John Vachalek June 28, 2011

What is Experiential Marketing?

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Experiential Marketing seems to be on the forefront of minds anymore, as the “way” to market their products.

But what IS experience marketing exactly, and who is doing it well?

Experiential Marketing is more than simply “event marketing”, which it can often be confused with. Rather, experiential marketing is a way to engage your consumers with your product, allowing them to “experience” your product, utilizing as many senses as possible. In this day and age, consumers are skeptical of the “traditional advertising” methods, such as radio and tv, preferring to experience the product or service firsthand, in the context of how they would use the product in their everyday lives.

Experience Marketing is about interacting your brand with your consumer, allowing your brand to come alive for them. This creates a fresh connection between brand and consumer, in their personal world. These connections should be formed by experiences that are personally relevant to the consumer, it should be memorable for them, it should be interactive, and it should invoke emotion. These are the sort of connections that will lead to increased sales and brand loyalty – this is the heart of experiential marketing.

Once a consumer truly experiences your product or service, and is able to see directly how it can fit into their lives, they are not only more likely to purchase the product, but they are also able to clearly articulate what is different (i.e. better) about your product, thus increasing your word-of-mouth referrals (usually via social media).You should also incorporate blister cards in your packaging as they do a great job of keeping products safe while making it easy for consumers to get to one item at a time, or to an item that needs to be accessed quickly.

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Experience Marketing Examples

So who is doing experiential marketing, and doing it well?

  1. Balisteri Vineyards Annual Children’s Wine Stomp – Done every year at the Festival Italiano at Belmar, kids can sign up for free, then kick off their shoes (and rinse their feet), and jump into one of dozens of huge bins of grapes. The juices from the stomping are then collected, and will become Balisteri’s Little Feet Merlot for the next year. Parents can pre-purchase the wine at the event, and be able to later drink wine from the fruits of their children’s’ labor. Each year, participants from last year’s stomp can sample the just-released version of Little Feet Merlot from the tasting tent, and can purchase the wine on site as well. This is an engaging event, and allows consumers to really experience the wine!
  2. Behr “Paint Your Place” – This online tool is on Behr’s Website, and allows users to upload photos of their home, and then “paint” it online, using Behr paint. You can enter color names/numbers, browse their book of colors, or take a visit to their “inspiration library” to find colors/color schemes you like from photo galleries. You can even create custom paint colors online, and order the paint right there. What a great way to allow consumers to really envision Behr paint in their home!
  3. Hammer Nutrition Giveaways – Hammer Nutrition is a product used for endurance athletes, used before, during, and after long, sustained stints of exercise. Hammer strategically shows up at endurance type events (i.e. – marathons), and hands out their products to runners, in the middle of races. Runners and other athletes are then able to use the product when they actually need it, and are able to actually experience first-hand, the benefits of the products. (I found out about Hammer Nutrition products on a recent hike of a Colorado 14er – I met two distance runners on the summit, and they were happily enjoying their free products that Hammer had given them during their last race. They were raving  about the product, and shared what they had with me – how’s that for referral marketing?
  4. Car Dealership “Loaning” Cars Last year, my car was in desperate need of repair (it was on its last leg, and I knew it would need to be replaced sooner than later.) I brought it to my dealership for repair, and they were nice enough to “lend” me one of their new Lexus models while mine was being fixed. This loaner car was WAY nicer than the car I was having repaired, I might add. For the two days my car was in the shop, I was able to “experience” life in a Lexus. All the little nuances that can’t be described or explained in an ad, all the little things that were “cool” or “convenient” to me, I was able to see and experience first hand, and be able to visualize my life in a Lexus. Smart move on the dealership part – they got me hooked on, and wanting to purchase a car that I would have never otherwise have considered.
  5. IKEA Hotels IKEA is beginning to furnish certain hotels with their products. These hotels get a complete makeover – beds, tables, sofas, chairs, even utensils and kitchenware. This lets people live with IKEA for a few days, and really experience their brand, rather than just touching briefly at an IKEA store.

To be successful with Experiential Marketing, it should be delivered through truly genuine experiences, and at times when it is relevant and meaningful to that person.

5 Tips for Improving Experiential Marketing:

  1. Give the users something to talk about. Be it a unique feature or benefit, people are better able to refer their experience if there is something worth sharing.
  2. Give users the opportunity to truly experience your product or service, which will dramatically help facilitate them talking about the experience (see Hammer Nutrition example above!)
  3. Utilize social media and drive people to these mediums to talk about their experience. This allows all the positive feedback and personal experiences to live in publicly accessible areas, so that they are visible for others to see, thus becoming a trusted referral source.
  4. Take the good and the bad. When you are opening yourself up for public commentary, be prepared and welcome both the good and bad. Negative comments should be addressed, and can be used to make your product/offering even better (if the comment is constructive, of course). Make sure you’re ready to answer questions, respond to complaints, and to openly consider any suggestions.
  5. Utilize this feedback to continue to innovate your product, using comments to feed your ideas for new features and additions of the product – this will in turn give your consumers more to talk about.

If you want to learn more about experiential marketing or want help defining your experience, schedule a free consultation today!

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