Can digitisation take over real brand experience for consumer engagement

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic forced governments around the world to implement lockdowns, there have been huge surges in the amount of internet consumption. While brands had increasingly begun to focus on digital promotions, so as to tap into the relatively inexpensive marketing channel, the huge increase in data usage might have thrown up a question — Can digitization-driven marketing substitute real brand experience generation when it comes to engaging consumers? The following article throws more light on the same:


There is no doubt that digital marketing has proven to be very cost-effective. Digital marketing enables you to achieve the following:
  • Reach a wide audience over multiple convenient-to-use digital devices
  • Generate a high level of engagement
  • Enable target consumers to know about other users’ experiences with the product
  • Generate loads of very valuable data pertaining to target consumers, such as their likes and dislikes, their needs and wants, and their past buying behavior
Thus, digital marketing enables brands to significantly boost their image. However, one cannot ignore what experiential marketing campaigns can do for brands. The importance of experiential marketing is clear from the following points:
  • As per Statista, 44% of marketers are able to achieve a 3:1 ROI using event marketing. The same ROI has been ascertained by EMI & Mosaic to be anywhere between 3:1 to 5:1 for 48% brands.
  • Enable target consumers to know about other users’ experiences with the product
  • According to EventTrack, around 70% of people who have been part of an experiential marketing event tend to become regular customers. Also, 65% of consumers suggest that being part of live events help them develop a better understanding of a brand.
What is clear from the above is that both, digital promotions and experiential marketing have their own importance in generating consumer engagement. And neither can replace the other. So, what would be the ideal strategy?


Instead of trying to focus on one out of the two, the best way to go about it would be to develop integrated marketing campaigns where digital campaigns reinforce experiential marketing events. The following are different ways in which this could be done:
  • There could be different social media or online events that could be launched surrounding a live event that is scheduled in the near future or while the event plays out. Examples of this would include the Fantasy Premier League, organizing Instagram hashtag contests, and offering free tickets to people who satisfy some winning criteria, creating event-specific promotional websites and interaction forums, and so on. One advantage of this approach is that the insights that are obtained through the data generated through various digital promotions could be used to shape future experiential marketing events.
  • There could also be a fusion where some experiential marketing events themselves could be conducted over social media or digital platforms. An example of this is the Coca Cola marketing campaign in 2013 which involved placing 3-D interactive screens in malls at Lahore and Mumbai and enabling people to interact with each other by tracing peace signs and messages of happiness.
  • The use of technology such as Virtual Reality may be involved in conducting in-person engagement events. The following examples show why this is such a powerful tactic of engagement: Topshop, a fashion retailer in the UK, offered few lucky winners of competition the chance to experience a 360-degree panoramic view from the front seat of their show at the London Fashion Week by collaborating with Ignition, a London-based VR studio Nippon Airways (ANA) collaborated with Mbryonic, an immersive technologies studio, to offer a virtual reality tour of the new business class 777-300ER cabins, where users were given VR headsets to wear to help them experience the feeling of being seated in one of the rooms and explore the various privileges.
As we see, while digital marketing will continue to grow in importance, it will not end up displacing the importance of generating real brand experiences. However, what is certain is, it will be able to play a complementary and reinforcing role in developing consumer engagement. A hybrid marketing plan that incorporates elements of both, digital marketing and experiential marketing, would be one that would ensure a significant enhancement of brand equity.