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As tough market conditions force companies to search for innovative and fresh ways of attracting consumer attention, experiential marketing techniques are becoming increasingly popular. Why? Because it’s a way to attract consumer attention through deep brand engagement, which can establish a brand loyalty that can last for years to come.
How do you stop consumers in their tracks? And, ultimately, how do you make sure they keep coming back to you? Brand loyalty is the holy grail for most businesses and it’s the basis of what experiential marketing is all about — marketing that interacts with the consumer.
To achieve that interaction, the marketing has to ‘interrupt’ the consumer in a real live scenario — whether that be in a supermarket, on the high street, or at an exhibition. The direct contact that the consumer then has with the product — using all five senses to experience it — forms the essence of how experiential marketing works. The big difference with traditional marketing techniques is, rather than telling consumers what the product features are, consumers are allowed to physically experience the product. This creates an emotional response that can heighten brand awareness and loyalty.
The entire premise of experiential marketing relies heavily on the company’s ability to create a memory in the consumer’s mind that is attached to an experience. “If you think about a trip to the supermarket where shoppers are faced with so many products and little differentiation between them, companies can’t rely on making their product leap out so they need to attract the consumer to it. This is achieved by ‘interrupting’ the consumer’s normal shopping experience by literally placing the product into the shopper’s hands,” explains Claire Larquetoux, Director and Head of Media at Mazars.
What is vital to a successful outcome is knowing how to measure such a campaign and setting out in advance the right data to capture in order to conduct that measurement. “It’s key that a company knows who their target audience is. When you are creating an experience you really need to identify who you are doing it for as a first step,” says Larquetoux. “Identifying your target audience then drives the type of venue and geographical location you choose. Once you know the customers and what appeals to them then you can create the right type of event.”
Some companies are nervous about investing in a marketing campaign which some would argue lacks quantifiable sales results. “It is one of the key barriers to this type of marketing. Monitoring results cannot just be about sales. This form of marketing is measured not just by sales on the day, but by recording how many people were stopped at an event or participated in it, by website traffic after an event, as well as informal feedback,” confirms Larquetoux.
In so many ways, social media and experiential marketing are the perfect mix, both being particular ‘children of their time’. Just using experiential marketing without whipping up the available buzz through social media networks is throwing away a huge string to your brand awareness marketing campaign — and the social networking element of it is the free part.
As for the rest of the costs, there’s no escaping the fact that spending money on a marketing campaign today for brand loyalty and awareness at some future date takes a not inconsiderable leap of faith. “Companies must take on board the fact that they may not get immediate payback from such a campaign. There’s also the risk of doing the wrong event in the wrong place, or that the event goes wrong in some way. But if a company plans ahead for a really smooth delivery on the day and establishes the means of measurement at the outset, then it’s a marketing tool worth consideration,” says Larquetoux.
Cadbury’s recently stopped shoppers in their tracks by establishing a 9.2 metres tall by seven metres wide fountain pumping out 20 tonnes of warm liquid chocolate in the middle of London’s Westfield shopping centre. Consumers were not only able to see the chocolate-making process and taste the product, but it ensured the whole memory of pouring chocolate lived on in their minds long after they’d returned home.
In this example, Cadbury was expressing itself as a brand, not promoting one particular product. “Experiential marketing is about building brand loyalty and recognition rather than making an instant sale. This kind of marketing works best when it is expressed as an integrated campaign alongside the more traditional models such as TV or print media,” says Claire Larquetoux, Director and Head of Media at Mazars. In Cadbury’s case, it also posted a film of the fountain on YouTube to encourage feedback and social media interaction between consumers.
Larquetoux cites another example used by Perrier whose experiential marketing campaign involved creating a replica bar scene. A selection of journalists and social bloggers were invited along to experience Perrier drinks. “This was interesting as it appealed to the different senses. You can see the drinks, taste them sitting in a bar so you’d know what it would be like to experience the drinks in a social setting — become the kind of person to whom the drinks appeal. Perrier created the semblance of a lifestyle to go with their product.”
Still not convinced on its power? Then check out the YouTube film of the experiential marketing campaign of TV channel TNT in Belgium. It’s achieved well over 24 million hits and the message is still spreading via social media’s ‘word of mouth’. Cost-effective? Broadcasting on YouTube doesn’t cost anything and it can stay up on the web potentially attracting a global audience for as long as you wish.
Cadbury photography by Jeff Moore: Cadbury Dairy Milk delivered generous helpings of chocolate joy with giant Magnificent Musical Chocolate fountain at Westfield London shopping centre.