Experiential Marketing: The Most Powerful Brand Building Tool in Your Arsenal

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Experiential marketing provides an answer for a day in age in which brands are questioning how they can effectively and authentically reach consumers in the face of information and technological overload. There is no one-size-fits-all paradigm for this but Jessica Reznick (We’re Magnetic), Professor Charles Spence (University of Oxford), and Raquel Bubar (T Brand Studio) broke down some of its more essential points in the Experiential Marketing panel this Monday at AWE.

Dr. Charles Spence, a renowned experimental psychology professor, began the discussion by highlighting the importance of marketers understanding the neurological and psychological elements that come into play for all forms of experiential marketing; creating these experiences must begin with an exploration of the senses or what he defines as, “sensploration”. More and more brands should and are investigating how the senses are interconnected and this sensploration is broken down into three parts: sensory dominance, the “subadditive”, and the “superadditive” (Charles Spence on Sensploration). Essentially, these three elements emphasize the importance of understanding how the senses are intimately connected rather than separate and thus brands need to be aware of how they all interact in order to create effective experiences which are authentic and steer clear of sensory overload.

This is incredibly important to marketing and advertising because an understanding of this will allow brands to engage with atypical emotional senses that have more direct connections to the way that people feel. Experiences have the unique capability to engage these emotional senses and therefore implant stronger memories and recognition of a brand more so than those that are created through traditional advertising campaigns reliant on just sight and hearing.

However, as Reznick points out, an intimate knowledge of these senses is not enough to create an effective experience; brands must always be thinking about this sensploration in terms of brand authenticity in such a way that the brand itself takes a backseat to the consumer. For Reznick this means “putting an importance on where your consumer is, where they’re going, what they like and meeting them there to provide a value-added experience”. By meeting consumers where they’re at and having a knowledge of where they want to go, brands can ensure that these experiences are welcomed conversations about the brand and leads to a positive interpretation as opposed to a disruptive force definitively causing a negative experience.

Undoubtedly, as Bubar points out, taking emphasis away from the brand and placing it upon the consumer is a scary prospect for clients. In any situation involving a lot of money and even more opinions, there tends to be a want to push a certain script of the experience and emphasize the brand as opposed to placing that control in the hands of the consumer. But, it is in doing this that brands tend to fall short of creating effective experiences because they become overly-focused on content creation and making sure that a specific message is taken away that there often becomes so much going on that consumers are distracted by sensory overload rather than immersed in the experience. For Reznick, it is important that clients recognize that “the message is going to breakthrough, it just might not be in the exact wording [they] had planned.”

Although the crux of experiential marketing is built into the real-life event, Bubar explains the necessity of adding digital components—such as through mobile applications—in order to make its effect longer lasting. Experiential, although very effective, cannot be a one-stop fix and must supplement digital and social in such a way that “the conversation is continued beyond the physical interaction of the experience”.

As for the future of experiential marketing and its importance, all three experts can agree that it is great and only growing. With the increasing availability of consumer data and metrics, creatives are more and more able to inform the experiences created for a brand. In fact, experiential is really only just beginning to grow. Whereas millennials asked brands for experiences, generation Z expects them and brands must be aware of this belief.

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