Experiential: The Dawn Of New-Age Marketing

In the era of information overload brands are constantly innovating to create a loyal long-term consumer life cycle and experiential marketing is saving the day for them, writes Ankit Shah.


Business dynamics since the late 20th century have been constantly evolving and the tempo of the change is relentlessly accelerating. Today's marketing executives are up against a perplexing battle to keep up with these quickly evolving trends, build a distinctive brand identity, and establish connections with their audience and customers that go beyond simple business dealings. As corporate speaker and coach, Patricia Fripp says, “To build a long-term, successful enterprise, when you don’t close a sale, open a relationship.”

In the era of information blasts and a plethora of options available in the market, brands have become even more watchful and constantly innovative to create a loyal long-term consumer life cycle. After two years of settling for a virtual parallel, there's no denying that a lot of people are missing the sense of connection that comes from a shared experience. In this age and time, where people and their short attention spans are increasingly harder to engage, brands are turning to offer unique experiences to increase consumer engagement. Experiential marketing is one such emerging tactical approach embraced by brands that create a modicum of brand loyalty.

Understanding Experiential Marketing

As the name suggests, it emphasizes crafting a holistic ‘feel-good’ and distinguishing experience for the customers beyond the traditional hard selling. Experiential marketing essentially encompasses anything that creates a distinct experience, memorable action exchange, and voluntary personal involvement for a user. Experiential can be done in numerous ways, right from something as simple as a physical press conference to something as exclusive as networking over wine-n-cheese. Brands are leveraging these charming techniques along with all the dazzle of digital engagement, but all of these efforts have common elements of building a relationship with the customer that goes beyond business.

Curating differentiated experience practices like pop-up experiences, sponsored events, experiential marketing technology tools, incentivisation, etc., are boosting the concept of brand loyalty among consumers. While living in a phygital world, traditional and digital marketing is here to stay, marketers are looking beyond these mundane techniques and embracing newer effective and cutting-edge strategies to create a brand loyal audience segment.

Luxury and upmarket brands are aggressively marching toward curating that ‘money can’t buy experience’ exclusively for their customers. Events like wine-n-cheese evenings with premium retail brands, selecting early bird movie screenings, joyrides with premium auto companies, etc., have been such special efforts undertaken by brands to create a memorable experience for their customers. 

Where conventional media (like print ads, TV and radio commercials, and billboards) market goods to a passive consumer mostly in an interruptive and one-way communication, experiential marketing asks for active participation for creating a delightful user experience.

The decline of ‘Billboard Philosophy’ and boom in experiential marketing

Physical marketing, which can be also termed as ‘billboard philosophy’, due to its heavy focus on the concept of general billboards, newspapers, and pamphlets have been existing since the beginning and will continue to exist in the future. They all are based on the common principle of generalizing the audience by finding the lowest common denominator. As the pandemic hit, the dynamics of traditional marketing witnessed a paradigm shift and offline & billboard marketing witnessed an unforeseen halt. The famous 4Ps of marketing, while still being relevant, partially changed into Product, Price, People and Process.

From mapping just demographics to understanding psychographics, marketers have started focusing on understanding their target audiences' activities, interests, and opinions which are also called AIO. This methodology is further used extensively not only to curate tailor-made messages but also to craft unique perceptible as well as beyond materialistic experiences.

The era of mundane social media and digital overdose

The last decade witnessed a boom in social media adoption by brands across the globe. The goal was to reach the targeted audience in a much more personalized way highlighting the key messaging. Digitization witnessed new heights during the pandemic era as outdoor marketing became obsolete. However, as soon as digitization dominated content consumption mediums, its efficiency has been under the radar. As per industry estimates, a consumer sees an average of 7000 ads in a day. These ads are a mixture of social media, search engines, website ads, etc. So to avoid getting lost in the clutter, standout brands are trying to leverage the best of both worlds by harvesting the humongous reach of social media and combining it with highly personalized and tangible ideas of experiential marketing.             

While social media has been one of the best tools to reach the masses at a fractional cost of TVCs and it can be customized for certain demographics, the categories are still very broad and can result in redundant messaging being pushed to an irrelevant audience. Also, due to the vast amount of ads popping up every second, the attention span of viewers has reduced considerably to mere few seconds. Due to these shortcomings, social media ads create a very momentary impact on the viewer and the messaging is often lost. On the contrary, the key essence of experiential marketing is curating personalized special moments for the user which will create a long-lasting feel-good factor for the consumer, in turn increasing brand loyalty.

What next?

While experiential marketing in its initial years focused on creating experiences that are just aesthetically pleasing and could be amplified over social media, marketers in the future are expected to curate moments that will indulge all five senses of the audience. The emphasis from larger national events is shifting towards small localized events with regional flavour to establish deeper connections.

The increasing trend of leveraging crafted experiences to build a stronger connection with the brand’s target audience will also lead to more and more collaborations in which companies tie up with other brands having similar TG and consolidate it to promote their brand.

(The author is Head of Marketing, Strata)

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experiential marketing Strata social media billboards

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