Lately, I’ve read a growing number of articles about “experiential marketing” and its supposed inherent benefits. Just last week I had binge-read five of them. All were well intentioned and with worthy goals, yet I noticed an incessant recycling of opinions. There was a common thread of promises on a vast scale, but all lacked a fresh perspective. But what was the lost or hidden insight?
When I tried to analyze what was missing, I kept seeking unmentioned opportunities or, at least, the anecdotal parallels and what-ifs. There seemed to be lots of potential ideas, but they lacked an insightful expression of relevance and, most importantly, truth.
I then did what I always do under the circumstances — I walked away hoping for eventual inspiration, then selected something to binge-watch. “Peaky Blinders” it was.
After two hours of Irish and Cockney gangsters in 1907 Birmingham, England, I stumbled upon what might be experiential marketing’s core intrinsic benefit. I looked back at my immeasurable hours of binge-watching: “Breaking Bad,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” and others. It became clear that my relationship with binge-watched content was intellectually and emotionally more intimate than with scheduled content. Intimacy and immediacy, I believe, are the conceptual underpinnings and unique advantages of experiential marketing.
For example, the narrative, as well as characters both significant and incidental, even the brands they used and the clothes they wore the entirety of the content’s DNA became part of myDNA. The relationship between the viewer and the “content brand” became mutual and organic, rather than dictated by a program scheduler.
When scheduled-watching, the content is much like that peripatetic friend who breezes in and out of our home after a quick cup of coffee. He leaves after a “Well, that’s what’s going on in mylife. Have a great day!”
With binge-watching the content is more like family and intimate friends. They stay longer, sometimes for several hours, and you discuss matters of importance mixed with trivia and the occasional “private gossip” with self-assurance. It shifts the power and weight of the relationship. I believe it’s a true form of intimacy in the age of instant gratification and narcissism, with mutual consent. Therefore, the consumer relationship is deeper and longer lasting, often in perpetuity. Ask any “Downton” Abbey devotee.
That, I believe, is at the heart of a successful experiential marketing campaign. An intimacy that is at once dedicated, focused, and consistent, repetitive even, with feelings and opinions that last.
Texas Tourism has implemented an experiential campaign that I think uses the foundation of intimacy and commitment of binge-watching. Under the umbrella positioning of “Texas. It’s like a whole other country,” the client embarked on a national tour to change perceptions of Texas, engage consumers in the unexpected vacation pleasures within the state (surfing, fishing, music, water skiing, etc.) through digital interactive experiences while capturing key analytics. Virtual reality kayaking was a particularly disruptive tactic.
The consumers weren’t told about the unexpected treasures of Texas, they experiencedthem in ways that were surprising, entertaining, informative – and relevant. Consumers committed their time and considerable efforts to engage and immerse and were rewarded emotionally. This was a choice that developed into an ongoing relationship similar to binge-watching. The experience was more than a fleeting flirtation.
Texas Tourism brand ambassadors were fluent, encouraging without being intrusive, and provided an aural narrative that enhanced the overarching engagement. They provided a verbal road map, giving clarity to the journey.
In 2015, the tour included large footprints at large-draw marquee events including Chicago Air & Water Show, Country Music Association Festival, and iconic locations like Hollywood & Highland – often for days at a time.
The results are compelling. The experiential tour has been ongoing since 2012. Over 250,000 consumers engaged. Over 90,000 consumers have ordered Texas Tourism Travel Guides. As of today, an average of 11% of consumers who developed a relationship with Texas on Tour have taken a Texas vacation.
Much like binge-watching, the consumers made commitments involving intellectual curiosity, emotional engagement, and dexterity. It has paid off both memorably and measurably for both the consumer and the brand.