Experiential marketing is like a real handshake in times of virtual hellos. That\u2019s why, despite the presence of several newer avenues for advertisers to reach out to consumers, experiential marketing has retained its charm. Even today, marketers are using this medium to raise awareness, carry out sampling and gather data in newer markets. Because it enables localised targeting, the activity demands concentrated spends and relatively shorter time periods, compared to TV or digital. Deeper engagement Activations help generate buzz even before the launch of a product. Take the case of Jeep Compass, launched last year, for instance. Jeep Compass saw 130 on-the-spot bookings through mall activations. What worked in its favour was that during the activation, the car had not been rolled out to dealerships yet. However, this was not the case during the launch of Jeep Compass Limited Plus, when malls registered two to five bookings per mall owing to availability of the product at dealerships simultaneously, with conversions happening at a later date in the showrooms. The investment in mall activations for this launch was Rs 2 crore. Rahul Pansare, head \u2013 marketing and PR, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says, \u201cWe use malls for special launches. In the metros, the number of people who visit the mall displays could be between 500 and 550, of which 100 people easily go for a test drive. It is ambitious, but 20% conversions is our target.\u201d Generally, malls with high average footfalls tend to earn 5-8% as additional revenue per month through brand activations. A major component of this revenue is then reinvested in seasonal marketing to woo customers. Malls have the discretion to choose the kind of activations which are to be allowed. For example, having a Nykaa activity near a Sephora store would not be permitted. Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO, Select Citywalk, says, \u201cAny brand that is required by our customers and is not looking for a permanent space can host, say, a two-three day event which could cost Rs 1.5-2 lakh, depending on the seasonality.\u201d Sharma points out that sometimes online platforms too wish to hold mall activations which is not an ideal situation as shoppers could be tempted to shop online instead. But, for an e-commerce player, a weekend mall activity presents an avenue to overcome the \u2018touch and feel\u2019 limitation. US-based mall owner Macerich has launched BrandBox, which allows maximum lease duration of one year for e-commerce platforms to have a modular store in malls. This allows online players to test and measure the impact a physical store might have for them. Crafty execution Not all engagement activities in malls lead to conversion right away. Consider how ITC Sunfeast Farmlite\u2019s Healthier You Awaits You aimed at connecting with people. Late last year, the brand set up a gift area at Infinity Mall, Mumbai, where parents could come and claim gifts for their kids, except they had to shed calories in exchange and not money. Experiences of people participating in the activity were recorded and later used to promote the campaign across digital platforms. Hemant Malik, divisional chief executive \u2013 foods, ITC, says, \u201cThe mall activation was the starting point of our campaign that helped us build content with real people whose stories reached many million viewers, which also generated engagement and buzz on social media.\u201d Execution is everything when it comes to activation. Dalveer Singh, head \u2013 experiential marketing, APAC, Dialogue Factory, cautions marketers against duplicating OOH ad copies for experiential marketing. \u201cA customer in a mall comes to you with his time and wallet share; what you have to focus on is creating a brand story, as the purchase mindset is already present in a captive audience.\u201d Irrespective of whether a mall activation leads to sales, it adds a lot to a brand\u2019s equity, believes Puneet Anand, senior general manager and group head \u2013 marketing, Hyundai Motor India. \u201cOn an average, there are 10,000 to 12,000 customers visiting a mall on a weekend. Even if you are able to convert 10% of the enquiries, it is a very big database for dealerships to cold-call or pursue hot leads.\u201d Anarock has predicted that by 2020, 85 malls are set to come up across the top eight cities. While this means a wider canvas for brands, it also entails that brands ace the art of activation.