OPINION: Top five experiential marketing myths... busted

Steve Fontanot
By Steve Fontanot | 26 June 2013
Steve Fontanot - Director/Creative Director at Chieftain Communications

I’ve been in the marketing profession for more than a decade and it still surprises me that some marketers and brands don’t understand experiential marketing.  And while we have seen the success and traction that this form of marketing can provide brands, some are still slow to come to grips with the concept.

In a nutshell, experiential marketing is about creating positive brand experiences for consumers. It’s like what is happening at the movies these days. People are no longer satisfied with watching a film, they want to be part of it and experience it, hence the popularity of 3D. It’s the same for consumers – they want to have a three-dimensional experience and a two-way conversation with their brands, not just a monologue, which is sometimes the case with more traditional forms of advertising.

Lately the question on my mind has been: If we marketers are all striving to engage with consumers, why are some brands not adding experiential into their marketing mix? I think the answer lies with some serious misunderstandings or even myths surrounding this type of marketing.

Myth #1: It’s just an event
– Experiential is definitely more than handing out samples at a hastily planned event. It’s about creating an experience, which is based on specialist training in consumer behaviour marketing techniques and analysis. You can’t simply organise an event without fully understanding the specific market you are targeting. This is the main difference between experiential and traditional forms of marketing such as radio and TV – you are creating something for a target market rather than a mass audience. 

Myth #2: It’s expensive – Many people think experiential has to cost the earth to be effective, but it doesn’t – and you need to look at the return on investment to see the full value. For example, you need to consider:

  • Sales – What has been the increase in sales?
  • Footfall – How many people attended the marketing event/experience?
  • Length/depth: What is the level of engagement that has been reached with your target market?
  • Digital traffic – How many clicks, hits and likes on social media were achieved?
  • Press coverage – Did the brand/event/experience achieve the desired coverage and in the right publications (online and print)?

Myth #3: It’s just one channel of communication – Experiential marketing relies on immersing the end user in an experience where they can take away a message. But the way that is done can be just as varied as the companies and clients we work with. The challenge for us as experiential marketers is to come up with new and effective ways to communicate with our clients’ customers.

We built a maze in the middle of Melbourne to educate people about the depth of Singapore. We also developed a matrix-like ‘photo booth’ in Sydney’s CBD to help consumers experience the power of the latest technology available to them. We use various channels to communicate with customers. When we use a combination of experiential with digital and public relations – that’s when we hit what we call the ‘sweet spot’ – a truly integrated approach to marketing a brand.

Myth #4: It’s just a one-off thing
– Experiential marketing is definitely not a fad or trend, but how marketing has to evolve. Just look at how consumers have evolved, combined with the growth of social media. Everyone around the globe wants to have experiences and share them with their networks. Therefore, brands need to capitalise on this, with experiential marketing becoming part of an overall brand strategy and mix. For some, such as Red Bull, experiential is the cornerstone of their marketing strategy – it just depends on the brand and the message you want to convey. 

Myth#5: Anyone can be an experiential marketer – This is absolutely a myth. Experiential can fail dismally if not activated at the right time and without proper planning. I mentioned earlier the various channels of communication we use to speak to consumers, and deciding which channels should be used depends on the different sectors or industries and your target audience – knowing which to use and when comes from expertise in the use of experiential marketing.

Steve Fontanot
Director/Creative Director
Chieftain Communications

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