A Student Interviews Me on Experiential Marketing

The original blog post was published on December 29, 2012

A while back I was invited to speak to students at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale on the subject of Experiential Marketing. Shortly after completing that speaking engagement, I received several emails from students, teachers and advertising professionals alike. One that stuck out was an email from an eager college student who was disappointed that she missed me because she had several questions she needed to ask me for her school paper. I invited her to email me her questions with a promise that I would promptly reply with my well thought out answers.

I found her questions to be quite interesting so I thought I would share her questions and my answers in this blog. They are as follows:

 

1) Did Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” influence the Experiential Marketing movement?

While “The Tipping Point” was certainly inspirational in many ways, I don’t believe any one thing served as a primary influencer. Moreover, I wouldn’t consider experiential marketing a movement. I believe this marketing methodology is the result of mass media fragmentation, human evolution and the manner in which today’s consumers are affected by brands and marketing messages. Consumers today are extremely marketing savvy and mostly influenced by their peers and personal experiences. As a result, brands need to develop and maintain a sincere, relevant, personal and lasting relationship with consumers in order to connect with them.

2) What are ways to make target audience prospects aware of opportunities to attend and participate in these relevant experiences?

Traditional media advertising, online and social media marketing and guerilla marketing tactics, just to name a few. However, sometimes no pre-promotion is required or desired and simply “popping up” in the market with an innovative and relevant tactic, will suffice. If the experience provides an inherent benefit to the audience, they will participate and the experience will be successful.

3) Can this form of marketing be delivered in “mass marketing” ways? Specifically, can you use the internet to let people self-select to “experience” products? Can you use print or TV to drive people to such “experiences?”

Some of this was touched upon in question #2. House Party, Inc. does a really nice job in pre-qualifying consumers who express interest in hosting experiential house parties. Brands recruit consumers to act as their brand ambassadors with the trade-off being that consumers get to keep or consume a sampling of goodies and host a fun party for their friends with items provided by the brand.

4) Isn’t the ultimate “experiential marketing” simply trialing? Let someone try your product and see if they like it?

That’s one example of a very popular tactic. However, creating a true experience starts with a clear understanding of consumer behavior, psychographics and ethnographics. The resulting strategy and concept should deliver a 360 degree brand immersion for the consumer. I believe that the brand experience should be multi-sensory and personal much the same as when human beings interact with one another. Professor Aaker’s 5 Dimensions of Brand Personality, truly identifies the humanistic layers which should exist in order for a brand to make an emotional impact on the consumer.

5) How could you apply Experiential marketing to an upscale restaurant? What sort of events/promotions/experiences would you create to get a “buzz” about a restaurant in a local area?

First of all, it is of utmost importance that the restaurant itself be a positive experience for the consumer the second he/she opens the door. Then the restaurant can deliver the brand experience to their audience outside of the restaurant. What makes the restaurant special beyond their menu? Determine the brand’s DNA and create an experience or event in the target market which immerses the consumer in the positive feeling which influences them to patronize the establishment. Sampling the menu items offsite may or may not be appropriate due to issues of quality control. However, diners go to restaurants for more than the menu items so capitalizing on what that is and delivering it to the target audience in the event is key.

6) Do you believe that experiential marketing have the potential to be a discipline by itself?

It already is. The question to ask is whether or not the discipline can function as the sole solution for a brand’s marketing strategy. I believe in a full marketing mix which encompasses multiple disciplines and media. It would be short-sighted for anyone to suggest that any one discipline can replace all others as a blanket solution. The new marketing world is very complex and sophisticated, so a “one size fits all” approach does not work.

7) Do you believe that marketers will return to traditional product-centric due to the current economy and base their purchasing decisions on rational comparisons?

Absolutely not. This is why traditional marketing alone no longer works as it once did many years ago. While traditional methods persuade consumers by invoking rational factors, experiential marketing modifies behavior through emotional persuasion. Everyday we are influenced by personal experiences which are visceral, emotional, mental and physical. Over the years, consumers have grown suspicious of exaggerated product claims and false comparisons, causing them to seek out trusted advice from their peers who can cite their positive or negative experiences with a product or brand.