According to Pine and Gilmore (1998), experiences differ from both services and goods and can be considered as an economic offering due to the consumers unquestionable desire for experiences. This strong desire for experiences has resulted in the design and promotion of such experiences by more and more businesses. It is for this reason that these authors predict that the future of the business world will mainly depend on experiences which are as real as any other offering such as a good, commodity or service. A majority of companies wrap their traditional offerings with experiences to help them sell better (Pine & Gilmore 1998). However, for the realization of the full benefits of staging experiences Pine and Gilmore (1998) suggest that businesses should intentionally design experiences that are engaging to help command a fee. An experience takes place when a firm deliberately utilizes services as a stage while goods are used as props for the engagement of individual consumers in a manner that produces a memorable event. In addition, to date, a majority of the studies carried out has paid more attention to the attributes of utilitarian products and category experiences, rather than brand-related experiences (Sahin 2011).
Brand experience includes sensations, behavioral responses, cognitions and feelings aroused by stimuli that are brand related and are considered to be part of a brands identity and design, communications, packaging as well as environments (Brakus et al. 2009). According to the description given by Holbrook and Hirschman (1982), an experience occurs when one interacts and consumes services and products involving significant affection. The experience can either be positive or negative and may occur for a short time or lifelong. The intensity and strength of brand experiences are said to vary resulting in brand experiences that are more intense or stronger than others while others are more negative or positive than others.
Social media platforms offer numerous benefits. In addition to allowing businesses to relate and engage with customers on a level that is very intimate, they also enable the selling of products. The platforms provide opportunities in which brand awareness receives direct responses in a single space (Belden 2013). The activities that are marketing-related and are linked to the brand affect the mind-set of consumers in relation to the particular brand in terms of what they know about it and their feelings towards the brand. A customers mind-set is said to be made up of everything in their mind regarding a given brand which includes experiences, thoughts, images, attitudes, feelings, perceptions, and beliefs (Ambler 2000). For instance, when a customer looks for a product examine and evaluate it (Hoch 2002). Research in marketing and consumer has revealed that experiences take place when a customer searches for a product, when they purchase and there is the provision of service as well as when the product is consumed (Holbrook 2000; Brakus, Schmitt & Zhang 2008; Arnould, Price & Zinkhan 2002). Holistic brand experiences can have a positive effect on future loyalty and customer satisfaction (Brakus et al. 2009).
In Zarantenello and Schmitts view (2000), brand experience is practically different from other concepts that are customer and brand-focused including consumer delight, brand attachment, and brand involvement. On the other hand, a brand experience is not a general evaluative judgment about a particular brand such as I love the brand. Zaichkowsky (1985) argues that brand experiences are also distinct from effective and motivational concepts, for instance, involvement. Involvement comprises values, interests, and needs that make a customer attracted to a given product.
There are four categories of experiences as depicted in figure 1 and include entertainment, educational, escapist and esthetic (Pine & Gilmore 1998). As stated by Pine and Gilmore (1998), educational experience can be likened to attending a class or taking some ski lessons. In the two activities, the customers are involved in a more active manner although their immersion in the particular action is still not very profound and hence are still outside the event to a larger extent. In an educational experience, there is the increase of consumer knowledge and skills through the absorption of information that is presented in an interactive manner. This type of experience is associated with active-passive involvement in which the customer actively participates by means of interactive engagement of their mind and body hence absorbing the offerings of the business. For entertainment, Pine and Gilmore (1998) stated, a majority of people think of experiences as entertainment in a similar manner to watching television or attending a concert. In these instances, the participation of customers is more passive than active and the link between them and the event is more of absorption compared to immersion (Pine & Gilmore 1998).
Schmitt (1999) also notes that in todays market branding has been done on almost all products, something that has given everything a sense of entertainment. It is for this reason that the author argues that organizations have made efforts to invest in entertainment experience for their clients. In an esthetic experience, the customer enjoys being in an environment that is sensory rich while passively appreciating that they have limited powers to alter the environments nature. Therefore, the consumer is surrounded by the environment and hence is immersed. Additionally, in relation to the esthetic experience, the company runs advertisements that focus on the attractive furniture designs on its digital platforms which according to Schmitt (1999) is a key characteristic of an experiential marketing. An escapist experience allows the customer to be an active participant who plays a key role in the shaping of events through active participation in activities and thus immersed in a virtual environment. This type of experience gives the customers an opportunity to escape their identity for some time and act outside what they are used to. Moreover, escapist experiences teach in a similar manner to educational events or create amusement just as well as entertainment, but greater customer immersion is involved. When the active participation of the customer is minimized, then the escapist event becomes an esthetic one (Schmitt 1999).
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: The Four Realms of an Experience (Pine & Gilmore 1998)
Digital marketing definition
According to the definition given by Pineiro-Otero and Martinez-Rolan (2016), digital marketing refers to a projection of conventional marketing tools and strategies on the Internet. It is a new phenomenon that has brought together mass distribution and customization with the aim of accomplishing marketing goals. Technological advancement and the availability of multiple devices have resulted in new ways in which marketing can be done online in a manner that is more measurable, interactive and ubiquitous (Pineiro-Otero & Martinez-Rolan, 2016). Digital marketing strategies development has offered much potential for organizations and brands. These include branding, usability-functionality, interactivity, visual communication, relevant advertising, community connections, and measuring output (ibid). This has given rise to a shift from traditional to experiential marketing that focuses on the creation of experiences for customers.
Experiential marketing is also said to be characterized by other three key features including consumption that is a holistic experience, eclectic methods and customers who are emotional and rational animals. This is as shown in figure 2. Many companies, such as IKEA, have adopted this new form of marketing which has played a key role in the expansion of the organizations business horizons. Schmitt (1999) explains that the shift in marketing strategies can be attributed to three simultaneous developments which include todays technology omnipresence, brand supremacy and the ubiquity of entertainment and communications.
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2: Characteristics of experiential marketing. Own work, based on Schmitt (1999)
Social Media in digital marketing
Social media can be defined as an online platform that facilitates the interaction and collaboration of people while also sharing information. The main social media outlets include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Interaction through social media takes many forms such as pictures, weblogs, social bookmarking, videos, podcast, and microblogging. In the recent past, social media has gained a large number of users, which can be exploited by organizations in pursuit of increased sales and profits. As argues by Edwards (2015), social media platforms should not only provide a means for sharing what individuals are engaging in on a daily basis but also a channel that can be used by businesses to reach potential consumers. IKEA group is one of the companies that have taken advantage of social media where the company has strengthened its engagement with customers through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and YouTube (Bulut-Bogdanovic et al., 2017). Social media channels can significantly influence the performance of a company in the market through a number of ways such as creation of brand awareness, increase of traffic to an organizations site, help researchers in targeting demographics and increasing overall reach to the target demographics, enabling communication with a companys audience as well as aiding in search engine optimization (SEO) (Edwards 2015).
Belden (2013) claims that social media can be of great benefit to an organization in terms of marketing as the platforms rise above space, location and time. This author categorizes social media into three groups namely paid, owned and earned, as shown in figure 3.
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3: Types of Social Media. Own work based on Belden (2013)
Starting with the paid social media, this refers to any form of display such as a post, ad or tweet that calls for monetary compensation for the content to be viewed by users (Belden 2013). This type of social media is likened to the digital paid media in which the placement of media occurs for a specific period of time. On the other hand, owned social media comprises an organizations Twitter profile, Facebook page, YouTube channel or Pinterest board which are organizational-owned media within the space provided by social media (Belden 2013). When using this owned media, a company has control over its brand voice through posts, videos and images as well as the interaction with its fans and customers. The greatest opportunity for social media is presented by the earned media type. This is because social media provides an outlet for engagement, sharing, and interaction meaning that communication aimed at supporting a given brand is well supported as people interact. Thus, earned social media can be used to imply the discussion about a given brand within social media platforms.
E-mail Marketing in digital marketing
Email marketing refers to the type of digital marketing in which an organization reaches out to its customers by sending them emails. Organizations use emails as a key channel for contacting their current customers while marketing their existing or new products and services. Email marketing provides an excellent communication tool for a company and its customers. By sending emails to its customers, a company strengthens its relationship ties with customers hence increasing the retention rate as well.
Belden, C., 2013. Paid, earned and owned media: Convergence in social...
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