more for the sponsors of the teams and players those were knocked out. We have seen names like Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Natwest of England and now Micromax became household names banking on such sponsorship. There are so many ways to be involved with tournaments. Title Sponsors, stadium branding, on field logos, scoreboards, mascots, prize distributions, sight screens, drinks trolleys, lucky spectators and post game parties are some of them.

    Now the highest level of involvement would be associating your brand with the pure passion of a sport. This is the toughest level to achieve and requires lot of effort, time & capital. Red Bull is making an attempt to align itself with adventure sports. Pepsi and Coke constantly try and associate themselves on all levels of sports including the whole passion associated with. Recently, where Pepsi has tried to attract the fast growing football fans market in India, coke has again strongly backed ‘Cricket’ as the pure passion of our nation. DLF sponsoring IPL and Barclays association with EPL is also kind of somewhere between sponsoring a tournament and the passion of sport itself. Such long term associations give you a top of the mind remembrance with its fans.

    If we take the recent example of Olympics we can find Brands like Hero MotorCorp, Samsung and Amul associating with Team India in different ways. Adidas went behind Team GB with its ‘Take the stage’ competition but the real winner among sponsors has to be P&G, who in my opinion went for the highest level of sponsorship by targeting one of the biggest sporting spectacles of the world and associating with it at the pure passionate level. There campaign ‘Thank you Mom’ turned out to be the most impactful in 2012 London Olympics. It is to be noted that this is the first time they promoted the P&G brand so prominently instead of the individual product brands. And they did choose the platform wisely because nothing matches the international stature of P&G as well as ’Olympics’.

    *Following is the positioning of some of the Brands in India on where they stand at this sports sponsorship model.

    All the positive factors aside, all prospective sponsorships should be a strategic fit with firm’s marketing plans. Firm should evaluate what association will actually benefit it. A famous joke about coke taking a dig at its aggressive sponsorship activities went like this “If it stands still, paint it red, and if it moves, sponsor it.” A veteran in Direct Marketing in India who has seen clients demand for meaningless sponsorship deals thinks that many such sponsorships are result of personal interests of brand managers to embellish their resumes and to be seen handing over the winning trophies in the presentation ceremonies. Well cynicism aside, value derived from such sponsorship should always exceed the cost of that sponsorship keeping in the mind the time frame which the firm is ready to commit.

    *Inputs taken from class discussions of the course “Sports, Entertainment and Media Marketing – Prof C.D Mitra” and HBR case “Keeping to the fairway by Thomas J.Waite”

  • “The All New” or “The Good Old” Nimbu Paani

    All of a sudden, everybody is after the humble nimbu paani. It started with PepsiCo and Parle Agro launching Nimbooz and LMN respectively in 2009. Recently, Coke has jumped into the fray with the lemon version of Minute Maid, calling it Nimbu Fresh. While LMN and Nimbooz enjoyed a fair bit of advertising last year with their launch (and nearly equal success in the market), surprisingly, Parle Agro has not launched any advertisement for LMN this year. Nimbooz has come up with a couple of TVCs and Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh too has quite a gripping advertisement. Let’s analyze the ads for Nimbooz & Nimbu Fresh.

    Last year, Pepsi had focused on the ‘real lemon, nothing artificial’ aspect of the drink, and mentioned ‘asli Indian(real Indian)’ at the end of the TVC without focusing on the ‘Indian’ positioning much. However, this year the positioning seems to be totally on it being the real Indian refreshing drink. Coke too has chosen a somewhat similar positioning; but there’s a difference in the way the two have projected the same.

    Nimbooz ads are humorous, which even take a dig at some of the common not-so-pleasant Indian practices. On the other hand, Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh tries to build an emotional connect with the consumer. As with the theme, the ads too have invited different reactions from the viewers.

    Above shown Nimbooz ads shows a sweaty office-goer sitting beside an auto-rickshaw driver for the morning commute in extreme heat, with the VO “jab office hai jaana, to driver ki god se kya sharmaana(why be ashamed of sitting in the driver’s lap while going to office)”. Though I agree that this scene is very common in the morning hours, and many office-goers would have experienced it, I’m sure none of them is fond of it. Further, the VO makes it downright gross along with the visuals of sweat dripping everywhere.

    Compare it with the Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh TVC. It shows some children playing cricket in the heat, and then running off to their respective homes at the end of the match, having a lemonade prepared by their mother. Does it not invoke nostalgia in all of us! And that’s exactly what they show next: a 20-something guy, probably heading for office, being reminded of his mother’s lemonade while enjoying Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh. And then, the VO “bikul ghar jaisa(exactly like home-made)” drills in the same message.

    The result of the two campaigns with different themes (Minute Maid & Nimbooz) is yet to be seen in terms of numbers. The numbers might not give a true picture of the campaigns’ success or failure given the fact that the two products are pure substitutes for each other (and it all may boil down to distribution in the end). I believe the difference would be seen in the consumer recall and preference for a brand.

    So while the two products are the same, and are positioned similarly on being authentic Indian, the different themes in the TVCs create all the difference. While Minute Maid paints a more positive picture with nostalgia, Nimbooz mocks the Indian practices in the process.