Monday, August 11, 2008

Keith Richards and the seven deadly sins of experiential marketing

As evidenced by my latest Facebook albums, this weekend was one exhausting booze-filled event after another. While my liver and wallet may have been slightly compromised, the 2008 Festival of Beer (Saturday) and a day spent touring the wineries of Niagara Country (Sunday) did provide me with a lot of material to work with for an exploration into experiential marketing. Keith Richards can kindly offered his assistance in this topic since, as we all remember, he is the Stone incarnate of experiential marketing.

Keith: Hey Max...

Here a roundup of the seven deadly sins of experiential marketing, critical mistakes that will surely kill your product when launched and sampled in an open consumer setting.


As a marketer, consider the enviable opportunity to look your consumers directly in the eye as they experience your product. If you’re a winemaker, watch them taste, swirl, smell, an analyze the wine. Look at their facial expressions. Listen to them. If you’re sampling at the Beer Festival, have they come back for more? Have they told their friends?

Think about experiential marketing as not only your opportunity to get your brand visibility and product noticed, but for you to receive valuable on the spot feedback. This is especially critical for marketers that hire freelance mobile promotion teams who do not work directly for the client. Get them to actively solicit feedback from customers as the product is being experienced.

Keith: Always have your eyes open and your ears to the ground when engaging consumers one-on-one.


Demonstrate the characteristics of your product that set it apart from your competitors. This is key to establish a position of competitive advantage in the consumer’s mind. Does your amber ale has subtle nuances which you can demonstrate to me are the result of a special brewing process that only your brewery has perfected? Is this Meritage the result of a blend of different vintages resulting in a completely different balance to the wine? As a consumer, it’s important that you tell me this. Explain it to me and let me learn.

Keith: Always be explaining the key features, differences, and benefits of the product.

GENERAL - Deadly Sin #3

The worst reception that a brand could get is indifference. If consumers feel nothing about a product, how likely are they to tell others about it? Worse, if consumers feel nothing about a product, how likely are they to tell its marketers how they feel so that the product can be improved to get a warmer reception on a second go-round.

Make your experience unique. Set it apart from your multitude of derivative competitors by heightening the original qualities of the product. If this is the only bottling of Nebbiolo in Ontario, cool – run with it! If you’re the only brewer to use hops actually grown in Ontario, great – let that be a key component of your message.

Keith: Always focus on the unique, not the mundane or ordinary.

SPOKEN, NOT FELT - Deadly Sin #4

What would a Beer Festival be without dozens of free miniature beer samples? How fun would it be to visit a winery and see the grapes growing in the fields, see the musts fermenting in the tanks, and see the wine aging in the oak casks…but not actually have the opportunity to try the wine that you’ve just learned so much about. Product sampling is a key reason why consumers can engage with a brand on a higher sensory level than just what is seen and heard.

Sampling is really the key reason why experiential marketing is often performed, but marketers shoudn’t dismiss the importance of this function for its apparent simplicity and straight-forwardness. Analyze sampling from the consumer’s perspective. They are looking to try as many variations on the theme as you can offer (e.g. different shades of beer, different years of wine vintage).

Keith: Always allow the customer to experience the brand with multiple senses and understand their objectives for analyzing the brand.


Experiential marketing is a holistic branding moment, meant to envelope the consumer in the whole realm of the brand. This is a positive thing. It forges critical associations between the product and its perceived lifestyle in the consumer’s mind. At the Beer Festival, individual brewers like Budweiser, Cameron’s, or Wellington could create the perfect setting for visitors to sample their beers. For example, the Corona station was in a sandbox with fake palm trees and Muskoka chairs.

Keith: Always create positive associations between the brand and the immediate experience since memories are formed by imprints of related experiences.


Your brand story is too self-congratulatory and doesn’t do enough to include the consumer in the legend. It’s hard to relate to and offers nothing that the consumer can really remember or redeem. So then what’s the point of creating an experience for the consumer if it’s really your experience, not theirs?

Brand stories must involve the consumer to create a point of relevance in the consumer’s mind. Think of it like a foothold on the side of a sheer mountain face. Consumers develop deeper and richer experiences of a brand when they are involved in its evolution. This speaks more like a broader ideal than a proscriptive instruction, but it’s important that a message of inclusiveness permeate any interaction marketers have with their prospects.

Keith: Always engage at a ‘we’ level, never distance at a ‘you and me’ level.


Go show off your product. Better yet, just leave your product out for people to sample themselves. What’s wrong with this scenario? Consumers are given no expectations about the brand and are left totally uninformed going into the branding experience.

Think of it as if you’re a complete wine neophyte and have no idea what you’re tasting when the vintner hands you a glass to sample. If the flavours, aromas, and textures aren’t first established to contextualize your experience, then it’s likely that your interaction with that brand will be less enriching, relevant, and fulfilling than that of someone who is given those benchmarks beforehand.

Keith: The brand is yours. It’s ok to set expectations for the consumer from their experience with your brand.

So remember these seven deadly sins when consumers approach your brand experience. They write experiential marketing into their personal brand storyline.

Thanks Keith!

1 comment:

Olga said...

Last I heard, Keith was going to be the spokesperson for Louis Vuitton. I assume he's going to be a leather bag.