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“The challenge is to put in effort in building experiential marketing”
16 January 2012
Hemant Malik is the COO of Trade Marketing and Distribution for ITC FMCG. After joining ITC in 1989, he has worked in the tobacco, lifestyle retailing and foods divisions of the company.

In conversation with EVENTFAQS, Malik discusses the evolution of experiential marketing and its importance to brands today.

What is the importance of experiential marketing as a medium of communication for a brand?

Experiential marketing allows customers to engage and interact with brands, products and services in sensory ways. Personal experiences help people connect to a brand and make intelligent and informed purchasing decisions. It involves 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 becomes a powerful tool to win brand loyalty.

However, the challenge for the marketing team is to put in the effort and have confidence in building experiential marketing vis-à-vis spending all money on lazy media choices like TV or print, since these are relatively easy to spend your money on.

How has the role of experiential marketing as part of brand strategies increased over the last five years? What can this increase be attributed to?

The role of experiential marketing has increased significantly over the last five years as mass media has been found out to work less and less. As the choices available to the consumers multiply, the ability of a brand/product/service to create an impact or an impression on the consumer minds becomes tougher. The traditional medium with its clutter makes it difficult to get cut through. Experiential marketing, given the extent of its potential impact, has formed a significant part of brand strategies over the last few years.

The expansion of malls, multiplexes and other such avenues has led to a spike in the usage of promotional tools like kiosks, stalls, free sampling etc. With the organized retail sector also having picked up, experiential marketing has become a great platform for retail giants since their retail outlets themselves are an experience in itself for the consumer.

What are your thoughts about the new experiential marketing organizations?

I find that these new organisations have come with a huge amount of creativity and have actually pushed the marketing teams to wake up to the reality. It has also been supported with the evolution of technology in the digital media (interactive websites & augmented reality) and the evolution of social media, increasing the reach and affordability of experiential marketing for brands.

How have agencies/service providers in the experiential marketing space evolved? What more can they do to partner brands more effectively?

The typical advertising agencies of yore are now no longer able to sustain a uni-dimensional model of churning out creatives for mass media. This has happened since the brand's priorities have changed and the marketers have become increasingly cost conscious and aware of opportunities of direct consumer interactions through experiential marketing. So an O&M has extended into an OgilvyOne, and Lintas & Lowe branched into Linteractive and LoweLintas Direct to tap into the experiential marketing space.

The typical BTL agencies too have been pushed to widen the base of services they provide to the brands. Apart from the typical events and road shows, their services now include customized brand activation programs, response management and CRM solutions for their clients. The agencies are also becoming more tech-savvy to tap into social media and digital opportunities available.

As the experiential marketing space gained significance over the last decade, the agencies have evolved to find sustainable businesses models even within the niches of experiential marketing. There are now agencies which specialize in experiential marketing and then there are agencies which specialize in digital experiential marketing.

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