Engagement marketing, sometimes called "experiential marketing", "event marketing", "on-ground marketing", "live marketing", "participation marketing", or "special events" is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand or a brand experience. Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, engagement marketers believe that consumers should be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs, developing a relationship with the brand.
Consumer Engagement is when a brand and a consumer connect. According to Brad Nierenberg, experiential marketing is the live, one-on-one interactions that allow consumers to create connections with brands. Consumers will continue to seek and demand one-on-one, shareable interaction with a brand.
Experiential marketing is a growing trend which involves marketing a product or a service through experiences that engage the customers and create emotional attachment to the product/service. Physical and interactive experiences are used to reinforce the offer of a product and make customers feel as if they are part of them. Experiences are positively related to customer's attitudes, mood and behaviours. They also represent a means through which a company can gain competitive advantage by differentiating itself from competitors. To achieve success, an experience should be engaging, compelling and able to touch the customer's senses and capture his/her loyalty.
There are many aspects which differentiate traditional marketing from the experiential one. First, experiential marketing focuses on providing sensory, emotional, cognitive and rational values to the consumers. Second, experiential marketing aims to create synergies among meaning, perception, consumption and brand loyalty. Furthermore, experiential marketing requires a more diverse range of research methods in order to understand consumers.
Smith has developed a six-step process to develop an effective experiential branding strategy. The first step includes carrying out a customer experience audit in order to analyse the current experience of the brand. The second step is to create a brand platform and develop a touchpoint with customers. The following step includes designing the brand experience; coordinating the brand's people, products and processes against the brand proposition. The next steps involve communicating the brand proposition internally and externally. The last step consists of monitoring performance in order to ensure that the brand is meeting its objectives.
Nowadays, experiential marketing is getting more technologically advanced and personalised. The wide spread of the Internet and the increasing competition among online retailers has led to the rise of virtual experiential marketing (VEM). VEM uses the Internet and its various channels to create an enriched and engaging experience by using visual and audio tools. VEM relies on an electronic environment that engages customers and arouses their emotional responses to create an unparalleled experience and consequently capture their loyalty. The elements which characterize virtual experiential marketing are: sense, interaction, pleasure, flow and community relationship. Furthermore, affective involvement has been identified as a key factor which affects online purchase intention. Thus, the online experience must emphasize an emotional appeal to the consumer in order to build purchase intention.
A model to create high impact virtual customer experience has been developed by the management consultancy, A.T. Kearney. The four basic steps are:
Engagement measures the extent to which a consumer has a meaningful brand experience when exposed to commercial advertising, sponsorship, television contact, or other experience. In March 2006 the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) defined Engagement as "turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context". The ARF has also defined the function whereby engagement impacts a brand:
According to a study by Jack Morton Worldwide, 11 out of 14 consumers reported preferring to learn about new products and services by experiencing them personally or hearing about them from an acquaintance. Meanwhile, a report by The Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic found that 74% of consumers say that engaging with branded event marketing experiences makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted. 
Engagement is complex because a variety of exposure and relationship factors affect engagement, making simplified rankings misleading. Typically, engagement with a medium often differs from engagement with advertising, according to an analysis conducted by the Magazine Publishers of America.
Related to this notion is the term program engagement, which is the extent to which consumers recall specific content after exposure to a program and advertising. Starting in 2006 U.S. broadcast networks began guaranteeing specific levels of program engagement to large corporate advertisers.
Keith Ferrazzi wrote in 2009 that Information Age was transitioning into what he termed the Relationship Age, "in which emotion, empathy, and cooperation are critical success traits" and where "technology and human interaction are intersecting and trust, conversation, and collaboration are top of mind and top of agenda".
In 2006, researchers from market research company Gallup identified two-dimensional (two-way) communication where consumers participate, share, and interact with a brand as a creator of the engagement crucial to business and personal success.
Two-dimensional (2D) communication and engagement is where "both giver and receiver are listening to each other, interacting, learning and growing from the process".
Three-dimensional engagement ("3DE") has "not only length and width, but depth, where both giver and receiver connect to a higher power and are changed in the experience. Not just a conversation, but connection to a purpose that transforms all in the process."
Greg Ippolito, former creative director of engagement marketing agency Annodyne, wrote that the key point of differentiation between engagement marketing and other forms is that the former "is anchored by a philosophy, rather than a focus on specific marketing tools". That philosophy is that audiences should be engaged in the sales process when they want, and by which channels they prefer.
He argues that traditional top-down marketing results, largely, in the production and communication of white noise. Whereas engagement marketing assumes a different approach:
Think of a salesperson who walks up to you in a store. You tell him thanks, you're okay, you're just looking. But he hovers and looms, finds ways to insert himself into your activity, and is a general annoyance. That's what typical marketing feels like: intrusive and disruptive. Engagement Marketing is the opposite. It's a salesperson who hangs back and engages you if/when you need help. Who can sense what you want to do, and help you arrive at that decision. Who will contact you directly with exclusive sales information, if--and only if--you request it.
Engagement Marketing, done well, means connecting with audiences who want to hear from you, in relevant, meaningful, interesting ways. If you can pull that off, everything changes.
After launching IMA in 2013, Ippolito shifted his focus to momentum marketing--described as "the next evolution of engagement marketing"--which shares the same customer-centric philosophy, but places a greater emphasis on leveraging data to reach target audiences online via their most well-traveled channels:
[M]odern consumers are hard to pin down; they're constantly in motion--traversing different spaces, utilizing different media, and as always, experiencing a range of different thoughts and feelings throughout any given day ... [The key is to] leverage the existing momentum of target consumers. By doing so, we can ... guide them where we want them to go--with minimum waste and maximum efficiency.
PROMO magazine has credited Gary M. Reynolds, founder of GMR Marketing, with being the pioneer in the practice of engagement marketing. It has cited Reynolds' formation of the Miller Band Network in 1979 as the seminal engagement marketing moment. In Japan, Tohato launched two new snacks brands, "Tyrant Habanero Burning Hell Hot" and "Satan Jorquia Bazooka Deadly Hot" in 2007 in an award-winning campaign which broke new ground in engagement marketing by combining multiplayer online gaming with advertising, on a mobile phone. Customers were encouraged to join nightly battles in a virtual game, on behalf of either snack brand, to determine the winner of the "World's Worst War". The games ran at 4 AM. The campaign was designed by Japanese ad agency Hakuhodo and won the Yellow Pencil award at the annual D&AD advertising awards ceremony where mobile ads were recognized for the first time in May 2008.
Another great example of experiential marketing using immersive technology is where MOUSE MARKETING INC created a Sustainable Dance Floor activation for the Molson Red Leaf Project. People were inspired to dance on the illuminated Sustainable Floor, every step generated 24watts of electricity. Participants could see their contributions by viewing the energy meters, crowds were rewarded for hitting energy targets.
Another example of engagement marketing is seen in the marketing strategy of Jones Soda. At the company's website, regular customers are allowed to send in photos that will then be printed on bottles of the soda. These photos can be put on a small order of custom-made soda, or, if the photos are interesting enough, they can be put into production and used as labels for a whole production run. This strategy is effective at getting customers to co-create the product, and engaging customers with the brand.
It could be argued that the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade is a type of experiential marketing, as the viewer is invited to experience floats and entertainment tied to specific brands (and Macy's itself).
Another example of engagement marketing is seen in the marketing strategy of Jaihind Collection Pune for their paraplegic fashion Show.
In the 21st century, engagement marketing has taken a new turn with the advent of different technologies. The effect of smartphones, touchscreens and virtual reality has become prominent. Examples of such engagement marketing can be found online. It is to be noted that though technological advancement made such campaigns possible, innovative ideas remain as important as ever.
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