How to use Experiential Marketing to sell your Kenyan Experience

If you Google hottest marketing trends that brands should be following, you’ll be hard pressed to miss reading about ‘more personalisation, ‘more consumer at the centre of the action‘, ‘more use of immersive technologies’, ‘more use of micro influencers’, ‘AI-Powered Optimization’. They’ll be a few more, and excitedly the solution I am touting here actually involves all the above listed, but I want to specifically focus on Experiential Marketing today.

Experiential Marketing is a marketing strategy that engages consumers using branded experiences. Sometimes referred to as “engagement marketing”, the idea is to create a memorable impact on the consumer. One that will inspire them to share with their friends both online and off. Well run experiential marketing campaigns put the consumer at the centre of the action, not the product or service. Red bull is a great example of a brand that uses experiential marketing extensively, connecting their brand with action / extreme sports (sure you have seen some of their sponsored events, and probably tried their product just for that reason).

“Move away from ‘traditional’ practices that have become formulaic, over-researched and over-tuned, lacking creativity and passionGet back to your roots and interact directly with your customers”. – Philip Kotler

The concept is not new, but is gaining a lot of traction because it puts the consumer at its core. Experiential marketing proposes a unique experience and influences the consumer by playing on their emotions. This type of marketing is defined by a meaningful, interactive, and memorable experience for the customer.

Companies are rushing to embrace experiential marketing for a number of reasons, technology as always being a key one. Immersive technologies like extended reality (xR), AR, VR, etc are allowing companies to get consumers to interact with their brand in more and more exciting ways, but I think sometimes marketers get caught up in the gadgets more than the ‘why’. What I want to focus on is destination Kenya’s ‘why’, and in doing so, show how easy, manageable and valuable this marketing concept is for us.

For experiential marketing to be effective, the consumer needs to be centre of the action, and the media that conveys the marketing should depict a meaningful, interactive and memorable experience. If done well, the capture of the experience should result in greater brand loyalty, repeat business and brand referral, the holy grail of marketing! What I am trying to scream at the top of my voice from every proverbial rooftop is that we have the perfect recipe to do this in Kenya! Not only can we give tourists’ a truly magical experience, but we can capture them experiencing this magic (i.e. we can put the consumer at the centre of the action)! The predictable nature of the Kenyan experience plus the fact that we experience the magic with every tourist (our guides are there with them for most of their magical moments) leaves us in a perfect place to utilise experiential marketing. If marketing gurus globally were to define a perfect use of experiential marketing, capturing and presenting a tourist’s experience in a photobook will be right up there. Almost every other tourist destination around the world would love to but cannot do this because they are not able to be physically present with a tourist at the right moments to capture their whole travel story. In Kenya we can and this is the marketing ‘jackpot’ that I am advocating that as a collective in the tourism space, we need to exploit.

“True personalization and true meaning comes when somebody is creating their own experience by being active in it

As every Kenyan knows, we live in a stunningly beautiful country. We are blessed with natural and cultural beauty that I think many world travellers would love to experience. The move towards ‘Signature Experiences’ by Magical Kenya is very apt, and fits perfectly with my call for better experiential marketing. According to KTB, Kenya is one of the most searched destination but not the most visited. This drop off between awareness and trial can be explained by some ingrained global perceptions of Kenya as well cultural and physical distance, meaning travellers are sceptical, they need more convincing to travel, and research shows that these ‘outsiders’ (those that feel the destination is ‘not for me’) are more likely to be convinced by ‘insiders’, those that have been to and have a sense of belonging to a place. I have written about the research behind this in previous blog.

This is where I think experiential marketing would work well. Those that have had a great experience in Kenya (most do), will be more than happy to share this experience with others. I think most do share their experience (an American Express report in 2017 suggests that people will on average tell 11 people about their positive experience, versus 15 for a negative one). The question I am posing is how much does controlling the narrative they share make a difference? I think that if you tell a Kenyan ‘outsider’ about how wonderful your holiday was, they will not hear most of the message, but if you show them the picture book story of that same holiday, they will absorb a lot more of the message. To labour the point, if a tourist to Kenya is a keen wildlife enthusiast and shares her snaps of Kenya with her friend who values luxury over adventure, the returning tourist is likely to only share wildlife images, making the luxury traveller no more likely to want to visit. But present a book that shows the full experience including where they stayed, what they saw, sundowners and campfires, balloon safaris and bush breakfasts and I am sure you’ll have a better chance of convincing the luxury favouring friend!

The point is that great experiences sell, so presenting / packaging the great experience is so worthwhile, but this is not a luxury many brands get. Kenya has that chance, we should grab it with both hands and legs … and any thing else we can use! The beauty is telling the story of the tourist’s experience will be valued highly by the tourist (who has time to do anything with the thousands of photos we take), the tour company (they brand the books so benefit from the loyalty, repeat business and referrals they’ll bring) and the destination (more people see Kenya in ‘our eyes’). Win wins are hard to find these days, let alone win win wins!