WOWing » Our W&V guest article - 5 reasons for Customer Experience

Our guest article in the Customer Experience Special of W&V:
An emotional bond in 5 steps


Customer experience is often just two-dimensional. But brands can also be brought tangibly and directly to life – precisely where the purchase decision is made. Experiential marketing can be the key here.


When marketing talks about "customer experience," many people think primarily of digital media such as websites, landing pages, and online stores. These are all optimised to make things as easy as possible for the consumer and eliminate frustration.

This approach is very blinkered, however, because it views experience more as a hygiene factor and not as an opportunity to build a strong, emotional bond. The actual, real experience with a brand or product should always stand front and centre, though. After all, the moment of truth comes no later than at the POS, when the consumer has their first and often critical experience of the product. What matters then is whether the often overblown marketing promises can be kept.

This is where experiential marketing comes in. The aim is to involve consumers interactively in bringing the brand and the associated products alive and anchoring them firmly in their minds. In our experience, this leads to sustainable sales success that is hard to achieve with other marketing instruments.

The critical factors in retail are brand recognition and brand loyalty. How well does the consumer know the product, and what do they think of it? Manufacturers try to optimise this through advertising and communication. Experiential marketing has a particular role to play here, because advertising and marketing products in direct contact with the consumer – such as through events, shop concepts and promotions – gives manufacturers decisive advantages.


Why is that so?
Here are five good reasons:



1.     Innate curiosity

The times have become quicker. These days consumers are surrounded by a flood of information and interaction. Permanent accessibility through mobile devices creates constant distraction. Frequently the attention span of people resembles that of a goldfish, lasting a matter of moments. What is needed are special offers that capture the consumer for a few minutes, draw their attention and arouse their curiosity. One method derived from psychology is to address as many senses as possible, given that monosensory advertising is the norm. Visual incentives are presented in two-dimensional form, ideally enriched with sound (as is the case with videos or TV adverts). Experiential marketing manages to bring brands tangibly to life with all senses, sending the signal that "Something's happening here!" Consumers find it hard to resist this: they are compelled by the innate curiosity developed through evolution. They want to know what is happening and whether this has any relevance for them. Rather like a fire engine that inevitably causes people to turn their heads – as if they had never seen one before – attention and curiosity are aroused automatically.


2.     Interaction, not reception

Once the attention of the consumer has been attracted, their interest in the product must be activated. Unlike advertising, experiential marketing offers the consumer genuine dialogue with the product and brand, not just information and messages. The consumer interacts directly with the product and staff and is drawn in both emotionally and cognitively. This involvement deepens the processing of information and enriches it with emotional associations. A specific brand image is established and anchored directly. This particular depth and quality of brand experience cannot be achieved through advertising communication alone. Only the multisensory approach taken by experiential marketing can deliver this depth of processing and the recall levels it creates in the consumer.


3.     Activation of all senses

We tend to overestimate our own intellect. Our senses have developed over millions of years, being tried and tested in the evolutionary survival of the fittest. These senses have done the bulk of their work long before we have even begun to think. That is why experiential marketing uses all five human senses to convey brand messages to the consumer. The benefits are astonishing: the sensory information is processed in parallel in various parts of the brain, ensuring it is embedded more firmly. Within seconds, a brand image becomes brand loyalty. Sound and music not only stimulate emotional reactions, but are also able to influence mood. The emotional processing ensures lasting ties. The largest sensory organ is the skin. The volume of information that we absorb and process through touch is enormous. It is for a reason that we want to "touch" something in order to understand it.

We all know the situation: the familiar smell of a sweet can immediately take us back to our childhood, with all the feelings and memories that entails. A massive 75 per cent of our emotions are triggered by smell, and no other emotional processing is so long-lasting – yet many marketing executives underestimate it when it comes to building a brand. Smell is important for a multisensory brand experience and a unique opportunity to control the shopping experience through aroma. Taste is closely related to smell but is limited to foods. Both sensory experiences generate memory traces in the evolutionarily oldest parts of the brain, creating an immediate and lasting attachment to the brand.


4.     Orchestrate individuality

Advertising can reach our clients whatever their mood and situation. What is not known is whether they are inattentive, hostile or open to messages at that particular time – advertising can hardly gauge this. In contrast, experiential marketing engages in direct dialogue with the customer, which means it can respond flexibly to their individual mood or level of attention. The advertising pitch is given without friction losses and is tailored to the specific consumer. There are many ways of doing this: from a smile by the staff or promoter to personally solicited information or samples.


5.     Show, not tell!

When a product is being presented, material information can also be communicated visually and "touched". The advantages of the product can be evidenced particularly well through live demonstrations or consumer testing. The path to the till is especially short if this is done directly in the store. Brand loyalty is significantly stronger after such interaction, ensuring it stays in the memory over the long term.