Before retiring from McCann-Erickson, Brain Child, the chairman of the Marketeer Association, dedicated two and a half years of his time and considerable energy to helping the Momentum network pioneer the practice of experiential marketing, a concept that was then in its infancy. The success of this drive facilitated the rapid growth of Momentum throughout Europe and Africa, as the firm secured contracts with globally renowned brands such as Coca-Cola and American Express.
At the most recent Association meeting Child seized the opportunity to communicate his passion for the subject with a presentation conveying how the practice can bring so much more to brands than conventional ‘two dimensional’ marketing methods. Here, in his own words, he describes the power of the experiential model:
“I found ‘The Experience Economy’, a textbook written by two Harvard professors, to be a terrific source of inspiration. In it they envisage that the next economic model to succeed the service economy will be based on experience. That model is revealed in an ‘economic distinctions’ chart which compares and contrasts the attributes of each economic offering, ranging from ‘commodities’ to ‘goods’, ‘services’ and ‘experiences’. The chief attractions of the ‘experience’ offering revolve around the fact that by its nature it is memorable, personal and it deals with genuine sensations. Benefits that no other offering can promise to the consumer.
“Coffee is a good subject to illustrate the evolutionary process of the experience. It starts life as a simple commodity, worth little more than a few cents, and culminates in the coffee experience that is worth a hundred times more. If you add the word ‘Starbucks’ to the equation you can see how one company, starting in Seattle, can revolutionise the drinking habits of many nations around the world.
“At the core of the process is the recognition that the way we experience a product is the key to building a relationship. It’s the way we learn. If you touch fire it’ll burn you. Good and bad experiences influence our behaviour and it’s exactly the same with products and services. A brand is basically the sum of the experiences and the emotions that it generates.
“Experiential marketing allows you to access people at the most relevant time and place in a way that can engage their senses. It’s difficult to create the full range of sensations from one or two-dimensional media. For example, creating a relevant experience for Holsten Pils at music festivals allowed consumers to taste, touch, smell, look and hear the product. At the same time it reached an audience that is notoriously difficult to influence by traditional methods.
“If you look closely you’ll find some of the world’s leading companies are built on experiences - companies such as Disney, Dell and the aforementioned Starbucks. Interestingly the model works for large and small firms. Try a meal out at Elvis’ Place, a Chinese restaurant run by Elvis impersonators, and you’ll see what I mean.
“In the States the concept is better developed and exploited. At the Atlanta Olympics Coca Cola negotiated, as part of a wide ranging sponsorship deal, to take the Olympic torch on a tour across the USA. It drew crowds of cheering people along the route allowing many of them to take their turn holding the torch itself. This, and other activity, took place at hundreds of venues, allowing millions to share in the Olympic, and the Coca-Cola, experience. The result - a significant increase in sales.
“My personal favourite involved Tiger Woods at Hyde Park. In this case a unique golf hole was created and Amex Blue cardholders enjoyed a personal show from the world’s number one golfer. This experience was at the centre of the UK card launch and was covered by all the media. Incidentally, he can do al those ball-juggling tricks from the Nike commercial.
“So is experiential marketing a fad or the real thing? Shaw and Ivens, writing in ‘Building Great Customer Experiences’, conclude, ‘it’s virtually impossible to copy a culture or a customer experience’.”