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Experiential Marketing- a new ingredient in OOH

By Bhawana Anand - March 04, 2013

From exciting flash mobs to activations and catchy projections to interactive displays, a whole new genre titled'Experiential Marketing' has evolved in the Outdoor Advertising industry.

"What if you could actually smell a billboard advertising a room freshener?" Welcome to Experiential Marketing or Guerrilla marketing. In recent times we have seen a considerable increase in experiential marketing instances weaved into the larger OOH campaign. Right from flash mobs, activations and projections to interactive displays and more, to decode the role and share of the experiential facet of OOH, let us begin with the basics i.e. is understanding what experiential marketing is in the context of OOH.
Ambika Sharma, MD & CEO, Pulp Strategy Communications says, "At a very basic level, experiential marketing is OOH with engagement and experience. Experiential marketing is the need today for all brands with the overwhelming clutter across mediums. Engagement lasts longer than pure information and OOH as a medium has immense possibilities to create that engagement or brand experience and in turn drive higher brand recall.” 
Sharing the quintessential elements that form an experience Priya Monga, Business Head, RC&M says, "Experiential Marketing gives a'touch & feel' of the product to the customer, creating a larger than life imagery of the brand and resulting in an immediate product response in terms of on the spot sales with a very high brand recall. Both the mediums complement each other and act as an affective medium for sales & brand recall; the commonality being'Product Visibility','Reach' &'Brand Imagery'.”
But, what has led to the need for this disruption? Answering the same Nabendu Bhattacharyya, Founder & MD, Milestone Brandcom says, "Experiential marketing helps in taking the relationship on a personal level, creating deep and lasting associations that are talked about long after they are over.” 
Joy Manjaly, Partner, Pathfinders also sights competition as one of the reasons for a higher need of disruption, "Brands always want something new as it is a competitive world. There are so many brands and products that no one has monopoly and pricing is such a big issue. Earlier people use to rationalize before buying, but today emotion comes first. Hence, experiential marketing is all about getting onto the emotions of the people.” 
What is the kind of equation OOH & Experiential marketing share? Mandeep Malhotra, President, DDB MudraMax giving quite a quirky perspective to this question says, "To me they are not different at all! OOH stands for Out-of-home; OOH always has had experience as its integral part. They are like husband and wife, where each of them have independent identity as well as look beautiful together. They are a unified solution to a brand challenge. In the live experiential business there is no replay button thus outdoor compliments the communication the way it does to radio or experiential. Outdoor to me should ideally tell the entire story in one frame. Experiential on the flip side has to have the entire frame into one story.”
What kind of categories and brands thus an OOH + Experience work best?  "All consumer oriented products and industries utilize the medium of activation, Experience adds to the possibility of purchase and as long as the competition is close by, experiential marketing will continue to gain importance. While FMCG for the sheer volume of the product base is a large category, we see that IT, Telecom, Automobiles and consumer durables are categories which utilize the medium extensively as well. I would not say that activation or Experiential with OOH is restricted to a segment or an industry. It's about finding the balance between brand experience, OOH real estate and creativity,” highlights Ambika. 
Are there any favorites that clients have?  Mandeep says, "They are all a pleasant disruption to mundane life. The core communication has to be around emotions. Remember if the experience generates emotions, you have seduced the prospect to be a consumer.” So there isn't a written formula which states'what can work'. One has to figure their way through keeping the consumer in mind. But sharing one ingredient which is critical and ensures a wow affect Mandeep says, "Technology in the current stage in India is an opportunity of the WOW moment. The wow moment helps as a sedative for emotions and peak stage of emotions help in top of mind recall or a trigger to purchase.”
How do agencies put down an ROI element for the client when it comes to experiential marketing? "There are multiple parameters to measure the response of customers, some of them being - walk-ins, leads & sales to gauge the success or failure of these activities.” "The most common would be to track changes in brand scores and monitor social chatter. To be more immediate and specific in measurement of impact it is common to use #hashtags. I would see conversions as an immediate result of disruptive activations, however to have an impact on brand scores and consumer perception of a brand which in turn impacts sales,” adds Ambika. 
Experiential marketing also has an entirely different rural version to rural marketing, "Rural marketing is a distinct discipline within experiential marketing. Rural marketing is regionalized and one size cannot fit all. India is a diverse country, language, belief, terrain, weather conditions, and a host of other factors impact consumer conversations. There is also the need for scale to be able to make an impact. On the other hand experiences created for rural India do not need the complexity cutting edge technology interventions or the elaborate structures urban activations needed to break clutter or find audience interest. Rural consumer space in activation is comparatively uncluttered”, says Ambika. 
So is experiential marketing & its power of interactivity, the future of OOH?  "It is logical progression, as mediums optimize their reach it will be necessary to extract more from each initiative. The role of digital technology cannot be underestimated to deliver and improve physical experiences. No surprise that billboards, bus shelters and static and one-way communication media will potentially be experience-providing brand engagement tools”, says Ambika.  The future is a classic blend of different mediums in a way that the consumer is led to put in their money in your product. 
30-40% growth is seen in experiential marketing today in India, while the BTL budget might go upto 50% in the future. The ratio of BTL to ATL today is 40:60 but this might become 50:50. "The marketing plan for no two brands is alike and there are some brands which have up to 80% of their spends dedicated to experiential marketing while quite a few would be in the range of 10 - 25%,” shares Ambika. 
A lot is brewing on the experience side of OOH and the two are weaving into form an impeccable way to reach consumers, further technological advancements and innovative ideas are making it more interesting. 
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