The power of experiential marketing

Experiential marketing or engagement marketing is simply defined as a form of communication that people can actually experience. In other words, it is a type of messaging that can be seen, touched or actively engaged with in real time.
In the past few years, experiential marketing has emerged as a powerful communication with many advertisers coming up with innovative installations, buzz contests, pop-up shops etc. to engage with their consumers. Surprisingly, the idea of experiential marketing is hardly a new one.

Its roots can be traced as far back as 1979 when Gary M. Reynolds came up with the Miller Band Network. The idea was to associate the Miller Brewing Company with different rock bands, thereby creating a unique brand positioning in the minds of the target audience. From that time onwards, brands constantly tried to pull off similar stunts but faced major roadblocks when it came to sustainability and measurement of effectiveness. Most engagement campaigns are one-off in nature and it was difficult for brands to spend a lot of money on an activity that would only engage with a limited amount of people in a limited space. The solution arrived in the form of the Internet. As video websites like YouTube and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter proliferated, experiential marketing made a comeback in a big way. It was now possible to craft a brand experience, film it and then reach out to potentially millions of customers through the Internet. What’s more, the Internet also provided marketers with a form of measuring the reach of the campaign in terms of views and interactions.

Today, a number of brands seek to outdo each other when it comes to creating a unique experience that directly relates to the brand. Whether it involves letting customers of a shopping mall feel like James Bond by making them run through the store while the Bond tune plays in the background or transporting Scotch lovers to Scotland through virtual reality, the possibilities are endless. Probably the biggest example of experiential marketing till date is Red Bull’s Stratos Jump. The live webcast of the jump registered a staggering 52 million views from around the world and actually boosted sales for the brand. In the next six months, the US sales of Red Bull shot up by 7% and the following year it sold 100 million cans more than it did in 2012.

Red Bull is not unique in reaping the benefits of experiential marketing, more and more brands are managing to create memorable experiences for their target audiences. While some use emotions (Coca Cola’s Happiness Truck), others rely on shock value (The Devil Baby prank for the movie Devil’s Due), all indicating that experiential marketing is here to stay.

At its core, experiential marketing is all about creating a personal interaction with a brand. As more and more media start assaulting viewers with advertising messages, brands become clinical, distant entities. Experiential marketing attempts to bridge this growing gap between the brand and the consumer by actually reaching out to the consumer in his or her own space. Even those who aren’t directly involved with the experience can join in through videos that are shared online. It is easier to relate to the emotions of real humans interacting with a brand and in this way, marketers manage to capitalize on their efforts. Potentially, as audiences learn to filter out regular passive advertising messages; experiential marketing could very well end up being the most powerful messaging technique in the years to come.

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