Is Experiential Marketing (Just) An Event?

3 min. reading

“Events are dead”, declared Salvatore Sagone, head of Bea World, the largest international event festival. The publishing of this remark in Marketing and Media in November 2017 unleashed a torrent of discussion. Event agencies in the Czech Republic began by defending their work, saying it depends on the quality of the event. 

Blog Exm Experiential experience marketing Je experiential marketing jen event 1 innovate.cz

A title in the information materials of the Czech Event Fest proclaimed, “Events are dead, long live events”. But in this case, the mere changing of kings on the throne is far less important than the changes that are coming. Anyone who read the entire article would have noted the end of that statement, that “they are being replaced by much broader, more lively communication”. And this is more essential information, as it concerns the evolution of the entire economy. It involves a change from self-presentation and persuasion to activities that inspire and engage. It provides the opportunity to take classic events further, to enrich them with true brand experience. As always, it is necessary to delve beyond the title of the article to perceive this opportunity. Let’s do it.

Are concerts experiential?

From the point of view of the audience, music concerts and other performances are beautiful little interludes and experiences. Events, however, seen from the perspective of experience marketing are a long way away from experiential. Wherein lies the difference? 

The basic goals of event marketing are to introduce new products to an audience, inform about new topics, educate, or offer networking opportunities. Simplistically, we could say “introduce and connect”. Experience Marketing (ExM), by contrast, leads to the creation of physical and emotional connections to a brand or product, and to media outputs, through mentions on social networks and in the media. “Experience and engage”.  Event and Experiential are thus two distinct marketing tactics.

To see the difference, described by U.S. experience agency Factory360, let’s look at the project “Stillness in Motion”, by Delta Airlines. In order to emphasise how it supports rest, Delta created a relaxation zone at a TED conference in Vancouver in 2015. The zone was equipped with a series of sensors, which would adjust a person’s surroundings in accordance with her pulse. Whenever the heartrate rose, the room became a play of colours and sounds responding precisely to changes in the rhythm. When the visitor’s pulse slowed, the colours and music became quieter. An audio-visual recording was made by each visitor and could be shared afterwards.

 

The audience at a music production sits in the same arena, takes in the same performance, and leaves together at the same moment with a uniform experience. Each guest at an ExM activity leaves with a unique memory of the personal experience and in the case of Delta an experience driven by his own heart.

ExM. Campaigns that confirm promise.

ExM actions and activities differ from traditional advertising activities. In addition to creating and spreading awareness of the brand’s promise which spreads, they are also designed so to demonstrate the promise of a brand or the advantages of a product directly through experience.

“Decisive on the market before was who drew more attention. Now the market currency is trust.” Vincent Peyregne, head of the World Association of Newspapers

This difference, arising in the shift from a service economy to the coming experience economy (Gilmore & Pine, The Experience Economy, 1999, Harvard Business Review), is a key change that contemporary marketing must face. Just like the shift from customisation to personification, for instance, someone who is a mere visitor becomes a guest, and thus a co-creator.

Event marketing uses one-way communication, and consumers often have no way to respond. If an event employs experience marketing, it can change the one-sided attention-getting into a dialogue that demonstrates the brand’s promise and focuses on engaging individuals in creation. This inspires us to joyfully share the content, which we could previously only admire. Marketers are beginning to see this change in a larger perspective and embrace the experience as a strategy and build campaigns on this idea.

With this idea, brands will be able to prepare their unique content, combine it with current trends and the best of digital and real-world strategies. It is precisely this combination that is essential to the credibility of the brand as a whole. ExM campaigns are thus synonymous with combining technology, data, tools, strategy, creativity, and real people. They thus create broader and livelier communication of brands, just as Salvatore Sagone predicted.

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