Lately, I’ve been engrossed lately in the upcoming book, which purposely skirts the issue of experiential marketing in order to create a more generalist perspective. At the office, I’ve been swamped with finding creatively tactical solutions to some big-ass brands, but the work is less experiential thinking and more PR-driven experience-based promotions, stunts and digital marketing campaigns.

So, I’ve been out of the conceptual game for a bit. But I’ve just read a couple of things that have me pondering experiential applications a little bit more deeply today.

The first is an article from The Hub about shopper marketing. The author writes that:

Retailers and brand marketers are suffering from a disconnect about the very meaning of the term, “Shopper Marketing.” Yes, we all agree that it’s about in-store and the “first moment of truth.” But many have yet to realize that it’s the retailer—not the brand marketer—who is in charge.

Too many brand marketers are making the mistake of adopting the definition of Shopper Marketing offered by Deloitte & Touche: “All marketing stimuli developed based on a deep understanding of shopper behavior designed to build brand equity, engage the shopper and lead him/her to purchase” (emphasis mine).

This is a flawed definition because it disregards the retailer as the key decision-maker. It also ignores the retailer’s key objective, which is to provide shopper solutions and drive sales by category, not by brand. Retailers aren’t thinking about your brand’s equity; they care only about their shoppers and providing them with solutions—in health care, pet care, household, meals, entertainment. You name it.

The reality is, Shopper Marketing, done correctly, isn’t even about marketing in the conventional sense. Traditionally, marketing is mainly about communicating messages to consumers—mostly advertising of one kind or another.

At retail, the goal is not just to communicate to—it is to offer solutions for—shoppers. That’s what helps shoppers have a more satisfying shopping experience. Interrupting them with ads usually has just the opposite effect because it tends to slow them down instead of help them out.

So, the objective of Shopper Marketing really is not about traditional marketing at all. It is about delivering shopper solutions. And that’s a very different objective. We need to stop treating shoppers as if they are consumers in search of brands. They are not. They are shoppers in search of solutions.

The article goes on to state that a new approach to — or a different understanding of — shopper marketing is needed. In fact, without saying it, the author is making a point for experiential solutions. It’s a good read on the idea that brands working together and bundling products for solutions is a key driver of growth for retailers.

The second article that caught my eye was this one from the NYT. According to the article, a perennially-struggling magazine like Guitar World hit pay-dirt with an experiential idea that could prove to be its next business model for survival. Here’s the article:

Sometimes success means seeing in advance, with absolute clarity, where you should go. And sometimes it’s more like, “Whoa, dude, check it out.”

The instructional DVD-and-booklet packages published by Guitar World magazine fall into the latter group. The publisher, Anthony J. Danzi, describes them as a low-expectations play — put the material on magazine racks along with the magazine, and see what happens.

What happened was that the DVD packages sold better at the newsstand than issues of the magazine itself, turning into an important income source for Guitar World and its owner, Future PLC of Britain. “It’s still kind of astounding to us,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Guitar World started selling the packages through its Web site, making available the old ones that have disappeared from newsstands.

Since the first one appeared in late 2005, Guitar World has a new DVD and booklet about once every three months, each with a specific theme — how to play acoustic rock, how to play Christmas songs, how to play Jimi Hendrix songs, how to play shred (speed metal, if you must ask). Despite a $9.99 price, they have sold 80,000 to 90,000 for each edition, Mr. Danzi said, while the monthly magazine, which goes for $7.99, averages newsstand sales around 80,000.

He credits Brad Tolinski, the editor in chief, with the idea. Guitar World already had a distribution network, video recording studios and relationships with professional guitarists, and each issue of the magazine contains a video CD focusing on a particular artist.

The profit margin on each additional copy sold of the instructional package is significantly higher than for each additional copy of the magazine, he said. “The DVD costs more than the video CD to produce, but it doesn’t have the high production costs of the magazine,” he added.

What makes the idea’s success all the more surprising is that on a newsstand, it looks like just a magazine. The DVD is not noticeable at first glance, and the letters “DVD” appear in fairly small type.

“The limitations of the newsstand kind of dictate to us what physical form it has to take, and we thought the packaging might hold us back,” Mr. Danzi said. “You can go out in the marketplace and there’s a gazillion guitar instructional products, in music stores and book stores. You don’t really think about the newsstand as a place people would go for this.”

Who ever said that print media is dead?!?!

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