In many categories the brand experience is the outcome of a costly, time-consuming and often irreversible process. The customer has to rely on paid promises and peer referrals to make an important decision without sufficient idea of the end result. Interim experiences can bridge the gap between expectation and delivery by offering a realistic simulation of the final product. It would empower customers with critical evaluation tools in order to make an accurate choice. ‘Trailer Marketing’ can thus become a valuable tool for marketers wishing to swing sustainable conversions.
The test drive which is a standard feature of automobile purchases is actually a fine example of a 1.0 interim experience. After being lured by an advertisement or referral, the customer is satisfied by a limited but accurate expression of the final transaction. In the Real Estate industry, the ‘Show Flat’ has traditionally been the device favoured by the developer. Recently, a few evolved players are also offering free overnight stays as a prelude to a usually lifelong engagement. Those familiar with the Brewpub culture will also be used to the tasting glasses assisting the thirsty to make the perfect selection. Maggi from Nestle earned its spurs in the early days by a culture of assisted trials which later helped penetrate the home kitchen. As is the attempt with certain toilet cleaner brands which take pains to show-and-sell as opposed to simply promise. There are many other industries where a provocative interim going beyond the clinical demo can become a very valuable tool.
‘Trailer Marketing’ can thus be defined as the strategic development of interim experiences to bridge the gap between perception and reality, in order to enable customers to make the acquisition decision based on experiential means of evaluation. Its nomenclature is inspired by the habit of movie-goers assessing a new release from the single-reel trailer and not just the promotions. In-built is a serious societal function as people can make a well-informed choice and the creator cannot get away with false claims. Over time it can become a standard and even statutory feature of certain categories. It is the next level of classical Demo Marketing as the customer is directly involved with the experience and the level of exposure is far superior than a copybook activation.
Travel and Tourism marketing can do well to implement this immediately. As an example, the state of West Bengal recently unleashed a memorable campaign aptly termed ‘The Sweetest Part of India’. Irrespective of destination this is a category which can often become a hit-or-miss for the first-time traveller as the reality of the experience depends on so many other factors than a simple romantic extrapolation of an idea. Imagine if the state were to commission a bottled fragrance to capture its sensorial essence and market it everywhere – an idea extendible to developing an official sweet or packaged snack that stimulates the demand. Creating cultural or dining pop-ups in appropriate locations can be useful as well as replicating the multi-level-marketing model for this sector. This is essentially voluntary or remunerated ambassadors who demonstrate the riches of the territory to friends and colleagues in external or foreign lands. This is a framework that deserves to be emulated by every serious player in this business. An experience simulation that takes the tourist one step closer to his chosen location enabling him to form an accurate perception.
The Hospitality and F&B industries can implement this idea without any significant ado. If the customer books a ten-day holiday package in a Taj property anywhere, a one-night staycation or a spa stint at Taj Gurgaon can be a trailer, at least of the service experience prior to an expensive investment that can make or break an irreplaceable honeymoon. A fine-dining restaurant in a hotel can sell chocolates or tarts in the bakery as an irresistible prelude to the real thing. Hospitals pitching for high-end surgeries can offer a guided OPD experience as the effective criterion for selection. This could be applicable to any member of the family for a small fee. Electronic stores offering trial rooms with free internet for prospective laptop buyers will be amply rewarded. A three-hour session will help swing the verdict to a palatable choice. This is equally applicable to mobile phones because an interim experience can lead to a more sustainable purchase.
Premium apparel stores especially selling sarees can take a leaf out of the Mumbai ‘Dresswallah’ by initiating a rental programme against a fee or deposit which can be fairly reimbursed if subsequent purchases are commissioned. A new-age addendum can be digital simulation where customers can be photographed with an outfit through virtual technology. School admissions are a vital and expensive element of modern living and quite often an irreversible move. The concept of a trial class in the premises where parents and child can participate for a week will give a clear indicator of the academic philosophy. A company selling washing machines can easily offer a one-time laundry service to help gauge the power of the technology or through a structured laundrette. In kitchen equipment, it is very simple to imagine a ‘Show Kitchen’ where prospects are invited to bring their ingredients and test the hardware – be it in an OTG, microwave air fryer or even a simple gas cooker.
Even in the categories where initial progress has been made, the potential is staggering. Imagine a real estate player tying up AirBnb to provide limited stays in the already-occupied apartments. That way a prospective buyer of the unfinished tower can actually live in a furnished real home in the existing service environment. Else doing up a room in your existing home with the furnishings promised in the new residence. A car manufacturer in cahoots with Myles or Avis can offer rentals for weekend drives so that the relationship is formed more decisively than just the chaperoned escapade with a vigilant company driver in tow.
The core principle of ‘Trailer Marketing’ is to identify a scalable tipping point in the purchase decision. Then design an interim experience that can be easily enjoyed by the serious prospective customer. Through a transparent pricing model that will end up being inconsequential if the transaction is successful. Else, in any case, to be considered an element of the marketing budget in relevant categories where the numbers permit. Marketers must recognise this to be a valuable differentiator in acquisition, especially at a time when a barrage of influences can make the last mile like the last over of an IPL match! The ability to swing either way as a result of unpredictable actions including aggressive price-offs and pushy salesmen.
A definite challenge will be to identify the real prospect which must happen through a combination of good data and qualitative measures. The onus in many cases will be taken by the aggregator – both online and online – for its ability to create comparative formats. As in so many cases the online world remains a valuable inspiration for brick-and-mortar scenarios. LinkedIn offers Premium at no cost for one month by simply verifying your credit card and no serious professional will turn back once enthused. This is the case with Netflix and Hotstar as well as most subscription-based services.
It is a cliché that experiences and not promises define brand attraction and indeed loyalty. The advantage of an interim experience is to build an accessible bridge to the final outcome, operating as a truly win-win marketing tool by becoming genuine matchmakers between corporation and customer. It has to be done through a set of simulated provocations that sincerely aid the decision process. ‘Trailer Marketing’ is strongly recommended for everybody who seeks a sustainable and not just short-term association with customers.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)