Where Offline Meets Online - Experiential (XM) Marketing

By Gina Nasuti written about 11 months ago

There was a time when we accepted a certain amount of advertising on television. We understood it was paying for the programming we were watching. As times and technology changed, so did the way we view ads. Online media has quickly dominated the landscape, allowing brands to not only get ads in front of their exact demographic, but following them from log-in to log-off as well.

This proposes a new problem: How do you engage an audience that is constantly flooded with advertisements?

Consumers are targeted everywhere they go. This gives them the power to be selective about which ads to pay attention to or tune out completely. Although online advertising provides the best bang for your buck, it can (in many cases) create a saturated market, making it increasingly difficult to truly impact and connect with your target audiences based on digital alone.

Enter: Experiential marketing – the redheaded stepchild of event and guerilla marketing.

According to Marketing Week, 48% of people say they are more likely to buy a new product if they can try it first.

Experiential marketing (or XM) aims to create a bond between the consumer and the brand by creating an experience. It involves anything you can physically interact with, which rules out anything that sits purely online (or on TV, radio station or print). XM is about putting an individual or group in the right branded experience and – if you’re smart – capturing it for digital growth.

Originally categorized in the same realm as event or guerilla marketing, XM was reserved mostly to use up extra budget or as an afterthought. Today, it’s a stand-alone tactic to build off of, holding strategic value for many lifestyle brands.

The key to experiential marketing is the authenticity of the branded engagement. Mercedita Roxas-Murra, CEO Montage Marketing Group, explains how many companies get it wrong:

"Many things have been called experiential, like spin wheels, sweepstakes, tabling, and flyering because they involve interactions with customers, but those tactics are not experiential or a true experience. They are transactional tools used in experiential, but are not experiences in and of themselves."

Here are a few examples of brands who got it right:
  1. Molson Canadian - Anthem Beer Fridge - Singing ‘O Canada’ unlocks the fridge, giving you a taste of home and a great sense of Canadian patriotism.
  2. TNT - We Know Drama - A flashy arrow saying, “Push to add drama” was hung above a button in quiet city centers in Belgium. Those who had the courage to press it unleashed scripted “mayhem.”
  3. T-Mobile - Angry Birds Live - Passersby play a real-life version of Angry Birds using their smartphones, complete with exploding pigs and an accompanying live band.
  4. A&E - Bates Motel - A fully operational replica of Bates Motel where patrons could spend the night with full access to mini-bar, maid service, working shower facilities and other special ‘night-time surprises’ that matched season milestones of the popular show.
  5. Gatorade – Replay - Rival high school football teams are given the chance to replay their final senior-year game.
  6. Coca-Cola - Open Happiness - Vending machines that dispense everything from sandwiches and flowers to cash and, of course, coke.
  7. Zappos – Wheel of Fortune - The baggage carousels at George Bush Intercontinental Airport are turned into a "Wheel of Fortune"-style game that awards travelers with prizes, depending on where their luggage lands.
So, where do you start?

If you know your customer and your brand then you’re half way there. The hard part is creating a touch point that is beneficial to both parties and solidifying it through a physical connection like the examples above. 

So, as you start to think about your budget spend for next year, think about complimenting your digital spend with an experience that has the potential to go viral.