Marketing and the bods who peddle it, of which I am one, don't do themselves many favours. Under fire from pretty much every part of a company to justify, deliver more, cost less and talk more plainly, they often respond instead with good stuff wrapped in a pseudo-intellectual bubble.
The latest in a long line of collaterals, engagements, reaches and segmentations is Experiential Marketing. Once I worked out what Experiential was I realised I was all for it, because it's what I do. Experiential marketing is the provision of services, such as events, that enable suppliers to get to know customers better. If you prefer, it's engagement marketing.
Marketing activities that put suppliers in front of prospects or customers are universally hailed A Good Thing. Quite rightly - there is nothing better than telling and showing and looking in the eye. I know that from, ahem, experience - we run road trips for corporate clients that enable networking. They turn business relationships into something more buddy buddy.
So I like experiential marketing. The trouble is though, that its vociferous proponents seem to have got the wrong end of the stick. Firstly, the name is all wrong. Event marketing will do - we know what it means. Experiential isn't a word and it undermines what is fundamentally a strong, valid marketing tool.
Secondly, experiential marketing proponents argue their case in isolation. They argue the role of event marketing at the expense of other goodies in the marketing toolkit, like seo, advertising and literature. Sure, in the realm of tightening budgets events need to battle their corner and something will lose. But event marketing should not be seen in isolation: it cannot deliver results except as part of a cohesive, dare I say, joined-up marketing strategy.
The marketing ladder is quite simple: you get attention, you generate interest, you create desire, you get action, you engender loyalty. Event marketing can be used at any of those stages but rarely at every stage and rarely is it effective entirely in isolation.
Suggesting that experential marketing can deliver on a broad range of objectives potentially dilutes its core strengths. Being clear about the role of events in a marketing strategy and the results they deliver is, I believe, the most effective way to drive budgets to events. For example, networking events for prospects will only work if it attracts quality attendees if your audience is aware of your product, trusts it and you. Without good PR, advertising, sales team and data-driven marketing your event will be ill-attended or, worse, packed out with freeloaders. Similarly, if you want to use an event to build loyalty you first need engaged and interested customers. You need to know who they are and what motivates them. That requires more than just experiential marketing.
I am pleased that marketers have a better understanding of event marketing and what it delivers. This is a valuable tool, but it is one that works best in combination rather than in isolation. By grasping that nettle experiential marketers can demonstrate how relevant their results can be to marketing strategies.
Graham Eason, Director, Great Escape Cars
Great Escape Cars is a supplier to the events management sector. We organise bespoke, unusual events involving classic cars, from static displays to multi-day road tours for hundreds of people. Find out more at http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/pro-services.asp or call 01527 893733.