Concept graphic with a variety of experiential marketing images

What is Experiential Marketing, and Why Does it Matter?

By: The H&H Group

If you’re anything like us, you will fall asleep reading the Wikipedia page on engagement marketing, aka experiential marketing.

Not exactly engaging content.

To be fair, experiential marketing is a strategy that goes by many names, and Wikipedia’s entry focuses primarily on explaining terminology and key concepts. It does not offer many practical ideas for actually doing experiential marketing in your business. (Though, it does provide a few historic examples of well-received engagement marketing campaigns by big brands—with big budgets—that you’ve definitely heard of.)

To fill the void between erudite but boring encyclopedia entries and the real world of experiential marketing tactics, we published a blog post about determining whether you’re already engaging in experiential marketing (spoiler alert: you almost certainly are).

That post provided some actionable tips, but it kind of assumed you had made it through the Wikipedia article. To save you the trouble, our blog post today gives a little background on what experiential marketing is/does. Read on for more!

So, Experiential Marketing and Engagement Marketing Are The Same Thing?

In short, yes. Experiential marketing and engagement marketing are pretty much interchangeable terms to describe marketing in a way that invites customers to be a part of a “branded experience” of some kind.

You might also hear experiential marketing referred to as participation marketing or event marketing, too. However, here at The H&H Group, we think of event marketing (and post-event marketing) as a type of experiential marketing.

You can do experiential marketing that does not involve special events, such as trade shows, at all. For instance, connecting with your customers through your business’s social media profile is an example of online engagement marketing, as you’re creating a branded customer experience with your communications—no special event required.

You Don’t Have to Make Experiential Marketing a PR Stunt

Experiential marketing is simply a process for tangibly raising brand awareness. The idea is to do some activity for and with your clients that is fun, unexpected, and creates a lasting impression. While this can involve creating a publicity stunt—something the local media might report about later, good or bad—it doesn’t have to and probably shouldn’t, to be honest.

(If you’re curious about the difference between good experiential marketing and a publicity stunt, think of experiential marketing as the stunt’s classier, interactive cousin.)

Hubspot’s definition of experiential marketing is a good one:

“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.”

Why Does Experiential Marketing Matter?

As we’ve said before, marketing is not a one-way street. With the technology and platforms currently available to consumers, you can bet that the public is as much a part of your marketing as anything that you cook up. Experiential marketing embraces that crowd-source mentality by creating intentional and memorable events that amp up the love between your brand and the people.

In this way, great experiential marketing needs to communicate your brand’s strengths and values via involvement in an activity with your customers or potential customers. This marketing opportunity involves planning a relevant and memorable experience (though not necessarily a special event) that people can engage in with your brand—and ideally tell their friends about.

3 Examples of Great Experiential Marketing Campaigns

What does genuinely top-shelf experiential marketing look like? The following examples are from big brands with big budgets, but you can gather a few significant takeaways to help you plan your small business’s experiential marketing.

1. Lean Cuisine #WeighThis

Lean Cuisine—a “diet brand”—in 2015 invited women to shift focus away from traditional body image metrics and instead share the things they would prefer to be measured by, like achievements and character traits. Wildly inspirational and shareable, this campaign was a mix of understanding the motivations and values of customers and finding a hands-on way to tap into how those customer values fit with the brand’s mission.

Takeaways: Frame differently. Make customers the focus. Challenge the norm.

2. GE Healthymagination

Healthymagination is GE Healthcare’s initiative to pursue innovations and technology that make healthcare more accessible and affordable around the world. To promote engagement with the health community, GE invited doctors to share their stories live in front of event attendees. The fabricated sets where these events were taped recreated real-world places where GE’s products have helped improve healthcare, like a rural African clinic and an urban hospital ER.

Takeaways: Experiential marketing is for B2B brands too. Involve people in a conversation. Show how your product is solving problems in the real world through immersive visuals and live storytelling.

3. Google-Zappos Cupcake

Fashion brand Zappos co-opted a Google Photos experiential marketing campaign by piggy-backing onto it and upping the stakes. Google had commissioned a cupcake truck to hand out free cupcakes to people who downloaded its photo app. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, quickly jumped in and set up a station next to the Google truck where people could trade in their free cupcakes for potentially more valuable prizes. An excellent example of symbiotic experiential marketing that surely created a buzz.

Takeaways: Don’t underestimate the power of co-marketing along with or (playfully) hijacking another company’s experience. Unexpected and funny experiences create good memories and brand goodwill.

Follow These Best Practices When Planning An Experiential Marketing Campaign

To get the best results from your experiential marketing, you need to plan carefully. While it may appear that some of the most memorable examples of successful experiential marketing campaigns just happened by chance—like Google and Zappos’ cupcake battle—we promise, they were thoroughly organized in advance.

These are a few things you need to consider as you undertake experiential marketing, especially when it comes to event-based campaigns.

Understand Your Audience

As we discussed in that other post about better engaging with your customers, you need to have a good handle on your brand identity before you march out a customer experience that just doesn’t jive. For instance, don’t go for over-the-top humor if that’s not part of your image. It can fall flat or be confusing for your audiences and might generate an adverse reaction.

Don’t underestimate the power of surveying your customers to gain a better understanding of how people view your brand. Even if you think you know what your business is, does, and stands for, you may be surprised how your audience perceives you.

Set Clear Campaign Goals and Budgets

This is a best practice for pretty much any small business marketing strategy, of course. Creativity is a wonderful thing, but if you don’t put some parameters in place for your experiential marketing efforts, you could end up over-spending for lackluster results. Once you understand who your audience is and what it might take to utterly delight them, determine the limits of your campaign—and how you will measure success. (That last piece is something a surprising number of marketers miss.)

Consider Creating Multiple Points of Engagement Across Different Marketing Channels

A little while ago, we talked about multichannel marketing, which gives your customers a choice of how they connect with you. Coordinating your experiential campaign across multiple channels—such as within your physical store locations and on social media at the same time—gives you more opportunities to connect with your customers and create a more immersive experience.

Need help creating marketing collateral and planning this type of coordinated campaign? Give us a call here at The H&H Group—we love to brainstorm with our clients and develop effective campaigns for less!

Proof That Experiential Marketing Works

As we’ve shown, experiential marketing is an effective way to educate people about your products or services. It helps instill a longer-lasting impression of your brand versus other marketing methods.

But don’t just take our word for it. The Event Marketing Institute’s annual EventTrack survey shares these key indicators (from the 2018 study) that experiential marketing is highly impactful:

  • 85% of consumers report that they are likely to purchase from a brand after participating in events and experiences created by that brand.
  • 91% percent of consumers report a positive view of brands that provide memorable experiences.
  • 41% of people believe that live events help them understand a product. This is second only to brand or company websites, which 44% of people feel help them to best understand a product.
  • Strategies involving an experiential component are incredibly effective in B2B marketing according to marketers in this sector.

Need Help Launching Your Next Experiential Marketing Campaign?

The H&H Group is here to guide you through creating memorable, immersive experiences for your audiences across multiple channels. From print to signage to fulfillment, we’re Central PA’s best resource for everything you need to advance your brand with successful marketing. Get in touch today!

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