(Photo credit: masondan)

“Experiential Marketing” is all about engaging customers to try a product or service. It has emerged as an ideal vehicle for creating new trials and sustaining customer loyalty in both B2C and B2B circles. Our society has become quite cynical about all advertising, so it is looking for alternative, more credible ways to learn about products and services. Concurrent with this shift in buying behavior is the serious decline in “brand trust”, arguably the most important emotion for developing a sense of confidence for all purchase decisions.

There are several types of traditional promotions that will stimulate interest in product/service trial, e.g. sampling, event marketing, sponsorships, etc. These continue to be effective tools, but this new process of “experiential marketing” can better leverage the power of emotional branding and the use of digital marketing.

Furthermore, the emergence of experiential marketing has enhanced the effectiveness of “relationship marketing”, which was developed from direct response marketing campaigns and emphasizes customer retention and satisfaction. With the common goal of building customer loyalty over time, there are three other trends that will sustain the use of both experiential and relationship marketing:

  1. Innovation – both experiential and relationship marketing will be successful only if a constant flow of new ideas are generated from ideation or brainstorming sessions, which ideally exceed customer expectations and maintain high interest in the brand. Apple is a perfect example, having revolutionized retailing with user-friendly, hands-on support that allows consumers to experience their new products, while also minimizing the complexity and reinforcing the simplicity of all Apple products.
  1. Integrated Advertising – with so many media options today, especially in the digital area, the importance of coordinating all channels and content messages to consistently send the same emotional impression is becoming even more critical.
  1. Cross Functional Business Development – traditionally, most companies were organized by function for building customer relationships, often leading to a silo mentality (e.g. sales versus marketing versus IT). Today, new business development initiatives are becoming more task-oriented, centered more on the customer needs rather than a product. The model for the future will require greater input, communication and coordination from all internal functions, which will be working more as a team.

With so many new marketing practices and digital communication channels evolving, business leaders should take a step back and re-focus on the customer to determine which tools to use and how to use them. More internal or structural changes might be warranted as well, such as developing a new culture of innovation or emphasizing cross functional approaches instead of the traditional vertical functional way. For example, the corporate structure in the future will be less hierarchal and more flat, with open, constant interaction among all internal functions and even with customers (i.e. “social business”). These organizational changes will help leaders to leverage these emerging opportunities and employ new experiential marketing initiatives to build stronger customer loyalty.