Cutting through the noise with experiential marketing- Mark Evans, MD, Kommando, UK


Consumers today are bombarded by advertising noise. It is in their everyday lives, their social lives and their virtual lives. This noise is everywhere. It is inescapable and it is unavoidable but yet, it has become invisible. Evolutionary animals as we are, consumers inundated by pushing, nudging, look-at-me messages are adapting. We have learned to screen these messages out and concentrate on what we really want to know about and who we really want to engage with.

This new generation of street-wise, tech-savvy consumers has created a real problem for the marketing industry. How do we penetrate the protective carapace in which consumers have shrouded themselves? How do we create exciting promotional campaigns that will grab attention and capture imagination? How can we be heard above the noise?

The answer is experiential marketing.

Over the last few decades – in which TV and print have dominated the media landscape – the value of experiential marketing has all too often been disregarded. Brands hoping to launch effective advertising campaigns were assured that traditional broadcast media was the future, and a lot of money was spent in order to perpetuate this myth. The ‘AD men’ would justify their billings by quoting TV viewing figures, and explaining how these figures would translate into an impressive ROI.

At its heart, experiential marketing is about value driven interaction. Traditional marketing channels push the consumer; this is our message – listen to us. Experiential marketing pulls the consumer; see what we’re doing – what do you think? A good experiential campaign will pique interest, drawing consumers to ask ‘what’s going on here?’, and consequently encouraging them to engage with a product or an idea.

The aim of an experiential marketing campaign is to create emotive experiences, drive quality engagement between brand and consumer and – as a result – harness the immense power of word-of-mouth. Those who enjoy a positive experience are highly likely to share it with others, directly or indirectly endorsing the associated product and thus increasing brand advocacy. We call this advocate a brand champion: an individual who has the ability to influence perceptions and shift purchase behaviour across peer and tribe groups – but how can you ensure that your carefully planned experience will resonate with your target audience?

Experiential marketing is sensory driven. We as humans need to feel something before we act, and to draw consideration we need to create experiences that involve consumers in honest, authentic and imaginative ways. Other marketing disciplines often focus too heavily on words and 2D images, forgetting about the other – equally important - 4 senses; touch, taste, sound and smell. Brands that are able to stimulate more than one of these senses are more likely to be recalled at a later date and evoke an emotional connection with the consumer. This connection is what will eventually drive purchase decisions or influence perceptions. According to a study done by the Sense of Smell Institute, people can remember around 50% of visual stimuli after 3 months, compared with remembering 65% of what they smell. For example, you only need to be within 50 feet of an Abercrombie and Fitch store to smell that it is there.

Today, people are constantly sharing their life stories and the growth of social networks such as Instagram and Twitter means that brand experiences have the chance to become part of this real world story telling - if they are carried out effectively. People share positive experiences in seconds and thousands can engage with the post, however consumers can share a negative experience just as quickly, instantly tarnishing the brand you have worked so hard to build. As much as you can create a tidal wave of new brand fans off the back of an exciting experiential campaign, if executed poorly you will quickly spread the wrong word.

With experiential marketing so closely linked to social media and online interactions, it’s no wonder that the number of brands utilizing experiential in India is on the rise. The marketing landscape is packed full of articles and opinions on engaging with Millennials and more recently, with Generation Z – those born from the late 90’s to the mid 2000’s – and 50% of India’s population falls into one of these categories. India is quickly catching up with the likes of the USA in terms of connectivity, so it makes sense that they are also catching up in the way that companies communicate with their customers. Whilst traditional, predictable and measurable advertising such as TV broadcasting still accounts for a significant portion of India’s marketing spend, there is a growing consumer demand for advertising to become a 2-way conversation – something which can only happen when a brand has something interesting and engaging to offer.

It’s no secret that a huge number of people literally live their lives through their phones and that social media has a massive influence on the way we conduct ourselves and the decisions that we make. For these reasons, bridging the gap between physical experience and the online social space is imperative for success. Virtual and augmented reality are two up and coming technologies increasingly enabling this bridging, however the power of photography is not one to be underestimated. With images accounting for around 90% of all interaction on Facebook, technology which can produce sharable branded photographs of customers enjoying their experience is invaluable for producing genuine user-generated content.

When it comes to structuring marketing spend, businesses need to shuffle the deck. Broadcast media has become so deeply embedded, that breaking free from the typical advertising model can be difficult, but we believe it is necessary to do so in order to challenge the status quo and create truly memorable campaigns. Instead of beginning with broadcast media, and working down, it’s time to start designing campaigns from the ground up. Experiential marketing allows a business to look their customers squarely in the eye, and generate a mutual rapport. The campaign messages disseminated by experiential marketing can then be repeated and reinforced through traditional media outlets, such as TV and radio.

Experiences inspire us to create, or to change, to question our beliefs, to embrace new ideas and find new passions. Experiences are the basis of human existence and, as such, they are an incredibly powerful marketing tool.

About Mark

Mark Evans is the Managing Director at UK based experiential marketing agency 'Kommando'. With close to 20 years of experience in guerilla marketing he boasts of a sizeable list of international clientele and campaigns that stretch across 17 countries.

Twitter Handle- @kommandogroup

(The article has been extracted from BW APPLAUSE)

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