Experiential Marketing: Grass Roots Marketing for the New World!

According to the Experiential Marketing Forum, "Experiential marketing gives customers an opportunity to engage and interact with brands, products, and services in sensory ways that provide the icing on the cake of providing information. Personal experiences help people connect to a brand and make intelligent and informed purchasing decisions. The term "Experiential marketing" refers to actual customer experiences with the brand/product/service that drive sales and increase brand image and awareness. It's the difference between telling people about features of a product or service and letting them experience the benefits for themselves. When done right, it's the most powerful tool out there to win brand loyalty."

When I was growing up as a young marketer, just a few years ago, this was called grass roots marketing. We would reach out into the community to allow targeted consumers to "consume" our product/service first hand. It is often referred to as a push / pull strategy. The primary difference between experiential marketing of today and grass roots marketing of yesterday, I suppose, is that a great deal of product consumption is now done online, versus in brick and mortar structures, or as was in my case, through terrestrial radio channels.

Many marketers still confuse experiential marketing with product sampling. While product sampling can be a component of experiential marketing, it is NOT experiential marketing. When sampling a product, all a consumer is doing is trying a small, free, one time "taste" of your product. However, they are not emerged in your product or your product benefits as is the goal with experiential marketing. The job of the experiential marketer is to make sure that the emersion results in a positive experience that will convert a consumer into a customer, and goes well beyond just passing out free samples.

BMW has a fantastic experiential marketing program called the BMW Performance Driving School. It gives anywone who is interested the opportunity to drive a BMW in racing conditions...which for any true car enthusiast is like an addictive drug.

What better way to convince someone on the fence about spending a little more money for a BMW, that the investment is worth it, than giving them a racing experience behind the wheel of a BMW? I imagine their conversion rates are pretty high!

Goodwill of Greater Washington is one of many organizations who are purchasing faux store fronts inside the new Junior Achievement Finance Park that is opening up in Fairfax County, VA later this year. This "store" will give the charitable agency an opportunity to introduce the true Goodwill retail experience to every eighth grader in Fairfax County before they become fashion influencers themselves. DC Goodwill, who is reinventing its retail brand, is attempting to help young consumers form positive perceptions of Goodwill Retail Stores before they are negatively impacted by other forces who simply view Goodwill Stores as old thrift shops.

Experiential marketing can be an incredibly effective tactic for building perceptions and driving consumer to customer conversions when properly executed. It also works best when integrated with other more traditional or digital marketing efforts. However, if the experience is anything less than ideal, it can also kill your efforts. Therefore, before practicing true experiential marketing, make sure that you have a tried and true formula, or you'll wind up damaging your brand more than enhancing it.

I bet you've been practing content marketing and didn't even know it!

I'm a big believer in content marketing.  I've been an active practitioner for years and didn't even know it until recently.  I bet you have too.  If you use interactive content on your websites, social media or other channels to promote your business, service or message, in general, you're practicing content marketing.  Pretty simple concept huh?  It just took someone to come up with a cool label to give it relevance.

Eric Anderson recently wrote an article in iMedia Connection on the 10 Commandments of Content Marketing.  I think you'll enjoy reading them.

I have found that providing content that stakeholders and prospects will find entertaining, educational, or otherwise valuable is quite simply, the best possible way to generate awareness and loyalty.  It's a simple formula really:  Give them what they want, let them play, and invite them (and their friends) back for more. 

Content marketing gives consumers a reason to engage you and helps build trust, loyalty and retention.  Once you have that, you have a customer that will advocate for you all day long. 

Now insert that into the customer lifecycle model and see where it takes you.  :-)

I wonder why McDonald's won't accept who it is.

Have you read about this? Carl's Jr. is testing a new foot long cheeseburger. And if you want anything healthy on it like lettuce or tomato...it costs you extra! Now that is a heart attack on a plate. As much as I'd like to chow down on one of these, I don't think my arteries could take it.

However, Carl's Jr. is a fast food restaurant chain that knows who it is. They sell comfort food that everyone loves and they're not ashamed of who they are. No one is under the impression that a foot long cheeseburger is going to be good for you. But if you love cheeseburgers, you'll probably want to give it a try.

I find it interesting that McDonald's keeps trying to add healthy options to its menu as if a salad in a soda cup is going to get people to think of them when they're considering a healthy lunch. Why bother? You are who you are! Accept it, own it and try to maximize your share of the market by being known as the best fast food restaurant chain in America. People who are watching their waists aren't going to eat at McDonalds anyway. But perhaps that's just me. Why try to be all things to all people and dilute your message?

What I also find interesting is the strange turnaround at Subway, who for years, owned the healthy fast food moniker. However, today they sell pizza, cookies, breads baked in cheese, and several other "less than healthy" options.

Why the change? Perhaps the healthy option message wasn't drawing customers and they needed to target true fast food eaters, who are more concerned with taste and cost than they are with a healthy lifestyle.

I've always been confused by seemingly successful businesses who try to extend their brands into product lines that don't seem to have any synergy with their core brand identities. I'm all about experimentation, but sometimes the experiments just don't seem well thought out.

I'm glad that there are no Carl Jr.'s around the DC area, or I'd be inclined to try one of these. Thank God for small favors.


Colgate Wisp’s “Kissovation” Viral Campaign

Colgate Palmolive is quite a big name in marketing. Its recent launch of Colgate Wisp, a mini disposable toothbrush, has been a successful case of actracting audiences across social networks and video sharing sites to deliver millions of engagements in just a few short months.

Mission and Challenge

Targeting 18 to 25-year-old men and women, Colgate Wisp’s mission is finding a way to talk to and engage young and urban people about a brand new product category. These comsumers are known as active daters who care about their initial appearance to the opposite sex or among a group of other people. It believes that the convenience of Colgate Wisp can meet this group’s need and demand. So the challenge is how to introduce the product and transfer its message to these young people in an interesting and engaging way or into relevant conversations and contexts.

Strategies and Solutions

Positioning Colgate Wisp as a kind of technology advancement, the Colgate’s social media agency, Big Fuel, came up with the “Be More Kissable” creative platform, featuring the tangential theme of self-confidence. The “Kissovation” concept signifies the correlation of feeling kissable and strong emotional confidence.

Social media, popular channels of the product’s target consumers, were chosen to deliver the concept. The campaign featured a unique viral video outreach program as the heart of the strategy, along with a photo contest with and a Facebook application.

Online Video Sharing

Partnering with famous YouTube stars, such as KipKay, CollegeHumor, Michelle Phan, YourTango, etc.; a series of eight wacky viral videos, contextually integrating the Wisp, was released and syndicated through YouTube, Vimeo and other hubs. Topics covered a vast range of niche interests such as comedy, dating, relationships, and kooky how-to instructional. These videos were expected to introduce the Wisp to its target consumer in a friendly and entertaining way, without heavy advertising. 

Some of the videos in this series include:
“Be the Face of Wisp” Photo Contest and Widget

Colgate ran a wildly popular photo contest to find the most kissable person in America, called “The Face of Wisp”. Participants submitted their photo to Colgate Wisp’s website and received a photo sharing widget that enabled friends to vote for them. This widget could be shared on leading social network sites, e.g. Facebook, Myspace, and other microsites. The contest was even spread through relationship magazines such as Elle and Cosmopolitan. And the winner will be in future advertising campaign for Wisp. 

“Spin The Wisp” Facebook Application

To enhance the engagement, a social media appliccations on Facebook, called “Spin The Wisp”, was created to collect Facebook friends’s name and then land on various flavors and locations. So Facebook users can send virtual kisses to random friends or selected ones. 


Until the end of June, the series of “Be More Kissable” videos attracted more than four million views on YouTube and totally more on other video-sharing sites. The click-through rate for the “Spin The Wisp” Facebook app, according to eMarketer, was ten percent based on the number of engagements via notifications, which is quite solid. Until May 2010, the campaigns received more than six million toal engagement based on widget installs, video views, app plays and pass-alongs (eMarketer). At the bottom line, the Wisp generated an “impressive” $44 million in sales after only seven months in the marketplace.

For a summary of The Wisp viral campaign, enjoy the campaign recapture from Big Fuel, the agency behind!

Love Him or Hate Him, LeBron is a Smart Businessman!

For the past week, all I've been hearing about on the radio, seeing on TV and reading about on the internet is how selfish and narcissistic LeBron James is.

He created his own national TV special so the rest of the world could hear him talk about himself and then watch live as he announced what NBA team he would sign with.

Narcissistic?! No question about it. He's just a big kid with more money than God who can do whatever he wants. And you know what? He's a pretty smart businessman too.

Criticize him all you want. God knows I have! But his personal branding campaign WORKED! Millions of people watched LeBron's TV special, and even more people are still talking about it almost a week after it aired. Americans won't even be talking about the World Cup tomorrow, which just ended yesterday and is arguably the biggest sporting event in the world! But they'll still be talking about LeBron James.

Is much of the discussion critical? Yes, but all those people who hate LeBron will also pay big bucks for game tickets just so that they can boo him on the court. And for every person who claims to hate LeBron, believe me, there are two more who love and/or respect him for his talent and will continue to be fans regardless of his ego.

Quite frankly, can anyone name the last NBA star that wasn’t a self-centered egomaniac? Sorry, there isn’t a player in the NBA who wouldn’t do exactly what LeBron did if they could pull it off. He just happened to be the first one to think of it.

I'd also appreciate it if a critic can explain to me exactly how LeBron's TV special is any different than paying him to speak at a convention or trade show? Either way he’s being paid to talk about himself. The only differences are the forum he chose and the size of the audience.

I think LeBron James is a selfish, egocentric child. But in this particular case, I also happen to think he was a very smart and savvy marketer and businessman.

I hate you LeBron... but good job!

Internet TV – The Battlefield of Google, Apple and… Advertisers

Did you hear the news? The Internet is coming to your TV. Internet television has been a minefield for the most developing and creative technology leaders in the world. With the recent unveiling of Google TV and rumours about Apple TV, it believes that there will be soon a revolution in the industry, which is pushing a new generation of Internet-connected televisions and home entertainment devices

Viewers are much excited about the launch of Internet TV products from these two giants. A large number of consumers said they wanted to connect their computers to their televisions to watch online video. Judging from the initial marketing impact, Google TV has a slight edge at this point, in comparison with Apple TV, although this can change with the fluctuations of the market.

What are the concepts and differences?

Conceps and Strategies

For Google, it tends to be searching and information. Google is attempting to aggregate all of the content from a wide range of places into one simple list of search results. From that view, Google TV is all about giving users the ability to find the content they want across a wide variety of mediums including broadcast TV, YouTube and anywhere on the Internet. With a built-in web browser, Google TV is also pushing the concept of web browsing on your television, that would enable viewers to quickly pull up Web content on their TVs, including photos, video and music, using an on-screen search box like the one on its website, from anywhere.

For Apple, it tends to be entertainment. Apple’s strategy has been to provide content that people want, but holding that content to a high-standard quality mixed with a simple interface usage. Apple TV doesn’t support interfacing at all with broadcast TV, nor full Internet access. Nevertheless, it still offers similarities such as acessing YouTube or photos from sources like Flickr or MobileMe. Its best-selling approach is maybe the power of the connection to the iTunes Store and the App Store, that’s something Google cannot compete with at the moment.


Google TV is backed by Sony, Intel, Logitech, Best Buy and Dish Network, and built on Android, featuring their Chrome browser with a full version of Flash Player 10.1. Its primary goal is to integrate the web into the home TV viewing experience as seamlessly as possible. It is a platform that is expected to run on many products, from TVs to Blu-ray players to set-top boxes and provides additional content and allow users to access content from the Internet and various other pay and non-pay sources.

Apple TV, based on iPhone OS, seems to be an entirely closed system, directing users into interaction with Apple formats in movies and music through iTunes. Only Apple is able to modify its software. 

The difference between the two devices is that the Apple TV is both a hardware device and a piece of software, while Google TV is essentially a platform that you can build on. This means that Google TV will potentially allow users to add on various other products to the basic feature set

What are implications for advertisers?

Google or Apple has been succesful with its advertising strategy in terms of shifting significantly ad spending from traditional medidum to the Internet and mobile phones. However, television advertising is still dominating the market. That’s why these giants are planning to expand their market by digging more in this goldmine.

Keeping the strategy of “making TV ads more relevant to viewers and delivering more value to advertisers” in mind, Google TV may hold a key advantage due to their dominance in the advertising space, targetting more on behaviours and demographics. Its model will allow TV advertisers to target specific keyword searches as well as the demographics of the audience. 

Google's advertising business is all about targeting and delivering at low cost. Google could now offer advertisers better flexibility in integrating ad campaigns across media categories. With the Internet TV device, Google now has ambition in delivering search and advertising to mobile phones, PCs and TVs. It is similar to Apple in terms of advertising.

Internet TV also creates other advertising opportunities including:
- Redirecting traffic towards internet-based video
- Enabling intelligent advertising inserted around the television program
- Developing the marketplace for TV applications
- Building up a more detailed picture of user preferences for the benefit of advertisers

At the end, there is still a long way ahead the marriage of a 50 year-old technology and a pretty much “teenaging” technology. The contrast is that web surfers have never left their desktops for the living room and television watchers have kept their remotes pointed toward familiar territory for years. Could they come closer and sit together in a “two become one” magic? The answer is still openning. In any case, this fall is going to be an interesting time for web-savvy consumers who are looking a new way to watch TV, movies and other entertainments.

Happy Belated Birthday America!

I'm a day late with my birthday wishes America, but I am grateful for everything you stand for.

I'm in the middle of reading John Adams, by David McCullough, having thoroughly enjoyed 1776 by the same author. Both books provide a greater understanding of the bravery, ideals and unwavering commitment of our founding fathers. I was also recently reading The American Patriot's Almanac which was a gift from a close relative. The book gave me a long overdue opportunity to reread the US constitution and bill of rights. I strongly urge you to do the same. It will give you a renewed appreciation for our nation's values.

God bless our men and women fighting overseas as well as those serving diplomatic missions in some of the most dangerous places on earth.