The Most Powerful Medium in Marketing

By Kurtis Katz, CMO/Partner

Recently, I was participating in an on-line “chat” with marketing professionals about what marketing medium is the most effective for reaching and engaging consumers. Our choices were Advertising, P.R. or Social Media and we were to comment as to which one we supported and why. I joined the conversation by asking what about Experiential Marketing? Shouldn’t Experiential Marketing be part of the conversation considering it’s the most powerful marketing medium for reaching and engaging consumers?

It’s shocking to hear, but when I talk to brands and agencies alike, I keep hearing the same old comments …it’s too expensive, it’s too targeted, and it doesn’t reach enough people. And my favorite one, there’s just not enough data to support it. Really? If I were Mel Gibson, I would think we have a conspiracy on our hands especially the way the marketing world has reacted or better yet, under reacted to experiential marketing. I think the real issue might be is that some marketers just don’t understand the enormous power behind it or maybe they just don’t understand what experiential marketing really is … I hope that’s not the case.

What is Experiential Marketing? It’s the ONLY marketing medium that allows consumers to engage and be educated in a live face-to-face interaction with your brand. Advertising, P.R. or Social Media can’t offer this type of consumer engagement. Simply put, experiential marketing is a results based solution that integrates people, passions and brands. It connects consumers emotionally, personally and literally to your brand, and, if done right, forever. It’s the only true marketing mechanism that allows the consumer to experience, interact and test your brand in real time. Most of all, it drives word-of-mouth advocacy, brand awareness and relationships through fun and interactive experiences.

Why Experiential Marketing? Because consumers are demanding it! In a recent on-line survey of 2,500 consumer’s ages 13-65 conducted by Jack Morton and published in 2009, they found the following significant results:

Overall, more than two-thirds of all consumers say experiential marketing would be extremely or very influential on their overall opinion of brands and products. 70% said that participating in a live event marketing experience would increase their purchase consideration, and 57% said it would result in a quicker purchase. However, the most telling statistics from the survey was when the effectiveness of experiential marketing was tested against 14 product/services categories. In 11 out of 14 categories, consumers said their preferred means of learning about new products/services was through experiencing it for themselves or by hearing about it from someone they know who experience it, as opposed to TV, radio, print, direct mail or Internet.

The survey also went on to say while the influence of experiential marketing is strong across all groups, it is strongest among key groups such as; women, young people and Hispanics.

There’s no doubt that other marketing media such TV, radio, social media, print, and direct mail have their place and are effective when it comes to sharing a message. Experiential marketing is the only marketing medium that sets the foundation for the “Word of Mouth” advocacy which really drives consumer consideration and purchase. In fact, Jack Morton did another recent study asking 360 of their own subscribers to name the number one influencer of their purchase decisions: Over 71% cited word of mouth, far more than a free trial (21%), advertising (4%) or direct mail (3%).

Does Experiential Marketing offer ROI? Absolutely, it’s not that experiential marketing doesn’t meet the ROI threshold, but rather the burden is on the marketers to establish bench marks for ROI. In other words, marketers need to set the bench marks based on their goals and objectives which will in turn drive the ROI they are looking for. Most marketers typically base ROI on sales generated from the event or campaign, but others might base it on quality time, building long-term relationships and word of mouth advocacy with the consumer. Either way, there are many technological advances in experiential marketing i.e. lead capturing, surveys, social media and retail couponing that allows the brand to track consumers’ behavior prior to, during and after the brand experience. If done right, experiential marketing will boost sales in the short term while building long-time loyalty.

Utilizing Experiential Marketing: Most marketers who actually utilize experiential marketing as part of their marketing mix find the below marketing pillars to integrate their brand messaging and campaigns. Again, it allows brands to begin a live face-to-face conversation about their products or services while creating a brand experience of a lifetime.

1. Sponsorship: As part of a sponsorship proposal, marketers have taken advantage of the opportunity of integrating and co-branding with the overall event theme. From the NFL to NASCAR, brands like Home Depot, AT&T and Chevy have seized the popular stage to deliver fun, engaging and memorable experiences for consumers. Consumers certainly have loyalty to those brands that support their passions.

2. Created Events: Many companies, like Nike have seen a lot of positive results from creating their own 5K races to marathons throughout the country. It’s a great way to tie your brand/products to the actual lifestyle event. Plus, it gives the brand ability to generate revenue to pay for the event while your brand stands front and center to your target audience.

3. Mobile Tours: Proctor & Gamble is the perfect example of executing mobile tours that create goodwill or better known as “Cause Marketing” with consumers. The “Tide Loads of Hope” mobile tour campaign supported an effort to help people in the Katrina Hurricane who lost their homes and needed an outlet to clean their clothes. Tide came to the rescue by offering free laundry service to those in need. Tide will always live in the hearts and minds of those consumers forever. This started out as just an act of help or goodwill and grew in to a real campaign where Tide now brings their “portable laundry” to those in need all over the country.

I think it’s time we all take a closer look at what motivates and engages consumers. Is it quantity of the reach or quality time with your brand? There is a reason why people go on vacation…the ability to engage in new experiences.

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