The Future: Immersive Marketing?

I'm right in the middle of researching Forrester's Interactive Marketing Forecast -- our big sizing report which forecasts spending in different interactive channels five years into the future.  In addition to leveraging a quantitative study of marketers (which some of you helped with -- thanks!), I'm also conducting a series of interviews with media providers, vendors, agencies and interactive marketing experts to help me prioritize trends and build out an accurate market sizing. 

Last week as part of my research I spoke to Jim Nail, ex-Forrester analyst and current CMO of TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony and Jeff Lanctot, VP of Media and Client Services for Avenue A/Razorfish.  Both independently mentioned a key theme defining the future of interactive marketing which I've been noodling on since my conversations with them.  I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the theme is that of immersive marketing -- that is the idea of creating marketing programs that:

Create a cohesive and all-encompassing experience across any channel where the customer is.

Generally immersive marketing is planned to encounter the customer, rather than planned by "how many impressions in which format I should buy."  And immersive marketing is often more subtle, taking a concierge-type approach rather than the carnival-barker style to delivering value.

I really like this idea and believe that as consumers grow ever more fatigued of marketing communications immersive marketing will become more appreciated and more expected.  But I can't help but wonder how a transformation to immersive marketing will actually come to pass.  Will marketers really give over to being subtle facilitators of positive customer experiences?  Is there still a role for marketing to be loud?

Maybe immersive marketing happens as a new approach that smart marketers take to relationship marketing which functions alongside -- not as a replacement for -- overt marketing tactics aimed at acquiring customers or announcing one's brand?  And of course, hopefully as we all get better an analytics, even "loud" marketing activities become more intelligent and well-customized.

I'd love to know your take on immersive marketing and on any other transformations you feel affecting the future of interactive marketing.  I think we are at an inflection point in the market for sure and I'd love to get as many perspectives as possible to include in the sizing report.

Comments

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

SharAn interesting and timely idea. It reminds me strongly of the earlier work on Experiential Marketing by Bernd Schmitt and current work on Customer Experience Management.I see a few key obstacles for marketers who want to get started with immersive marketing.1. Immersive marketing must be driven by the customer's persepctive of how the experience should feel, not the marketers'. Most marketers today are still somewhat myopic.2. It must include stronger pre, during and post-sale relational elements if it is to work for customers. Most marketers today are only concerned with the pre-sale part. Once the sale is over the customer is on their own.3. It must be driven by strong collaboration across the entire enterprise if all aspects of the experience are to work at all. Most marketers today only control a small part of the customer experience, and a not particularly important part from the customer's perspective at that.4. It must recognise that marketing is increasingly recognised as a socially-powered activity, not a solo one. Most marketers today are only just waking up to the importance of social networks as key influencers in customer buying behaviour.I do like the idea of immersive marketing, particularly if it builds upon the heritage of experiential marketing and customer experience management. It takes engagement to where it should be - all about the customer - rather than where it languishes today.At the end of the day, markters have to recognise that they will only be successful if they make customers feel like a million dollars, not if they just earn a million themselves from sales.Graham HillIndependent CRM ConsultantInterim CRM Manager

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

This concept has merit, and although I believe in providing holistic, context rich experiences for customers, how will marketers measure the return on these types of investments?

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Immersion marketing also suggests mass customization tools. A key to mass customization is enabling person-to-person linkage that allows human touch in on-line interactions, versus the human-to-server interactions."Concierge-like" service to high value BtoB customers with the ability to immediately engage server based content and transaction capabilties is now happening in even slow adopter industries like pharmaceuticals. Even retailers have used click-to-talk to customer service reps increasing time on site, user satisfaction, etc. It helps train customers on how to access their desired services and minimizes the custoemer frustration level. I'm just a marketer, but this adds immersion with a range of customer benefits.

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

This is a very relevant, passionate topic and I am pleased that as marketers, we are migrating back to personalized experiences vs. mass homogenous reach.I believe we've all been toying with immersive marketing for some time (heck, our own company even tosses around 'immersive experiences' in some of our lingo)-- but why? To paraphrase the Dow campaign -- we've suddenly remembered that the human element is still a foundational aspect in marketing. At the other end of the dialogue is a person looking for personalized relevancy, and subsequently, benefit.A couple of principles that we've found to be helpful when practicing immersive marketing:Storytelling approach: look at any brand that has meaningful brand equity, awareness and loyalty, and you'll see a marketing program rich in communicating human interest and experiences with a splash of humor or emotion. It's subtle, effective and typically outperforms 'hawkers'.Intimate knowledge: through a series of ongoing two-way communications (pre, during, post sell), gain and then leverage knowledge of your customer during the entire customer lifecycle to provide personalized experiences based on their needs, attitudes and behaviors. A side benefit to this ongoing relationship is that you can track and measure success based on lifetime spend or other quantifiable metrics.As for the title - The Future: Immersive marketing? Well, I think it's happening right now.Thanks for the post, Shar, and I'm sure this topic will generate a lot of conversation!

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

For so long in the interactive space, companies were more concerned with what they could do rather than why they should do it. This concept brings the idea back around to the customer.It sounds to me like it's about companies taking a relationship angle, instead of the sales and project ROI angle. It's something we've been advocating at 1to1 for years, not just in interactive but with all customr contacts. I hope it's an idea that continues to catch on.

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

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re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Thank you everyone for your comments on this topic. I'm gleaning great insights to include in the report. The more marketers I talk to for this research, the more I think the biggest hang up on this idea of immersive marketing is that of measurement. Wes, you mentioned this. I think marketers continue to be tasked with coming up with ways to sell stuff and then they are measured on how many widgets they sell. This is a valid requirement, for sure. But it does not take into consideration longer relationship-value or some of the subtle return from deepening customer engagement (my colleague Brian Haven wrote a great piece about how to measure the business value of engagement in "Marketings' New Key Metric: Engagement."I think marketer's level of immersion will be limited by their ability to break free of legacy metrics.Also, in my interviews, I'm also hearing a lot about personalized marketing messages, delivered via personalized media, through personalized devices. This is the notion that as mobile devices (and content in all formats) improve, we as consumers will start to access our entertainment, news, communities via non-browser based interfaces. I like this possibility as a way to push toward immersive marketing. Maybe immersive marketing creates a completely encompassing experience for me to get lost in. Or maybe immersive marketing just becomes assumed into my regular routine and actually facilitates or corrects my behaviors. Too Orwellian?

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Tim Fielding, VP Strategic Marketing & Business Development of nightt, sent us a comment to this post by email. Thought it was worth sharing:"Reading with great interest your post this morning. Since leaving MTVN’s digital division earlier this year, I’ve been ‘speed-dating’ interactive agencies in search of an answer to the question of whether media/entertainment companies can more easily become like agencies, or agencies assume the role of the media/ent cos, in the quickening evolutionary race for occupation of the digital value chain. The future of ‘immersive marketing’ surely lies at the heart of that question. If/when agencies can develop experiential marketing concepts that consumers choose to pull from their media (rather than having reconstituted advertising foisted on them under the guise of ‘branded content’), then they will be making strides towards that ‘positive consumer experience’ that you talk about. Excuse me for saying so but, ahem, the right relationship is everything."

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Shar: Would love to have you visit the Brand Experience Lab in NY when you're free. We started almost 5 years ago to help companies create more compelling, authentic & relevant brand experiences. And we describe your brand experience as "everything you do." In a world where everything can travel so quickly, you can no longer tell me how great your company/product is and then deliver a bad experience on any front. You might also want to check out a book called "The Experience Economy," which was published in 1999, I believe. You can also go to http://tinyurl.com/276x7g to read several articles we've written about this topic over the years. If you look at the companies that are successful from a business/financial POV, they are all companies that deliver the best experience in their categories. In terms of measurement, well, my previous sentence can be one measurement tool, but there are ways to measure engagement, but it will mean breaking down too many of the existing industry measurement tools and it will take some time to do. Holler if you want to come visit the Lab and take a walking tour of Soho with us!

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Shar (and others):There is some excellent dialogue going on in this blog.I have a few questions with regard to "Immersive Marketing":1) In your opinion, do you feel that marketing will understand the delineation between building up "customer experience" and "marketing immersion"? Historically, they've had a tendency to view customer interactions as (immediate) SALES opportunities (even though we know better).2) In your opinion, how will consumers, in particular, Gen Xers and Gen Y, respond to Immersive Marketing?3) Have you come across any businesses that are pushing the envelope in this area?Thanks, and keep the thought-provoking posts coming!--Mark

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

To respond to the last post - as a Gen Yer, I appreciate immersive marketing strategies. Personally I am much more likely to further investigate a product/company/service that was brought to my attention indirectly than say, on a billboard or full-page magazine ad. Society is used to ignoring billboards and magazine ads, but finding information about a company wedged in a larger context that I'm already engaged is intriguing. There is a lot of value to be gained from a company who isn't afraid to converse with the public and let their consumers know they are listening, and perhaps, even caring. This blog has recently posted tactical information about that type of relationship that I've seen eye to eye with - http://www.massmailsoftware.com/blog/

re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

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re: The Future: Immersive Marketing?

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