What's new in experiential marketing?

The dealership just called you to collect your brand new car. You arrive in anticipation of stepping into the vehicle you've longed for since college. Not only had you gawked at it on the road time and time again, you finally managed to take it for a spin at the very same dealership the previous week.
In fact, it was that last drive in the vehicle that remains implanted in your mind as you enter the showroom, however this time would be different. After all, now you'll own it, so no more test drives!

Going the extra mile
The other difference is that the salesperson took the initiative to learn more about you, not just what the factory could provide and what you could afford, he's become familiar with your lifestyle, your likes and dislikes and even where you see yourself going on your first drive. That's why there's a bottle of your favourite Zinfandel in the front seat with a wicker basket of French cheeses, Michael Buble's CD playing in the front loader, the name of your partner saved on the car's phone directory and linked to her home address via the navigation system, plus two tickets to see Buble live at the Standard Bank arena handed to you by the dealer to say, “Thanks.”

The dealership took a lesson in CRM which says that a captive audience is to be nurtured, treasured and respected. He knows that the dealership down the road is going to give you a paper ribbon wrapped around the bonnet that you'll throw away before you even drive-off the showroom floor. He also knows that the experience you had when you test drove the car was awesome, in large part due to the vocalist ringing out on the advanced sound system you raved about. He knows that your first stop after leaving the showroom floor is a stop at your friend's house to show off your new pride and joy. So, why not send a message to the new owner that creates an instant magnet to attract potential buyers.

Introduce delightful surprises
In light of competition, commoditised brands and cynical consumers, it is imperative for brands to entice their audience with a series of delightful surprises. The most effective way to achieve this is through a deep understanding of the consumers' needs and how they intend to use the product/service you are selling. With this knowledge you can use experiential marketing to have them enjoy the benefits of your brand even before they purchase it.

Today, more than ever, we are poised to deliver real communication impact for a select group of audiences by understanding their particular lifestyle, purchase behaviour and need for status recognition. This has moved experiential off and beyond the stage to engagement strategies where the brand is required to communicate.

Some of the more popular trends being witnessed in experiential marketing include:

  • Role play for research development that generates consumer insight into products and messaging. This is what our car salesman used real-time on the test drive hearing from the potential buyer about his tastes, not just in cars, but music and wine.

  • Industrial theatre and role play have replaced the archaic sales training manual in order to physically demonstrate how to react to consumer needs on the spot. The car buyer led the salesman by commenting about the kind of music he liked and how it sounded on the car's audio system. The salesman realised Michael Buble was as important, if not more so, than powerful woofers and wailing tweeters.

  • Team building and personal recreational development through activities such as mountain climbing and basketball inside of offices provide an immediate burst of rejuvenation to an otherwise worn out employee. Just before the car buyer walked in the salesman had not been having a good day. Experiential's internal communication tactics include revitalising the spirit of the employee to increase alertness, stamina and concentration in order to be their best as often as possible.

  • Pop-up retail is a space anywhere a brand can entice consumers to engage and buy. That space used to be the mall, but now, we find that consumers' friends are the best ambassadors towards a sale, and the trial of the product better than any storefront window - our car buyer's first passenger in her new vehicle is enticed by the product and convinced by the dealership's targeted accessories. She then decides to contact them immediately from the car's telephone directory.

So, the next time you walk into a car dealership, look for a bottle of wine in the front seat of the car, and see if the brand measures up to consumer taste.

For further information visit www.vwv.com or call Ricardo Gressel or Abey Mokgwatsane on 011 799-2600.


About the author

VWV Group Business Development Director, Ricardo Gressel, is a graduate of Stanford University in Stanford, California, with a Bachelors Degree in International Relations. He has a passion for brand building and has developed communication strategies and managed successful interventions for leading brands in diverse sectors the world over, including Accelon, Africa Venture Partners, Afrox, Apple Computers, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Cell C, Click Media, Coca-Cola, Compuware, Deloitte & Touche, Eskom, Esselen Park, IP Direct, McDonald's, MTN, Omnia, Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, to name a few.

Gressel has been involved in Marketing Communications for the past 16-years and has worked as a Strategist and Account Director for companies, such as Burrell Communications Group and Arian, Lowe & Travis in the US.

He has been recognised with awards by organisations in the USA, including the American Legion, for his uncanny ability to motivate individuals and to persuade through the power of communication. Gressel is proficient in English and Spanish and has work experience in Brazil, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, USA, and Venezuela, among other countries.