The best experiential marketing campaign breaks through the messaging clutter and compels a prospect or customer to stop, read (or listen), and engage with the brand, business, product, or service.
Experiences – whether online or in real life – can be way more memorable than two-dimensional communications.
What Are Experiential Marketing Campaigns?
According to Single Grain, a great branded experience should always involve all three of these elements:
- Active participation and engagement from the audience
- Promotion of the brand’s message and values
- An experience that provides long-lasting value.
Experiential marketing involves more than hosting an event or sponsoring a table at a conference. Brands have a unique opportunity to make their product or service come alive and interact with the people behind the brand.
This form of marketing pays off. Consumers say that live events lead to more positive thoughts about a brand. In fact, 91 percent of consumers say that if experiential marketing is done well, it leaves them with a positive impression of that brand and 85 percent of those people are more likely to purchase a product or service (or make a donation) after participating.
Not all experiential marketing requires a huge budget. Here are just a few examples of experiential marketing at its finest.
The Mega Events
Technology may not be as sexy as lifestyle or consumer products, but effective marketers have turned to large-scale experiences to expose enterprise-level companies to their automation solutions. Salesforce Dreamforce, Adobe Summit, Google Cloud Next, and Collision are all examples of gatherings that capture the attention of decision-makers, building brand loyalty through a combination of speakers, celebrities, demos, and (of course) parties and entertainment. Tens of thousands of people typically attend these experiences, which span several days.
The hosts use language in their marketing that build excitement and involvement, encouraging attendees to download apps, play games to win prizes, meet other attendees, and experience new technologies over the course of several days.
Exhibitors and sponsors augment the excitement by creating “experiences within experiences” and hosting social activities and attracting guests to their booths, tables, or suites with giveaways, food, and other fun add-ons.
If you’re utilizing these events to build relationships, allow enough time to plan ahead, so your investment pays off. Mega events’ size can make them daunting (especially for the newbie).
From a Fruit of the Loom underwear store to a mini-boutique for dog toys to a 5-Minute internship experience, brands and businesses have discovered that taking their products and services out of a traditional environment and to empty spaces, streets/parks, and other venues they can attract new prospects and create media buzz. Think of it as a food truck for your brand.
Here are some great examples of pop-ups for a wide range of offers.
“By invitation only” are three words that immediately make a guest feel special and grateful to the company that’s hosting. The concept itself isn’t new. Businesses have been entertaining guests for decades at restaurants and theater/sporting events. But as the world has moved more towards digital communication, these live moments take on even more meaning.
Non-profits have discovered that in addition to their annual galas, smaller experiences or cultivation events can be a powerful way to attract new donors. Inviting guests who have benefited from the non-profit’s program gives attendees a much more personal and realistic glimpse into the organization’s values and mission (see #2, above).
Inviting the media to these experiences can be a great way to garner press exposure.
Some of the most effective live events and experiences are integrated with digital media. By capturing data or consumer moments via kiosks, Instagram backdrops, voting walls, and other media, marketers are ensuring that people who can’t be there live are still benefiting from the experience via social media. For example, Lean Cuisine’s #Weigh This campaign led to more than 200 million impressions – a population far greater than the visitors to their Grand Central Station installation.
Videos, gamification, and augmented/virtual reality can all be incorporated into online-only marketing experiences. Whether consumers are tweeting a slice of pizza or turning themselves into tacos, they are taking time to interact with a brand beyond a mundane transaction. They share the experience with friends and family and, in effect, become social media brand ambassadors. But food is not the only brand category taking advantage of interactive and immersive online experiences. The Ikea Place app enables people to see how furniture would look in their homes.
As technologies become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, agencies and brands are expected to become more creative and interactivity-focused in their online campaigns.
How to Build Experiential Marketing into Your Plans
Whether you’re producing your own events/experiences, attending a third party event, or simply creating more memorable digital experiences, you need to reflect back on the original 3 components of experience marketing. But first, you need to zoom in on the market you need to reach. Who are you creating that experience for and what do you want them to remember after it’s over?
You need a solid relationship development and communications strategy too. Even if you’ve created an exciting, unique experience, remember that memories eventually fade. Consider how you’ll keep in touch with the people who experienced your brand, providing new and different experiences along the way as you’re building sales and loyalty.
Remember too that experiences do not always have to be expensive to be memorable. As you’re creating your plans:
- Look to other brand and non-profit marketers that create unique experiences.
- Engage your team in brainstorming.
- Develop a tight follow-up communications plan.
- Set specific KPIs for every event/campaign and be patient. (Relationship cultivation takes time.)
- If budget is an issue, start small and simple and scale-up as you see results.
Customer experience is expected to be more important than product or price in the years ahead and marketers are allocating as much as 50 percent of their budget to the brand experience. To remain competitive in 2020 and beyond, you need to build surprise, delight, and memorability into your marketing plans.