What is Experiential Marketing Plus 3 Examples
by Ana Gotter • September 20, 2022
Most marketing revolves around messaging distribution.
An ad in a search engine that users will see while conducting research, social media posts that make them laugh while they’re scrolling on Facebook and emails that pop up in their inboxes are designed to drive action.
All of these marketing platforms are effective and impactful— but there’s a type of marketing that goes beyond the message to create an experience.
This type of marketing is called “experiential marketing,” and in this post, we’re going to explain what it is, how it can benefit your brand, and how to get started with your campaigns.
What is Experiential Marketing?
Experiential marketing is also sometimes called “engagement marketing,” “live marketing,” and “event marketing.” It’s the practice of engaging customers with a real-life event centered around a brand experience.
At its core, experiential marketing is immersive, memorable, and (for lack of a better word) real.
It’s not even just an event, it’s an experience, and it’s designed to leave a real and lasting impact on customers. Experiential marketing focuses on the interaction between the brand and the customer, with brand awareness, brand perception, and the customer experience being paramount here.
The Halo video game series, for example, had a huge conference in 2019 for fans of the franchise before the newest rendition of the game launched. It solidified the fan base, stirred up that old game nostalgia, and got people pumped up for the new launch.
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These experiences can be done on a much smaller scale, however, and we’re going to look at a few examples of small and large marketing experiences (and everything in between).
The Benefits of Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing can be temporary, expensive, and difficult to coordinate. The benefits, however, when it’s done right, can be exceptional.
The most significant advantage that you’ll get from experiential marketing is the impact on your brand relationship with new customers, especially those who experience your event firsthand. The impact can be long-term and significant.
It’s also exceptionally useful for defining your own brand narrative, building your brand, and establishing brand awareness. People love sharing experiences, and they’re incredibly likely to share pictures, videos, and/or testimonials on social media about how the experience impacted them. This can expand your reach and bring other users your way, too.
Experiential marketing can also drive conversation and hype around your brand. You might be featured in different PR pieces or articles online, in addition to social media content. That’s a great way to increase brand exposure and either enhance or redefine your brand.
3 Examples of Experiential Marketing
Wondering what experiential marketing looks like in practice? Let’s take a look at three different examples that cover a wide range of different campaign styles.
When JetBlue launched a new direct flight path from New York to sunny Palm Springs, they ran an experiential marketing campaign to promote it.
In the dead of winter, they placed a handful of different summer accessories inside of an ice block that was six feet tall by six feet wide. They told people passing by that anything inside was up for grabs, but that they had to use whatever was on them to claim their prize, which could include beach attire, golf clubs, and free plane tickets.
Image source: Event Marketer
Diet culture is getting a reckoning in today’s society, and many brands involved with diet foods are receiving significant pushback for setting unrealistic ideals for beauty (and, in some cases, health).
Lean Cuisine’s entire brand has centered around diet-friendly products, but they’ve made an intentional shift in recent years to move away from diet-centric messaging.
They launched an experiential marketing campaign in New York’s Grand Central Station that invited women to “weigh in” with a gallery of scales. These scales, however, were small boards where women were asked to write down how they wanted to be weighed. The idea was that Lean Cuisine did make products that would “fit into a healthy lifestyle,” but there was the reminder that it wasn’t all that made people matter.
No one interacted with an actual Lean Cuisine product. Nobody was bothered. Participants stopped on their own and would interact on their own.
See more here:
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During shutdowns through the COVID-19 pandemic, indoor dining wasn’t an option for many. White Castle decided to shake things up, launching a genius experiential marketing campaign that they dubbed “Slider Lover’s Point.”
Three hundred of their locations around the country were transformed into “classic drive-ins, complete with carhop service.” Guests could book reservations through the brand’s app or the online reservation system OpenTable, where they’d receive a dedicated parking spot.
It wasn’t just about getting takeout to go; they created a fun experience centered around their brand that gave couples a unique date idea. Even if there wasn’t much else to do, plenty of couples would have thought this was a blast.
Final Thoughts: Getting Started with Experiential Marketing
When reading through the examples above, it’s easy to see how impactful these experience-based marketing campaigns can be— but it’s also easy to get intimidated and think it’s outside your range.
Experiences can be small or large, depending on your budget, capabilities, and planned strategies. When you want to get started with experiential marketing, these are the first steps that will get you on the right track:
- Think about how you want users to perceive your brand. In the Lean Cuisine example, they wanted to shy away from criticism that they were promoting unhealthy diet culture, so they took control of their own brand narrative to “shape” how users saw the intention behind their products. What brand story or qualities do you want to emphasize, strengthen, or change?
- Consider what’s doable for your brand. An enormous conference is possible for a decades-long, overwhelmingly popular video game series, but it’s unlikely to be for a smaller brand without the same resources of engagement. Consider cost, promotions, and consumer interest.
- Promote the experience in advance if at all possible. Have a dedicated landing page ready in advance, and plenty of social media posts explaining what you’re doing and how your followers can get involved.
Interested in learning more about how to help your brand stand out from the rest? Check out our marketing blog here.