“It’s all about the experience”: Quoted in the Business Standard.
Article by Arunima Mishra
March 26, 2012
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Luxury brands have taken to experiential marketing with gusto; many consumer durables companies are also focusing this tool for their luxury products
Sandeep Sethi, a senior real-estate marketing professional, was blown away by the experience during his first visit to the Audi store at Mathura Road, New Delhi. The showroom was spacious, which made him feel comfortable, and he could easily cruise through the store without encountering any roadblocks. The various models were neatly displayed, and help was at hand in case he needed to clear any doubt. He was thoroughly impressed by the professionalism. Now Sethi drives around in an Audi A4.
This two-storey showroom of the German luxury car manufacturer, Audi, has 20 cars on display, and is spread over an area of 30,000 sq ft. The showroom is based on the unique Audi Terminal concept and has a unique 250-ft wide store front. It has a honeycomb aluminum façade and inside the showroom there are escalators to ferry prospective buyers up and down. It hosts the Audi Shop and the Audi Exclusive Elements, where customers can order customised products and purchase a variety of Audi branded merchandise. “Audi has 15 showrooms in India based on the Audi terminal concept. Six of these are Audi terminals and the rest are Audi terminal concepts. While the terminal’s architecture embodies the sportiness of the brand, the aluminium façade reflects Audi’s expertise in lightweight design,” says Michael Perschke, head, Audi India. In short, the onus is on providing a unique experience first — no hard sell, no desperate salesmen shadowing you till the end of the aisle. But Audi is not alone. Most luxury brands have taken to experiential marketing with gusto; many consumer durables companies are also focusing this tool to showcase their luxury products.
Is this simply the age-old sampling in a new bottle or is it an innovative way of wooing consumers. Narayan Devanathan, national planning head, Dentsu Marcom, says, “It’s what brands have been doing at Pragati Maidan for decades now at the Trade Fair, the Book Fair and the Auto Expo. It’s what brands have been doing at rural haats and melas for years. What has happened is luxury products are using this concept because they have very limited avenues to showcase their products.”
That said, this also opens up opportunities for specialised firms/agencies in India. Mark Barrett, chief executive officer, Asia Pacific, of London-headquartered creative agency Imagination, says, “We focus on the reflection of a brand’s values in our styling and interior of the concept stores, brand experience centres, exhibitions and events, which are now playing a major role in brand management. Increasingly in India across sectors such as retail, automotive and technology bringing brands to life is getting critical.”
Sensing an opportunity, a bunch of global communication agencies have now set up shop in the country to lend a helping hand to their clients to develop strong and unique creative concepts in the field of experiential marketing. Isabelle-Jasmin Roth, managing director, India, of Munich-based communications agency Avantgarde, says, “The concept of experiential marketing in India is not entirely new — a lot of companies like Mercedes Benz or Tag Heuer are already working with this concept. The main industry clusters are automotive and lifestyle, plus the fast growing luxury marketing outfits. Experiential marketing holds a strong sales proposition in terms of bringing a client as close to the brand as possible, through the interaction of all of his or her senses and emotions. The risk is if you don’t execute experiential marketing well, it kicks back strongly in a negative manner.”
It’s not just through experience zones that companies are trying to woo prospective buyers or improve their brand recall; there are events that seem to serve a similar need. Perschke of Audi India says, “We do such events with our dealers. We had a fashion show with designer Vijay Arora that showcased our products through a lifestyle experience.”
Korean consumer electronics company LG also uses events and roadshows to get close to its consumers, especially for its premium products. LK Gupta, vice-president (corporate marketing), LG India, says, “With our Experience on Wheels campaign, we took our high-end products to the doorsteps of people. With a budget of Rs 10 crore, five luxury Volvo buses will cover 150 plus cities. These are designed to look like mini apartments and aim to show how a home might look in the future. There are indoor consultants, who give advice on how to do up a home. Starting in October 2011, this campaign will run for about a year.”
Consumer contact is high on most consumer durables company’s agenda. Anirudh Dhoot , director, Videocon Group, says, “It is high on every company’s agenda because it is an exclusive platform to showcase one’s products on one’s own terms and ensure the best experience to the customer. In this industry one needs to feel and experience products to get convinced and make a decision to buy, especially so for high-end products. We frequently do ground activation, such as mall activity, mobile experience zones for LCD/LED TVs and high-end washing machines, side-by-side refrigerators, microwaves etc.”
Smart phone leader Samsung has unveiled a similar initiative. “Samsung Smartphone Cafe is a retail initiative that we started last year wherein we sell and display smartphones, tablets and laptops. Samsung product consultants at the Smartphone Cafes and Plazas demonstrate the products like flat panel TVs (3D, LED, LCD), home theatre systems, digital cameras, refrigerators, washing machines, microwave ovens, A/Cs, tablets, smartphones and printers — all displayed in an uncluttered shopping environment. The product display is interactive and aimed to engage the customers better,” says a company spokesperson.
The idea of offering the experience first seems to be catching on with real-estate developers like Ashiana Housing. It has something like a trial home which gives the prospective buyer a clear idea of the floor area, specifications, facilities and services. People can come and choose to stay for a week or a month before deciding to buy a flat. You have to pay a price for this but that’s just a token amount, insists Ankur Gupta, joint managing director, Ashiana Housing. “The idea behind trial apartments is to give customers a first-hand experience,” he says. “At one of our properties we have had 90 per cent conversion, which includes customers who have taken a unit on rent as well as those who have purchased a unit after staying in a trial apartment. We hope this ratio will increase as people become aware about this concept.”