What is experiential marketing and why does it work

Decades ago, customers were considered as “rational thinkers” who wanted to “solve problems” through purchasing the product or service. (Grundey, 2008) However, lately, scholars also considered that what customers want is not merely a good or service, but an experience of a brand. Although experiences are not tangible, customers still desire them, since goods and services are existing outside of them, “the experiences lies within them” (Pine and Gilmore, 2013)

According to Lawler (2013) Comparing to traditional marketing which based on a volume of target customer impressions, experiential marketing allows the audiences to “feel” the brands, not merely being exposed to it. Experience marketing is a customer-centric marketing strategy, which is based on the customers’ need. Hence the priority should be customers and the co-creation experience.

Schmitt (1999) stated, consumers make a decision not only with their rational thoughts, but they also are driven by emotional thoughts. These ‘experiences’ are defined as customer-based marketing activities, which are able to make a connection with customers. It could be the product itself, packaging, events, communications and so forth.

Regarding my personal experience about my start-up company. We designed our trade fair stand and packaging with a clear characteristic associated with the product itself. As the result, we found customers did pay more attention to our product.

Here is a video on TED, where Joseph Pine explains what costumers want and a brief of experiences. The theory of experiential economy was first built by Pine and Gilmore in 1998. They indicated, in human society, business started from exchanging commodities, goods, and then services. Through the process of customisation, services staged to experiences.

They also added the further 5th stage ‘Transformation’ in 2013, which is the result of further customisation of experiences. (Pine and Gilmore, 2013) According to their first contribution ‘Welcome to experience Economy’, there are four categories of an experience, which are entertainment, educational, escapist and esthetic. Through two dimensions (customer participation and connection), it allows customers get entertainment, escape from the real life, be educated and find an esthetic place to go. (Pine and Gilmore, 1998) These experiences fulfil people’s desire to escape reality and provide pleasure to them (Morris, 1982), and the richest experiences consist all of these four aspects. (Pine and Gilmore, 1998) Until nowadays, this theory is still widely used in the various marketing field.

Principle of designing an experience

Although experience is more abstract than a good or service, there are still some common principles. Pine and Gilmore (1998) stated, ‘excellent design, marketing and delivery will be every bit as crucial for experiences as they are for goods and services.’ They gave five gave five principles in order to design memorable experience. First, Theme the experience. Offering a simple and unique ‘single voice’ which helps to create a more memorable experience. Second, Harmonize impressions with positive cues. Even a small cue could aid an experience. Third, Eliminate negative cues. It is important to put sensory into an experience, but moving minimise imputes which distract fro
m is also crucial. Take Disney theme parks as an example, all employees are always in their characters, which helps to build an entirely new world inside the park for the visitors. Forth, Mix in memorabilia. Providing tangible ‘takeaway’ memorabilia. It could be souvenirs, prints, gifts and so forth. Petkus (2004) also addressed, the more personalised memorabilia will enhance the degree of visitor involvement. Fif
th, engage all five senses.
The more different sensory they put in, the more memorable it would be.

In terms of using an experience in marketing, Schmitt (1999) presented five types of experiential marketing approaches, which are “sense”, “feel”, “think”, “act”, and “relate”. “Sense marketing” is relevant to consumer’s five senses, which are sight (vision), sound (audition), taste (gestation), smell (olfaction), and touch (sensation). Through these elements, audience’s emotion would be evoked. “Feel marketing” appeals costumer’s inner emotion and feeling, which relate to the brand. “Think marketing” is an intellect to deliver cognitive or experiences which could engage costumers. “Act marketing” is aiming to costumers’ lifestyle and their physical behaviours. The last one “relate marketing” is creating experiences base on individual’s desire to be part of a social context.

Designing a memorable experience is the key to success in experiential marketing. Marketers should be very careful about every detail. Otherwise, the messages would not be delivered to customers. Although there are many elements should be considered, experiential marketing is still an effective way to increase customer involvement. For the next blog, I will discuss how to implement experiential marketing in museums and share my own visit experiences.


Grundey, D. (2008) ‘Experiental Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing: Creating Rational and Emotional Liaisons with Consumers’, The Romanian Economic Journal,29(3), pp.133-151.

Lawler, E. (2013) ‘THE RISE OF EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING’, Advertising Age, pp. C1-2. 

Petkus, E. (2004) ‘Enhancing the application of experiential marketing in the arts’, International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, l.9(1), pp.49-56.

Pine, B.J., Gilmore, J.H. (1998) ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy’, Harvard business review, 76(4), pp.97-105.

Pine, B.J., Gilmore, J.H. (2013) ‘The experience economy: past, present and future’, in Sundbo, J., Sørensen, F. (eds) Handbook on the Experience Economy’, Edward Elgar Publishing, pp.21-44.

What is experiential marketing and why does it work

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