Four pillars of experiential marketing (I)

In the world of marketing, experiential is officially a buzzword. All brands are now expected to go experiential: develop non-TV, non-print campaigns around live events in which consumers interact with the brand. Such activities, the argument goes, provide personal and memorable experiences for consumers and therefore bring them closer to the brand, trigger motivation, and ignite word-of-mouth.

Enthusiasts claim that this is a huge improvement over traditional marketing, which is mainly about exposure and awareness. Nobody wants to be bombarded with publicity, but most of us enjoy being entertained, wowed, or scared.

Experiencial Marketing IESE Business School Iñigo Gallo
Sky Germany surprised Eight Division football teams by transforming their facilities in a TV-SetUp of a professional Bundesliga Spiel. Click to see the video.

Companies’ investment in experiential marketing is growing. Initiatives from TNT, Coke, or T-Mobile – to name just a few – have made a big splash. There’s one thing more prevalent than successful experiential marketing campaigns, however: non-successful experiential marketing campaigns. The thing is, you never hear about campaigns such as this or this. If we measure campaigns by the buzz they generate, then most experiential marketing fails .

What makes one campaign fly and another one fall flat? Is there any method to the experiential marketing madness? Here and in the following post I introduce a four-pillar framework to build excellent experiential campaigns. In short, once the target audience and the message are clear, experiential marketing should:

  • Be Personal
  • Deliver a meaningful benefit
  • Be consistent with the rest of the marketing activity
  • Have viral potential.

Let’s focus on the first pillar. Good experiential marketing reaches and influences the consumer personally. One way in which an experiential campaign becomes personal is when it earns a high degree of involvement from consumers, and not merely their engagement.

Involvement vs Engagement

Involvement is active, it entails participation; engagement can be just passive, just about observation . A good example of this is the replay campaign from Gatorade. Consider the different ways in which Gatorade becomes personally relevant. It provides pure fun for players, their families, and their towns; it helps adults in their 30s and 40s go back to exercise; and it reunites these people with their high schools and their teammates. At the center of all this there is a game to be played, practice sessions to be held… and Gatorade to be drunk.

A second way in which a campaign can be personal is if it interacts with the consumer at a time and a place where the consumer is open to it, where thinking about the brand or the category is fitting, or at least not out of place. This increases the amount and the quality of consumers’ attention. It should not become a bothersome interruption for those that are exposed to it, but a relevant event, worth paying attention to. Consider the fancy pop-up restaurant from Electrolux. At The Cube, Electrolux pitches its upscale kitchen equipment to the right people (guests who appreciate a fine-dining experience) at the right moment (after enjoying the meal) and by the right spokesperson (the chef). You can check another good example of a personal (and inexpensive) campaign here.

Now, there is a caveat. While a personal experience increases the depth of the interaction between the consumer and the brand, it also reduces the volume of people that can be reached. Brands will have to consider this trade-off and find the balance.

With the first pillar of the framework in mind take a look at these other campaigns that have been successful at creating buzz: Mercedes-Benz, Chobani , or Pepsi. Do you think they also succeed at staying personal?


About Inigo Gallo

Iñigo is assistant professor in the Marketing Department at IESE Business School. Iñigo has received his Ph.D. degree in Management from the Anderson School of Management, UCLA. Previous to his doctoral studies, Iñigo received an undergraduate degree in Business and Economics from the University of Barcelona, worked for a number of years as a management consultant for Everis, and received his MBA from IESE Business School.

7 thoughts on “Four pillars of experiential marketing (I)

  1. One thing I have learned in the last 12 yrs of Internet Marketing is to Brand Yourself 1st, become involved with the communities in social media or blogging etc and people will listen or buy.. If people know who you are and what you stand for (Your Brand) they will be more willing to engage with you, this builds trust! and trust is everything. 😀

  2. Thanks Rhonda. Definitely agree with the second part. I believe any marketing initiative, traditional or otherwise, has to be true to your brand, consistent with the brand DNA.

  3. Just started to learn the importance of good internet marketing strategy and your post helped me realize that I have a long way to go. Thank you Gallo, please keep up the good work.

  4. Thanks Judith,… I believe internet in general and social media in particular have helped this kind of marketing (which I call experiential but can be called in different ways) explode.

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