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The Only Peer-Reviewed Research on Experiential Marketing in the Past Year

Peer reviewed experiential marketing study

If you want to dig deeper into the psychology of experiential marketing, armed with the best case studies and quotes from experts—well, it’s tough out there. Shockingly, there’s only been one published, relatable piece in the past year featured in a peer-reviewed journal. Researchers Babak Taheri, Kevin O’Gorman and Ian Baxter had their article “Contemporary issues in museums and heritage marketing management: introduction to the special issue” published on October 8, 2016 in the Journal of Marketing Management.

Obviously, the research focuses on museum and heritage marketing trends. Still, it highlights the transition from “passive consumption spaces” common in museums to what the researchers call “more pleasant, engaging and transformative spaces.” The researchers also seem to struggle with peer-reviewed studies to cite, going all the way back to 1995 and 1999 to point out other researcher’s notes on “public attitudes within postmodern consumption society.”


However, they’ve noticed continual advances and evolutions in how museums are handling experiences, taking marketing management into account. With a dialogue between museum visitors and museum management, co-created experiences have opened up the world of experiential marketing to heritage marketing sites. The goal is consumer engagement, and six other research papers are cited. They highlight how the application of “stakeholder theory” works in a World Heritage Site (Old and New Towns in Edinburgh included). The most poignant influences include engagement, support, time, resources and facilitator roles.

However, a challenge is simply the size and “hands in the pot” at major sites like these. It can make it nearly impossible to influence major changes, such as the introduction of more engaging systems. It’s costly, there’s insurmountable red tape, and World Heritage Sites are known for being tough to accept change. The researchers suggest increasing trust and awareness via encouraging projects led by stakeholders.

Manager duties is a big part of strategy development. Two other studies recommend marketing managers prioritize a “balanced presentation of historical narratives” for visitors. Video-based approaches can help with this, as can incorporating social action and activities. To highlight potential results, visitor behavior was documented before and after the so-called consumption spaces. This led to an analysis of conversation post-experiences. Researchers found a variety of activities including interactivity, an increase in social interaction, and “concerted looking.” In addition to video recordings and audio recordings, additional analyses from diary studies, interviews and “subjective personal inspections” were also recommended.

This can help museum managers figure out how visitors actually explore and navigate sites. It can also help expose how visitors gauge authentic experiences and tap into their imagination. Other researchers have utilized semi-structured interviews along with observing visitors at a museum in France. Themes from the interviews emerged such as narrative transportation, immersion, “contagion of the tangible” and embodiment of the experience. This particular research is suggested for other museum teams to use to test imagination processes in various settings.

Another study interviewed museum curators. The results indicated that museums need to motivate their visitors to participate in experience with experience-related strategies. Finally, the sixth study these researchers combed through found that museum visitors want to marry their own experiences with what they discover at museums. A number of themes emerged from these interviews with curators, managers and staff at a museum in Scotland, but all came back to a desire for connection and engagement.

Visitors want personalized and engaging information

In the world of heritage sites and museums, it seems to come down to this: We’ve come a long way, but the idea of “museums” can still seem stuffy, pompous, arrogant and cold Visitors want personalized and engaging information. It helps that visitors can now research sites easily online before a visit, but that’s not enough. The stigma around museums of “look but don’t touch” really leads to “look but don’t experience.”

The vast majority of museum visitors aren’t regulars. They don’t have graduate degrees in post-modern art or British medieval texts. They may feel intimidated. This is exactly what creating in-person experiential can help to overcome—and not just in the world of museums. We’re seeing brands spearhead engaging experiences, and Museums are sure to follow. It’s a barrier that is in the process of being broken down, and a major opportunity for innovation.

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