Experiencing Murketing through Experience Marketing

Once upon a time, advertisements appeared in print or on the air, simply explaining why their product was better than its competitors, or offering a cute jingle to get into the heads of potential consumers. But now, that’s not enough. According to Forbes writer Krizstina “Z” Holly, “these days, if you’re not thinking about getting your customers to run through a train station or assassinate a stranger with a water gun, you’re probably getting lost in the crowd.”

She’s talking about a trend she calls “curated experiences,” or a new trend in marketing that offers your customer an adventure connected to your brand, rather than a traditional advertisement. She says this surfaced as a business model originally, as with the performance art pieces “Sleep No More” and Invisible Cities, which offer an interactive experience in a venue that is usually presentational. Now, companies are getting in on the act, if you will, and in our social media-inundated world, this experience of adventure leads to online sharing, guaranteeing more exposure.

We’ve seen examples of this trend recently here in Boston: cliff diving off of the ICA building courtesy of Red Bull and 10,000 motion-activated LCDs along the Esplanade in the Lucy Activewear #lucylightforest. You could probably even think of a few more subtle examples, manifested in your own life. What did you Tweet about?

In his book, Buying In, culture and media analyst Rob Walker calls the phenomena “murketing,” a portmanteau of “murky” and “marketing.” For Walker, though, it’s about more than the experiential nature of this new marketing; he talks quite a lot about how, through this, the brand becomes about more than the product. It’s a symbol of something more, a lifestyle, or even an ideology. Gone are the days of ads like this. Instead, companies like Twitter rarely advertise themselves traditionally, focusing more on building that experience.

What’s hard to comprehend is that our own sharing, as Holly mentions in her article, becomes further marketing, or marketing, for the brand. One great example of this would be posting photos on Facebook after the Color Run, which is more than an experience. At the end of the day, it’s a business and each participant pays around $50 to participate in “the happiest 5k on the planet,” and for the privilege to share those photos.

Murketing becomes an issue because we sometimes aren’t even aware that it’s happening; thus, do we know that we’re being subtly manipulated? The implications of this are great, and as technology and marketing techniques become more sophisticated, that manipulation could become even more subtle. Yet, as both Walker and Holly mention, this new form of marketing allows us to be more involved in the process. Because, in this new world, we do have a say in the brand’s ideology, and we are participating, whether through active learning or water gun battles, in the future of the company.

What do you think: is it worth giving up total awareness of marketing to have more experiences worth sharing? Are you fooled by murketing? How will this change as today’s college students become marketing executives?

– Gracie McKenzie, 2015