PRmoment 3030 winner Harjot Dhawan examines how experiential marketing can win over the bored customer


Here is a typical marketing communication brief:  "I have an amazing product or service to offer and I want the world to know about and buy it."

The typical marketers' response: Press release, social media, TVC, Influencers, and so on.

From radio jingles to banner ads: the evolution of marketing communication

We all know the basic mantra of taking the brand where their customer is most likely to notice it. Marketing communications in my view is an optimization of various media tools to create a surround sound for a brand. 

Harjot Dhawan says experiential marketing is the next big thing in communications
Harjot Dhawan says experiential marketing is the next big thing in communications

Back when the customer or consumer spent the most time listening to the radio or reading newspapers and magazine, brands kept aside budgets to reach the prospect through those channels, then TV came and changed the way people connected with brands, and the internet eventually put the brands in the prospective customer's hands, via smartphones).

It’s been 25 years since the first banner ad on a website! And technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since then to bring the brand experience as close to you as possible with the advent of AR, VR, 3D formats and mixed reality.

While some brands are still streamlining their spends across traditional channels (and I include social media in these channels), many others are venturing into lesser-known territories to wow the new prospects, because you know, change is the only constant.

Millennials are on every marketer’s radar, and millennials sure are sick of ads popping up on every app or website. Many customers are even accustomed to moving past the ads while scrolling through an article or watching a video. We’re just waiting to click ‘skip’.

With people spending more time (and money) on experiences such as travel, dining out, and coffee dates, now more than ever, all the traditional channels of connecting people with brands seem hygiene and not the primary approach. Experiential marketing in the digital age is the tipping point in the marketing mix, in my opinion, that is changing the way we perceive a product or service.

From one way communication to two-way communication thanks to social media, the world is now witnessing the third wave of customized, data-driven experiences suited to a particular person.

And it has been long due, with the content overload that restricts many people from getting the latest updates from brands they like. If a brand is able to bring out a positive emotion in me while I’m engaging with it, there’s a chance that I will relate with that brand at a deeper level than I would through an Instagram ad.

Here’s a quick view of how brands are engaging customers by pushing the tech envelope:

  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, literally: Make-up brands let you take a picture on your phone and try on different lip shades before you purchase them, Sephora being one of the first few to do this. Due to the high volume of beauty and lifestyle content, YouTube is also testing an AR integration on the platform to create a better experience for influencers and their followers.
  • Mirror mirror on the wall, or on the door: Furniture and décor companies such as IKEA’s Place app have 3D and AR-enabled apps which let you visualize a new couch in your living room and then order it in select locations.
  • I like to move it, move it: Fitness brands send you real time updates on your phone/ smartwatch/ wearable. Apps are common nowadays, but I found this integration of fitness (step counting app) and an online marketplace for brands quite interesting. The more you walk, the more virtual money you get to purchase items/ discounts on the app.
  • Did I hear that right?: Voice/ audio commands led branding are gaining ground. Starbucks’ My Barista App responds to voice commands and works on an AI-led model for a customized experience.

All these touchpoints are digital in nature, which can be experienced through a smartphone. But there are event led and in-store experience zones as well, where you can create a better connect with the customer than just step-in, choose, buy, leave. This collaboration between a VR artist and Prada took a different approach, by creating a new in-store experience that doesn’t put the product in the limelight, but enhances the store experience for customers.

And there are a lot of other means. But what will truly differentiate a brand in the times to come is how they deliver wow-enticing experiences to customers in a sustained manner.

Harjot Dhawan is a Godrej PRmoment India Adfactors 30 under 30 winner for 2019 and account director, Archetype.