Talking Experiential Marketing

Experiential Marketing and Brand Activation are fast becoming buzz words in marketing across the globe. The concept of Experiential Marketing, otherwise known as Direct Marketing Approach, is not entirely new in Africa. Many of us will recall sitting around our parents listening to stories as children. Some of those stories are still very fresh in our memories today, as we pass them down from one generation to another in theatre and other drama forms.

Today, Experiential Marketing is getting the chunk of marketing budgets in developed countries such as the United States, Europe and even in Africa countries. The average consumer is exposed to over 5000 brand messages on a daily basis, hence, for any brand to be noticed such brand must stand out from the clutter.

While it may not be the be-all solution to marketing problems, there is no denying the fact that there is life value in a brand story told for 5 minutes compared to 50 slots of radio or TV commercial.

Various Definitions

Experiential Marketing Communications can be seen as various activities that are both strategic and tactical in creating larger than life brands in the heart of consumers. Put differently, it is all about owning a space in consumers' minds through various activities that will ultimately generate interest that leads to creating, connecting and bonding with consumers in unique, memorable and exciting ways. It is about doing something differently so as to arrest consumers' attention and participation.

A New World
In contemporary society, we discover that:
• Goods and services are becoming very similar without any visible differentiation
• Consumers are being bombarded with over exaggerated claims and brand promises
• There is a cluster of goods shouting for consumers' attention
• Almost all brands now survive on promotions and reality shows
• Consumers are getting wiser
• Consumers are pressing for time
• Consumers are becoming increasingly cynical, hence, hold no brand commitments

Sooner than later, it will become extremely difficult for any brand to be noticed. In other to generate acceptability and patronage, a brand must be relevant to consumers' life style and make connections in form of experiences and activations that are personally relevant, memorable, interactive and emotional that will ultimately lead to increased sales and loyalty.

In other words, such brands must engage the power of brand activation in creating a larger than life scenario for the brand to come alive in consumers' minds, not momentarily, but for a very long time even long after the brand might have gone.

It's important to point out that simply creating a live encounter between a person and a brand does not mean you have succeeded as an experiential marketer. I see a lot of experiences being created where there is disconnect between what is happening and the brand (e.g. a luxury SUV maker who organizes a snowboarding event that mainly young kids who can't afford SUVs attend just to enjoy the free snowboarding).

Another scenario is where the brand connection is clear but the experience doesn't lead to the intended result (e.g. branded interactive kiosks that end up being places for people to simply amuse themselves and contribute nothing more).

Good experiences must connect with the right target audience, at the right place, and at the right time. It takes time, money, adequate information and clear objectives to develop.

Tom Peters says it well in his new book Re-Imagine! “Despite the fact that experiences will be the essence of life in the New Economy ... most companies trying to pull this 'experience thing' off will fail miserably. They won't get it ... This 'experience thing' is ... extremist. Not a dab of 'delight' here, or a pinch of 'amusement' there. But ... An Entirely Different Way of Life" through powerful and creative activation that will require the coordination of experts in the field of Experiential Marketing.

What Brand Activation is all about

Brand Activation can also be viewed as a critical means of getting goods and services to consumers in a unique approach that includes an integrated array of elements of emotions, logic, and general thought processes to connect with the consumer.

The goal of experiential marketing is to establish the connection in such a way that the consumer responds to a product or service offering based on both emotional and rational response levels.

Appealing to a variety of senses, experiential marketing seeks to tap into that special place within consumers that has to do with inspiring thoughts about comfort and pleasure, as well as inspiring a sense of practicality and product demonstration. This means that the marketer needs to have a firm grasp of the mindset of the target audience he or she wishes to attract.

By understanding what the consumer is likely to think and feel, it is possible to get an idea of how to steer the customer in a direction that will relate with the product as well as entice individuals to act on that impulse to purchase what is often referred to as their “innermost passion and unseen desires.”
It's About Engaging the 6 Senses in Marketing

In engaging people, it is necessary to engage as many of the senses as possible. There are six basic and powerful senses that are very crucial and relevant to experiential marketing. These are sight, hearing, feel, touch, smell and emotion.

So, striking displays with powerful visual elements, such as websites and visual media such as print ads, should not only be visually appealing but also evoke dreams of locales and sensations that are pleasurable to the individual. When used to create customer experiences of this nature, a sense of rapport between the product and the consumer is established that helps to make the good or service more desirable with each encounter.

Given that experiential marketing connects with consumers on multiple levels, the strategy is ideally suited for contemporary sales and marketing campaigns with shorter attention span demands than the usual ad campaign, or the opportunity to engage the consumer is quickly lost. In many technologically driven countries today, consumers bypass radio and TV commercials on their devices, hence, these once highly impactful marketing approach is greatly threatened.

This means that ads in the print media or on modern billboards must immediately catch the attention of prospective clients and hold their attention long enough to make an impact. Experiential marketing holds the key to making this happen. By appealing to all the senses and making the connection quickly and seamlessly, this approach to marketing ensures that businesses can still attract and satisfy the needs and desires of consumers.

Rufus Aluko currently works for a leading Experiential Marketing Company in Kenya.

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