You know the feeling: your skin tingles with excitement as the curtain rises on “Hamilton,” your pulse races as you cheer the home team from the stadium stands, or your body dives headlong into the ocean as your limbs mingle with the salty water.
Humans are sensory creatures. We survive by interacting with our environment. Just as babies and toddlers learn through engaging their senses, adults also process the world through experience.
Today, countless brands compete for our attention, and consumers largely ignore the estimated 10,000 ads they see everyday. To stand out from the crowd, a brand must make an impression on its audience and reveal the meaningful impact it’ll have on consumers’ lives.
What better way to do this than encouraging audiences to experience a brand?
What is experiential marketing?
Experiential marketing, also called engagement marketing, invites consumers to participate in an experience—such as an event, game, installation, or hands-on exploration—that deepens their relationship with a brand. Through tangible branding material and real-time audience engagement, experiential marketing shows consumers what a brand stands for, promises, and delivers.
While events can be a vehicle for experiential marketing, event marketing and experiential marketing are not the same. Event marketing often focuses on mass communication, product sampling, and data collection to increase reach and brand awareness.
By contrast, experiential marketing immerses audiences in memorable, in-person experiences to make an impact and sustain positive and lasting connections with participants. If event marketing is a brand’s megaphone, experiential marketing is a revelatory conversation shared over the telephone.
What do experiential marketers do?
The best experiential marketers are storytellers. They understand how to craft moments that grab audiences and connect them with the brand. They are also experts in marketing strategy and brand perception.
Experiential marketers partner with clients to develop and carry out immersive marketing campaigns. A big part of their job is brainstorming, planning, and launching the live, in-person events that capture the heart of the brand. Think of experiential marketers as having similar roles as brand ambassadors, brand managers, and event planners.
An experiential marketer often performs the following duties:
- Researches target audiences and market trends for experiential marketing strategies that connect specific brands and their audiences
- Brainstorms experiential marketing ideas for innovative campaigns to engage audiences, build brand awareness, and foster positive brand perception
- Creates immersive marketing campaigns that center around live, in-person experiences and help businesses establish strong connections with audiences
- Oversees campaigns and logistics to ensure events and experiences run smoothly
- Monitors and records campaign performance to analyze for future marketing strategies
- Collaborates with other marketing teams to develop and promote the campaign’s digital, social, and public relations initiatives
Experiential marketers are a lot like film directors or symphony conductors. Their job is to make sure the components of a brand’s experiential marketing campaign work together to create powerful and memorable experiences for audiences.
Why does experiential marketing matter?
According to an EventTrack survey, 91% of consumers report that when they participate in a brand’s events and experiences, it makes them more likely to buy the brand’s products. And 83% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand if they have an emotional connection to it. Experiential marketing strategies that embrace an audience-first approach—focusing on authentic connection in the messaging—help businesses earn loyal customers and net positive returns.
After a company’s website, consumers ranked events and experiences as the best advertising method for understanding product benefits in the same survey. Considering our digital era, it’s not surprising that websites are audiences’ go-to form of brand research—nor is it surprising that people connect in real time when senses and emotions are engaged.
If you want consumers to remember your brand or product, pair it with an influential experience. Better yet, if you want them to remember your brand and get key product information, connect your websites and digital strategies to your in-person, experiential programs. Bridging immersive experiences and digital spaces is essential for any successful experiential marketing campaign.
While consumers crave in-person experiences (and hopefully always will), the world turns to data more than ever to make targeted marketing and sales decisions. However, understandably, consumers are wary of how much personal data they share, and with whom.
Still, experiential marketing prevails, making it easier for companies to collect meaningful customer data. Why? Because audiences are usually more willing to exchange their personal information for an engaging experience. So if the experience makes a positive impact, they are less likely to revoke their personal data—especially if the brand personalizes useful or interesting communication.
Through personalization and experiential marketing campaigns, brand loyalty deepens, safeguarding consumer data well into the future.
How to develop an experiential marketing strategy
While experiential marketing holds promise, success isn’t a guarantee. Many brands plow ahead and spend a lot of money before establishing clearly defined audiences, messages, and goals. Rushed experiential marketing campaigns run the risk of falling flat and harming brand reputation.
Develop a successful experiential marketing strategy with these tips:
Understand your consumers
Marketing is a means of communication, getting your brand’s voice heard, and humans communicate for understanding and connection. So businesses should strive to achieve both with audiences.
Effective communication—and marketing—depends on what audiences want to hear. That’s why experiential marketing resonates with audiences—it invites participation rather than forces it. Consumers are more likely to interact with a brand or product when given a choice instead of a rule.
Great experiential marketers understand the basics of human psychology. Knowing what consumers value, want, and need is essential for creating experiential marketing strategies that convert leads into loyal customers:
- What problems does your target audience face?
- How will your product, service, or brand ease their pain?
- What new perspective would they find helpful or inspiring?
In short, when developing experiential marketing campaigns, the focus should be on connecting with audiences and establishing relationships. Because relationships rely on trust, experiential marketing campaigns that give consumers confidence in your brand will succeed at building a loyal following.
Understand changes and trends in your customers’ world
An upending 2020 changed experiential marketing, forcing businesses to create virtual experiences. And while innovation is here to stay, virtual events have expanded (rather than replaced) in-person experiential marketing campaigns, making them more accessible.
Today’s successful experiential marketing campaigns have 3 parts:
- In-person, immersive experiences
- Virtual events or experiences
- Social media channels
That last part—coverage on social platforms—often determines a campaign’s vitality as the best experiential marketing promotes itself. People who love an experience will share it with their friends and followers, giving your brand exponential traction in the digital space. And as your brand impresses more consumers, marketing becomes self-perpetuating.
Account for the power of organic social media coverage when planning your brand’s next experiential marketing campaign. You can do this by creating a branded hashtag for audiences to share thoughts and impressions, providing an Instagram-worthy photo booth, or inviting celebrities and influencers to help spread the word.
Define your brand experience
For an experiential marketing campaign to succeed, define the brand experience you want audiences to have. Do you want to demonstrate how you can solve a problem? Want to help them see your brand in a new light? Or are you looking to provide a fun time that stirs up emotional connection associated with your brand?
Remember that audiences like to choose their adventure—not be forced down a path. So create an experience that invites rather than directs. Treat audiences like people you want to know. Make space for them within your brand. The more personalization you can add to the experience and marketing materials, the better.
You’ll also want to give audiences an easy way to remember your brand once the experience is over. Gone are the days of business cards and pamphlets. So help audiences recall and share experiences by making your brand’s digital fingerprint unique, iconic, and accessible from all digital platforms.
See what’s worked for other brands
Experiential marketing affords limitless possibilities and creativity, but some strategies and campaigns prove successful time and again. These experiential marketing campaigns work for countless brands with a range of budgets, goals, and timelines:
- Pop-up shops and installations
- Product samples and demos
- Classes, workshops, and tours
- Co-branding events
- Augmented reality
See what brand experiences have worked for businesses you admire. What journeys did the brands create? How did the brands invite people to participate? How did the brands evoke curiosity, fascination, and wonder? What strategies did the brands use to document the experience and encourage social sharing? Find inspiration for your campaign from other brands’ success stories.
Experiential marketing examples
Here are some successful experiential marketing examples to consider as you develop your brand’s next experiential marketing campaign.
Gain inspiration from successful experiential marketing ideas
Each of these businesses found a way to engage the audience with an immersive experience that built trust and established lasting connections to the brand. Some sparked laughter. Others evoked heartfelt tears.
- Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis
- Zappos: Google Cupcake Ambush
- Bose at New York Fashion Week
- Kit Kat’s Free No-WiFi Zone
- Chipotle Burrito Builder
- Globetrotter’s HI-MACS High-Altitude Cold Chamber
- M&M’s Flavor Rooms
- MISEREOR Social Swipe
You might also see our collection of the best word-of-mouth strategies used by brands like Wendy’s and TOMS. Often, the same brands that use experiential marketing have a knack for leading lively conversations that engage audiences and encourage referrals.
Prepare for experiential marketing success with Twilio SendGrid
Now that you’ve seen all that experiential marketing can do, consider what tools you need to sustain a connection with your audience. With proven tools to boost delivery, engagement, and results, Twilio SendGrid has email for your experiential marketing activities covered. Contact our experts today to get started.