[Viewpoint] Experiential marketing taps emotions

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[Viewpoint] Experiential marketing taps emotions

By all accounts, businesses will face big challenges in prying open consumers’ wallets in 2012. Not only will heightened economic uncertainty suppress confidence to spend, but shoppers are much smarter, giving rise to the so-called “concrete consumer,” who is immune to conventional marketing campaigns.

Until the early 2000s, marketing has largely pivoted on trumpeting the functions and benefits of a product to potential buyers. But a different approach called “experiential marketing” is increasingly gaining attention to win the hearts of consumers, who are bombarded with advertising.

Many Korean companies have succeeded with experiential marketing. If more can get it right in 2012, consumer discretionary spending may be stimulated enough to blunt the foreseen slide in overseas sales.

Experiential marketing is part of “experience economy,” a concept introduced in 1998 by acclaimed management consultant B. Joseph Pine II in which economic value progresses in four stages: commodities, goods, services and experiences. Another Pine concept is “mass customization,” which involves low-cost, high-volume marketing that has an individualized touch.

Experiential marketing strategies provide “amusement,” “affection” and “achievement” to customers. This is done by effectively managing the senses, emotions and cognition that are involved in products and the advertising message. Feelings of pleasure, affection and achievement are achieved with various approaches, such as conveying an “only for you” kind of customer service or soliciting customers’ ideas.

Consider Kkokkomyeon, the top item on SERI’s 2011 survey of top consumer favorites. Who would ever think a humble instant noodle packet would be such a prized purchase? It is an example of sense marketing (sensory experience), which elicits customer response by delivering an unexpected sensation. Its spicy chicken broth became an instant hit by surprising consumers who had long been accustomed to red chili based soup.

This is not the first time instant noodles have caused a stir. The 2009 version of Samyang Ramen that adopted the same packaging and taste as the initial formula was well received. It employed feel marketing (affective experience), an emotion-arousing technique that encourages customers to harbor positive and special emotions such as nostalgia and attachment. Similarly, the television show “I Am a Singer,” another top 10 item on SERI’s 2011 survey, touched on nostalgia by having veteran singers compete by performing their interpretations of Korean pop classics.

Social-identity experience (affection marketing) is a strategy that applies a one-on-one approach toward customers. Samsung C&T introduced a male housecleaning and maintenance service Hestia, targeting busy homemakers.

Osstem Implant, a Korean dental care provider, shows how experiential marketing also can be employed in business-to-business relationships. It holds free annual seminars on dental implant surgeries and offers online education. Since dentists educated by Osstem Implant naturally opt for familiar Osstem products, the company gets a sales boost.

What might we expect from experiential marketing in 2012? First, a variety of industries, including consumer goods, IT and housing, may experiment in innovative think marketing (creative cognitive experience). Consumers would be invited to pitch their ideas in the product development stage, creating a sense of achievement among them.

Certainly we can expect more physical experiences (act marketing) in which consumers play the role of sponsor or partner. The dynamics of this were seen in “I Am a Singer” and “Superstar K.” The success of the TV competition programs owed to developing appealing, positive stimuli that encouraged favorable word-of-mouth publicity. Also, the shows offered an immersion experience in which viewers decided which contestant to eliminate instead of waiting for a panel of judges to decide. The social networking phenomenon in Korea makes act marketing an easy pathway.

Still, another form of act marketing, workforce diversity, is underdeveloped at Korean companies. They hire women and minorities to fulfill social demands and observe the law but do not give them a voice. More diversity would help inject ideas that are missed when the workforce is uniform.

Finally, when encountering marketing pitches in 2012, think of yourself from the company’s perspective; you are a stranger, friend, or boyfriend or girlfriend. As a stranger, browsing the aisles, you can expect sensory experiences aimed at making a favorable (and monetized) first impression. As a friend, you may be offered physical and cognitive experiences that create greater affection and confidence in a product. As a boyfriend or girlfriend, a company will be communicating and reaffirming the relationship through constant customized services. Whatever the experience, if it is pleasant enough, maybe even the “concrete consumers” will crack open their wallets after all.

*The writer is a research fellow at Samsung Economic Research Institute.

By Lee Min-hoon
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