Experiential Marketing: A book review by Bob Morris

Experiential MktgExperiential Marketing: Secrets, Strategies, and Success Stories from the World’s Greatest Brands
Kerry Smith and Dan Hanover
John Wiley & Sons (April 2016)

The psychology of customer engagement in memorable purchase experiences

Until I read Bernd Schmitt’s classic, Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act, Relate (1999), I had not fully understood and appreciated how and why the five senses could have a significant impact on the purchase decision process.

Almost twenty years later, as Kerry Smith and Dan Hanover point out in their book with the same title, “As a marketer, the need to cut through noise has never been more important – or more difficult. In today’s tune-out culture. Where the interruptive marketing strategies of yesterday have been rendered almost useless by consumers who can now tune you out, our brands need more than a catchy jingle, an amusing TV spot, or a big budget to be noticed. Being flashy, sexy, or loud no longer equates to a return on investment. Marketers have no one to blame but themselves for their current predicament.”

They recommend a non-traditional approach to resolving that predicament by taking another path, “one that taps into the core of our human DNA and virtually forces target audiences to stop, take, notice, and participate. We call this the ‘pull’ approach, and it is the central tenet of experiential marketing, a powerful strategy used more and more by leading brands to create true customer engagement that delivers measurable results.”

I agree with them that, in its simplest form, experiential marketing is nothing more than a highly evolved form of corporate storytelling. “But while the premise appears simple — combine a brand message, elements of interactivity, a targeted audience, and deliver it in a live setting to create a defined outcome — successful experiences are both art and science. Embracing experiential marketing requires a new way of thinking about marketing, creativity, and the role of media in the overall mix.”

Experiential marketing has grown quickly in recent years and an ever-increasing number of organizations are adopting it. Why? Because Smith and Hanover have no single answer, they suggest seven: It carries the strength of many; it’s unstoppable, the first single converter, and it’s an accelerant; it drives lifetime value; and it’s an engagement multiplier as well the marketing mix’s charger. They discuss each in detail and cross-reference to them throughout their narrative.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Smith and Hanover’s coverage in Chapters One to Six:

o The Experience R/Evolution (Pages 3-7)
o Steve Heyer on seven factors that are changing the marketing paradigm (9-10)
o Seven reasons to explain experiential market’s rapid growth from “almost out of nowhere” (13-14)
o The Science Behind Relationships (19-24)
o Connection with an audience (26-34)
o Engagement control (34-42)
o Experiential: The new currency of marketing (49-55)
o Creating customer conversion (55-62)
o Shareable customer experiences (67-72)
o Exempla of “relatable” (77-81)
o Exempla of (81-83)
o Exempla of connectable customer experiences (85-88)
o Exempla of flexible customer experiences (88-91)
o Engagement of target audience (91-94)
o Engagement of believable audience (95-98)
o Creating a Wired Experience (100-115)
o Creating Living Stories (118-120)
o Building an Experience (120-131)

OK, so how to convert to an Experience Brand? Kerry Smith and Dan Hanover recommend a seven-step process:

Step 1 – Identify Your Fronts: “Narrow your marketing focus around the key ‘fronts’ that you will use as platforms from which to build partnerships and programs.”

Step 2 – Find and Align Partners: Now “evaluate and select the partner properties you will work with to create and execute your experiential programs.”

Step 3 – Select the Right Agency: “Your particular circumstances will dictate which type of agency or mix of agencies0 is right for your organization, but we offer this word of caution: experiential marketing is marketing without a net.”

Step 4 – Fix Your Rep Process: “A key characteristic of an effective RFP process is the ability to best align a marketer’s needs and goals with agency capabilities.”

Step 5 – Beef Up Your Internal Teams: “It will be the responsibility of your internal champions [at other levels and in other areas of your company] to manage your external parts and enforce discipline and alignment around your experiential goals.”

Step 6 – Create Value: “Your goal should be not just to create value, but to create [begin italics] meaningful [end italics] for your company and your customers…Successful experiential marketers check themselves at every touch point to ensure that each component of a program delivers an enhanced customer experience.”

Step 7 – Improve Lower-Funnel Results: “”It’s critical that you focus on your lower-tunnel results. This is where you will link participation to business impact. It’s arguably the most important area to plan for, and the planning should begin at the outset of your campaign development.

These steps are based on lessons learned from best-practices in organizations in which their marketing mix was reshaped by execution of “the ultimate customer engagement strategy.” How to complete each step is thoroughly explained in Chapter Ten.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the information. insights, and counsel that Kerry Smith and Dan Hanover provide in abundance. However, I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of their book. I agree with them that experiential is not for every organization. That is for business leaders to determine. However, given the fact that competition in today’s global marketplace is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember, maximizing customer engagement in the purchase decision process is imperative and experiential marketing can probably do that better than any other approach, at least that I know of.

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