Looking for a way to make your brand stand out while building strong relationships with customers and associates? Experiential marketing is a powerful way to engage your audience. By offering them unique, in-person experiences, you create an association between your brand and the wonder and delight that those experiences invoke.
What is Experiential Marketing?
How do we define experiential marketing? Giving a single definition that covers this concept effectively can be a challenge. The most basic definition is simply in-person marketing offline.
But that does not really capture what experiential marketing is about. Walking up to someone’s door and offering to sell them a product is not experiential marketing.
Creating an immersive experience that provides intrinsic value is at the heart of experiential advertising.
This concept is most readily understood through examples, which we will provide later on in this post.
Is Experiential Marketing the Same as Experience Marketing? (No)
The term “experiential marketing” is very similar to another phrase, “experience marketing.” You might be wondering if they are the same thing.
Despite how close the names are, no, they are not identical. When we talk about “experience marketing,” we are discussing the overall quality of customer experience. That might include things like how well products are packaged or what it is like sitting on hold waiting to talk to a customer support agent.
Experiential marketing is a much narrower concept. It has to do with the specific experience you are offering within a particular moment and location, and is always face-to-face.
What are the Benefits of Successful Experiential Brand Marketing?
Incorporating experiential marketing into your meetings and events allows you to:
- Take engagement to stratospheric heights. Experiential marketing permits customers, associates, and the general public to interact with your brand in a way that feels rich, meaningful, and relevant. Because the experiences you are providing are fresh, unique, and innovative, people engage at a level that would not be possible through more conventional means.
- Provide hands-on, interactive experiences. Say you are showcasing a product at an expo. Instead of simply showing your product at work, you can give people a chance to actually try it for themselves. When we actually do something rather than simply watch it, we often ingrain a stronger memory of it. The impression it makes is more significant, and we picture other ways in which we could integrate that product into our lives.
- Produce unique content you can reuse later. As you craft experiences to market your brand, you can actively document customers and others interacting with those experiences. You can take photos, capture video, and create a hashtag online for social media posts. This provides you with a wealth of content you can weave through future materials you use for advertising, meetings, branding, and more.
- Cultivate relationships. When you create meaningful experiences, you invite people to become part of a story. In doing so, you open a dialogue between your company and the participants. You also may help forge connections between the participants themselves. That means that you build a close-knit community that is loyal to your business.
- Enhance word-of-mouth and create viral opportunities. Building off of the above, the dialogue you spark with experiential marketing can lead to a lot of word-of-mouth. People love sharing the stories that you have let them become a part of, so this is a great way to make it to the front pages of websites like Reddit or the tops of peoples’ news feeds.
- Boost brand awareness. If your experiential marketing stunts do go viral online, you can be sure that your brand will get a lot of attention. Not only that, but you will be creating positive associations between your company and the high quality experiences you have offered.
- Highlight upcoming meetings and events. While you can schedule experiences during meetings and events, you can also use them as advertising leading up to those events. In doing so, you can boost attendance and success.
- Make any type of event more fun. There is no reason for any meeting or event to be dull and routine when you can bring experiential marketing into it.
- Inspire others. If your marketing experience is a success, you might see other companies or audience members riffing off of your ideas. Each time they do, they may draw more attention back to your original experience.
Types of Experiential Marketing
There is a wide range of different types of experiential marketing. Some of these include:
- Event marketing: This is the type of experiential marketing we are mainly focusing on in this guide. It can refer to experiential marketing you do at an event (whether your own event or an expo featuring many brands), or the way you promote your upcoming events. Indeed, in some cases, the event itself could be your marketing experience.
- Public displays: Many marketing experiences do not take place on company property or in a convention center or similar setting. Some take place in public squares, shopping centers, metro stations, and other public locations. Such experiences could include art installations, performance pieces, product showcases, and more.
- Stunts: Publicity stunts are a time-honored tradition in marketing, and are as impactful as ever. The classic example would be a company getting involved in attempts at world records, whether as a sponsor or by providing one of their products to the person attempting to set it.
- Brand activation: By designing unique interactive experiences that build brand awareness and relationships, you can “activate” your brand. Marketing activation is a big trend right now, but it is one that is going to stand the test of time. A closely related concept is “event activation,” which is simply an innovative experience that takes your meeting or event to new heights. Event activation can inspire people to share stories about your events online and in person.
- Product demonstrations: Give customers, business partners or investors an up-close look at how your products work through live demonstrations. Depending on the products, you might even be able to invite your audience members to test drive them right then and there. Don’t just ask them to imagine the possibilities your products offer—show them the possibilities!
Experiential Marketing Examples
It is easier to show what experiential marketing is than to try and tell it. So, let’s take a look at a few marketing experience examples.
Mondelez International– 3D Oreos
One intriguing example of experiential marketing at work was the 3D printer that Mondelez International brought to the 2014 SXSW. As you might expect, the printer generated Oreo cookies for guests to enjoy.
But there was an interesting twist, which was that the flavor of the cookie each participant got depended on Twitter trends.
This experience was a fun and memorable way to promote Oreo cookies, combining the familiar cookie that everyone knows and loves with distinctive flavors they would only be able to experience in that moment in time.
Ikea – Sleepover
One day the Ikea marketing team saw a message on Facebook that led to the idea for an entire event. A shopper had mentioned that they wished they could have a sleepover at Ikea, and the company in turn decided that might be a fun thing to do.
So, they made it happen. They brought a group of 100 people to their warehouse and let them spend the night. To make the experience extra special, they had a celebrity show up to tell them a bedtime story. They also let them pick out whatever bedding they wanted. Additionally, participants received free gifts and recommendations on how to sleep soundly each night from an expert.
C2 International – SkyLab – Chairs in the Air
You can spice up what would otherwise be an ordinary meeting sometimes just by making a simple twist to something as basic as seating arrangements.
Take the cool experience by C2 International at the 2018 IMEX Frankfurt event. Called “SkyLab,” the experience involved participants sitting in meetings in chairs that were suspended at a height above the floor.
Just being taken out of the mundane a little bit can help people to see things in a different way and present novel ideas. Plus, they will be sure to remember the meeting afterwards.
Do’s and Don’ts for Experiential Events
Now that you have been able to explore a few marketing experience examples, let’s go over some best practices for success.
When planning experiential events and strategic marketing, DO:
- Make your goals specific and realistic. “Our goal is to increase our brand awareness” is a little too vague, as is “Our goal is to really ‘wow’ our meeting attendees.” Instead, focus on goals that are measurable (see below).
- Come up with a quantitative way to assess your results. The only way to be sure that your efforts are paying off is if you have the numbers to prove it. You could look at social media engagements, news articles, views, and similar quantifiable metrics to see how effective your marketing experience has been in increasing the visibility of your brand. If you are promoting an upcoming annual meeting with experiential marketing, compare your attendance this year with that of last year’s event.
- Market to what your audience is passionate about. Take time to really get inside the mindset of your target demographic. Give them experiences that will ignite their enthusiasm.
- Integrate social media. Share your marketing experiences on social media and invite others to do the same through hashtags, contests, etc. That way, you get the maximum possible return on your investment.
- Bring new technology into play. Consumers love new tech trends. Even if you are not running a tech company, you may be able to find ways to use cutting edge technology to enhance experiences.
- Make the experience interactive if possible. By doing so, you provide a tangible way for your audience to connect with your brand.
- Follow up. If possible, contact participants later to survey them about their experiences. Find out what they did and did not like, and what improvements they might suggest.
When planning experiential marketing, DO NOT:
- Neglect important safety research. The most notorious example of a company failing utterly in this regard is Jagermeister, which thought it might be fun for people to go swimming in a pool with liquid nitrogen. Alas, they did not realize that chlorine and nitrogen are a lethal combination. One victim of this toxic mishap even wound up in a coma for the better part of a month.
- Forget about your core values or message. Your goal is not just to create a memorable experience—it is to create one that is relevant to your audience and your brand. Infuse your marketing experience with your values. Show off not just your products, but your brand identity. Do not send a message that clashes with your company’s voice or beliefs.
- Overlook social context. When you are planning a marketing experience, it is easy to get hyperfocused on what you want to share with the world. But if you do, you can miss the forest for the trees. As an example of such a mistake, take the campaign that Amazon conducted while promoting its show “The Man in the High Castle” back in 2015. Although the show existed to delve into important social themes, the company’s Nazi-themed subway seats promoting it did not send the message they intended. Had Amazon been more cognizant of how the seats would look in the broader context of the real world, the company no doubt would have avoided this mistake.
- Disturb the peace. Your goal might be to create a spectacle, but not one that requires law enforcement to get involved. Think through logistics carefully before you proceed with an experience. The last thing you need is negative publicity and a fine.
Now you are familiar with the concept of experiential marketing. Whether you are using experiential advertising to promote an upcoming event, to spice up a meeting, or as a way to activate your brand, developing unique, immersive experiences can help you achieve your goals.
Follow the best practices in this guide to unleash the full potential of experiential marketing, and be sure to look up more examples to get inspired.