XM: Why Marketing 'Live' to the Eco-Inclined Works

XM: Why Marketing 'Live' to the Eco-Inclined Works

In Jacquelyn A. Ottman's April 2006 column, "The Real News About Green Marketing : Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," the green marketing guru offered a disturbing statistic for any environmentally focused business. In her article, Ottman cites Roper's Green Gauge poll: around 42% of consumers still feel that environmental products don't work as well as conventional ones.

"Eco-inclined" consumers are savvy. And yes, maybe even a little cynical. And that's exactly why I believe the show-and-tell style of experiential marketing works so well to reach them.

Known also as event marketing, experiential marketing (XM) inserts eco-friendly brands into a consumer's life in a way that is unique. Consumers are able to touch, feel, taste, hear, use, and play, fostering a positive brand experience. Post-consumer recycled-package samples of a cool organic energy drink might be handed out at a celebrity-attended skate-boarding event, for example.

Statistics reflect the explosion in XM. In fact, in 2005, companies claimed to have earmarked 25% of their marketing budget for XM, up from 10.7% in 2004, according to Promo magazine.

Unlike traditional advertising where you pay for a finite number of impressions, XM by-passes that technique to initiate product trial immediately. With XM, the first impression is the trial. And trial, as any smart marketer knows, changes behavior.

A successful XM strategy will implement these tenets:
  • Show that your brand supports the target's lifestyle. A cardinal rule of XM is to blend in to your prospect's culture. Show that what they do, you do too. An XM experience is rewarding. It reflects what consumers think and feel -- and shows them more about areas they are already interested in. Environmentally-friendly products and services have great stories, and with XM, you can tell them, "live."

  • Reach them at the right time. If you are marketing bottled water, you might think that sampling on a hot summer beach day is the perfect venue. You'd be wrong. Sure, there's a need. But other than being thirsty, what's the relevance? Will a memorable experience be forged with the product? Not likely. A targeted, appropriate venue is vital to add legs to any XM campaign.

  • Wow them. When I began to think about XM as it applies to eco, the first thing I thought of was the best way to promote my eco-friendly laundry detergent (which I swear by). I imagined a "science fair" -style exhibit in which the pollution generated by the traditional detergent was somehow shown -- perhaps filtered, "live" via on-site piping. Eco products and services have great stories to tell and are inherently rich with dynamic, creative possibilities. You'll have time to make your case -- consumers are willing to spend up to an average of 14 minutes participating in an XM event, according to a 2004 study by Jack Morton Worldwide.

  • Move beyond the banner. Event sponsorship is not enough: in order for XM to work, it needs to have multiple touch points. A recent success story for one XM marketer included a volunteer beach clean-up campaign in addition to prominent logos at a busy beach event. Blend into your target's culture -- willy nilly logos aren't enough.

  • Select staff that mirrors your consumers. Gain credibility with staff training. Imagine a 21 year old who has never owned a home flaunting the energy efficiency of a new fluorescent light bulb. Or a 60-year-old man talking to teens about getting involved in a new type of recycling program. The best on-site event staff is a mirror image of your key demographic. And when on-site event staff is thoroughly trained and empowered to act as your brand's ambassador, it's the icing on the cake.
With experiential marketing, green marketers can cut through the clutter. Every day, consumers are exposed to between 3,500 and 5,000 branded impressions. In addition to this advertising overload, consumers are less engaged than ever thanks to marketing avoidance tools like Tivo, pop-up blockers, and more. Traditional marketing vehicles no longer achieve the same results that they used to.

But don't take my word for it: Marketing executives nationwide continue to invest in XM: 45% believe they get the best return on investment from event marketing versus 15% direct mail, 12% print advertising, 8% internet, and 7% broadcast advertising. And total spending for XM in 2004 was $166 billion (up 9% from 2003), according to Promo.

Jacquelyn Ottman ends her article with another, more positive Roper poll stat -- 56% of Americans would do more for the environment if they only knew how. XM empowers you to do exactly that by hand-delivering valuable information to eco-inclined consumers who crave it. With experiential marketing, you'll finally be able to give your green product or service the face time -- and the star power -- it truly deserves.

Robbie Thain is president and founder of Makai in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Experiential Marketing (XM) activists for more than ten years, Makai creates and implements full-service marketing strategies through its XM, Entertainment Marketing, Makai Dos Manos, and Makai Europe Divisions. Clients have included Nestle, Intel, T-Mobile, Honda, and Chick-fil-A, among others.