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Sun 3 Jul 2005 04:00 AM

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Marketers go face-to-face with their consumers

Companies in the region are turning to experiential marketing to engage customers on a one-to-one level, says Tim Addington

Marketers go face-to-face with their consumers|~|Malik,-Hamad200.jpg|~|Malik… ‘This is a region where people love to touch and feel things’|~|Humans are inherently curious and inquisitive animals. We want to touch, feel, taste and smell things, whether it be a new seedless watermelon, hi-tech internet-enabled refrigerator or latest luxury sports car.

Traditionally, companies wanting to sell these products to consumers used the standard advertising mediums of television, radio, and print. Then came product sampling, which in the majority of cases was isolated to FMCG products.

But marketers in the Middle East are now realising what many in Europe and the US have known for some time, that engaging the customer on a one-to-one level can reap enormous rewards.

As reported in last week’s Campaign Middle East, both Gillette and British American Tobacco are starting to use experiential marketing. Broadly defined as live marketing experiences where consumers interact with a product or brand face-to-face, the medium is gaining growing acceptance by marketers in the region, who recognise its value in driving sales and building brand loyalty.

The benefits of experiential marketing are clear. A study conducted last year by the HPI Research Group in the UK found that 73% of consumers said they had better brand knowledge after participating in an experiential campaign, with 91% claiming it would encourage them to try a product they would not normally purchase.

In a survey carried out in May this year, again by HPI, 89% of marketers said they believed the medium was “second to none” at getting brands closer to consumers, with 72% believing experiential marketing encourages brand loyalty.

“It is a medium where you catch the consumer in their natural environment,” said Maliq Mullaji, chief operating officer at below-the-line agency Artaaj. “The brand goes out into their environment and engages them,” he said.

Car markers in the US have been one of the most notable advocates of experiential marketing.
In October 2004, Lincoln, part of the Ford Motor Company, opened a permanent display at the Time Warner Center in New York where consumers, with the aid of a concierge and plasma touch screens, can experience the benefits of Lincoln cars first hand. Other manufactures have launched similar programmes.

“The biggest benefit of experiential marketing is the ability to provide an opportunity for people to touch and feel the products,” said Hamid Malik, director of marketing and corporate communications at LG Electronics Middle East and Africa.

“They get to understand the product more than they would from traditional forms of advertising and they have the option to ask questions and have things explained to them in a relaxed and enjoyable environment.”

LG has set up a digital centre in Dubai for customers to try out its audiovisual equipment and has even set up an air conditioning academy where people interested in buying large-scale air conditioning units can see demonstrations of the product and have questions answered.

“It is a growth area but there is still a long way to go for marketers in this region,” said Malik.
“Many still don’t understand the value of experiential marketing and in this region it is still very much a theory. This is a region where people love to touch and feel things. As more people see the benefits of this type of marketing, the more it will only grow.” ||**||

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