Because of the current popularity of the term experiential marketing, I'm seeing a lot of articles written about it, books that cover it, and agencies that promote it as an area of expertise. But in doing a casual Google search for the term "experiential marketing," here is some of the misleading stuff I've come across:
* Companies that send instant messages with games or music promoting their brands are doing experiential marketing.
* Experiential marketing is made up solely of events, mobile tours, and sports or entertainment marketing programs.
* Experiential marketing can include advertising copy that is written to connect with the senses.
* Experiential marketing consists of product sampling, bar and nightclub promotions, street teams, and diversity marketing (not sure why they threw that in there!).
I don't believe that experiential marketing is one specific marketing tool. It's an idea. A mindset. A focus on creating fresh connections between brands and consumers out in the world where things happen. Connections in the form of experiences that are personally relevant, memorable, interactive and emotional. Connections that lead to increased sales and brand loyalty.
I don't believe that sending instant messages to cell phones is experiential marketing. I don't believe that a TV or print ad, no matter how sensory, is experiential marketing either. And I have a hard time believing great websites are truly experiential. Not that interactive marketing, advertising and other forms of communicating with consumers aren't valuable in the marketing mix. Of course they are! But for me, experiential marketing is about interacting in person and bringing your brand alive.
It's important to point out that simply creating a live encounter between a person and a brand does not mean you've succeeded at being an experiential marketer. I see a lot of experiences being created where there is a disconnect between what is happening and the brand (example: a luxury SUV maker who has a snowboarding event that a bunch of young kids who can't afford SUVs end up attending just for the free snowboarding). And others where the brand connection is clear, but the experience doesn't lead to its intended result (example: branded interactive kiosks that end up being places for people to park their butts or simply amuse themselves for a while and nothing more). Good experiences take time, money, good information and clear objectives to develop.
Tom Peters says it well in his new book Re-Imagine!: Despite the fact that experiences will be the essence of life in the New Economy, "... most companies trying to pull this 'experience thing' off will fail miserably. They won't get it ... This 'experience thing' is ... extremist. Not a dab of 'delight' here. Nor a pinch of 'amusement' there. But ... An Entirely Different Way of Life."