XM class assets for the Reynolds to Rams initiative featured creative from the VCU Make It Real Campaign.
Experiential marketing is a marketing strategy designed to cultivate positive, personal brand interactions with consumers through product and service offerings, communication, and staged experiences. Experiential marketing is a unique marketing effort that has a positive effect in brand metrics, including brand awareness, brand recall, and purchase intent (Adweek 2009). National consumer brands consistently dedicate promotional budgets to experiential marketing, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, GEICO, General Motors, and Starbucks. Not only is experiential marketing gaining momentum in practice, it is also becoming more prevalent in the marketing literature. Over the past several years, research on experience marketing, event marketing, and experiential elements have been published in top marketing journals, including Journal of Marketing (2009), Journal of Marketing Research (2012), and Journal of Advertising (2011).
The Department of Marketing within Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business offered its first Experiential Marketing (XM) course in Summer 2013. The class is now offered in spring semesters and covers a wide array of XM topics, including brand experience, ideation, XM tactics, event marketing, mobile marketing, sponsorship, venues, target markets, marketing assets, human elements, premiums, sampling, involvement and participation, outcomes, premiums, sampling, social media and technology, business markets, and marketing research. Guest speakers include experts from national XM agencies and local XM venues.
The Spring 2014 class project involved the creation, planning, and activation of a joint XM initiative for VCU and a Richmond-area community college. Reynolds to Rams is an ongoing program designed to connect Reynolds Community College students with current VCU School of Business students for student-to-student connection, advising and immersion activities to ease the transfer process and ensure that dedicated Reynolds students become successful VCU Rams. The VCU XM students were broken into three teams and each team was invited to the Reynolds campus to promote the Reynolds to Rams program. Specific goals of the events were for VCU students to provide personal testimonials, deliver key talking points, and encourage event attendees to sign up for the Reynolds to Rams program.
The events took place in April 1, 2, and 9, 2014, after several weeks of classroom learning and during peak community college transfer application and recruitment time. Students had access to course marketing assets (e.g., tent, table cover, premiums, collateral, iPad for data collection, camera for documentation), but planned the scope and details of their own event. Additionally, students were charged with interjecting creativity to make their event unique from their classmates’. At the conclusion of the events, our teams had engaged with hundreds of Reynolds students and signed up nearly 250 students for the Reynolds to Rams program.
Each student team was asked to provide a reflection of their XM learning experience. The student reflections are posted below.
Jodie L. Ferguson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business. Dr. Ferguson earned her Bachelor’s (Marketing) at The Ohio State University and earned her M.B.A. and Ph.D. at Georgia State University. Dr. Ferguson’s research focuses on customer responses to firm decisions in the marketplace, including behavioral pricing, response to dissatisfaction, privacy concerns, and business ethics. Her research has appeared in various marketing and business journals, including Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business Ethics, and Journal of Brand Management. Dr. Ferguson teaches undergraduate Marketing Principles and Experiential Marketing, and undergraduate and graduate Marketing Research, and she recently received the VCU School of Business Distinguished Teaching Award (2014). Dr. Ferguson’s practical experience involved experiential marketing at Marketing Mix (St. Louis) and Euro RSCG Impact (now Havas Impact, Atlanta), where she worked on experiential initiatives with brands such as Gatorade, P&G, Nestle, and Dunkin’ Donuts.