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The Ultimate Guide to Experiential Marketing: How to Immerse and Engage Your Customers

7th October 2020 Print

If you haven't heard of experiential marketing, you've probably seen a campaign's results before. Experiential marketing is marketing a company or product through an experience between the brand and the customer. This can vary from product sampling to more grand occasions like stunts and memorable events that immerse the brand with active participation.

Moving away from traditional marketing

While traditional marketing can work well, people are being advertised daily on their mobile devices, PCs, and televisions. It can be challenging to cut through the noise of so much marketing and advertising through traditional channels, especially if you don't have a considerable budget to dominate every platform and ensure that you're being seen. Experiential marketing helps to cut through this by creating an experience that customers directly engage with, rather than getting a message across to them passively through advertising, which can be more easily ignored. Using techniques like live experiences or shows, in-person sampling, festivals, and PR stunts, this marketing activity will be exciting and interesting enough to encourage people to participate with a brand actively.

This technique should have the customer in mind, with research helping to identify what makes your target audience tick and understanding what motivates them. An experience can be created that will trigger genuine interest, and ideally, provoke delight, motivation, or even challenge them. The experience will have a more meaningful impact than a print ad, for example, and people who participate in the experience may talk about it with friends and family to spread the word.

There are challenges associated with experiential marketing, though, and they can make marketers reluctant to go to the effort of creating such an experience. Common challenges include the difficulty of measuring an experiential marketing campaign's success, a lack of ideas or creativity, difficulty in targeting the right audience, and overall lack of ROI. These challenges can be overcome by partnering with an agency that specializes in experiential marketing such as

Measuring the success of experiential marketing campaigns

There are no standard measuring practices for an experiential marketing campaign, and the methods of measurement often need to be carefully selected based on the nature of the campaign. Experiential marketing campaigns are extensive in nature and vary from sampling campaigns to festivals.

Measuring any marketing campaign starts with understanding the objectives, which can be broadly segmented into brand awareness and lead generation. An experiential marketing campaign will often have several components, with an in-person element and more traditional marketing activities. For instance, if brand awareness is the objective, you may measure footfall at your event. In addition, any PR or digital views that come off the back of the event can also be measured as part of the brand awareness resulting from the campaign. 

If your objective is lead generation, you may be able to measure the number of people who provide you with an email address after interacting with your experience. An event may have an information collection element that helps to understand a person's experience with the event or brand, which can then be analyzed for sentiment and customer profiling.

What are the advantages of experiential marketing?

With the rise of social media, consumers are more critical of every brand that doesn't meet social and environmental expectations. It's more complicated than ever to present a brand that gets adequate attention. Experiential marketing helps create a brand story that shows your brand's values in an exciting and engaging way, allowing your audience to understand your company's vision and help them feel involved. By communicating with your audience in a two-way conversation rather than telling them, you'll impact users in a far more meaningful way, often creating customers for the long term.

In addition to engaging with customers on a deeper level than traditional marketing, there's also the potential to reach a far greater number of customers with experiential marketing. The creativity that goes into such a campaign will often provide additional opportunities for media coverage. Local, national, and industry publications will likely cover the exciting event you're hosting for free. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful means of marketing, and people that are recommended a brand from a friend will be far more likely to try it than if they see an advertisement. Experiential marketing is more likely to cause people to talk about the event or campaign you create, promoting your brand's natural spread.

How does experiential marketing fit into the marketing funnel?

The marketing funnel typically focuses on the elements of awareness, consideration, and action, with the action being a user buying a product or using a service. Many marketing plans use a 'tactic first approach' that fits into the relevant part of the funnel, with PR being an example of a brand awareness tactic and a webinar being a lead generation tactic, for example. An experiential marketing campaign should focus on the marketing funnel section that's most important to the company, but can often work across all stages of the buyer journey. A creative experiential campaign provides the perfect messaging to be distributed across all marketing channels, and will usually have a more impactful effect than less attractive messaging. For example, digital advertising can be used to promote your experiential campaign, creating more brand awareness. With an exciting event, people are more likely to interact with the digital ad and convert than a standard logo and strapline.

Coming up with ideas for your campaign

Idea generation is one of the most challenging parts of an experiential marketing campaign, and often depends on your personality and how well you know your audience. If you're a creative person, you may be able to brainstorm ideas yourself or with your team, using your customer's pain points based on the session. If this doesn't come naturally to you, then hiring a professional or marketing agency is the next best thing, and having people to help you come up with ideas every day can be worth the investment.