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What is Experiential Marketing and Why Should You Care?

When it comes to marketing, a good rule of thumb for the industry is to show, don’t tell. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling fast food, insurance or private jets, the best way to sell something is to demonstrate directly to your audience what they stand to gain from using your product. But while this approach has served the advertising industry well in the past; increasing competition and the need to be able to distinguish one’s own brand in an increasingly competitive market.

This is where a good experiential marketing campaign is well positioned to tip the scales in your favor. Today we’ll be taking a closer look at what experiential marketing is, how it can help your business; and a few examples of good campaigns that were well received by the public.


So what is experiential marketing?   

The answer to this question will almost certainly vary slightly depending on who you ask. However in its most straightforward and loosely defined form, experiential marketing is any marketing event that involves some measure of live audience participation. This could take the form of a more active role such as directly participating in an event, or a more passive role where audiences participate indirectly such as through voting on a competition.

The goal of experiential marketing is to improve customer engagement levels through events or competitions that people can interact with. This forms a stronger lasting bond between brands and their demographic and is one of the key methods to improve what is referred to as ‘Customer Lifetime Value’ which is built constantly over time and does not dissipate as quickly at the end of a particular campaign.

While some marketers are skeptical of the utility of investing the considerable resources needed to run such events given their low physical reach, it should be noted that there are ways to improve that reach.

Like all major publishers, Microsoft’s Xbox division had an extensive showing at the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo  (E3)

  1. Holding the event at the same time and in the same place as other important industry events to ensure the most important and engaged audience members have one destination that they can travel to experience all the events.
  2. Broadcasting your event via online streaming or even TV network partners to increase the number of users you can reach. To improve efficiency with a small marketing staff, you could consider using a professional social media account management tool to quickly and easily share updates and media along with those streaming links across all your social media sites
  3. Allowing and encouraging audience members to capture and share their own video with a particular branded hashtag so that you can track mentions and promote that particular hashtag for interested parties to learn more and engage remotely with your brand.

You can learn more about increasing your Twitter presence with our guide as well as track your reach and engagement online with these free social analytics tools.


What do you stand to gain through experiential marketing?

There are a number of benefits that savvy marketers can derive from experiential marketing.

  1. Experiential marketing requires voluntary participation, this act in itself creates a certain amount of ‘buy in’ in the minds of the customers. This leads to far higher levels of engagement and brand recall.
  2. Studies have shown that brands that are able to hold interesting and memorable events are viewed far more favorably than brands that relied solely upon traditional ‘one-way’ marketing techniques such as ads in print, TV or radio.
  3. Product demos or free samples also count as effective, low-key experiential marketing; allowing you to try and experience a product before making a purchase decision. According to existing research in the field, almost half (48%) said that such efforts positively influence their purchasing decisions and play a role in converting them.
  4. A successful experiential marketing event has the potential to greatly increase ‘activations’ i.e. the number of event attendees or participants who went on to actually purchase the product, with 98% more likely to become a paying customer.


How technology is changing the nature of experiential marketing

More recently technology has begun to play an ever more important role in experiential marketing. This is done in primarily two ways.

The first way that technology is influencing experiential marketing is through the ability to create virtual experiences that are more realistic and visceral than what was previously possible. This has been helped enormously by the advent of consumer-grade virtual reality hardware reaching mainstream markets.

Image Source: Kārlis Dambrāns

Image Source: Kārlis Dambrāns

While adoption among consumers is still on the lower side, advertisers and marketers have already made good use of the technology, setting up “experience zones” at multiple trade shows. The most notable examples of this are in the travel and real estate sectors. At these experience zones, interested parties are able to enjoy a variety of interactive experiences. Those interested in real estate can go on virtual walk through tours of properties that may be located overseas or perhaps don’t even exist yet. With photo-realistic accuracy and full freedom to explore the property and in some cases the surrounding area as well, these virtual tours allow buyers to experience and visualize their potential property investments in a way that photos and even videos are not able to effectively convey.

You can read more about Thomas Cook’s efforts and watch a video of how they created these experiences by clicking here

When it comes to travel, virtual reality has been effectively employed to allow potential holiday makers to sample a bit of what their destination has to offer in advance. Thomas Cook effectively used VR experiences to showcase their hotels and resorts, allowing users to tour the hotel and enjoy the sights and sounds of their beach front properties or major city locations, helping to entice travelers to choose one of their hotels the next time they traveled.

The second way that technology is changing the landscape of experiential marketing is that the interactive element previously only possible through live physical presence is no longer needed to provide an engaging and satisfying experience to participants.

A popular example of this approach was Google’s campaign to make charitable donations in the bay area around San Francisco in 2014. While corporate donations are, of course, nothing out of the ordinary; the way Google chose to go about making their donations was quite inspired. Instead of making its donations and then releasing a press release about their actions, Google instead set up interactive signs around the city, at prominent junctions and outside bus and train stops. Using these signs, Google invited the public to vote on which, from a list of charities, Google should include to receive a $5 Million dollar donation.

While a simple gesture, the response was extremely positive, allowing San Francisco residents to vote on which charities and issues were most in need of support such as groups working to improve the availability of legal aid, promotion of small businesses, educational programs, urban renewal of public spaces and many more.


Other examples of successful experiential marketing

Apart from the examples of Thomas Cook and Google, here are a few more examples of good experiential marketing campaigns.

  1. The IKEA Sleepover

In 2011, the IKEA took notice of a Facebook group named ‘I wanna have a sleepover in Ikea’. At its peak the group had over 100,000 members and so to acknowledge that achievement, IKEA actually selected 100 lucky group members to take part in a sleep over at their Essex, England location.

Participants were treated to food and refreshments as well as manicures and pedicures as well as a session with a ‘sleep expert’ who help provide advice on what would be the perfect mattress for each of them.

  1. Widespread use in the gaming industry

The gaming industry is notable for its use of experiential marketing for many of its game launches with racing games like Forza offering live track days as rewards for those who performed well while playing their game at expos and convention booths.

World of Tanks, a tank warfare simulator game, also hosted an event where selected participants would be able to ride in and operate a selection of armored vehicles, using them to crush cars and charge through walls and barricades.

Upcoming horror Wilson’s heart also invited people to work together to solve an escape room. Not only was the event a success, but since the invitees were all notable Youtube creators and influencers the event enjoyed massive coverage and reach as a result.

Major publishers such as Square Enix, Microsoft, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts along with many others have all made excellent use of experiential marketing campaigns for many of their game releases


  1. The Red Bull Stratos Campaign

Red Bull’s marketing team spends a considerable amount of time and effort positioning Red Bull as being on the bleeding edge of adventure, discovery and thrill seeking. They sponsor two Formula-1 racing teams, a number of biking and extreme sports events and even a stunt flying unit that performs at air shows.

However, one of their most audacious and notable events was their support of Felix Baumgartner’s attempt to exceed the speed of sound while in free fall after para-jumping from an altitude of almost 40kms.

While some would not consider this an example of experiential marketing, since only Baumgartner was an active participant in the attempt, others argue that the live broadcast of the attempt which was watched by thousands around the world as well as those who had turned up at the landing site qualify it as a an experience that audience members were invited to participate in by witnessing the attempt.

Those were just some examples of experiential marketing as well as the benefits you stand to enjoy by choosing to explore and pursue marketing opportunities in this space. If you know of other notable examples of great experiential marketing campaigns or have conducted one yourself, why not share them in the comments below?

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