The Definitive Experiential Marketing Guide

If you have a considerable budget and are on the lookout for marketing opportunities that will boost brand engagement and awareness, running an experiential marketing campaign may be the right strategy for you.

Experiential marketing creates unique branded environments to immerse customers in a dynamic experience, sparking interactions and virality. This strategy aims to delight and excite consumers while achieving your brand’s marketing goals

When executed well, experiential marketing fosters positive feelings and memories, increasing customer loyalty and lifetime value. A few experiential marketing examples include pop-up stores, live shows, AR/VR digital campaigns, and many more. 

It is up to you to develop an experiential strategy that suits your brand and market and gets you closer to achieving your goals. 

What is an experiential marketing campaign?

In the book Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act and Relate to Your Company and Brands, author Bernd Herbert Schmitt explains that modern marketing is moving away from the traditional "features and benefits" messaging towards "products and experiences" that put consumers at the center. 

An experiential marketing campaign is an organized way to create experiences that align with your brand and bring joy and benefits to customers. It is the end-product of marketers and experience designers working together to bring experiential marketing concepts to life.

Successful experiential marketing campaigns engage at least three of the five basic human senses – touch, sight, sound, smell, or taste. An experiential campaign must be relevant to your brand, have a positive impact, and provide a rewarding experience for participants. 

To begin developing your experiential strategy, view your brand from customers' perspectives. Discover how they perceive it, the emotions they associate with it, and how you can delight or support them in a memorable way. Many studies show that customers are more likely to share and recommend a product to friends after a positive experience.

What is digital experiential marketing?

Typically, experiential marketing campaigns are physical, interactive, and held in spaces that facilitate one-on-one interactions between brand representatives and customers. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are turning to digital and hybrid experiential marketing campaigns to engage with customers while maintaining social distance. 

Digital experiential marketing incorporates different types of technology to organize and deliver experience marketing campaigns. These technologies could be augmented or virtual reality (AR or VR) or simply a social sharing element of offline experiential marketing events. 

One example is the beer company Blue Moon's Lighten Up campaign in March 2021, developed in partnership with home organizing company The Home Edit. The campaign encouraged consumers to declutter their home spaces after a year in lockdown by donating items they no longer need or use. 

Each participant received a six-pack of beer (in the form of $15 sent through the payments app Venmo) and was entered into a raffle draw to win a virtual one-on-one decluttering session from professional home organizers on The Home Edit show.

While it may be easier to run digital experiential marketing campaigns than offline events, always remember that experiential marketing campaigns should be customer-focused and beneficial, not sales-driven. Forming a connection with your customers should be at the heart of your experiential strategy.  

Experiential marketing campaign examples

To better illustrate how to use experiential marketing to engage with customers and grow brand awareness, we have compiled a list of five experiential marketing examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Uber ice cream

The Uber ice cream campaign was launched in 2012 as a way for the ride-sharing company to deliver joy (and ice cream) to riders and drivers. For one day every year, Uber customers can request ice cream to be delivered to their homes or offices for free. 

Uber partners with local ice-cream shops to provide creamy treats to customers who request them through the mobile app. Recipients are encouraged to share photos of their treats and experiences on social media using the hashtag #UberIceCream.

While there's no apparent link between Uber and ice cream, Uber delivering gifts to users is a delightful experiential marketing idea and subversion of the brand's usual operations. 

Refinery29's 29rooms

In 2015, the lifestyle brand Refinery29 began hosting an annual experiential event called 29rooms, where they open up 29 rooms with branded and curated experiences connected by a central theme. 

29rooms is a fun, interactive, experiential marketing event celebrating trends, lifestyle, pop culture, and technology. Attendees immersed in this world get to experience different environments in every room. 

Each year the central theme is carefully selected from the interests of Refinery29's audience. Attendees can observe and play, take and share photos, meet like-minded people, and create art from their surroundings. 

For instance, one room invited attendees to paint on the walls, while another asked them to hit punching bags that produced different sounds when touched. 29rooms is an excellent experiential marketing example that aligns brand values and aesthetics while delighting customers with its changing themes and focus on creativity. 

Google's Bay Area impact campaign

Philanthropy is an excellent way to get customer attention and engagement. When doubled as an experiential strategy, it gets even better. 

In 2015, Google organized the Bay Area impact challenge, allowing the public to decide which non-profits in the San Francisco Bay Area the company would support. 

Using large, interactive posters displayed in busy areas, Google encouraged community members across the city to vote for their favorite non-profits. Each poster displayed ten non-profits and the causes they address — San Franciscans could vote by pressing one and the poster would record their vote.

In the end, the top six non-profits each received a $500,000 grant, with the remaining four awarded $250,000 each. This campaign enabled participants to interact with Google in a way that didn't require using one of its products. 

With an online voting integration, a branded hashtag #GoogleImpactChallenge, and posters displayed around town, the campaign was wildly successful. Not only did it give back to the community, but it also drove awareness towards important local issues.

Eggo's L'Eggometer

In March 2021, frozen waffles company Eggo launched a digital experiential marketing campaign to help parents navigate the stress of getting kids ready in the mornings. 

The campaign was built on the narrative that the mornings after daylight savings time are more stressful than others, as everyone loses an hour of sleep and children are tired and cranky. 

Eggo's digital experiential strategy helped parents reduce stress by giving away 100,000 waffles for breakfast on the morning after daylight savings time and encouraging honest conversations about "messy mornings" using the #helpmeleggo hashtag.

Hotels Live concerts

Hotels Live created a safe way for brands and their consumers to experience live concerts and music performances, even while social distancing. During the pandemic, the experience design agency developed an experiential strategy that maintained the best features of concerts and live shows while prioritizing the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of attendees. 

Using hotel rooms with balconies overlooking a central space, pool deck, or field, brands can set up live concerts for consumers to enjoy. Guests stay overnight in their hotel rooms and enjoy live music and entertainment from the safety of their balconies. 

Drive-in watch parties

Streaming, sports, and entertainment brands can borrow this replicable experiential strategy to simulate live events while maintaining social distance. Drive-in watch parties are a fun way to keep the spirit of a game or show alive – fans can watch a game or show on a big screen with other fans from the comfort and safety of their cars. 

In summer 2020, Continental Tire, a German automotive manufacturer and sponsor of Major League Soccer, celebrated the return of a new soccer season with a huge drive-in watch party. The experience included a branded drive-in location with mascots, snacks and beverages, and custom-branded car flags. 

The Definitive Experiential Marketing Guide 2
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Failed experiential campaigns

Whether it's an offline or digital experiential campaign, customer safety should be a priority for your team. Run simulations and test various elements of your campaign before opening it up to the public. 

There have been many instances of failed experiential marketing events. One of the most infamous failed experiential marketing campaigns was the drink company Jagermeister's pool party in Mexico in 2013, where liquid nitrogen was used to create atmospheric fog in a pool, leading to an almost tragic outcome

Nine people were rushed to the hospital when they found themselves unable to breathe as the nitrogen formed a thick cloud over the pool area. One man went into a coma and eight people fell sick, with many others having minor breathing issues. 

Even when running a digital experiential campaign, ensure that you're creating a safe space for participants. Trolls, negativity, and any other negative catalysts must be curbed before they gain critical mass or take over your campaign. 

Is an experiential marketing event right for your project?

To discover if an experiential marketing campaign is right for you, start by reviewing your marketing goals, budget, timeline, and environment. Ensure you have enough resources to execute your experiential strategy before moving onto the planning stage. 

A solid budget is a critical factor in running an experiential marketing campaign. Your budget should cover setting up your campaign, testing for safety, attracting the right consumers, and delivering a positive, memorable experience.

Experiential marketing campaigns should never be rushed or scarcely funded, as this can lead to adverse outcomes, putting your brand and customers in jeopardy. 

Consider your goals, timeline, and resources carefully. You may need to hire an experience design agency to refine your experiential strategy based on your goals and research-based customer understanding. 

It's not enough to offer participants a prize or raffle drawing and call it an experiential experience. You should create various touchpoints throughout the campaign to engage attendees, provide cheer and value, and solicit feedback. 

Ultimately, experiential marketing depends on the brand, its market, and its goals. It's essential to find and develop the right technique to create safe and impactful results for your brand.

How to plan an experiential marketing strategy

Planning an experiential marketing campaign can be exciting. An excellent experiential marketing strategy guides everyone on the team, showing how the campaign will work and what each person needs to do. 

Below are some essential tips to keep in mind when planning an experiential strategy.

Before the campaign

Before your campaign, ensure all essential bases are covered and each team member knows their role. Also, make sure to test the most critical elements of your campaign to avoid unnecessary risks. Other steps to implement for experiential marketing success include:

  1. Clarifying your marketing goals and defining clear metrics to measure performance
  2. Maintaining consistency in brand messaging and activities
  3. Briefing your team on your campaign goals so that they can serve as good ambassadors
  4. Reviewing your environment to ensure your campaign doesn't break any laws
  5. Lining up your plans with the calendar, coordinating with holidays and other predictable trends that will help your campaign marketing
  6. Integrating your experiential marketing campaign into your overall omnichannel marketing so customers can continue their experience on different devices and in different locations
  7. Considering the technology and creative input and keeping it simple for participants to follow
  8. Creating your experiential strategy around the customer. You may like the experience you have planned – but do your customers?

Upfront work is essential for a safe and enjoyable experiential marketing campaign. The longer you have to refine your strategy, the better the creative thought and execution will be.

During the campaign

This is the "action" part of your campaign. It's important to bring in experts to support your team in delivering a memorable experience. Here are a few steps to ensure success during your campaign:

  1. Stay on top of logistics, performance, and overall execution. Ensure checks, balances, and seamless team management are in place to keep things running smoothly. Provide support, refreshments, and backup for your employees who are running activities during the campaign. 
  2. Remember that customer safety, experience, and engagement are the top priorities. Your campaign is not merely about giving out products or seeking publicity, but an opportunity to invite customers into your world. Make your experience positive, fun, and share-worthy.
  3. Train your team as a core part of your product. Ensure every member is well-briefed, cheerful, and ready to put on a good show. Each person must know what to do and have sufficient authority to complete their tasks.
  4. Keep your messaging and execution consistent with the rest of your business operations. Your above-the-line advertising, direct marketing, and customer experience all need to say the same things, with the same language and values.
  5. Watch out for the little things. The smallest touches often delight customers the most. These can be as simple as the tone of your brand’s communication or a friendly follow-up message. Show customers that you value them, not just their money. Every interaction is a touchpoint between you and the consumer and a chance to win their trust.
  6. Gather data for marketing and performance analysis. As you interact with participants and customers, solicit feedback that gives you useful, qualitative data. Monitor your metrics to ensure that your efforts are paying off in real terms.
  7. Encourage social sharing. Amplifying the reach of your experiential marketing campaign on social media can have a massive impact. Ask participants to share photos and tag your brand to increase your reach. Take photos and videos for future marketing plans and social media sharing even after the campaign is over.
  8. Have fun! When your team has fun, participants have fun too. Smiles and laughter are powerful triggers for creating a cheerful ambiance that leaves customers feeling happier, lighter, and more engaged. If a customer associates those feelings with your brand, your campaign is a success.

After the campaign

After the campaign, measure success and integrate with your other marketing activities. Experiential marketing does not stand alone but is part of a brand-wide push toward strategic marketing goals, with ripple effects beyond customer engagement and brand awareness. 

Don't let your experience end when the day is over. Instead, communicate with your customers and let them know how you'll continue to support them. Here are a few steps to implement to ensure success: 

  1. Analyze the data collected. Measure it against your marketing goals and note what worked well and what didn't. Notice which touchpoints brought in the most return on investment to plan better for any future experiential marketing campaigns. 
  2. Conduct follow-up campaigns through social media and other owned marketing channels. Make the most of photos, videos, and mentions from participants and customers.
  3. Encourage more social engagement. You may organize prize draws to prompt more participants to share their experiences. Curate shareable moments, encourage interactions, solicit feedback, and follow through on your promises. 
  4. Provide even more value to participants. Experiences stay with people. Consider what your customers may need to build on your relationship even after the campaign.
  5. Communicate with stakeholders. Let them know how things went, provide insights and results, and inform them of the next steps. 

Plan your experiential marketing strategy with Wrike

Planning experiential marketing campaigns can feel overwhelming — there are many moving parts, from social media activations to the actual event requirements. 

Wrike simplifies this process by providing a secure digital workspace where you can gather market research, set up your team, invite external collaborators, and detail your marketing goals and strategy.

Wrike also makes it simple to duplicate successful campaigns and turn them into templates for future work or experiential marketing events. You can track vital metrics, communicate with stakeholders, and optimize content for integration into future marketing campaigns, all from your Wrike dashboard. 

Are you ready to create an exciting experiential marketing event for your customers to enjoy? Get started with a free two-week trial of Wrike today.

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