What Is Experiential Marketing?
As industries evolve and the need for innovative marketing strategies grows, more companies than ever are devising clever marketing tricks that subvert traditional advertising. There’s more competition to contend with daily, and customers seek out new and interesting experiences now more than ever. Over 80% of marketing experts agree that live events are vital to their success, and experiential marketing is a core component of brand awareness.
To clear up the myths and confusion surrounding this sort of strategy, we’ve written a concise guide on what it is and why it works to help our readers understand why businesses are increasingly recognizing the benefits. There are many facets and a myriad of approaches, but above all, it’s about creating memorable experiences.
Experiential, “live”, or “engagement” marketing is a marketing strategy that aims to immerse customers within a brand’s identity. This is done using branded, hands-on experiences, with the central goal being to get the customer to associate a positive emotional encounter with the brand. Unlike traditional advertising, the customer is no passive, disinterested observer who begrudgingly sits through an advertisement.
Instead, they are compelled to engage with a brand directly and, crucially, in a way that solidifies the event in memory, drawing a strong emotional bond between brand and experience. Picture an electrifying live event you have attended, such as a concert, theater production, or a sports game. How much more deeply is that occasion rooted in your mind than the countless times you have listened to the radio, watched a movie, or followed a match on the TV?
Intense, vivid, memorable experiences are the beating heart of live marketing that makes it so powerful. It is far less about generating sales directly through events, and much more about creating positive associations and real connections with customers on a personal level. These associations invest consumers in a brand, cement long-term relationships, drive repeat business, and create passionate advocates who only amplify the campaign itself.
Benefits Over Traditional Marketing Strategies
The experiential approach is one that provides a myriad of benefits over other, mainstream approaches. Quite simply, it achieves things that other methods cannot, and are as follows:
- Personal investment
- Positive association
- Connection between product and emotion
- Viral marketing and share-ability
- Standing out among competitors
It is no secret that in today’s dispassionate and cold electronic business world, customers value human connection. By interfacing with customers directly, live marketing generates customer investment naturally. They see your brand in immediate proximity and feel as though they are a part of a larger whole – and not just another statistic on a spreadsheet.
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The positive association created by live experiences is valuable beyond measure. Simply put, your customers have fun engaging with you, which builds trust and endears them to you over your competitors. Importantly, once this happens, they’re very unlikely to switch.
Connection Between Product and Emotion
Even well into the future, your customers will continue to associate your products with the enjoyable experiences of a live marketing campaign. The very best of events will accompany them for years to come.
Viral Marketing and Share-Ability
Nobody retweets an advert or shares a post about an upcoming sale. Yet a massive portion of attendees to live events will create social media posts about them. In other words, they magnify the influence of your campaign with little additional effort (or cost) on your part.
Standing Out Among Competitors
Brand identity is what lets you stand out from the crowd, and experiential events build that identity and awareness brick by brick. And if your event has a unique twist or angle, all the better, because customers will associate it with your brand, and others trying to emulate it will only remind them of you.
Experiential Marketing in Practice: Some Examples
Showcases and Pop-Up Experiences
In practice, the possibilities for this style of campaign are boundless, and the sky is the limit. Product showcases are a classic example. With a little creativity, a product showcase needn’t be a dry affair, and they’re great for educating customers on the purpose of a product. Tasting events for culinary products and car exhibits are two typical types of product showcases.
A fantastic example of a pop-up experience is National Geographic’s Ocean Odyssey in Times Square, NYC. While less about marketing, and more about immersion, it serves as a stellar example of the draw of a truly unique experience.
Hosting workshops and classes is a fantastic way of engaging with an audience while giving them something in return. A particular advantage of workshops is that they almost guarantee the undivided attention of attendees.
Experiential occasions needn’t cater to everybody or even a large audience. With the power of social media, single-person events that are widely shared communicate positive emotions and experiences to a wider audience.
Marketing events needn’t happen in public, and they don’t necessarily have to cater to new customers. It’s equally important to maintain the existing relationships, and one of the best ways to do this is with targeted, direct marketing. Instead of the run-of-the-mill brochures, catalogs and discount offers, why not send a bespoke list of existing customers a personalized postcard, or donate to a good cause on their behalf and let them know?
Direct mail combines well with other methods, too, to heighten the feeling of connectedness and personal investment. If you’re hosting a workshop or a showcase in a client’s hometown, send them a personal invite for an exclusive guest list.
Some of the best campaigns are ones that think truly outside the box. One great example, Folger’s coffee manhole covers, made creative use of the steam emanating from the vents across NYC to emulate a hot cup of coffee. Not only is this immediately shareable on social media, but it’s incredibly cost-effective – and memorable for passers-by.
Another great example, also from NYC, is airline JetBlue’s ice block challenge, which offered passers-by the opportunity to win various prizes ranging from summer accessories to exclusive flights. The catch? The prizes were frozen in a thick block of ice and had to be smashed, hammered, and clawed free by eager onlookers. That’s not an experience anybody would forget.
Hallmarks of a Great Campaign
Anybody can envision a successful marketing strategy, yet there are several points to bear in mind to ensure that it is a success and provides a bountiful return on investment. No two campaigns are alike, yet all of the good ones share many of the same vital aspects.
- Clear and actionable goals
- Tell a story
- Humanize your brand
- Promote social media engagement
- Lead Generation and follow-up
- Measurable outcomes
Clear and Actionable Goals
Above all, your campaign needs to have clearly defined, achievable objectives. This applies to event marketing as it does to any other marketing strategy, and should go without saying. The intent behind a campaign is what defines everything that comes next. Are you looking to break into an untapped market? Improve brand awareness? Endear your brand to a new audience?
Tell a Story
As any junior-level marketing professional knows, stories are memorable. Stories drive advert engagement, engagement drives leads, and leads drive sales. The multi-dimensional aspect of live events offers the indispensable opportunity to involve and embed customers within that story. As we’ve stressed before, this type of marketing transforms customers into active participants.
Humanize Your Brand
One of the core goals of any experiential marketing campaign is to foster a personal connection with customers. To do this, a campaign needs to come across as authentic and down-to-earth. The message must stay true to your core brand identity and highlight what it is that makes you unique.
Promote Social Media Engagement
As we discussed earlier, one of the secondary benefits of this strategy is the free advertising your invested customers do on your behalf, often without realizing that they’re promoting your business. User-generated content can be planned for in advance, by creating appropriate hashtags and picture-worthy scenes that anybody would want to grace their social media feed.
Lead Generation and Follow-Up
Interacting with customers directly affords the opportunity of not only generating new sales leads, but gathering customer information in an organic fashion, potentially even with them volunteering their information. No live marketing campaign should be envisioned without consideration of how to gather information for follow-ups to reinforce the message.
Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to receive honest feedback from customers about your brand, and what’s more, listening to customer feedback at such events only goes further to make them feel included and valued.
Measurable data in marketing is king, for without it, you are unable to react and adapt to failing strategies, capitalize on successful ones, or even know if your campaigns are having an effect at all. You absolutely must know how well your campaigns are faring, and for this to happen, your outcomes need to be quantifiable.
Checklist for Kick-starting Your Own Campaign
It’s not easy to get it right, and for every story of amazing success, there are an equal number of campaigns that have fallen flat. If you’re looking to start a new campaign, it’s important to follow several critical steps in the planning process to maximize the results.
- Brainstorm and gather information
- Know your customer base
- Understand your goal
- Engage multiple senses
- Work with industry professionals
- Focus on your brand’s strength
Brainstorm and Gather Information
The critical first step. What are the first thoughts that spring to mind? What are others in the industry doing in this regard? Understanding your brand, and the market it exists in is critical.
Know Your Customer Base
Your customers are the ultimate recipients of your targeted strategies. What do they like about your brand, and what emotional responses can you expect from them?
Understand Your Goal
What is the endpoint of your campaign, and what does it seek to achieve? Critically, what do you want your customers to do as soon as they have experienced your event?
Engage Multiple Senses
Immersion beats passivity every time. By engaging more than one of the senses, you can be certain your event will have a larger impact. Sights, smells, sounds, colors, music, wonder, and awe. All are powerful, and all can be made to work for you.
Work With Industry Professionals
Ultimately, there’s no need to rely on your own intuition or guesswork. With the aid of proven industry professionals, your ideas can be supercharged with an injection of innovative ideas and an existing network and knowledge base required to turn foundational ideas into serious results.
It’s harder than ever before to grab people’s attention. In a crowded and bustling market, more and more brands are recognizing that enduring, fruitful relationships with customers are fundamental to generating repeat business. Becoming the brand that fosters positive emotional responses is the key to sustainable success in the future.
Contact King Sixteen today for more information about the pioneering strategies we offer.
Partnerships that matter. Experiences that last.
We are a collective of event producers that work directly with national brands seeking to activate in unique markets across the United States.