The thing about buzzwords is that they’re generally heavy on use and light on understanding.
This is exactly how experiential marketing became a buzzword in the first place — the concept is often hard to explain. For this reason, it’s difficult to get a client excited about an experiential marketing strategy.
But at its core, experiential marketing is simple to define. It’s marketing that allows consumers to tangibly experience a brand and develop an emotional connection.
And isn’t that every brand’s end game?
Yet, many people dismiss experiential marketing as just another industry buzzword or passing fad. They become lost in the definition rather than the practice when, in all reality, it not only makes sense to leverage an experiential marketing campaign, but it has been done successfully for quite some time.
The Rise of Experiential Marketing
The term “experiential” was first coined by Alvin Toffler in his 1971 book “Future Shock” and expanded upon 30 years later by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in “The Experience Economy.”
Their assertion was essentially this: We live in an age where most products and services are relatively indistinguishable from their competitors, so success is determined by the orchestration of memorable events that build consumer-brand connections.
But while the term may be relatively new, the practice is certainly not.
Consider what Bulova did when it tapped into America’s pride over Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic. It launched an integrated campaign and received considerable publicity for presenting him $1,000 in prize money and a Lone Eagle Bulova watch.
Now, consider the experience and connection it could have built with modern technology. Millions could have tracked Lindbergh’s progress via a Bulova app, participated in a virtual “race against time” game, and joined Bulova reps at a transformed airport hangar for an event celebrating his arrival in Paris.
The Buzzwordification of Experiential Marketing
What most clients don’t understand is that much of their marketing efforts are already geared toward the experiential. However, there are a few things you can communicate to help your clients embrace the idea and expand their experiential marketing:
1. It doesn’t have to be big. Help your clients understand that experiential marketing can start small — often with an event they’re already committed to. For example, one of our pharma clients recently added a three-minute experience to its exhibit that enabled attendees to understand what it’s like to live with a debilitating disease. Wearing high-resolution video goggles and sitting in a small chair surrounded by an acoustic shell, the visitor was completely immersed in an unforgettable experience. This was a relatively small effort for a measurably big connection.
2. It takes conviction. Experiential marketing is a big idea backed by 90 percent planning and 10 percent taking a leap of faith. Take WestJet’s Christmas Miracle, for example. The team’s goal was to reach 200,000 YouTube views, and so far, it’s surpassed 36 million. The team had an amazing idea but didn’t know how well it would work. They took a leap of faith and had great success.
3. Technology adds a lot. There are a million ways to use technology to immerse an audience in a brand. Coca-Cola, for example, is nothing short of masterful in the realm of experiential marketing. With its hug machines, personalized bottles, and machines that send customers on a James Bond-like adventure, the simple act of buying a soda becomes an emotive experience.
4. It works. According to the Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack 2014 study, events and experiences have a positive impact on brand perception and drive purchases. Following an event, 74 percent of participants have a more positive opinion about the brand. That’s a statistic that’s hard to ignore.
Your clients need to realize that experiential marketing isn’t just a buzzword. In fact, it’s at the heart of the most effective marketing strategies. Once you get them to understand that and take a leap of faith with you, the real fun begins.