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April 4, 2008

The Sledge view

Marketing hasn’t changed, its just that the way we do it continues to evolve, becoming more potent and effective along the way.

Marketing today is as much about listening as it is about what you say. It is about relationships and dialogue. With interactive this and digital the other, reply paid thingy and text back whatsit, all channels are recognising this and trying to do something about it that engages people and attracts them into a dialogue.

Engaging people in this way is what experience-driven marketing is all about, and engaging people on an emotional level is its party piece. As co-chair of the recent World Advertising Research Centre annual seminar, I observed, first hand, how the primacy of emotional engagement is receiving a ringing endorsement from those leading the debate over marketing research.

A fully integrated approach
Importantly, though, experiential marketing is not a channel or a technique, it is an approach. It is not what you do it is the way that you do it. Every touch point with the person you are trying to persuade should be thought of as an experience, it’s just that different types of experience suit different touch points. People focus on live brand experience because it is the most potent and persuasive, not to say sexy, incarnation. I favour the thought that puts live experience at the centre of a fully integrated approach that gathers in the right people and then persuades them to not only buy or believe, but to share and advocate.

The brand and the experience are one and the same thing. As I said, experience marketing is an approach not a channel or a technique. Driven by the growing importance of EMOTIONAL engagement, the desire to create ‘experiences’ (both actual and vicarious) at every touch point is gaining primacy. As the most potent version of this is live experience, we are beginning to see the centre of gravity of marketing campaigns move from TV to other areas, such as live. As this centre of gravity moves so does the thought leadership in terms of creativity and strategy. We live in exciting times!

Action speaks louder than words
Experiential marketing and the intimate nature of the interaction brings with it new ways of conducting research. So, far from being unaccountable, experiential marketing is set to become more accountable than most other methods or channels. In posh words, it is about the symbiotic relationship between marketing and evaluation. They should be one and the same – we talk, you talk, we listen and respond, you respond and so it goes on.

These are fine words, but without actions they are meaningless. Sledge has committed itself, with its research partner Tree, to measure and evaluate all significant campaigns we conduct (even if that means putting the investment in ourselves). This will build up a body of data that will begin to form the foundations of a more meaningful bank of knowledge and insight.

Ours is just one step in the right direction. The industry does need to get together with clients and research bodies to stride forth into this brave new world and define the importance and effectiveness of brand experience marketing through action not words.

Tom Beaumont-Griffin is executive creative director at brand experience marketing agency Sledge

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