What is experiential marketing?

By Priya Chetty on April 11, 2020

Consumers often get annoyed by repetitive advertising messages interfering with their television programs. Conventional television shows, news channels, and even streaming channels like YouTube are bombarded with “traditional” advertisements. Although these advertisements still affect consumer choices to a certain extent, they have slowly started to lose their sheen (Smilansky, 2009). Newer, better marketing approaches have started to gain popularity, one of which is experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing for brand loyalty

Experiential marketing is also known as “live marketing” or “engagement marketing” (Adilova, 2016). It can be referred to as a type of marketing strategy that focuses on consumer engagement using their brand experiences. The basic idea behind such marketing is to create a memorable impact on the consumer. As specified by Datta (2017), experiential marketing veers off completely from the traditional strategies by focusing on broadcasting brands and product benefits to the consumer. The premise of the marketing strategy is to create a closer bond between the consumer and the brand typically by immersing them. This eventually leads to an emotional connection with the brand, fostering consumer loyalty and consumer lifetime value.

In simpler words, various brands are considering unorthodox marketing approaches to reaching out to a wide range of consumers. They are undertaking extreme measures to gain customer loyalty. These unorthodox approaches come under the ambit of ‘experiential marketing’ which concentrates on providing consumers an out of the ordinary and a remarkable “brand-relevant experience” (Smilansky, 2009). A simple example of an experiential marketing campaign is the installation of massage chairs in malls (Moor, 2003).

Experiential marketing through the decades

If the focus of experiential marketing is to indulge consumers in experiencing a “brand”, then it would be innocuous to claim that people are doing it for decades. World fairs (Chicago, 1893; Paris, 1900) and many automobile events through technological innovations have created ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’ for their target audience. This marketing strategy emerged around the turn of the century as mentioned in the book “The Experience Economy”. It elucidates consumer preferences based on the experience products and services offered to them. Furthermore, social media has also helped alleviate marketing in increasing word of mouth (Alagöz & Ekici, 2014).

Experiential marketing is changing and enriching experiences of customers immensely and has transformed customers from “passive viewers to active participants”. Many industries are engaging in opportunities to immerse themselves in this visual experience and rather escape from traditional forms of marketing communication. Industries that call for this type of marketing are mainly luxury brands, automotive and tech brands. As consumers are migrating towards online shopping, experiential marketing is an important tool for luxury brands to improve the delivery of “white glove services”. For the automotive industry, it is a necessary tool to reach untapped markets with the help of strategic partnerships. Tech brands are already ahead in this race and engage customers with new products via more ‘interactive platforms’ (Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2013).

Dimensions of experiential marketing

Experiential marketing calls out to the emotional quotient of their costumers by developing stimulations without ignoring the product functions, quality, and the brand. In this way, Schmitt (1999) categorizes experiential marketing into different dimensions.

Dimensions of experiential marketing
Figure 1: Dimensions of experiential marketing


The first of many is ‘Sense Experience’ where consumers experience the products of any particular brand through their senses i,e; sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell (Mccole, 2004). According to Yuan & Wu (2008), this kind of experience enables the consumer to direct messages towards products or services. Sense experience makes it possible for consumers to develop value judgments towards a variety of products and inculcate these experiences in decision making (Vargo & Lusch, 2004).


Another category pertains to ‘Feel Experience,’ where the inner emotions of consumers are made to resonate with the product offered. Here, the consumption is important for consumers to experience a particular mood or a feeling  (Yuan & Wu, 2008). Moreover, a positive feeling towards any product indicates a healthier relationship between a buyer and a seller (Mattila, 2001). Customers then create cognitive experiences based on their intellect (Lee et al, 2008). It encourages customers to think ingeniously and develop new ideas that help in assessing a product (Schmitt, 1999).


‘Act Experience’ facilitates customers to develop a relationship with the brand. Here, the experiences pertains to “consumer’s physical body, behavior and lifestyle” along with their social interactions with each other (Schmitt, 1999).


A‘Relate Experience’ helps customers develop an emotional connection with collective groups and entities at the time of either the purchasing or the consuming process (Conway & Leighton, 2012). It helps consumers participate in a social community with the help of promotional campaigns (Schmitt, 1999).

Case example of Danone’s Essensis

One of the most effective experiential marketing campaigns was organized in Ireland where concepts and innovative ideas regarding interactive and engagement marketing were at the forefront through media exposure. A French brand Danone launched the new Essensis brand in 2007 where the “first-ever mainstream dairy product” was articulated for skin nourishment. The launch team comprised of Kennedy PR (one of the PR agencies in Ireland), Catapult (reputed Event Management Company), VIP Ideas (marketing agency) and an action team for marketing.

The aim was to promote Essensis, especially among women as a fresh dairy product that helps in skin nourishment within 6 weeks of daily consumption. For visual interaction, every woman entering the specially designed set was given luxurious treatment where brand representatives greeted and offered product samples of Essensis. Many complementary treatments were provided to customers ranging from nail care to manicures and massages.

In addition to this, the ‘celebrity expert area’ was also arranged where top beauty specialists and fashion consultants provided expert advice over a three-day period on their official website. Moreover, through amplification channels like in-store promotions and POS, female shoppers were summoned for product sampling. Consumers could win luxurious Danone prizes and pampering gifts on live radio competitions. As a result, a live brand experience on such a level was able to interact with consumers on a wide range. An approximate number of 10,000 customers were rewarded free beauty treatments every weekend and experienced interactive marketing of top-level  (Smilansky, 2009).


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  • Conway, T., & Leighton, D. (2012). “Staging the past, enacting the present”: Experiential marketing in the performing arts and heritage sectors. Arts Marketing: An International Journal. https://doi.org/10.1108/20442081211233007
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Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).