Experiential marketing has evolved into a tangible and highly engaging discipline - and clients are taking advantage. Drew Barrand reports on exclusive research into the growing use and reputation of the medium.
It would be a surprise if there is a marketer left in the UK who has not encountered the word 'experiential' over the past 12 months, so ubiquitous has this buzzword become. As clients hunt more targeted ways to communicate with consumers, it could offer the answer.
Once viewed as nothing more than a bolt-on piece of sampling, experiential marketing is now seen as a means to create one-to-one brand experiences with consumers. The increasingly sophisticated techniques involved are certainly catching the attention of marketers. According to an exclusive survey of clients' views of the industry commissioned by experiential agency iD and conducted by HPI Research, 68% of respondents are spending more on experiential marketing this year than last year, and 49% anticipate a further increase in spend for 2006. Only 6% predicted a decrease in experiential budgets, the majority of whom attributed the fall to cuts in marketing spend rather than a negative attitude toward the discipline.
'The research reflects what we are seeing in the market, which is vastly heightened interest in experiential campaigns,' says Paul Ephremsen, managing director of iD. 'They are starting to view it as an important tool in its own right, rather than a tactical supplement to other marketing methods.'
The rise in interest stems from marketers' belief that experiential activity leads to a closer relationship with consumers, and that it successfully encourages brand loyalty: 89% and 72% of the survey's respondents agreed with the respective notions.
'Good experiential marketing allows brands to cut through the environment in which it is being executed and engage deeper with the recipient's mindset,' explains Joel Kaufman, managing director of field marketing and brand experience agency Link Communication. 'It has the capability to evoke emotions and inspire aspirational brand values among consumers by involving them in a way that more traditional, non-experiential types of marketing do not. The discipline is now becoming prolific among industries that would previously have considered it too left-of-centre to award it budget.'
Unilever Home and Personal Care, which is working with iD on a 'Hair history experience' campaign for Dove Hair, is one convert.
'Experiential has become a crucial part of our marketing strategy,' says Dominic Grounsell, Dove Hair brand manager. 'Not only does it give customers the chance to experience the product, but we can also portray brand values to them. It gives us the opportunity to translate lots of different messages to the consumer - messages that are very difficult to convey through other marketing channels.'
Glenfiddich is another brand impressed with the results of experiential campaigns. 'Over the past year we recruited 54,000 25- to 34-year-olds to Glenfiddich in a category that has lost about 80,000 drinkers,' says Nick Williamson, senior brand manager. 'That is quite a turnaround, given that a quarter of the brand's drinkers are over 65.'
According to the research, the impact on the consumer is seen by many as the discipline's chief advantage. Experiential marketing was ranked as the most memorable medium by marketing directors, ahead of TV ads and sales promotion. As a result, it offers an effective alternative to brands targeting sections of society other media fail to reach.
'Experiential marketing is a potential point of difference if you have the courage to go for it,' says Sharon Annette, marketing manager at Scottish Courage. 'If, for example, you are not targeting housewives with children, but young male adults, your options in terms of media buying are limited. A spot during Coronation Street is not going to do it. …