Consumer Behaviour : Experiential Marketing

What is Experiential Marketing ? And what does it mean ?

For Spero Patricios (The Star 2009), “I cant understand why there is so much confusion when it comes to the definition of Experiential Marketing?  Is it because it is such a popular term at the moment and there is a lot written about it?”  Perhaps it will be more easily explained after viewing this video of the Launch of Virgin Money in London ? Or the Virgin Atlantic simulated in-flight experience in New York Times Square ?

Launch of Virgin Money in London

Virgin Atlantic simulated in-flight experience in Times Square New York

Experiential Marketing is everywhere (Schmitt 1999)  Richard Branson, in particular, makes no apologies for his blatant use of this marketing tactic.  Sir Branson rarely lets an opportunity pass to engage consumers with the Virgin product or service, and thereby allowing him to bring the Virgin brand to life – whether it is scaling large buildings, flying in hot air balloons or sky diving from a plane at 10,000 feet.

At its core, Experiential Marketing, (Whelan 2008), “is an opportunity for consumers to “touch and feel” a brand, and a chance for the brands DNA to come to life”. In other words, this form of marketing is “the creation of an experience that results in some kind of emotional connection with an idea, campaign or brand” (Norton 2013).

I strongly believe in this definition.  This captures the belief that Experiential Marketing is about brand building, allowing for a deeper brand affinity – and logic supports this deep brand engagement. And for that reason, Experiential Marketing has also become one of the marketing industries exciting new techniques and buzzwords for the past 15 years.

To me, the two Virgin video examples previously mentioned, capture an important part of the experience of a typical consumer behavior. People actually get to taste, smell, feel, hear and interact with the Virgin brand.  I argue that Sir Branson has been the ‘King’ (and the most high-profile practitioners) of this type of marketing tactic.  According to Microsoft Brand Manager Richard Hirst, “The interaction with people through events or experiential marketing can be from one minute to eight minutes – you just can’t buy that time” (Truman 2006).  It is with this thinking in mind that Sir Richard Branson uses experiential stunts when looking for a very specific short-term consumer engagement.

For brands that have some very intangible qualities, such as the banking, finance or even the education sector, it is especially important to always strive to engage consumers with your brand, so that the actual offering becomes more tangible.

Have you ever been a participant in an experiential marketing activity – perhaps even while visiting a university campus ?  Have you considered that by attending a University Open Day festival that this is a form of experiential marketing ?

In fact, Experiential Marketing is now something that the University of Wollongong (UOW) is fully embracing and UOW will be conducting (for the very first time) an Open Day that permits prospective students and parents to come on campus and understand what it is like to spend “A day in the life” of a typical UOW student.

Although the University of Wollongong has conducted small, intimate public events in the past, the very first Open Day is being held on Saturday 16th August 2014.

UOW Prospective Student event 2011

UOW Welcome for new students

The major benefit to prospective students who are able to attend the Open Day marketing event is that they can experience a typical subject lecture, inspect classrooms, interact with the available technology, take a tour of the accommodation facilities, meet current students and academics, ask questions, spend time in the library, and simply immerse themselves in on-campus activities.

However, Experiential Marketing can come in many other forms – and for all different types of products or services. For example, consumers can “touch and feel a brand” through the recent flash mob phenomenon.  This is particularly useful for those less-tangible brands, such as the promotion of the current popular television program “GLEE”.

GLEE (See 4.17 minutes)

In this example, the performers bring reality to the music, dancing and energy of the GLEE program.  Consumers who are exposed to this flash-mob / experiential marketing campaign can identify (first-hand) with the shows characteristics and create curiosity, which may lead to further engagement by viewing the program.

Unfortunately, there are only a few clues as to the message behind the performance.  It is not until finally, at the end of the performance, consumers see the fingers held up to indicate a large “L”, which is used in other marketing media (press, billboards, online) to reinforce the brand name ‘GLEE’.  As the TV commercials have used that imagery to support the message.  This is a flaw and creates a significant draw-back because by using this “flash mob” style performance, it usually means that the observers are not often aware the purpose or message behind the performance until the end or when it shared on social media.  Indeed, (Chahal 20103) “connecting social media with experiential marketing shows how effective live experiences can be and can increase the propensity to purchase by 50%”.

Alternatively, a good example of where an integrated experiential marketing campaign is work is the “Colgate – Keep Britain Smiling” campaign.

Experiential Marketing Campaign- Colgate Keep Britain Smiling

In my opinion, the Colgate brand has been successfully brought to life by integrating product trialing with social media networking – as well as linking a message with social responsibility or philanthropic objectives (i.e. by using a percentage of the Colgate sales to be donated to the “Barnados Children’s Charity”).

In both of these examples (GLEE and Colgate), audience participants know about the product or service.  The observers enjoy the performance and the event is usually recorded for display on line for further file sharing with social media,. It is an incredibly effective and cost-efficient way to communicate the message (Chahal 2013).

Another classic form of “experiential marketing” could be seen through the availability of musicians and their music through are concert performances.  This ‘decades-old’ technique uses the combined forces of the touring musicians and their music in order to promote their latest albums. And perhaps also encouraging the development of other ‘flash-mob’ experiences.

BEYONCE – Single Ladies

Of course, in this example, the songs are then downloadable for purchase by the dancers and then possibly by the viewers. The music is then file shared via social media and the song is encouraged for purchase.

To a lesser extent (but similar purpose), other marketing activities I have been exposed to relate to the booking of a discounted Thailand holiday.  This is where an overseas holiday, that normally costs $2000, can be purchased for $400.  It is deemed a valuable marketing investment by holiday destinations to encourage visits to a particular hotel or location, inspect the hotel, inspect the local community and see the sights. However, the consumer must also attend a 90 minute presentation on “property investment” in Thailand.

In more practical terms, there are some fundamental “do’s and don’ts” to be considered.  Experiential marketing is not something that should be used in isolation from other forms of marketing, such as mainstream media or print.  However, it generates most success if used in collaboration with these other marketing types – so that they are complimentary and they reinforce messages via other mediums.

It is important to remember that “the goal is not immediate customer acquisition, but brand presence and visibility” (Bank Marketing International, Dec 2006).


Bank Marketing International (Dec 2006): 10-11. Lafferty Ltd. NEW MARKETING: Experiential marketing creates a buzz

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Chahal, Mindi. Marketing Week (Online) (May 22, 2013).  Brands could gain insight from experiential marketing

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Norton, Chris (December 30, 2013), “Experiential Marketing Needs to Get Social”

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Patricios, Spero. The Star [Johannesburg] 16 May 2009: 17. What experiential marketing really means: Unknown

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Schmitt, Bernd (1999) Experiential Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management, 15:1-3, 53-67, DOI: 10.1362/026725799784870496

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Truman, Rachel. B & T Weekly (Nov 24, 2006): 18. Experiential Marketing Speeds Up

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Whelan, Mark, Marketing Week, November 13,2008: 31 “Experiential Marketing: Don’t discount experiential”

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Launch of Virgin Money with Richard Branson at London’s Senate House (longer version), video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

 Virgin Atlantic simulated in-flight experience in Times Square New York, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

 UOW Prospective Student event 2011, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014


UOW Welcome for new student, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

 Glee Flash Mob 2013 – Seattle, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

 Experiential Marketing Campaign- Colgate Keep Britain Smiling, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

 BEYONCE – Single Ladies, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Companies look to our of the box advertising, video, YouTube,

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Background Topical Reading

Anonymous. Marketing Week (Apr 15, 2010): 21. EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING: Other brands using experiential methods

Accessed : Feb 15 2014

Solomon, Russell-Bennett & Previte (2013), Consumer Behaviour, Buying, Having, Being. 3rd Edition, Chapter # 1

Pearson Australia: Frenchs Forest