In the times when marketing your business has become more affordable than ever, entirely new modes of advertising have emerged.
At the same time, old ones have had to develop and adapt. People have become insensitive to traditional ads, so grabbing their attention demands an imaginative and innovative approach.
And in these circumstances, experiential marketing presents a great opportunity for brands and marketers around the globe.
Experiential advertising, as the name suggests, puts emphasis on willingly experiencing what the brand has to offer. This is a giant leap forward compared to simply bombarding customers and prospects by random flashy ads that brands use to brag about themselves, with no tangible proof whatsoever.
Experiential marketing focuses on providing real-life experiences that are actually interesting or amusing to the people they’re targeting. The point is to offer consumers a first-hand encounter with your brand or your product, instead of merely telling people what they’re about.
By doing this, you let people actually test and judge your product and participate in the advertising process.
As for the exact definition of experiential marketing, Hubspot defines it as “a marketing strategy that invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation. Using participatory, hands-on, and tangible branding material, the business can show its customers not just what the company offers, but what it stands for.”
The fact that the audience willingly partakes in these activities is the reason why experiential marketing is sometimes called “engagement marketing”.
Building your image through experiential branding methods has several important advantages and can make your company stand out in the ocean of advertising clones.
These methods involve organizing events, classes, tastings, brand activations as well as other happenings that include face-to-face interaction with people potentially interested in your products.
Let’s first look into the benefits your brand can gain from experiential advertising.
As it was mentioned, people are absolutely flooded by all sorts of commercials nowadays. Some marketing experts claim that an average American is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads daily.
Naturally, this makes them indifferent and skeptical towards all traditional forms of marketing.
By letting them experience and interact with your brand, you’ll be able to draw their attention and stand out from the crowd of brands desperately trying to reach their target market.
However, this form of marketing is becoming increasingly popular and many companies and advertising agencies are starting to use it. Namely, as much as 77 percent of marketers use it as a vital part of their brand’s advertising strategy.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stick out with your campaign, but only that you’ll have to be additionally inventive when conceiving and executing it. The opportunities are endless and they’re there for your brand to make use of them.
In recent years, marketers (especially those working in digital marketing) are emphasizing the importance of understanding marketing as a sort of two-way communication between brands and customers.
Experiential marketing radically changes the way companies interact with their audience.
Of course, it’s crucial that you don’t just offer people great fun and amusement at your event or your workshop, but also to think of a creative way to associate this event with your brand or your product.
The importance of this interactive approach has been explained by many renowned educators and psychologists.
For instance, Edgar Dale used this notion as a foundation for his Cone of Experience. According to this concept, people normally remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see and a staggering 90% of what they do.
This further means that people will generally have a much easier time recognizing your brand if there’s a way you can convince them to actually get engaged and do stuff, rather than watch your billboards, TV commercials and banner ads.
Using experiential marketing is a great way to build awareness about your brand. There are multiple ways this normally happens.
First of all, a truly ingenious campaign will attract media interest. Getting proper, unpaid media coverage is the best way to spread the word about your company without spending a dime on promotion.
Furthermore, you should never underestimate the power of word of mouth. A person fascinated by your experiential campaign will be more inclined to tell a friend about it… and about you as well.
This is hugely important since 92% of consumers will trust their friends’ and peers’ recommendations more than any actual advertisement.
Finally, a quality campaign of this kind can boost your online presence as well. Although experiential marketing events happen in a real-life environment rather than the digital realm, they can still get viral.
In the era where huge amounts of user-generated content are created every day, you can be sure that folks who like your idea will share it on social media. Just make sure they’re aware that your event is branded and suggest a hashtag they could use.
In order to gain a truly loyal customer or fan base, it’s essential that you get people emotionally attached to your brand. You can do that by letting them try your product and see what your company is all about first-hand.
This way you can help them get familiar with your brand’s philosophy, ideas and values. In addition, by letting them partake in the advertising process you’re presenting your company as being open, accessible and helpful.
This is the first step to building an emotional relationship with the customers, which in turn boosts their loyalty.
This can be very beneficial. 82 percent of consumers claim that they always buy from brands they’re loyal to, and are generally much more inclined to spend large amounts of money on these brands or tell a friend about it.
You’ll also have a chance to get some live feedback about your product or your campaign from ordinary, everyday folks. All these actions tend to put a human face on your brand and improve its image.
Probably the most commonly-used type of experiential advertising is organizing events.
You can go for more conventional events that will serve to promote your brand, such as conferences, presentations or meetups. You have an option of actually using this event to talk about your brand to the audience, but in this case, there’s not much interaction really.
Therefore, there’s a danger that it will turn into a traditional, one-way attempt to explain why your company is the best, unlike all other companies that also claim that they’re the best – and you definitely want to avoid this.
So it’s best to make this sort of events about your industry or a certain cause, with your company being merely the sponsor and the initiator. This will leave more room for quality exchange of ideas that can create an actual memorable experience, unlike blabbering on and on about your product.
And don’t worry, people will surely remember who made the event possible.
However, you can also go for less conventional events such as parties, picnics, festivals or competitions. If you decide to do this, just make sure that the type of event you choose fits your brand.
If you organize a music festival to promote a law office, this can be interpreted as a desperate attempt to look too cool and funky, which can make a serious business seem awkward and ridiculous.
Event Marketing In Action: Sensodyne
A good example of successful event marketing comes from the toothpaste and mouthwash brand Sensodyne. Focused on the protection of sensitive teeth, the company organized an all-day event that was conceived to put emphasis on this issue.
It took place in Potters Field Park in London. The park was divided into three zones, where people could play games, take photos with a huge molar, have a dental check-up and partake in a Guinness record-breaking lesson of oral hygiene.
This way Sensodyne raised awareness about the importance of oral hygiene, provided people with amusing experiences and gained some substantial social media visibility.
Offering your customers free or affordable workshops or classes can also generate some significant engagement on their part.
How exactly you will conceive these classes and put them to work depends on your industry, as well as the messages that your brand wants to send. Just make sure they’re related to your branch and that they involve more than just explaining how to use some of your products.
A lesson or a workshop should provide some real value for the user if you want it to be effective marketing-wise.
Workshops & Classes In Action: Lululemon Athletica
Probably the best way to explain how to make this strategy work is by invoking one of the most successful examples of experiential marketing of this kind.
Lululemon Athletica is a sports clothing retailer. Among other products, they sell yoga shirts, shorts, pants, mats and stretching straps.
They decided to give free yoga classes weekly in order to promote their business, build up their community and attract new customers. It’s a great way to engage people who are already interested in yoga but still aren’t loyal to any brand of yoga clothing.
Offering them to attend a free class and meet other people of same interests surely provoked a certain emotional reaction towards the company. A great little trick to boost brand loyalty and contribute to the wellbeing of the community.
Brand activations are usually employed when a company is introducing a new product or line of products, or when an entirely new company wants to present itself to the public. The point of brand activations is to gain some initial recognition for the product and convince people to try it.
You can do this by simply organizing free tasting or samplings of the product, but in order to use the full potential of this strategy, you should probably go beyond that. Try grabbing people’s attention in a more innovative way.
Let them experience not just your new product, but everything your brand stands for. Use the opportunity to tell them the story about your business and your values.
Moreover, don’t just approach them and offer them the product. Try creating a situation in which they’d actually need your product in order to show its benefits and usefulness.
Brand Activations In Action: Tribord
Watersports equipment Tribord did just this. They created a fake drink called “Wave” and offered it to passersby.
The trick was that the can was full of sea water. What the company wanted to achieve was to evoke a sense of drowning in people who tried the drink. It was an ingenious way to remind people about the dangers at sea and the importance of quality watersports gear.
Using highly-engaging technology to create unique experiences for consumers is definitely the future of experiential marketing.
Experiential marketing normally entails having some sort of real-life contact with the brand. But with technologies that are on the brink of erasing the border between reality and simulation, it’s possible to create a digital experience that has the same effect as any authentic physical event.
Probably the most commonly used pieces of technology in this respect are virtual and augmented reality.
You can use these to show your customers how your production process works or tell the story about your company or your products. AR can help you make super-amusing interactive catalogs, menus or even make your products come to life.
Whether it’s used to simply entertain the users or to provide them with additional info about products (or both), it’s a highly effective approach. For instance, marketing campaigns that use AR technology have an average dwell time of 75 seconds, which is 30 times more than an average TV or radio ad.
Immersive Technology In Action: City Social
A great example of clever AR usage comes from London. More precisely, from City Social restaurant.
They created an app that you can use to amuse yourself and find something out about the cocktail you’re drinking.
When you open the app and point the phone at the coaster that goes with the cocktail, you’ll see amazing 3D animations that are full of symbolism. These symbols are related either to the history and tradition of a certain cocktail on one hand or to its ingredients on the other.
It’s stylish, fun and educational. Kudos to City Social for this amazing idea.
Gaining any kind of visibility for your brand has become very difficult and it won’t be getting any easier. Businesses are forced to find new, creative ways to reach people and make them interested in their products.
In this sense, experiential marketing opens a whole new world of opportunities for those marketers who are able to come up with fresh and original advertising ideas.
A well-thought experiential marketing campaign can be hugely beneficial for your brand. You can use it to appeal to consumers’ emotions in order to ensure loyalty among regular customers and recognition among prospects.
Most marketers and business owners have already recognized this. It’s just one more reason not to neglect this fact and start investing in your experiential marketing efforts as early as today.