Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Experiential marketing - what you are probably practising

Experiential Marketing Sir Alfred Herbert
Engaging with visitors at
The Herbert in Coventry
On the ‘marketing made simple’  web site 'Experiential marketing' is defined as ‘a cross-media promotional activity which encourages two way interaction and direct physical immersion into a a relatively young marketing discipline, but is growing rapidly because it ticks a lot of the right boxes. Compared to mass media campaigns, experiential events tend to communicate on a much more personal level, generate a deeper level of emotional engagement, result in better conversion rates, and all at relatively low cost. Experiential marketing activities can range from high profile invite only events to tasters at a local farmer's market.’
Well excuse me, but isn’t that what most successful visitor attractions, heritage centres, museums etc have been doing for the last 20 years or more? The web site then goes on to ask ‘Why should you chose (sic) to use experiential marketing? ‘
It quotes McKinsey and Co as saying  ‘TV advertising will be only a third as effective as it was in 1990 due to increasing advertising costs and dramatic reduction in viewing figures.’ – well blow me down who would have thought that with the proliferation of channels, social media etc?
‘Marketing made simple’ goes to say that with the fragmentation and saturation of conventional media channels traditional promotional methods have become less effective. ‘Consumers are becoming immune (surely avoiding?) advertising by fast forwarding through TV adverts… Experiential marketing by its very nature is a dialogue that consumers cannot ignore, not because they're being forced into it, but because it engages with them on a personal level.’
Well that reminded me of The Heritage Lottery Fund’s  definition. They describe ‘Interpretation’ as  a specialised form of communication for people visiting heritage sites. To connect with an audience it must: 
  • provoke their attention;
  • be pleasurable;
  • be interesting and meaningful;
  • be well-organised and easy to use and understand; and
  • have a clear theme or idea to communicate.
Good-quality interpretation: 
  • is done with a passion for its subject and aims to capture and spark the imagination of its audience
  • communicates stories and ideas, not just facts and figures, is truthful and authentic, respecting the essential characteristics of the heritage resource and
  • provokes its audience to think for themselves, thereby coming to their own understanding about what its subject means to them.
The resulting personal connections and meanings are the only way in which visitors’beliefs, attitudes and behaviours can be encouraged to change.  

In promoting the concept of experiential marketing  ‘marketing made simple’ quotes a 2009 survey by Jack Morton that  revealed that the majority of marketers believed "experiential marketing builds customer relationships for the long term".
They also agreed that it generates sales and leads in the short term, increases awareness of the product, drives word of mouth and can align internal audiences with business goals.

Experiential marketing can be used successfully to:
  • Build relationships
  • Raise awareness
  • Increase loyalty
  • Establish relevance
  • Encourage interaction and product trial
  • Create memories
  • Stimulate positive word of mouth
  • Change the mind of dissatisfied customers - none at the attraction we hope!
  • Create product desire
  • Verify the target audience
  • Increase return on marketing investment
All that suspiciously sounds like what goes in visitor attractions. Experiential marketing events work best apparently when:
  • People are susceptible i.e. at an exhibition or other event – a museum maybe?
  • They are appealing, engaging and personal
  • The event staff are well briefed – as in attractions?
  • Part of an integrated marketing campaign
  • Right customer groups are accurately targeted – knowing your audience!
  • The product is good and easily demonstrated
Experiential marketing can be used to satisfy many marketing requirements, but the best campaigns have more tightly defined goals and include answering:
  • Which customers do you want to target?
  • What is the best method of interacting with these customers?
  • What is the best location and environment?
Success should be measured  and no promotional activity should be put into place without some evaluation and reporting of success. Well that’s what we are always telling our clients – collect that feedback!

‘Experiential marketing is a powerful marketing tool…Ensure your events are well run, well targeted and integrated with other marketing campaigns…and you'll create brand advocates who they will further spread your brand messages through word of mouth advertising, and become a loyal customer for life...Or visitors who want to come back for more experiences perhaps?

So stand up all those attractions who are good at experiential marketing…or just very good at attracting, engaging and generating repeat visitors.

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