The experiential approach of consumption of products and services

A marketing perspective

Essay, 2016

16 Pages, Grade: 9,8

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1. Introduction

2. Marketing practices

3. The evolution of marketing – towards an experiential consumption approach
3.1. The traditional marketing approach
3.2. The experiential marketing approach
3.2.1. The consumption experience
3.2.2. The experiential marketing approach

4. A critical reflection

5. Conclusion

List of references

1. Introduction

Today’s fast evolving and developing world is facing new challenges to its progress and profound changes in its environment. New technologies and modern means of communications are appearing on the economic landscape and have become wide reaching. The competitive environment is becoming increasingly intense and everything is becoming branded.

Consequently, consumers have become more sophisticated, demanding and discerning, which imposes greater requirements for the marketing sector. Consumers seek positive consumption experiences and not only excellent and satisfying goods and services (Pine and Gilmore, 1999). Especially traditional communication strategies, which bombarding the lives of consumer on a daily basis, fail to build an emotional connection with the brand. Corresponding to this shift and the striving for the necessity to differentiate itself traditional manufacturing companies emphasize their service aspects of their business more than their tangible assets. Companies have to follow the need to add consumer experiences to their existing marketing activities (Arnould/ Thompson, 2005).

Therefore, companies who are able to develop a deep understanding in the creation of consumption experiences are more likely to drive purchase intentions, emotional attachment towards a brand, brand loyalty and as a result sales (Hoffmann and Bateson, 2011; Kriss 2014).

At present, in the field of marketing the notion of experience is considered as crucial and the key in the understanding of consumers’ behaviour concerning the process of purchase and consumption (Addis/ Holbrook, 2001).

Concluding, it is stated that “all products provide services in their capacity to create need-or want-satisfying experiences (Morris, 1941, p. 136). In this sense, all marketing is “service marketing”. This places the role of experience at a central position in the creation of consumer value (Holbrook, 1999, p. 9).”

This essay is concerned with the evaluation and interpretation of the experiential approach of consumption of products and services in the context of experiential marketing. Moreover, the final objective refers to the examination of the quotation given above.

In this connection, the first section of this work will address the basic theoretical framework of marketing practises and the nature of marketing services.

The second section represents the evolution of marketing from the traditional towards an experiential marketing approach. In this section the consumption experience will be illustrated and illuminated in more detail. Subsequently, a critical reflecting of the findings will be discussed in section three.

Finally, the last chapter consist of a summarised view on the findings as well as an outlook of the future development of experiential marketing and consumption.

2. Marketing practices

The field of marketing practices can be viewed from two main perceptions. The traditional view reflects the management of the four marketing mix tools, named the 4Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place and promotion. These four instruments primary refer to pure physical good and not suitable for the service industry. In the context of services a new approach was needed and the four marketing mix elements were expanded to the 7Ps: Process, Physical evidence and People. This extension was necessary to meet the further specific features and characteristics inherent in the marketing of services, which can be describes as intangibility, inseparability, perishability and heterogeneity. In contrast to a good, a service can further be seen as an intangible experience. Kotler (1997) respectively defines the term service as an action or activity which can be offered by a party to another party, which is basically intangible and can not affect any ownership. Service may be related to a tangible product or intangible product (Kotler, 1997; Adcock/ Halborg/ Ross, 2001). Emphasising on this definition and in conjunction with the described elements of the marketing mix, a product can therefore be classified a bundle of physical as well as non-physical elements and symbolic attributes which satisfy consumers’ needs. A product is hence a combination of a good and a service (Louise/ Boone/ Kurtz, 2015).

The product provided by a company delivers only a value preposition, which can be seen as the source of value. The actual value for the consumer arises, however, from the usage of the product (Grönroos, 2007). Hence, the customer is always a co-creator of the value (Vargo/ Lusch, 2004). The value itself “is now centred in the experience of consumers” (Prahalad/ Ramsaway, 2004, p. 137). The fundamentally underlying concept of this body of thought is based on the service-dominant logic. The service dominant logic acknowledges and substantiated the relevance and importance of customer experience and rejects the underlying idea of the distinction between goods and services Moreover, goods are viewed as distribution mechanism for the services delivered by the product (Vargo/ Lusch, 2004; Kotler et. al., 2009).

Under consideration of the current marketing environment and consumer behaviour the use of the service marketing mix (7Ps) is considered to be more appropriate, effective and practical relevant. Moreover, it is argued that the dominate focus of marketing needs to refer to the service marketing perspective and that all companies are service companies (Kotler et. al., 2009; Kapoor/ Paul/ Halder, 2011).

3. The evolution of marketing – towards an experiential consumption approach

With the growth of service and the development of the consumers’ consumption a product is now viewed as an experience rather than a physical materialistic object or satisfying service. Hence, the provided service by a product or brand is the experience itself. This point of view goes beyond the features and benefits of a good and the traditional marketing approach. In this connection the evolution of marketing from the traditional marketing to the experiential marketing will be presented and further discussed. Furthermore, this differentiation serves the clarification of the limitation of the traditional marketing approach.

3.1 The traditional marketing approach

The traditional marketing approach concentrates on the features and benefits offered by a tangible good and is centred upon functional values. This perspective can be interpreted as the good dominant logic (Schmitt, 1999). In relation to consumer, the traditional approach is mainly focused on the consumers’ cognitive processes and relegates affective dimensions into the background. Moreover, the consumer is viewed as a rational economic actor or decision maker who seeks to maximize the benefits offered by the product by comparing products with different sets of features. This concept is understood as a utilitarian logic (Cova/ Cova, 2002). Additionally and with respect to the brand management, the traditional marketing views the brand only as an identifier (Schmitt, 1999).

However, traditional differentiating brand characteristics such as high quality and specific product features are already automatically expected by the consumer. Hence, consumers seek the memorable difference and a stimulation of their emotions and minds. In this regards it can be observed that traditional marketing shows deficiencies. Emotional components of the consumer behaviour and experiential aspects which emerge within the consumption process are not provided by product features and benefits. Consequently, the traditional approach has lost its effectiveness to attract attitude and behaviour of consumers. As a result, a memorable positive experience is required which produces emotions and allows a consumer to be appealed with all of his/her senses, feelings, intellect and self-image. Therefore, the providing of appealing brand and consumption experiences is crucial and essential for differentiating a brand’s offer and its position in the market (Schmitt, 1999).

3.2 The experiential marketing approach

3.2.1 The consumption experience

The experiential marketing and hence the experiential approach of consumption represents the main part and centre of interest of this work and will therefore be discussed more detailed. Thus, the following section is concerned with the consumption experience. Subsequently, the experiential approach will be embedded in a marketing perspective.

The experiential interface is focused on the exploratory behaviour and consumption experiences. Firstly and to gain a further understanding of the term experience the following definition shall be subject to this essay: “Experiences are perceptions, feelings and thoughts that consumers have when they encounter products and brands in the marketplace and engage in consumption activities” (Schmitt, 2011, p. 6). In order to deepen the appreciation of the notion, experience can further be described as personal, subjective, requires learning, involves all five senses and takes time (Gounaris, 2015).

The subject area of consumer experience is and has been a highly discussed phenomenon in several scientific studies for many years.

The theoretical framework of consumer experience finds its roots in the fields of behavioural science and is based on the works of Hirschmann and Holbrook. The authors emphasise on the high relevance and importance of emotions in the process of consumption of a product or service (Holbrook/ Hirschmann, 1982). Contrary to the traditional approach, consumption does not serve the sole purpose of fulfilling consumer wants but to satisfy human needs. A profound consumer experience would therefore provide physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual attachment towards the brand and a high involvement (Arnould/ Price, 1993; Bruhn/ Hadwich, 2012).

This concept and perception of experience as a source of value of a service or product is a complementation towards the dominated understanding of the consumer. Based on this perception the consumer is not considered as a purely rational decision maker (utilitarian consumer) but as an individual which pursues symbolic, hedonic and aesthetic motives (hedonistic consumer) (Holbrook/ Hirschmann, 1982; Holbrook/ Hirschmann, 1986).

The phenomenon of a hedonistic consumer refers to “those facets of consumer behaviour that relate to the multisensory[1], fantasy and emotive aspects of one’s experience with products” (Hirschman/ Holbrook, 1982, p. 1).

The experiential approach recognizes the nature of a human being which possesses cognitive as well as emotional components. “The roles of emotions in behaviour; the fact that consumers are feelers as well as thinkers and doers; the significance of symbolism in consumption; the consumer’s need for fun and pleasure; the roles of consumers, beyond the act of purchase, in product usage as well as brand choice, and so forth” (Addis and Holbrook, 2001, p. 50).

Moreover, a consumption experience is not reduced to the sole personal shopping experience of the stimulation (pre-purchase activity) and satisfaction (post-purchase activity) of consumers needs but is spread over a period of time. Thus, the consumption experience is divided into four stages (Arnould/ Price/ Zinkhan, 2002):

1. The pre-consumption experience: information search, Evaluation process, making service purchase decision
2. The purchase experience: payment, packaging, interaction with personal and environment, service delivery
3. The core consumption experience: satisfaction or dissatisfaction
4. The remembered consumption experience and nostalgia experience: components such as photos, images or stories which emphasise a consumer to re-live the past, evaluation of performance and future intentions (Arnould/ Price/ Zinkhan, 2002; Lovelock/Wirtz, 2010)

Hence, the purchase behaviour and the correlated shopping experience goes beyond the point of sale and the hypothesis of consumer rationality presented in the traditional consumer understanding (Bellenger/ Korgaonkar, 1980). In this connection, an experience can be interpreted as an additional component of a product or service offering. In the literature it is variously believed that this particular additional value suits the millennial consumers (Holbrook, 2000). Thus, this assumption represented among named authors clearly draws the inference that the postmodern consumer only seeks memorable and potentially extraordinary[2] experiences and which does not fit the traditional marketing model (Pine/ Gillmore, 1999; LaSalle/ Britton, 2003).

3.2.2 The experiential marketing approach

The described concept of experiential consumption highlighted the importance of experiences in influencing consumers’ emotions. Therefore, experiences can be seen as the most valuable and precious component in a practical orientated marketing and brand management approach. According to Smilansky (2009) experiential marketing is defined as a “process of identifying and satisfying customer needs and aspirations profitably, engaging them through two way communications that bring brand personalities to life and add value to the target audience” (Smilansky, 2009, p. 255).

In contrast to the traditional marketing, experiential marketing is concentrated upon consumer experiences which offer and enhance emotional, cognitive, behavioural, rational as well as sensory values. With respect to the brand management, the brand identity and the complying brand image is used to build up emotional based brand attachment and a connection with the consumers. Thus, the brand is viewed as a source of value which is provided through the experience (Schmitt, 1999). According to Holbrook and Hirschmann (1982) experiential marketing is a consumption of fantasies, feelings and fun. It allows the consumer to interact with brands in a sensory way and to immerse in a memorable experience (Holbrook/ Hirschmann, 1982).

Experiential marketing is focused on creating a deep consumer bond through brand experience based on a two two-way interaction between the consumer and the brand (Smilanzky, 2009). In this sense a brand is experienced through events or marketing campaign which allows the consumer live the brand through sensory connections. Consumers participate and interact with the brand and consequently live the brand. (Smilanzky, 2009).

Experiential marketing is considered as a strategic tool used for communication strategies and campaigns. The instrument is hence further regarded as a cross-media promotional activity which develops and built long term brand loyalty (Kotler/ Armstrong/ Harris/ Piercy, 2013).

Based on the fact that experiential marketing is viewed as a promotional activity critics claim that experiential marketing is rather a tactical tool which helps to do marketing experientially than a strategic instrument (Same/ Larimo, 2012)). However, the author of this essay believes that through experiential marketing the brand can be perceived as an experience provider which contributes to the image of a brand. The evoking as well as the influencing of a brand image requires time and continuity. In order to create a positive brand image continuity and constancy is a crucial perquisite (Burmann/ Blind/ Nitschke, 2003). Concluding, it can be assumed that the brand image proportionally grows with the consumption experience and both components live and act together interdependently.

4. A critical reflection

In the light of the Holbrook (1999), experience plays the central role in the creation of consumer value. Nonetheless, it can also be argued that the experience not always evokes from the consumption itself but from the sole possession of a product. This assumption finds its roots in the effect of symbolic brand benefits and is based on the self-congruence theory by Sirgy (1982). The self-congruence effect refers to the enrichment of a person’s own concept of self through a perceived fit between the self-concept and the brand personality expressed by symbolic brand benefits. Thereby central human needs, such as the increasing of self-worth/ esteem and social recognition, can be satisfied. For instance, a person which has a high affinity with precious brand related stamps does not use and hence does not consume the product but collects and posses it. In this regards only the possession of the product itself results in emotions and the increase of self-esteem. Concluding it can be stated that the symbolic attributes of a brand provide a service through the sole possession of a product and hence an experience in the form of social self-identification and self esteem.[3]

Furthermore, in consideration of the theoretical framework of experiential marketing it can be concluded that consumption experience provide affective, emotional and hedonic components. This approach is considered to be of fundamental importance in marketing (Holbrook/ Hirschmann, 1982; Holbrook/ Hirschmann, 1986).

From the author’s point of view, the extensive and more widely use of experiential marketing would result in the fact that the human’s organism faces a continuously stronger growing flood wave of intensive personal-shaking experiences. Following the evaluation of Schmitt (1999) and Arnould/Price (1993) the offering of memorable experiences may lead to increasing levels of consumer expectations. The emerging compulsive need to create extraordinary and exceptional consumer experiences might only result to a mandatory emergency solution to create fake experiences. This may guide the consumer to delusion of the sense of reality. However, in essence, the experiential approach is an essential, obligatory and indispensable instrument which is crucial to sustain in the current consumer and marketing environment. Nevertheless, it is questionable in what direction the evolution of marketing and consumption will guide us.

5. Conclusion

Experiential marketing revolutionizes the entire consumer and marketing landscape. It allows companies to interact with consumers in memorable, emotional and meaningful way. A consistent and deep interaction with the consumer leads to an increase in brand differentiation. The emotional connection builds up brand commitment, loyalty and eventually results in a purchase intention and an increase in sales. Positive feelings attached and connected with a consumption experience are door-opener for attracting and binding potential customers.

Based on this papers literature review it can be noted that the source of a consumer’s value finds its origin in an emotional and memorable experience. The consumption experience itself could be identified as the service provided by a product or brand. In conclusion this paper showed that all “products provide services in their capacity to create need-or want-satisfying experiences. In this sense, all marketing is “service marketing”. This places the role of experience at a central position in the creation of consumer value (Holbrook, 1999, p. 9).”

However, despite the advantages and the strong growth of the experiential marketing the sector also creates further challenges. Consumers’ expectations to be emotionally touched and to receive memorable experiences are happen to rise which may lead the experiential marketing approach eventually to a dead end.

List of references

Adcock, D., Halborg, A., Ross, C. (2001). Marketing – Principles and Practice. 4th edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Addis, M. and Holbrook, M. B. (2001). On the Conceptual Link between Mass Customisation and Experiential Consumption: An Explosion of Subjectivity. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 1(1). P. 50-66.

Arnould, E. and Price, L. (1993). River Magic: Extraordinary Experience and the Extended Service Encounte r, Journal of Consumer Research 20 (June). P. 24-45.

Arnould, E., Price, L. and Zinkhan, G. (2002). Consumers. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Arnould, E., Thompson, C. (2005). Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research. Journal of Consumer Research. 31 (1). Oxford University Press. P. 868-882.

Bellenger, D. N., Korgaonkar P. K. (1980). Profiling the Recreational Shopper. Journal of Retailing. 56 (3). P. 77-92.

Bruhn, M., Hadwich, K. (2012): Customer experience – Forum Dienstleistungsmanagement. 1st Edition. Wiesbaden: Gabler.

Burmann, C., Blinda, L., Nitschke, A. (2003). Konzeptionelle Grundlagen des identitätsbasierten Markenmanagements. Arbeitspapier 1. Lehrstuhl für innovatives Markenmanagement (LiM). Universität Bremen.

Cova, B., Cova, V. (2002). Tribal marketing: The tribalisation of society and its impact on the conduct of marketing. European Journal of Marketing. 36 (5/6). P. 595 – 620

Gounaris, S. (2015). Customer Experience. Wiley Encyclopedia of Management. 9 (1).

Gronroos, C. (2007). Service Management and Marketing – Customer Management in Service Competition. 3rd Edition. Wiley.

Hirschman E., Holbrook, M. (1982): Hedonic Consumption: Emerging Conecpts, Methods and Propositions. The Journal of Marketing. 46 (3). P. 92-101.

Hirschmann, E., Holbrook, M. B. (1986): Expanding the Ontology and Methology of Research on the Consumption Experience. Perspectives on Methodology. Conumer Research. New York: Springer Verlag. P. 213-251

Hoffmann, K.D., Bateson, J. (2011). Service Marketig. International edition 4e. Colorado: Cengage Learning.

Holbrook, M.B. (1999). Introduction to consumer value. Consumer Value: a framework for analysis and research. Ed. Morris B. Holbrook. London: Routledge. P. 1-28.

Holbrook, M.B., Hirschman, E.C. (1982). The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasy, Feelings and Fun. Journal of Consumer Research, 9(2). P. 132-140.

Kapoor, R., Paul, J., Halder, B. (2011). Services Marketing: concepts and practices. Tata McGraw-Hill: New Delhi.

Kotler, P. (1997). Marketing: An introduction. 2nd Edition. PrenticeMcGraw-Hill Companies.

Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Harris, L., Piercy, N. (2013). Principles of Marketing. 6th edition. Pearson Education Limited.

Kotler, P., Keller, K., Brady, M., Goodman, M., Hansen, T. (2009): Marketing Management. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Kriss, P. (2014). The Value of Customer Experience. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 5 March from:

LaSalle, D., Britton, T.A. (2003 ). Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences. Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press.

Louis, E., Boone, D., Kurtz, L. (2015) Contemporary Marketing. Cengage Learning. University of Arkansas.

Lovelock, C., Wirtz, J. (2010). Service Marketing – People, Technology, Strategy. 7th edition. Prentice Hall.

Pine, J., Gilmore, J.H. (1999). The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Prahalad, C., Ramaswamy, V. (2004). The Future of Competition: Co-creating Unique Value with Customers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

R.C. Lewis, R.E. Chambers (2000). Marketing Leadership in Hospitality. New York: John Wiley.

Same, S., Larimo, J. (2012). Marketing Theory: Expereince Marketing and Experiential Marketing. Vilnius Gediminas Technical University. Retrieved 9 March 2016 from:

Schmitt, B. (2011). Experience Marketing: Concepts, Frameworks and Consumer Insights. Foundations and Trends in Marketing. 5( 2). P. 55-112.

Schmitt, B.H. (1999) Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to SENSE, FEEL, THINK, ACT and RELATE to Your Company and Brands. New York, The Free Press.

Sirgy, M. J. (1982). Self-Concept in Consumer Behavior: A critical Review. Journal of Consumer Research, (9), P. 287-300.

Vargo, S. L., Lusch, R. (2004). Evolving to a New Dominant Logic. Journal of Marketing. Vol. 68. P. 1-17.

Westbrook, R. A. (1987). Product/Consumption-Based Affective Responses and Post-Purchase Processes. Journal of Marketing Research. 24(3) P. 258-270.


[1] Hirschman and Holbrook classify and define multisensory as “the receipt of experience in multi sensory modalities including tastes, sounds, scents, tactile impressions and visual images (Hirschman/ Holbrook, 1982, p. 1)

[2] According to Abrahams (1986) an extraordinary experience corresponds to more intensively framed practices and events.

[3] In order to approve this hypothesis academically reflected, among other things, a differentiation between the consumption itself and the possession of a product or service must be carried out in further researches. Moreover, this point of view may also only be presented by a target audience which has a need for collecting specific objects.

16 of 16 pages


The experiential approach of consumption of products and services
A marketing perspective
University of València  (Facultad de Economía)
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Service Marketing, Experiential consumption
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Christoph Schmidt (Author), 2016, The experiential approach of consumption of products and services, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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