Two decades ago, marketers proclaimed that product has got replaced with service. Today, they realize that service has got replaced with the experience of a product
In How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life, Pat Williams gives a very interesting account of Disney’s decision to hold a Christmas parade at Disneyland for a whopping cost of $350,000!
Alarmed, Disney’s accountants tried to dissuade him, telling him that since people would anyways be turning up at the park on Christmas eve, what’s the point of a parade that burns a big hole in the company’s coffers. They had a point, but Disney’s argument carried more weight.
“That’s just the point,” he countered. “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back.”
Even before the word got coined, the entertainment guru knew the meaning of ‘experiential marketing.’ He of course called it ‘plussing’- from the action word ‘plus,’ signifying a marketer’s attempt at delivering more value to the customer than he had paid for. A canny businessman that he was, Disney knew that retaining an old customer costs less – almost ten times less – than acquiring a new one. So the best way to keep your cash box ringing was to engage your old customer.
Chinese philosopher Confucius put it so beautifully – “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” When brands invite customers to be a part of their story; experience their new products and offerings – sampling is the oldest known technique for this – the message that goes home to the customer is “We have a lot of confidence in the quality of our product. That’s why we are inviting you to check it out.”
Let’s not forget that today customer is spoiled for choice. His expectations from you are high and media influences will always pull him in the opposite direction of your competition’s brand. Getting him to experience your band, before making any purchase decision is therefore the best strategy to grab his attention.
Take Amazon, for instance. Customers don’t go to the online bookstore to buy books. That several online book retailers do, these days. They go to Amazon because they find that the site is very user-friendly. It’s easy to locate a particular title, read reviews, leave reviews and do sundry other activities on amazon site, than on any other book retailer site. Likewise, Apple may be selling products, but if you ask an Apple loyalist, he is likely to tell you that he buys a service; a whole experience of an iconic brand at the Apple store.
There was a time when marketers’ entire focus was on the product and advertising reflected that trend. Not anymore. These days, customers are really not interested in knowing how superior your product is but rather how that superiority is going to benefit him/her, and can she try it out, once, please?
Therefore, if your market communication continues to proclaim – “We sell exquisite costume jewellery” it might leave your customer cold, than if you were to tell her that your jewellery products will enhance her personal appearance. “Why don’t you walk into our store and try them out before a mirror?” is a kind of an offer that she will find irresistible.
In the end, if you manage to delight your customer, beyond his expectations, she will not just come back for more, on her next visit, she might also bring her friends and family. That would be the Litmus test of experiential marketing.