Experiential Marketing: It all ‘Depends’

No Matter the Sales Outcome, We Can’t Deny It’s Strengths.

This post is coming after the article, “Just What Is Experiential Marketing, and How Can It Be Measured?” by Shareen Pathak on AdAge.  The article describes the rising popularity of experiential marketing, how it has been a lingering fad for a while, and where sales stand despite the “hype.”  It describes experiential marketing as “messaging you can touch, feel or view in a physical space.”  Creatives love this because the possibilities are virtually endless.  Between the examples of brands who rely on experiential marketing and the actual financial outcome of its use, I more or less agree with the overall tone of the article.  But, being educated in the concepts and creativity around campaigns rather than the financial gain, I can say that experiential marketing brings far more than a mere number can provide.

Imagine this: The lobby of a busy movie theater in the heart of New York City.  In this lobby, out of hundreds of people coming and going, 40-50 of these people are wearing Depends adult diapers over their pants.  On the bums of the diapers are the words “Support Our Elders.”  They’re walking around as they normally would, as if it were a normal, ordinary day.  The people around them, the non-wearers, are taking photos, videos and engaging with those who are wearing the beloved brand.  Why on earth would these people, young and old, humiliate themselves and walk around wearing a diaper like this?  Well, for one thing, heads are turning. Children are laughing.  People are gasping.  It received attention and now, someone in that crowd will most likely post a video about the odd event online that will go viral for the next four weeks.

This video does not exist.  But I think it is a good example of how experiential marketing is extremely important when used the right way.  This idea may or may not be the best idea for the Depends adult diaper brand.  That is certainly up for debate.  But it does have plenty of powerful qualities.  The message of this video is to support the usage of adult diapers by those who need them.  It’s to make the people who wear the product feel comfortable about it by people who don’t need to wear them yet.  This is more or less what the Depends brand wants for their consumers.  They want not only physical comfort but mental comfort as well.  It’s cheap, funny exposure for a brand that lacks imagination.  Of course a negative to producing something like this is the concern of failure to reach the target market.  Since the target market, ultimately, are men and women over the age of 65, it would be safe to say that they wouldn’t see the “viral” video unless it was shown to them by a younger person.

The hypothetical Depends video is symbolic of the culture around Experiential Marketing.  It’s taking an “ordinary” product and creating an extraordinary story.  It’s fun, engaging and creative.  Who knows, maybe it’ll create a few parody videos in the process.  It helps define a brand identity and, if done right, can be cataloged through numerous mediums at no cost to the advertiser.  This type of exposure might not lead to immediate results in sales but it starts a conversation about the brand that can lead to loyalty and future consumers.  Even though some people don’t see themselves using the brand (e.g. Depends), they never really know what the future holds, do they?I Scream for Insidious 2

Yes, if you read the AdAge article, you’ll see examples where experiential advertising didn’t help increase sales.  Hopeful blockbusters turned block-blunders.  I had an experience when I went to Coney Island over the summer.  An Ice Cream truck was brand wrapped in “I Scream for Insidious 2” signage.  The truck was giving out free ice cream to those who shared their free experience on social media.  I shared it but I never saw the movie in theaters.  I wanted the damn ice cream.  Needless to say, these marketing tactics didn’t hurt the cause either.  At the end of the day, the product or brand itself needs to be of great quality.  Only then will this marketing tactic truly work out.

Obviously, I’m no expert on the matter.  I’d like to hear some opinions about how people see experiential advertising.  Which advertisers do you think got it right and got it absolutely wrong?