Experimental or Experiential?

Does the market place properly understand the value of Experiential Marketing in their brand building challenge? Or, is it another buzz word that we can get excited about and "experiment" with?
Do we give it to the traditional agency to implement or do we drive it internally within our promotions department? After all, it really is only about having a "push girl" at a POS stand to sample and drive sales, isn't it? The reality is that there is far more to Experiential Marketing than is usually recognized.

Experiential Marketing is a natural step in the evolution of marketing. It is not "Experimental" and clients should be building it into a brand's strategic plan - driving both volume and equity in a carefully crafted experiential solution - a solution that personally connects with a targeted audience at the right time, at the right place and in a manner that represents the value proposition of the Brand.

Just as specialists are employed to define and produce the best media / commercial options, a company that employs a specialist experiential agency to build experiential solutions will position itself ahead of its competitors. As the Experience Economy remarks: "Recognising experience as a distinct economic offering provides the key to future economic growth" and "Companies which capture this economic value will not only earn a place in the hearts and minds of consumers, they will capture their dollars."

Experiential Marketing as a Partner to a Brand's Strategic Plan
During the late 80's-90's, Nestle launched and built a brand for Nescafe in China - a 100% tea culture market. During this time, Nescafe was one of the better-known brands in the Chinese market, awareness being driven predominantly through classical media [television, print and outdoor] with internal Nestle Sales driving in-store promotions. Towards the end of the 90's, it was found that even though brand awareness was high, penetration into the home was not happening. Exp.Momentum (Group Asia) was tasked with creating an experiential campaign as part of the brand's strategic plan. Part of this development was educating Nestle staff on the value of Experiential Marketing as a tool to drive both equity and sales, as well as passing this understanding onto the trade - getting their buy-in and support of the coffee category as a whole.

The "Nescafe Connections" experiential campaign targeted consumers at times and places best suited to interacting with them, personally connecting with them, enhancing their brand experience and deepening their relationship with Nescafe as a Brand.

Piloted in Beijing (1999) 13 phases of the Nescafe Connections campaign have been activated in 4 years [Key learning: Experiential Marketing should not be regarded as short-term solutions/promotions, but need to be designed for long-term sustainability], reaching 96 cities and sampling more than 2,5 million cups of Nescafe in each phase. The experiential campaign is aimed at educating consumers on consumption moments in which they could enjoy the perfect cup of Nescafe as part of their day. It is a function of the image and awareness that is communicated via the traditional media platform, and as a result of this total communications approach, penetration into homes is now taking place. Nescafe is being accepted into the lifestyle of the new generation Chinese.

Another learning from this is the understanding of who the Custodian of the Brand is. Too often we are told that it is the traditional agency, but therein lies the problem for the real change that is required in our marketing campaigns. The Custodian of the Brand should, in fact, be the consumer. They are the ones who determine the future of a Brand - its rise and its fall. As David Ogilvy once said: "A brand is a complex symbol. It is the intangible sum of a product's attributes, its name, packaging, and price, its history, reputation, and the way it's advertised.

A Brand is also defined by consumers' impressions of the people who use it, as well as their own experience." A Brand, then, is whatever people think and feel it is, and Experiential Marketing/ BrandingTM is about creating experiences that mould positive emotional feelings [from the consumer] towards the Brand.

AC Nielsen [South Africa] recently reported that traditional advertising methods alone "will not secure Brand share growth" and "will not necessarily contribute to sustained success unless they are supported by other marketing activities". Experiential Marketing, as an ongoing part of a brand's strategic plan, will grow the brand ahead of its competitors.

To help us understand the value of Experiential Marketing, the Jack Morton Group (an agency in the USA) recently did research and found that:
  • "Almost 9/10 agree that participating in a live consumer experience makes them more receptive to a product's advertising the next time they see it."

  • Experiential Marketing Enhances Brand Perception:

    • "More than 53% of consumers said that experiencing a brand through a live consumer experience was extremely influential on their perception of the brand"
    • "Among Generation Y consumers, this percentage increases to 61%."
The future of marketing communication thus lies in Experiential Marketing as part of a brand's strategic plan, and not as "experimental".

Exp.Momentum is Africa's largest agency network and Africa's leading experiential agency with more than twenty years of experience.


Editorial contact
Exp.Momentum
David Boon
+27 11 705 3344

23 Aug 2004 10:01

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