Go to content


Opinion pieces on business & economic issues

LEE Min-Hoon

Experience Marketing Taps Consumers’ Emotions

LEE Min-Hoon

Dec. 20, 2011

email Print

By all accounts businesses will face big challenges in prying open consumers’ wallets in 2012. Not only will heightened economic uncertainty suppress confidence to spend but shoppers are much smarter, giving rise to the so-called “concrete consumer,” who is immune to conventional marketing campaigns.

Until the early 2000s, marketing has largely pivoted on trumpeting the functions and benefits of a product to potential buyers. This depended on effective visual and oral persuasion. The features-and benefits approach won’t completely disappear, of course. But a different approach called “experiential marketing” is increasingly gaining attention to win the hearts of consumers, who are regularly bombarded with advertising.

Many Korean companies have succeeded with aspects of experiential marketing. If more can get it right in 2012, steady consumer discretionary spending may be stimulated enough to help blunt the foreseen slide in overseas sales.

Experiential marketing is part of “experience economy,” a concept introduced in 1998 by acclaimed management consultant B. Joseph Pine II in which economic value progresses in four stages: commodities, goods, services and experiences. Another Pine concept is “mass customization,” which involve low-cost, high-volume marketing that has an individualized touch.

Experiential marketing strategies provide “amusement,” “affection” and “achievement” to customers. This is done by effectively managing the senses, emotions and cognition that are involved in products and the advertising message. Feelings of pleasure, affection and achievement are achieved by various approaches, such as conveying an “only for you” kind of customer service, or soliciting customers’ ideas.

Consider Kokomyun, the top item of SERI’s 2011 survey of top consumer favorites. Who would ever think a humble instant noodle packet would be such a prized purchase? It is an example of sense marketing (sensory experience), which elicits customer response by delivering an unexpected sensation. Kokomyun hit on basic senses: color and taste. Its spicy chicken broth became an instant hit by surprising consumers who had long been accustomed to red chili base soup.

This is not the first time instant noodles have caused a stir. The 2009 version of Samyang Ramen that adopted the same packaging and taste as the initial formula was well received. It employed feel marketing (affective experience), an emotion-arousing technique that encourages customers to harbor positive and special emotions such as nostalgia and attachment towards companies or brands. Similarly, the TV contest show “I am a Singer,” another top 10 item named by respondents in SERI’s 2011 survey, touched on nostalgic by having veteran singers, not amateurs, compete by performing their interpretation of Korean pop classics.

Social-identity experience (affection marketing) is a strategy that applies a one-on-one approach toward customers to ensure that the company values each and every customer. Samsung C&T Company introduced a male housecleaning and maintenance service “Hestia,” targeting busy housewives.

Ossteem Implant, a worldwide Korean dental care provider, shows how experiential marketing also can be employed in business-to-business (B2B) relationships. It holds free annual seminars on dental implant surgeries and offers online education services. Since dentists educated by Ossteen Implant naturally opt for familiar Ossteem products, the company gets a sales boost.

What might we expect from experiential marketing in 2012? First, a variety of industries, including consumer goods, IT and housing, may experiment in think marketing (creative cognitive experience) with open innovation. Consumers would be invited to pitch their idea during a product development stage, creating a sense of achievement among them.

Certainly we can expect more physical experiences (act marketing) in which consumers play the role of a sponsor or a partner. The dynamics of this were seen in “I am a Singer” and “Super Star K.” The big success of the TV competition programs owed to developing appealing, positive stimuli that encouraged favorable word-of-mouth publicity. Also, the shows offered an immersion experience in which viewers decided which contestant to eliminate in each round instead of a passively waiting for a panel of judges to decide. The social networking phenomenon in Korea makes act marketing an easy pathway.

Still, another form of act marketing, workforce diversity, is underdeveloped at Korean companies. They hire women and minorities to fulfill social demands and observe the law but do not give them a real voice. Better diversity would help inject ideas that are missed when the workforce is too uniform.

Finally, when encountering marketing pitches in 2012, think of yourself from the company’s perspective; you are a stranger, friend or boy/girlfriend. As a stranger, browsing the aisles, you can expect sensory experiences aimed at making favorable (and monetized) first impression. As a friend, you may be offered physical and cognitive experiences that aim at creating greater affection and confidence in a product. As a boy/girlfriend, a company will be communicating and reaffirming the relationship through constant customized services. Whatever the experience, if it is pleasant enough, maybe even the “concrete consumer” will crack open his/her wallet after all.

Go to list