Marketers are now faced with intense competition at one hand and a media clutter on the other hand. These issues are going to aggravate in the years to come. Differentiation will become difficult and if at all brands can create differentiation, communicating the uniqueness will become even more difficult.
It is in this scenario that experiential marketing becomes relevant. According to Professor Kevin Lane Keller, Experiential marketing promotes product by not only communicating a product’s features and benefits but also connecting it with unique and interesting experiences.
Traditionally, experiential marketing was appealing to those products and services that have high experience attributes. Experience attributes are those attributes which cannot be evaluated by consumers before purchase. Consumers have to experience those attributes inorder to evaluate or form opinion about it. For example, resorts, holiday packages, Spas etc are products that have high experience attributes. Marketers have to market those products/services by taking the customer through the product experience. Communicating experience attributes is one of the most difficult tasks in marketing communication.
As the consumers are moving towards an experience eco-system, marketers of all kinds of products and services should be willing to embrace the concept of experiential marketing. There are many forces that are driving this experience economy. Consumers are now exposed to a wide range of products and services. This exposure has enabled them to see beyond the marketing communication originated from the brand.
Another factor that is driving the trend towards experience is the clutter. When the product features remains the same, consumers tend to bias their purchase decisions towards those products that offer them a better experience.
Experience can happen at different levels. According to Bernd Schmitt of Columbia University, how the brands sense, feel, think, act and relate have a strong impact on the way the brands are perceived by the consumers (Journal of Marketing Management, 1999). Marketers can think about engaging with the consumers only if they are able to connect with the consumers across these five critical experience points.
In order to create an effective customer experience, marketers need to think beyond product categories. Categories are increasingly becoming irrelevant as far as consumers are concerned. Technological innovations are enabling firms to create products that transcends beyond boundaries. The focus is on the consumer’s needs and wants rather than creating a new product within a specified category.
Most of the product marketers are confused about building an experience around the physical product. How is it possible to create an experience when the consumers purchase products from retail outlets and consumes it at their own convenience?
In such a scenario, one method is to create a consumption experience in the mind of the consumer that will compliment the real consumption experience. For example, Cadbury Dairy Milk is a brand which successfully created a consumption experience in the mind of the consumer. From the product – chocolate, the brand has moved from the physical characteristics of taste and quality to a joyful experience of consuming chocolate. The recent campaign for Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk is a classic case of creating experience in the mind of the consumer.
Another method is the engage the consumers in different platforms. HUL which is India’s largest FMCG Company recently launched a website called Be Beautiful (bebeautiful.in) as a platform to communicate with its consumers. “Be Beautiful”, unlike other brand website , is a platform for all of HUL’s personal care brands like Pond’s, Lakme, Sunsilk, Vaseline and Dove to connect with the consumer. While the consumer experiences the actual products at her home, these brands try to engage consumers and shape their experience with the brand through the website. The website offers a platform for the brand to interact directly with the consumers thus create an opportunity for experiential marketing.
While marketers think too much about using the social media for advertising and promoting their products, they miss out the opportunity to engage with the consumers and create an experience in them about the brand.
Events are also a smart way of creating brand experience and to relate to the customer. Brands like Colgate uses events like “Dental Check Up Camps” to relate to the consumer. These events not only reinforce the positioning but also give a sense of relatedness to the consumers.
The cornerstone of experiential marketing is that the entire organization should be integrated to deliver the desired experience of the consumer. Philip Kotler defines Holistic Marketing as that which is based on the development design and implementation of marketing programs, processes and activities that recognizes their breadth and interdependencies. When endeavouring into experiential marketing, the entire organization should be thinking alike, be it the operations, sales, finance or HR. Brand websites which are seldom updated, complaints not attended to properly, rude sales people, unethical corporate practices can severely undermine the experiential marketing endeavour.