Tales from the Experiential Marketing Research Vault: Tracking the Rise of Experiential Marketing Over the Past 30 Years

That experiential marketing has grown in prominence over the years is not in question. For example, experiential marketing budgets are on the rise across the business landscape – which bodes well for these businesses, since bigger experiential marketing budgets means deeper, more in-depth post-campaign research (read this experiential marketing report to learn more about the importance of post-campaign research).

But – beyond the size of marketing budgets – there are other clues that experiential marketing is steadily becoming an essential, defining piece of the branding and marketing arsenal.

For instance, we took a look at the total number of scholarly, business publications (in the Google Scholar database) – which contained the exact key phrase “experiential marketing” – for every single year from 1988 to the end of 2016.

The graph below (“The Rise of Experiential Marketing”) presents the results.

Experiential Marketing

Graph 1 - The Rise of Experiential Marketing

The first time “experiential marketing” was mentioned in the professional business literature was around 1988. It’s almost exactly 30 years later, and what we’re seeing is this: experiential marketing was only marginally talked about during the 90s. But, at the dawn of the millennium, more and more publications came out on the subject of experience-based marketing campaigns.

After the year 2000, the number of publications increased with a rapid fury – in line with our CEO’s comment that experiential marketing “sneaked up on the broader community of marketers and professional advertisers.”

In 2006, the number of publications on experiential marketing was over 10x the total number of publications in 2000. And, in 2016, that number had risen to nearly 5x the volume of publications that came out in 2006.

But how do we know these rising numbers in the experiential marketing literature isn’t simply the result of more and more business publications coming out overall?

To test for this possibility, we also took a look at the number of publications – produced from the years 1988 to 2016 – containing the exact keyword “business.”

The results of this are recorded in the graph below.

Experiential Marketing Chart

Graph 2 - Tracking the number of scholarly publications with the keyword “business.”

One can clearly see that while the total number of publications on experiential marketing has significantly increased year after year after year (with the sole exception of the year 2009; see Graph 1), this is not at all the case for the number of publications containing the nearly universal, widespread keyword “business.”

In other words, although the total number of business publications has jumped up and down over the years, experiential marketing is continuing to attract greater and greater corporate, management, and academic interest – as reflected in the rising volume of publications on the subject.

And one more thing: there aren’t any signs that this increasing importance of experiential marketing is going to slow down anytime soon.

That’s why smart marketing leaders are really starting to flock to experiential marketing as a powerful, core pillar of the branding institution.