The history of marketing consists of two types of people, those who were right, and those that thought they were: “The publishers and others should quit worrying about losing customers to TV.” (Raymond Chandler 1946).
In 1978, Gary Thuerk, dubbed the ‘Father of Spam’ sent the first mass email, promoting Digital Equipment Corp machines to 400 recipients via Arpnet. However, it was not until the early 90’s, 12 years later, that the majority of marketers began to jump on the bandwagon.
Experiential Marketing Has the Advantage
Jumping forward we see another Gary, trend-spotter Gary Vaynerchuk, take his family’s wine business from a $3 million to a $60 million valuation through adopting eCommerce, email marketing, PPC and YouTube ahead of the competition, he paid 10c for the word ‘wine’ (Now worth over $14)!
Subsequently ‘Gary Vee’ has used his understanding of ‘the market’ to successfully invest in Twitter, Uber, SnapChat and Facebook (amongst other ventures), all of which were touted to be fads.
But this isn’t a Gary Vaynerchuk appreciation society newsletter, this is about not being beaten to the punch, something which is happening to marketers worldwide who do not recognize the goldmine that is “experiential marketing” and how it has already redefined the modern marketing landscape, to quote the man himself:
“We get scared of everything that we didn’t grow up with; it’s what human beings do.”
This article is aimed at educating those who are still “scared” by explaining the various factors involved in experiential marketing’s rise to power.
1. Traditional Advertising in Decline
But, I don’t expect you to just take my word for it, otherwise this article would be much shorter than it is. We begin by discussing not experiential marketing, but the decline in traditional ‘interruptive’ marketing. With technological advances, including the smartphone and streaming services like Netflix, the consumer’s attention is worth more than ever, people will avoid adverts wherever possible, from installing ad blockers to deleting cookies to prevent tracking, customers today employ a slew of methods (and sometimes superstitions) to avoid marketing content. (Skyword)
When was the last time you sat and watched the adverts between live TV programming instead of looking to your phone? Even the idea of watching live TV is becoming outdated, especially when TiVo and streaming services allow you to cut out adds altogether. This trend is not specific to TV advertising, and is exemplified by the New York Times Co.’s stock sliding by 4.3 in May, earlier this year, when “total ad sales fell 6.8 percent, dragged down by a 9 percent drop in print ad sales and a 1.3 decrease in digital ad sales.” (Bloomberg)
The market shows far more interest in permission based marketing, a non-invasive format, where consumers choose to connect with your brand because of the perceived value it provides through content and experiences, which is why about 77% of marketers use Experiential Marketing as a vital part of a brand’s advertising strategies.
2. The Psychological Edge
Looking at it from outside the marketing lens, experiential campaigns benefit from scientific factors. It innately adheres to several tested psychological principles, making it inherently predisposed to resonating with consumers and driving engagement. Firstly, there is idea of reciprocity whereby, “We feel obliged to give back to people who have given to us.” This has been thoroughly tested including an experiment where BYU sociologist Phillip Kunz sent 600 Christmas cards to strangers, receiving 200 back (Bufferapp). Experiential marketing, benefits from this theory by looking to extract value from customers after having provided them with an engaging ‘valuable’ experience.
It Engages Every Sense
Experiential marketing has the ability to stimulate all 5 senses through physical experiences, it is widely accepted that the senses play a huge role in memory of events:
Memories relating to an event are scattered across the brain’s sensory centres but marshalled by a region called the hippocampus. If one of the senses is stimulated to evoke a memory, other memories featuring other senses are also triggered. (Bioedonline)
By creating an enjoyable sensory experience, you embed your brand into the minds of your consumers, ready to be called upon when they receive a similar sensory trigger. This gives it an inherent advantage over all other forms of advertising who only appear to sight and hearing at most!
3. Marketers That Use it Want to Spend More!
Still don’t believe that experiential is taking over? Then let’s discuss it in tangible metrics, firstly, financially, according to The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s (IPA) Bellwether report for the third quarter of 2016 event marketing budgets rose by 9.9% during this period, (EventMagazine) the greatest increase of all channels.
In addition to this, the adoption of experiential marketing is widespread, as 65% of brands surveyed expressed their belief that in-person events are directly correlated to sales according the same report. (EventMagazine)
This format isn’t limited to consumer goods either, 83% of B2B marketers are heavily invested in events according to MarketingCharts, which is a credit not only to the popularity, but also the versatility of experiential marketing.
4. It Leads To Increased Client Engagement, Inspiring Customer Loyalty
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The format enables brands to provide valuable content to consumers, educating them on their ethos or campaign message in the process, without the whole experience coming across as a sales pitch. A prime example of this is the Delonghi pop-up coffee shop campaign gave consumers the chance to order barrista quality, bespoke coffees, made by their new machine. The campaign produced “nearly 4,000 customised coffees over the four-day campaign, giving coffee lovers a distinct experience.”
This is supported by statistical data which states that 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation. As well as, an Event Marketing Institute study which found that 84% of consumers repurchase the product promoted at the event, after their first purchase. This level of ROI and continued engagement is unrivalled in other marketing channels.
5. It’s An Effective Method of Branding
Experiential marketing also works effectively as a tool for branding, a highly engaging experience is likely to cement your brand’s place in the consumer’s mind, with 74% of consumers having a better opinion about a brand after an in-person event , which leads to increased, highly valuable, earned word-of-mouth advertising, as 71% of consumers share information about their experience with their peers and family members . Again, it is widely accepted that consumer testimonials are a coveted marketing resource.
6. Live Experience Engagement is Transferring to Other Industries
According to the EventManagerBlog, 30% of the technology created for events for the last 2 years is live interaction technology , i.e. technology which allows consumers to engage with the experience live for example, via an app or a tweet wall.
This is a fantastic idea, as it adds to a consumer’s engagement if they feel as though they are having an impact on the experience. These technologies are now becoming popular in other mediums, for example, Twitch and HP’s Omen Challenge, where the live audience of a competitive eSports match were able to select “tortures” to inflict upon the players:
7. It Improves With New Technologies, Whilst Remaining Effective at Using Older Ones.
The inherent ability of experiential marketing to incorporate advancing technologies is not only beneficial in terms of ROI, with 91% of event planners have seen a positive return on investment from event apps, but also in terms of improving engagement and increasing the perceived value received by consumers.
For example, we have already seen rapidly improving AR and VR technologies used effectively in experiential campaigns. Including this recent HBO campaign promoting the release of Westworld, which threw participants into an immersive 15 minute experience as a “guest” of the park, after having a real world orientation in beautiful installation, replicating the Delos facility from the program.
Whilst conversely, classic product sampling campaigns are still widely used to great effect, with EventTrack 2015 reporting that 81% of respondents acknowledging that “they walked up to a company’s display because they wanted a product sample or other free giveaway.” Which is testament to the potential flexibility of this marketing channel.
8. It Synergizes With Other Marketing Channels, Boosting Effectiveness Both Ways
One of experiential marketing’s greatest assets is that it works so well in tandem with other marketing channels, both with pre-event support and post-event content production. To see how this works, we must look at these channels individually.
Social media works perfectly with experiential marketing as it provides a platform to advertise and spread awareness about your event, according to the Event Marketing Institute, 77% of event marketers use social media to promote before and during their event.
With regard to post-event, experiential marketing can provide a wealth of content perfect for social media, user generated content like videos, images and posts are all forms of free earned promotion, vastly increasing the reach of campaigns.
95% of the approximately 800 visitors tweeted about it, resulting in 9.3million Twitter impressions. Not bad for an installation no bigger than my bedroom!
Influencer marketing is another channel which has risen to prominence in recent years with the rise of influencer social media presence. The synergies with experiential marketing are obvious, influencer support means you’re your events reached is amplified through the influencer’s social media channels. There are those who have been reaping the rewards for a long time, since 2004, Team Epiphany has mixed experiential, social, influencer and public relations services for clients including Heineken, Cadillac and Incase.
A further example is the Adidas “jump with D rose” pop-up store, which took advantage of the Chicago Bull’s superstar’s profile and humble beginnings to attract over 2500 to watch the event, with video footage receiving “370,000 views in the first five days with no media promotion.” According to strategist Chris Bosher
With 59% of marketers planning to increase their spend on influencer marketing during the year, the effective you would be naïve to think that this wouldn’t go hand in hand with an increase in experiential marketing.
Content marketing can be quite an abstract concept, considering, in a way, all of these channels come under the umbrella of content marketing. However, when referring solely to experiential marketing in the production of engaging content, there are several examples which show how experiential is an ideal source of content and assets for paid media/PR campaigns. Firstly, the Red Bull Stratos jump – In 2012 Red Bull live-streamed Felix Baumgartner’s famous freefall from the stratosphere, this live footage alone received over 52 million views and had an immediate effect, In the six months immediately following Stratos, sales rose 7% to $1.6 billion in the U.S., according to research firm IRI.
Similarly this video of MGM’s campaign promoting the release of their remake of Carrie has received over 66 million views, since release in 2013, showing again how effective experiential can be for creating valuable content.
Conversely, content marketing can greatly enhance sponsorship and experiential campaigns, again showing how these channels feed back and forth into each other.
Opt-in email marketing is widely renowned as being an effective marketing channel, more than 75% of B2C companies use email marketing to promote their events, whilst email marketing provides an avenue to develop leads generated at your events.
What Are The Implications for Experiential Marketing Moving Forward?
The fact of the matter is that experiential marketing has instigated a paradigm shift in marketing, acting as an answer to a consumer who has grown tired of being bombarded by adverts wherever they go. By providing engaging experiences brands create a deep emotional bond with consumers, worth far more than a banner ad which follows them on their digital travels. Experiential is only going to become more prominent for the foreseeable future, that’s a given, what’s important is working out how you can leverage it to be effective for your brand.
To finish with a statistic (yes another one!), 80% of trade show exhibitors don’t follow up with their show leads i.e. experiential marketing isn’t the magic formula for generating business, it is just another tool which, when incorporated into marketing strategy, will generate great returns.