The future is (still) experiential
The digital revolution has transformed marketing. Marketing professionals and brands have never had more channels at their disposal or greater potential for connecting with highly targeted audiences. However, only experiential marketing can deliver what consumers value the most: an experience that engages all five senses.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” or so the saying goes. In the hierarchy of human senses, taste and smell are among our most powerful and important. A meal might look amazing, but we are unlikely to eat if it tastes like cardboard. If something smells “off”, our instinct is to avoid eating it in case it makes us ill. Our senses of smell, touch and taste have evolved to help us make informed decisions that keep us safe. This is perhaps why we react so strongly to them. For example, if you touch a hot surface you will recoil and cry out in pain. Physical reactions are the difference between hearing or watching something happen and actually experiencing it.
Experiential marketing is not a new discipline, but it is extremely powerful because it enables brands to engage with their customers in a way that can touch all five senses. The result is a stronger emotional response, a more memorable interaction for the consumer – and, ultimately, a greater likelihood of them making a purchase. With ever-greater numbers of companies competing for the attention of consumers via digital marketing and traditional advertising channels, it is becoming increasingly challenging for brands to make their message heard above all the white noise. This is why many companies – from Coca Cola to BMW – consider experiential marketing an essential component of their marketing mix.
Consumer tastes are also changing with each new generation. Millennials and Generation Z favour memories and experiences over material possessions. They are looking for genuine, unique, authentic and engaging brand experiences that they can share with their friends online. Therefore, it doesn’t just make commercial sense for brands to engage with individuals in these segments via experiential marketing; it also brings them the significant added bonus of potential free advertising. According to the 2017 EventTrack survey, 33 percent of people who participate in experiential marketing take photos or videos to share on social media.
There are other reasons why brands love experiential marketing. One of the most significant of these is the opportunity it presents for personal interaction with consumers. The human and social elements of a shared experience not only help to create a stronger bond between the customer and the brand; they also allow the brand to assess consumers’ reactions to a product in real time. These reactions might be verbal feedback; however, they might also come in the form of smiles, laughter or body language. Brand Ambassadors on the ground can then interpret these subtle messages and produce detailed feedback reports, providing valuable market insight. Brands can then apply this knowledge to improving how they serve their customers in future.
Brands are ultimately turning to experiential marketing because it gets results. A 2017 global survey of 1,000 marketing professionals – conducted by data solutions provider SSI in partnership with Freeman – found that 59 percent of CMOs see brand experience as beneficial for creating lasting relationships with consumers. This is a view also shared by consumers: 80 percent of experiential
participants said that live demonstrations and samples influenced their purchasing decisions (EventTrack survey 2017).
To summarise, experiential marketing works because it immerses consumers within a brand or product and allows them to interact with it across all five senses and at multiple levels: physically, socially and emotionally. It transforms an audience from passive spectators into active participants who will tell your customer’s brand story and become its best advocates.
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