In recent years, brands have competed with one another mostly in the field of advantages and price. And gradually, they admit that more than ever before, their campaigns merely persuade. Their marketers realize that building future relationships with their customers, creating emotional connections, and inspiring loyalty must go beyond traditional “one-way” communications channels such as television or print advertising.
The goal of a traditional campaign is to reveal the functional and emotional benefits of the brand and present it to a carefully defined target audience along with a significant dose of creativity. The specific goal is to lead all the way to the moment of purchase. Brands invest primarily in awareness, present the moods and emotions we enjoy by purchasing the product, hoping that this “message” will pass through the media to the wider public. At the same time, marketing is pushed by rapidly advancing product innovations into the formidable task of communicating each individual benefit properly.
For this reason, the brands are seeking way to enable people to experience the product and its benefits so strongly that they share them enthusiastically. Instead of telling the story using conventional promotional channels. Marketers are looking for a method of changing difficult and often expensive persuasion into a formative engagement with people. And transforming them into natural ambassadors and advocates. That is the moment when it is appropriate to change the original marketing activities into meaningful, engaging “experiences”, that allow the consumer to communicate naturally with the brand. The moment in which the traditional campaign is replaced with an experiential one.
At the beginning of the entire change is a fundamental decision by the brand – let’s create actual experiences and let the consumer share these experiences with our brand. Let’s abandon the thinking that people are mere recipients of the messages that they are bombarded with, and instead let them become a key component of the brand. They should become the guests of the brand and its activities, not merely customers. This will enable them to create a meaningful relationship with it a brand and become partners in its co-creation.
Whereas in a classic campaign, a communication agency looks for the benefits of the brand in relation to a defined target audience, experiential specialists work with an existing customer and ask how the given product meets its expectations and what emotions it evokes. They select the key components that best define the brand, find the actual reason for being and by connecting the brand character with its uniqueness they create the main idea of the communication. Unlike product benefits, this creates an opportunity to meet much higher needs and thereby leads the brand into a situation when arguments about price and benefits lose importance.
„Mastercard is transforming into an experiential brand by doing 3 things: focusing on consumers' passions, building experiential platforms and creating products/technologies that change lives for the better. We’ve moved our brand promise from being the “best way to pay” to “connecting people to Priceless possibilities”. Raja Rajamannar CEO Mastercard, Storytelling is dead. Welcome to Marketing 4.0
Traditional advertising works with benefits in a way that seeks to describe them in the best way possible and exposes the customer to this. And yet 79 % prefer to learn about a new product through personal experience or a recommendation from an acquaintance or someone they trust (Jack Morton Worldwide study). Current options and technologies offer a range of opportunities to experience a product. Experiential campaigns develop these options and create the idea of a world around the brand that explains what the product stands for and what it hopes to achieve. Instead of storytelling, it devotes a significant part of its preparation to creating an experience to live through. Only because of this will we believe.
Each of us, the consumer, influences dozens of other people, friends or acquaintances in the real world, and many thousands in the digital world. And because research shows that the most persuasive argument, second only to our own experience, is a recommendation from someone else, we can use shared experiences in various communities and interest groups to directly or indirectly influence hundreds of purchasing decisions. We, the consumer, perform work that a brand must otherwise pay for in media.
An important element is for the experience to engage us in creativity and inspire a need to share. Unlike events, experiential marketing uses the actual and virtual life of customers. In real life it builds a relationship with the brand using values and complex experiences. It uses the virtual world to obtain attention and expand reach. It's not an either/or proposition. The brand or its product may thereby concentrate on itself and create places or events into which it can simply invite the consumer. It thereby prepares an experience that people can talk about, that can become unforgettable to them.
Brochure, banner, television commercial. Products of contemporary marketing work with the fact that what we see and hear should suffice for us to make a purchasing decision. Except that it is a long way from the screen and radio to the cash register. Experiential marketing in its full extent reflects the Chinese adage: “Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; let me do it and I understand.” In experiential campaigns we engage other senses in a fun and interesting way. These include touch, taste, and smell. Research shows that brands become memorable for 74 % of people as part of an experiential campaign, with almost 70 % of them ending up as faithful customers.
“They gave me a kind phone call to ask it I’d like to borrow their car for a weekend. They only wanted me to stop by and pick it up. I stopped by the Lexus showroom, which had been designed in Japanese style. Japanese garden, comfortable seating, sushi table. Along with the keys they gave me a brochure in a leather portfolio with selected destinations where I could drive, restaurant reservations and tips for trips, all without unnecessary questions.
All weekend I drove and enjoyed free and comfortable refreshment. I returned the car on Monday and waited for the hard-sell. But it didn’t come. They wished me a pleasant rest of the week, and said if I wanted to I could share my experience with their hashtag. I’m not a user of social networks, but you're the twelfth person I’ve told about it this week.” Jan Šamal, CEO, Nimble Energy
We live in a fast-paced time. Every functional and emotional benefit of the brand can be easily copied within a few weeks or months by the competition. Higher performance, lower consumption, better design, control via app, over time even artificial intelligence, fewer calories, organic ingredients, and so forth. Currently marketing campaigns promoting functional and emotional benefits fight on the same battlefields. They promise essentially the same experience and they confirm this by the weapons and arguments they choose. All of them are similar, and press more and more for immediate response.
Experiential campaigns place an emphasis on differentiation and credibility. People will notice a brand more when they realize that the customer experience, not just the product itself, has been improved. Instead of promises to fulfill social needs, the campaign inspires self-actualization. As a result, consumers can “grasp” the brand, can recognize what it truly is, and become part of its evolution.
It is logical for marketing to compel as many people as possible to purchase a given service or product. And yet the difference between traditional advertising and experiential campaigns is the perception of the point of sale itself. For a traditional campaign the outcome is to lead the customer to this moment, or rather to one step before it. For an experiential campaign the point of sale is the beginning. Practically, it states that purchasing the product or service are merely the beginning of the experience, and expands on it (see Customer Decision Journey).
It works with the fact that people naturally create groups and have an inborn and deep need to belong to something. It doesn't matter whether it's a motorcycle, type of car, household appliance, tool, favorite bank, brand of clothing, supplier of energy, or beloved treat. The experiential campaign manages to penetrate these communities in a suitable manner.
Nowadays you don't even have to be a customer in order to enthusiastically promote a product or brand. In today's world, people can experience it without owning it. Thanks to word-of-mouth they then inspire others and lead to purchasing. They do work the brand would otherwise pay for in the media.
Experiential marketing is about bringing the brand to life; targeting a core audience and communicating the brand values by creating memorable experiences that give back or add value to their customer’s lives. By creating an experience, the customer makes an emotional connection with the brand, which they then remember—far more than a traditional advertisement—and share with others via social media/word of mouth.
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Jiří Macháček, Innovate Captain & ExM Trainer