Spotlight:
Experiential Marketing

Experiential Activation

It’s All About the Experience!
By Kurtis Katz, CMO/Partner

It’s now early spring, and many of you may still be struggling to figure out what your budgets might be this year. What is your best strategic opportunity to meet your company sales goals and objectives? Anybody who has ever gone through this drill realizes it’s no easy task for marketers especially considering the high expectations from company management and shareholders. There just isn’t a lot of room for error.

According to Event Marketing Institute 2009, on average, most companies spend 10% or more of their annual budget on sales and marketing initiatives each year. From advertising to experiential marketing programs, marketers are looking for the perfect formula to move the sales needle and grow their market share. It’s no exact science because there are just too many factors to consider. For example, advertising for the longest time was considered the best marketing tool to promote a brand, product or service to millions of consumers at one time. Now enter the DVR age and marketers can only speculate on how many consumers are viewing or hearing their message.

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The real challenge is finding a way to track your consumer through traditional advertising mediums. Don’t get me wrong, traditional advertising (TV, Radio, Print) is still a viable tool to reach consumers. The question remains does it still have the same significant reach and provide that bang for the buck? I guess it depends on who you talk to. Then you have all these new social media tools – Facebook, Twitter and Mobile Marketing – which have proven to be very valuable at engaging and enabling real-time interaction with consumers. But this medium also has it limits because it relies on other marketing mediums to attract the consumer, which in itself isn’t a bad thing either. At least you can start a dialog with your consumer.

One area that is still growing is experiential marketing with a strong emphasis on activation. Based on an Event View Marketing Research 2010, 53% of marketing executives choose experiential marketing as the discipline that best accelerates and deepens consumer relationships. The real beauty of experiential marketing is the fact it can target and deliver a number of sales and marketing objectives from direct sales, database building, account management, entertaining, market research, brand building, and product demonstration. Its popularity stems from the fact that its main focus is on quality interaction over quantity reach.  It brings the brand alive by touching the consumers’ senses through all the marketing mediums – all in one place at one time.

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A real life example of experiential marketing being applied effectively is the Apple Retail stores throughout the country. Yes, you heard right … Apple retail stores. What does that have to do with experiential marketing? I thought experiential marketing was all about events, sponsorships and sampling. In simple terms you would be right, but there is a lot more to it. The success of Apple stems from all the experiential activation elements that are delivered in the retail space. In fact, Apple does very little, if any, advertising for their stores. According to Ron Johnson, (CEO, JC Penny), who at the time was Apple’s retail guru and lead man for taking the Apple stores to market, “Apple is the most successful retail concept because of the consumer experience their stores offer”, (INC. Magazine, Nov, 2011).

Here are the some key activation elements that makes experiential marketing the strategy tool of the 21st century.

  1. Build an attractive Display: Creating an atmosphere that is inviting and interactive – opportunity to build brand awareness through creative display properties and signage.
  2. Consumer centric: Your activation should be centered on the consumer experience rather than the product.
  3. Professional Brand Ambassadors: Ability to have “Face to Face” communication – engages and educates the consumer about the product and service without intrusion of a sales person pushing too hard for a sale.
  4. Bring the Brand Alive: Ability to take your retail store to the consumer – it takes the brand directly to the consumer and allows them to experience the product/service at their pace through live demonstrations and sampling.
  5. Promotions: Create interactive games, promotions and activities that give consumers a “feel good” and memorable experience while learning about the brand.
  6. Survey Results: Immediate consumer feedback about the products and the experience while also collecting consumer data. This will also come in handy for consumer marketing research purposes.
  7. Re-connect: Ability to follow-up and continue the dialog with the consumers with special incentives, product launches, service information and on-going promotions.
  8. Integration: Experiential marketing becomes more effective when you include and integrate traditional advertising and social media mediums with your sponsorships, events, trade shows and retail store activation.
  9. Social media: Utilizing Facebook, Twitter, blogs, texting, website, QR codes and mobile marketing prior, during and/or post event activities. It’s real time communication while allowing the consumer to respond at their convenience.

While each of these activation tips are sure to be helpful in driving consumer engagement, consideration and sales, it still all about focusing on the consumer experience that will define your success.