Ad-dendum: Coming home

Written by Rajeeb Dash | Updated: Sep 10 2013, 15:37pm hrs
Ad market
Marketers across geographies will concur that the consumer has hitherto never been so aware and so demanding. An explosion of media has ensured that the consumer suffers an information overload and this, coupled with a rapidly-shrinking attention span, means that buying decisions at times may not be too informed and unbiased. These consumers are extremely skilled at sifting through the clutter of advertising and marketing campaigns that constantly bombard their lives through television, newspaper, radio and now the mobile phone and the tablet.

The scope of advertising has, thus, become minimal and because it doesnt evolve at the same speed at which consumer expectation does, there is a huge gap between what advertising intends to do and what actually happens. As a consequence and in order to break through this media mess, advertisers and marketers are relentlessly jostling for new ideas to create top-of-the-mind recall in consumers minds and eventually, turn them into not just buyers, but brand loyalists and influencers.

The switch from plain vanilla advertising through newspapers to viral and social media marketing is a result of this need to break through. From interactive events to gatherings, marketers are engaging consumers on a daily basis in order to turn their attention span to the product and the company at a sustainable level. The idea is to engage consumers at such an emotional level that it gets them talking and spreading the word. Except, in todays context, this sharing is best done via social media and this is what marketers want to get people talking about the product.

Experiential marketing is one such path-breaking marketing tool that is fast becoming the buzzword across sectors. Experiential marketing works on all five senses (at times), thereby

making the experience extremely memorable and creating a strong top-of-the-mind recall. These personal experiences not just help consumers make intelligent and informed purchasing decisions, but turn them into brand evangelists.

The difference between traditional marketing techniques and experiential marketing is that the latter lets consumers get a first-hand feel of the product and experience its benefits; whereas in the former, marketers inform consumers of the benefits. The sensory interaction that experiential marketing creates, when done right, can turn the consumer into a life-long brand loyalist and influencer who aids other consumers in their buying decisions. The goal is to sustainably change consumer behaviour in order to create a strong kinship with the product and the brand.

Experiential Marketing in Real Estate

Experiential marketing is creating waves in the real estate sector, with developers going the whole way in trying to increase consumer interest in a sluggish market. Developers introduce initiatives such as virtual tours, free one-night stay at a finished sample flat to some select customers, trial homes, etc. Developers now focus on one-on-one interaction and engagement with the consumer, with an understanding that the latter is the main stakeholder and a potential future influencer. In order to leverage this engagement, most developers now have separate marketing budgets that allow them to directly engage with consumers. By allowing consumers to become active participants in a marketing initiative, marketers ensure not just sales, but a genuine long-lasting interest in the product, which further provides a fillip to word-of-mouth publicity.

By adopting innovative marketing initiatives, developers apprise consumers that they understand the need to break away from the mundane approach in order to grab consumers attention and are willing to sustain it in the long run. Typically, most developers use sample flats to showcase the construction and woo buyers. While this concept certainly helps, the fact remains that most consumers remain in awe of the interiors of the flat and somehow tend to sidetrack the aesthetics and amenities of the apartment. The whole experience is so intimidating that the buying process tends to become biased.

Therefore, some developers are now introducing the concept of trial homes. These are sample flats, except that the focus is more on amenities and facilities provided, the actual process of living there and not just visiting it with hordes of prospective buyers. Most developers let out a specific number of trial apartments at a nominal charge for a fixed amount of time. A trial home typically has all the facilities that the project would have and interested customers get a first-hand experience of what it will be like living in that property on a daily basis. By allowing consumers to stay in trial homes and sample flats, developers and marketers help them to make an informed and intelligent decision to buy a home, which in itself is an extremely pragmatic, yet emotional decision for most consumers.

Property fairs are another important tool that developers use to reach out to consumers in a direct manner. Most developers who showcase their properties at the fair have 3D miniature versions of their projects and customers get a fair understanding of what the project will be like. Some developers even have collapsible versions of their sample flats at the fair for consumers to experience a real version of the same without having to visit the actual project site right then.

Those developers who focus solely on the luxury segment also offer dedicated engagement platforms that reach out to a high-net audience. Typically, only high-net prospective buyers are invited to an exclusive gathering, which may, at times, be a replica of a part of the project. A golfing event is a great example when the developer in question offers such amenities at the said yet-to-be-launched project.

Increasingly, real estate players are experimenting with newer technologies for consumer engagement. Interactive devices such as multi-touch tables, 3D Alioscopy TV, wall mounted sensors are used, which not only help in engaging consumers but also help them to experience features of the property.

The use of augmented reality is another interesting concept that is a by-product of experiential marketing. Here, brands and companies engage with consumers by using interactive media and, at times, 3-D screens which create an illusion. This also includes use of holographic projections to promote new projects, 3D walk-through the project and 3D mapping of the project. For instance, with the use of holographic projections a customer can almost believe she is in the kitchen area of an apartment. The technology involved is such that by standing at a particular place and at a particular distance from the screen, the customer can envisage herself doing a chore in the kitchen with certain specific actions. The key is to create such an atmosphere and experience that makes consumers reluctant to leave.

Augmented reality is now increasingly being used in the apartment hunting space. By installing certain applications, and pointing the device to a particular area or lane, prospective buyer or tenants are apprised of which houses are for sale or rent in that particular area.

Augmented reality is also used to increase awareness about the designing stage of a house and developers organise events where the architect for a particular project draws the design plan of a house for prospective buyers to see. The developer even allows prospective buyers to be part of the design decision so that each individual apartment is different from the other and designed according to the specific needs of its buyer. Interestingly, the use of experiential marketing can really broaden the scope of conversion rate for developers and the same varies from 20% to 90%, the latter being the result of trial homes specifically.

These personal experiences help consumers connect and engage with the brand and the company on a personal level; thereby allowing them to have an emotional connect with the product even before it is purchased. Moreover, the memory of the experience creates a long-lasting impression in the consumers mind, a feat that run-of-the-mill marketing techniques can never achieve.

The writer is marketing head, Tata Housing