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

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