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What Is Experiential Marketing And Why Does It Matter Now More Than Ever?

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Matt Wujciak

After decades of struggling for buy-in, the customer experience function has finally started to secure a seat at the executive table. More organizations, regardless of financial merit, are beginning to appoint the emerging CXO to oversee customer experience. 

From CMO to CXO

As the WSJ predicts, “Although the majority of big marketers have CMOs, the popularity of the title has been waning over the past several years. CMO titles have been eliminated or gone unfilled this year at brands including Uber Technologies Inc.Johnson & Johnson and Beam Suntory Inc.” This is the case because brands are shifting investment behavior from traditional “marketing” to digital “experience.” A CXO embodies that idea of encapsulating every touchpoint a brand displays, with the experience employees and customers are receiving. 

A good customer experience makes a person five times more likely to recommend a company and more likely to purchase from that brand in the future. In many ways, the importance of a CXO’s ability to create quality consumer experiences and retaining advocacy is similar to a CMO’s ability to generate a quality brand reputation, and eventually, advocacy. Both aim at generating more customers, yet at different scales. Customer experience and marketing should not be completely segregated departments. If anything CX encompasses broad digital marketing, but zooms in on each customer interaction and acquisition. 

Experiental marketing defined

For example, digital marketing may entail social media marketing targeted at a robust consumer target market. CX encompasses that, in addition to the individual customer interactions that follow, hence the emergence of an “omnichannel experience” (i.e. social media dm’s, chatbots, etc.).

Traditional experimental marketing is a newly popular term that attempts to combine traditional customer experience and standard marketing efforts. It has been defined as any activation that happens in a physical setting: event marketing, auto shows, test drives, consumer shows, kiosks, sponsorships, trade shows, contests, sampling, and more. 

Experiential marketing in it’s short-lived, yet most traditional sense, could not be further from an option at this point in time. Just like marketing has gone “digital” in the past decade, so is customer experience, and ultimately the combined concept of marketing and customer experience - experiential marketing. 

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Today, experiential marketing is an emerging channel of marketing that involves the traditional face-to-face or offline effort (that will resume eventually), as well as digital or virtual efforts to raise brand awareness, create and nurture business opportunities and develop long-term customer loyalty. It is an essential part of the 360 omnichannel experience, in both an individual capacity (activations) and a collective one (the sum of those activations). 

What it looks like

Here’s two examples of experiential marketing found in previous CCW Digital articles: 

Burger King’s tongue-in-cheek “Whopper Detour” campaign instructed hungry customers to walk into a McDonald’s and use the Burger King app to order a Whopper for a penny. The app would then provide directions to the nearest Burger King as long as it geolocated the customer within 600 feet of the competitor, McDonald’s.

Like ride-hailing services where customers vie for the cheapest fare, fast food is demand-elastic, with customers switching indiscriminately between brands. The campaign recruited people to join Burger King in trolling its competition, while creating the conspiratorial feeling that you were part of a nationwide inside joke. The Whopper Detour also served to increase uptake of the Whopper product as well as downloads of the Burger King app.

Here’s a solely digital example. Danone Nutricia (science based nutrition company) has centered their experience strategy around individualizing their (marketable) services. Danone Nutricia has partnered with Sitecore technology (a content personalization software) to tailor their content on its “Nutricia For You” website to a mother’s stage of pregnancy.

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When she visits the site for the first time, she’s presented with a series of questions in order to help the software understand her needs. If a mother two months pregnant returns to the site two months later, products, ads, informative info, and services will be tailored for a woman 4 months pregnant. Implementing functions like these into a consumer journey map emphasizes a competitive (marketable) advantage brought about by a (digital) customer experience. The sum of these individual activations create a larger collective one, creating a brand’s “experiential marketing” strategy. 

How to capitalize

Experiential marketing has been a popular topic throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but has remained merely an empty buzzword for many. That’s because many don’t understand the true concept the term is supposed to entail. 

When it comes to customer experience as a marketing strategy, or experiential marketing, think of it as a date (i.e. an interaction or initial experience a customer has with a brand), that can turn into a lasting relationship (reoccurring dates, or experiences).

Disclaimer: The CCW Digital analyst team does not recommend dating your customers. However, you should be using your digital resources (webinars, online events, lead generating whitepapers, etc.) to create a robust pipeline for interested candidates, potential interactions, and ultimately relationships through experiential marketing. As many have adapted to solidifying new business continuity plans (BCPs), utilize new resources that the market has adopted in order to generate quality customer relationships. 

Read More: How Nike Is Enhancing Future Customer Experience Through Brand Image

No one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the coronavirus. But adapting to digital trends to enhance your experiential marketing strategy will give you the best chance at being on the favorable side of financial Darwinism after the coronavirus. 

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