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In-depth: Getting experiential marketing right

In the face of increasing clutter on traditional channels of advertising and the decreasing attention span of the customer, experiential marketing might be the answer

Today, people can conjure up data with the mere touch of a button so much so that the world is literally at one’s fingertips. There are multiple channels through which a message can reach the consumer but the problem is increasingly about how to set oneself apart from the rest. There is no longer a captive audience on which brands can force their messaging.

There are million things jostling for an individual’s attention and brands have to break the clutter to get through to their audience. So what really will help brands achieve this? The answer might lie with experiential marketing.

Faisal Amin

Faisal Amin, Co-Founder, Fruitbowl Digital and Kira, agrees. In the age of people skipping ads, flipping channels, scrolling down, tapping next and turning pages, experiential marketing is every marketer’s dream come true, says Amin.

There is statistics to show how a consumer is increasingly getting restless.

“Studies have shown that the attention span of a customer has reduced from 12 to 8 to now 6 seconds; that’s less than the attention span of a goldfish. How do you get your audience to notice you with the traditional marketing techniques given the clutter that exists in the market?” pointed out Amin.

The organised events sector in India is pegged at around Rs 6,500 crore and the experiential marketing sector is expected to grow at a rate of 13-14%.

Abhishek Shahabadi

“Experiential marketing delivers personalisation, which builds stronger memory for the brand as it is more engaging than an ad in a cluttered environment. In an immersive experience, the consumer is single-mindedly receiving and engaged in the stimulus and is not distracted by the noise that’s present on other media,” said Abhishek Shahabadi, VP and Portfolio Head, Premium and Luxury brands, Diageo India.

Johnnie Walker recently created an exclusive experience at the Delhi airport to mark its 110th anniversary. Diageo Global Travel, in collaboration with Delhi Duty Free, created an installation marking Johnnie Walker’s iconic Striding Man.

Speaking about why they chose to create an experience rather than launch a traditional ad campaign, Shahabadi said, “Johnnie Walker is an iconic brand with a 200-year rich heritage. It’s one of the very few brands that have stayed consistent in its narrative over such a long period of time. Our purpose is to inspire personal progress. This installation was themed to showcase the journey this brand has progressed from the first striding man to its most recent avatar. We wanted consumers to experience the brand’s journey over the years impressing upon its heritage and showcase how the brand has constantly progressed with the times. The team has used this stunning installation tell this story evocatively.”

Kartik Kalla

It is also about the holistic experience. Explaining the point further, Kartik Kalla, Chief Creative Officer, Radio City, said, “In an age where the consumer is king, brands are evolving to provide a holistic experience to their prospective audience. Integration of experiential elements into a brand’s overall marketing campaign is critical, as the other marketing channels in the plan can be used to amplify the campaign. Providing an enhanced brand experience has become a key element of the 360-degree campaign that has been adopted by brands across domains, ranging from FMCG, automobiles, IT electronics to the media and entertainment sectors.”

Giving the example of their property Gig City, Kalla added, “By incorporating a right mix of media tools, the experiential campaign can be perpetuated; while outdoor ads, press ads, TV and radio can act as powerful reminders. For example, radio’s unique property of captive localised audience can be leveraged for announcements to be narrowed down as far as the actual city to amplify the overall experience for the audience. Some of Radio City’s flagship brand properties such as Gig City, Radio City Freedom Awards and Radio City Cine Awards have seen a steep increment in brand associations owing to the cascading visibility that they provide across on air, outdoor, digital and social platforms.”

Beyond concerts and events:

The moment people say experiential marketing, the image that comes to mind is that of big ticket events. But experiential marketing is a lot more than just events.

Brian Tellis

“Events and concerts are just one small part of experiential marketing. As the term suggests, you are marketing a brand or a brand personality through experiences. Experiences can be curated in many ways. It could be concerts, events, activations or digital engagements,” said Brian Tellis, Co-founder and Group CEO, Fountainhead MKTG.

Calling experiential marketing more art than channel, Amin said, “It a form of marketing that is limitless and goes beyond labels. The whole idea of experiential marketing is to involve the audience in a wholesome process that not only engages directly with them but also goes way beyond the regular spectrum of large crowd events to interact with customers and create brand recall. For example, something as personal and innovative as a Collaborative Instagram Live can create an experience that the customer will never forget.”

Dos and don’ts of experiential marketing:

“Always build experiences that consumers are seeking and not what the brand thinking advocates. Marketers need to intelligently weave in brand messaging within the experience so as to not be overly intrusive. Consumers look forward to authentic experiences and not advertising experiences,” said Shahabadi.

Reiterating the point, Tellis said that while it is important to keep the brand messaging at the centre of the initiative, it is also important to understand one’s audience and find out what is it that they seek.

Experiential marketing is a broad term just by the virtue of its name. Experiences are many and very personal to be categorised or even boxed in and therefore when agencies embark on doing experiential marketing for their brands, they must have a clear idea as to what they are trying to achieve from the exercise.

Experiential marketing is a broad term just by the virtue of its name. Experiences are many and very personal to be categorised or even boxed in and therefore when they embark on doing experiential marketing for their brands, they must have a clear idea as to what they are trying to achieve from the exercise.

“A brand must objectivise what it wants to achieve. One must do an in-depth study of the brand and what it stands for. The activity can’t simply be engaging for the sake of engaging, it has to actually speak for the brand in its engagement,” said Tellis.

Tellis also laid some emphasis on consistency. A brand, according to Tellis, cannot keep changing the way it engages or keep changing its experiential forays. A brand must decide its personality and be impactful and consistent in the way that it reaches out to consumers.

A big no for Tellis, when it comes to any kind of marketing, is letting the brand message get overpowered.

“One must not let the engagement medium upstage the brand message. For example, if you are doing a concert and you bring in a huge star to represent the brand, there is a danger that the celebrity might upstage the brand. The brand has to end up becoming the hero,” said Tellis.


One of the biggest challenges that the experiential marketing sector has to face is cost effectiveness. Creating experience is not cheap but more importantly, it is about reining in the ideas.

“Earlier, I would have said, it’s expensive. Now, I would have to say, where do we draw the line? As with anything where the possibilities are endless, the challenges with experiential marketing are also quite a few. Getting the idea right and getting it executed in the most economical way possible is one of the biggest challenges,” said Amin.

Another challenge that the sector faces is that of measurement. In a world obsessed with ROIs, there is essentially no easy way to measure the effectiveness of experiential marketing.

“Effectiveness can manifest in various ways. The easiest way to measure effectiveness is conversion but it is not the only way. It is also about the resonance of what you have done, the virality of what you are doing, it is about the sustainability of the message and there are many other things that jump into the mix,” said Tellis.

But despite the challenges, the sector is growing. Brands are already spending 15% of their marketing monies on experiential marketing and this number is pegged to grow even more in the coming years.

“It is growing exponentially, as we speak it larger than OOH and radio and it is still growing and I am extremely bullish,” said Tellis.

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