The Inevitable Marriage of Experiential and Digital

John Trinanes
John Trinanes

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marriageIn the past 10 years, we’ve seen a unique marriage take place: experiential marketing, a discipline that’s been around since the beginning of our trade, and digital marketing, a discipline that’s still inventing itself, have merged to produce a strategically driven discipline that marketers and agencies are just now beginning to grasp.

The convergence of digital and physical bolsters the strengths of each while mitigating the other’s weaknesses. Digital extends a physical event or experience past its inherent limits of time and place through social, mobile and online communications, and the physical experience marks a now sustained conversation — moving people to action.

Right now, both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketers are figuring out the rhythm of this convergence. They’re exploring content, channels and the most effective time to tie in a physical experience. And they’re doing this with the goal of generating specific business results.

Brands have also determined that starting with experiential and mining that program for authentic opinions can fuel digital activities as well as ideas for advertising and public relations. Beginning with experiential is tremendously cost-effective compared to the top-down model that is typical of many campaigns.

With this convergence in mind, here are three things marketers should think about to maximize their experiential and digital efforts in 2013 and beyond:

1. Emphasis on the Story

The convergence of experiential and digital puts extraordinary demands on creative work. You can’t get away with sub-par ideas when dealing directly with customers on an almost one-on-one basis. If you’re going to engage in a participatory campaign with customers, you have to deliver a relevant, timely and compelling brand experience that makes people seek out the brand. Experiential and digital get you very close to the consumer, so “close-enough” creative won’t cut it.

2. New Campaign Approach

Getting the skill set formula right for a campaign built around digital experiential marketing doesn’t require a new toolbox. Marketers have all the necessary skills on their teams and likely among their agency mix. What’s new and required is a reworking of workflow and hierarchy in terms of planning and management. Brand managers and marketing leaders need to spearhead an effort to bring experiential and digital owners to the strategy table and empower them to shape the campaign from the outset.

3. Real-Time Analytics

Most marketers know measurement is essential, but I would add one thing to the mix. Since experiential and digital are so close to consumers and provide deep qualitative and quantitative data, it’s necessary for brands to build real-time measurement tools that allow for mid-stream course corrections. In this brave new world, we don’t have to wait until a campaign is in the rear-view mirror to learn how to improve and get better results.

Despite all the talk about disruptive technology and engagement models in the marketing world, there are actually few startling new things under the sun. The ongoing seamless convergence of experiential and digital channels is one of those things. Now is the time to take a look.

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