CII, which has in the past brought several marketing gurus as part of its Brand Conclave, this year has invited Professor Bernd Schmitt. The CII Brand Conclave was held in Kolkata on July 17-18.
Prof Schmitt is Robert D Calkins Professor of International Business and Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School in New York. He advocates major contribution to branding, marketing, and management through unique focus on the customer experience and differentiating the brand by experiential branding.
Day one of the Conclave saw Prof Schmitt delivering the key note on ‘Big Think Strategy’ and how to leverage bold ideas. The session began with him discussing experience marketing and branding and how it is different from traditional marketing. According to Prof Schmitt, experiential marketing was the new marketing tool which focused on the sensory, emotional and intellectual experiences of the customer. It is more skewed towards what the customer experiences rather than the functional qualities of the brand. Experiential marketing does not market the product, but the experience that the consumer has on using the product.
Introducing the term Experience Providers, Prof Schmitt said that these touch points were very important. There are scales that help measure experiences. According to him, the strategic experiential modules (SEM) include a five-category framework, which were sense, feel, think, act and relate.
“Traditional marketing, which puts stress on functional features and benefits, is no longer relevant in today’s age. We need to understand how people live their lives, how they spend their days or what their aspirations are,” Prof Schmitt noted.
He cited several examples to support his theory – iPod has become a cool lifestyle brand; Singapore Airlines, which stresses on the travel experience and has won several awards for their in-flight service; Starbucks, where coffee is not just a commodity but an experience. Starbucks has succeeded in creating the ‘third space’ between work and home; Commerce Bank, US, which think of themselves more as retailers than traditional banks and helped change the whole concept of working timings for banks, providing service from 9am to 9pm. Then there is the revolutionary Dove ad, which does not show computer generated beauties but real beauties.
“In experiential marketing, it is important to create an experience platform that communicates to customers in a simple and tangible way how they will be treated by the company. An experience platform drives everything a company does – product developments, store design, service, etc. In my consulting work, I have created numerous experiential platforms for companies and brands. For Skoda, we created a platform of ‘Real’, that is, a real car for real people. For a Korean cosmetics firm, the platform was ‘energy’, that is, products and service that balance your energy and re-energise your skin. For a private club, the platform was ‘community’. An experience platform is not only important externally, but also to guide internal decisions, processes and behaviors as well as human resources – such as who to hire, and how to train and reward staff,” Prof Schmitt concluded.