Experiential Marketing's Evolution
Though relatively new in the overall marketing mix, experiential marketing has existed in a variety of forms throughout the past 125+ years. Below is a brief look back at the evolution of experience through the years:
Since the Chicago World’s Fair of the 1800s, product demonstrations have connected companies to their customers. Beginning with brands like Wrigley’s, Pabst, and Cracker Jack, product sampling afforded companies to debut their brands at a low entry cost. It’s in these settings, consumers learn, touch, taste, and interact with items that they simply can’t live without. From automatic dishwashers and pancake mixes to smart phones and the latest shoes, it’s through sampling that a brand starts gaining sales and earning market share.
Street Marketing & Vehicles
In 1936, Oscar Mayer was one of the pioneer’s of brand awareness through their iconic Weinermobile.
With the changing of the century came about an even more engaging approach for companies trying to connect with their customers. For brands that have developed a fan loyalty and an affinity, the natural next step is to totally immerse their core audience in an unforgettable, on-brand experience.
Immersive Brand Experiences
Brands put on a big show at major events like the Super Bowl, SXSW, Comic-Con, and Coachella. Giant, immersive footprints allow attendees to experience the brand through various interactive elements, simulators, games, activities, and digital elements. Immersive events drop consumers into the brand’s story which creates a long-lasting impression and helps to create brand loyalty.
Pop-up events have become a popular experiential option for brick and mortar retailers, online shops, artisans, and corporations. Pop-ups give brands of any size the opportunity to showcase their products or services in a temporary space for a limited time.
The 1980s saw a revolution in the marketing industry. A seasoned veteran, Jay Conrad Levinson, published “Guerrilla Advertising.” Aimed to educate small business owners on a low-cost and unconventional marketing strategy, his strategy focused on the element surprise. Surprising consumers with a product or service in an unexpected place or time would create a memorable experience for them. Levinson’s tips not only worked for small business, but transformed the way in which big brands approached their customers as well.
By the late 1990s, guerrilla marketing campaigns were everywhere. From age-centered campaigns (i.e. Bikini-clad women handing out sunscreen on Spring Break beaches) to overall new approaches (i.e. Coupons passed out on college campuses for local pizza joints), marketing was forever changing.
From Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to technologies yet uncreated, the future of marketing belongs to those willing to leverage the moment and connect their customer’s senses with an experience.
Before social media came along, experiential marketing activated in a very limited space. Only the consumer that experienced the event was left with an impression. However, social media has completely changed that scenario.
Now, consumers can instantly share content with the watching world. Whether it be a #hashtag, a contest, an influencer, or a photo sharing element, social sharing extends the reach of the event not only to people all over the world, but it also continues the story long the event is over.