These days, it is harder than ever to get and keep your audience’s attention with traditional marketing approaches. This is true even for more modern strategies that involve social media and digital advertising — consumers use ad blockers, “hide” ads from brands on their social media feeds, and even emails may be filtered out of your customers’ inboxes and placed into a separate “Promotions” folder.
Luckily, there is still a great way to attract attention and convert people to believers in your brand: Experiential marketing. Experiential marketing is any technique that focuses on creating an experience for the participant that evokes an emotion or reaction, making the experience memorable. Experiential invites audiences to interact with businesses in real-world situations, using participatory, hands-on experiences. The positive experience participants have with the brand makes them more likely to share their experience with friends, and also more likely to become customers. Experiential marketing includes multiple approaches such as experiential event marketing, brand activations, brand experiences, guerilla marketing, and pop-ups
One great thing about experiential marketing is that it doesn’t always require a huge budget and flashy event in order to be successful. It also works for both B2B and B2C brands. If you find yourself looking for inspiration for your next experiential marketing campaign, check out the 7 examples we’ve chosen to highlight below:
7 Awesome Experiential Marketing Campaigns
- Lean Cuisine #Weigh This
In 2015, Lean Cuisine made a huge impression on consumers everywhere by pivoting from an emphasis on dieting and weight loss. As part of this campaign, they created an experiential event in Grand Central Station in New York City. A professional sign painter in the middle of the station would write down the way in which people wanted to “weigh” themselves, apart from physical weight: “If you’re going to weigh something, weigh what matters.” Participants shared that they wanted to weighed by many things unrelated to body image: the amount of love they give their children, returning to college at age 55, and caring for 200 homeless children. The campaign took the emphasis away from Lean Cuisine’s products and placed the customers front and center. Not one participant interacted with a product – they never were asked to sample something, or stopped to answer questions. The emphasis was on the #WeighThis experience. Yet, the event was clearly associated with Lean Cuisine and a branded hashtag was featured in large text. The campaign was a resounding success, leading to over 204 million total impressions!
- Volkswagen Piano Staircase
For this campaign, Volkswagen decided to test out “the fun theory,” which proposes that people will change their behavior if there is an element of fun included. Volkswagen wanted to encourage environmentally friendly habits – in this case, taking the stairs rather than an escalator – and Volkswagen wanted to show that fun was the quickest way to modify behavior. In 2009, the auto company turned a regular subway staircase in Germany into a giant piano that actually played different keys as people walked up and down the staircase. As a result, 66% of people chose the stairs over the escalator! At first, it may seem odd for a car company to use musical stairs as a marketing tool — after all, there was no automotive element to the campaign. Similar to Lean Cuisine, Volkswagen chose to associate their brand with an emotion (here, having fun) to win over customers. The strategy worked because Volkswagen created a positive brand association, without requiring the involvement of their products.
- The Gatorade Combine
For SXSW 2017, Gatorade created their own version of the classic NFL combine, allowing participants to test their own athletic abilities. Combines are designed to assess rookie athletes before they enter professional leagues. To create an authentic combine experience, Gatorade partnered with other brands such as Xbox Kinect and Sparta Science to create jump stations, flexibility challenges, and reflex tests. The test results were accurate and offered data that participants could use to improve their real-world fitness, whether it be their workout or diets. The experience allowed consumers to feel like, true professional athletes, aligning them with the beverage company that is often associated with athletes and sports. Great experiential marketing, like this campaign, is not only entertaining but also provides something of actual value to the participant (in this case, data about their fitness).
- Budweiser Beer Garage
Another year, another SXSW example: This time, in 2016 Anheuser Busch created the Budweiser Beer Garage, a fully immersive experiential marketing campaign with a main attraction of a 4D virtual tour of Budweiser’s brewing plant. Budweiser used virtual reality headsets to allow participants to see and hear the brewery. When the tour “arrived” in the refrigerator, ice-cold air was blown into the room; heat was blasted when they entered the boiler room, and jars of hops were used to provide scent when they digitally “entered” the hops room. The Budweiser Garage also included a comfortable lounge and a bar with Budweiser on tap. By engaging all 5 senses, Budweiser provided a memorable, real-world experience that helped their customers gain a better understanding of their products and the brewing process.
- Google Impact Challenge
The tagline for Google’s Impact Challenge is “Let’s build the way to a better Bay,” referring to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Google’s headquarters are located. This is a great example of an experiential campaign that creates positive brand associations but isn’t trying to sell anything. In 2015, Google awarded 5.5 million dollars to 10 Bay Area nonprofits. Instead of awarding the grants themselves, Google let Bay Are citizens have a say in which causes should receive the most funds. Google set up interactive posters around San Francisco that functioned as public voting booths. Posters displayed all 10 nonprofits and the main cause each was trying to address. Participants pressed the one they thought was most important, the poster recorded their vote. Google launched the same program again in 2019. Past challenges have also gone international, with France, Australia, and Brazil some of the many countries involved.
- GE Healthymagination
This campaign shows that experiential is not limited to B2C brands — it is also effective for B2B companies to communicate about their products and services. GE’s Healthymagination initiative is focused on affordable and innovative healthcare. GE’s Healthymagination showcase was an event that illustrated how the brand’s technology helps people in developing countries. At the showcase, specially made “movie sets” were created to represent different healthcare environments, such as a rural clinic in Africa. Doctors gave presentations and told stories about how GE’s technology played a key role in these settings. This event was far more impactful than a standard presentation, and the educational approach provided greater value to potential clients than a solely sales-driven approach.
- Ikea’s Bath Boats
Here’s a recent example: in 2019, Ikea opened a new sustainable store in the Greenwich area of London. To promote the store opening, Ikea created two large boats made to look like the brand’s toy boat Smakryp model. The boats collected trash in London’s rivers, and the waste collected was upcycled into a sculpture displayed in the new store. To make the experience interactive, Ikea partnered with local organization Creekside Education Trust to provide an educational experience for local families. Families were able to sign up to “captain” the boat remotely and participate in removing debris from the Thames. With boats known collectively as “Good Ship Ikea,” the company demonstrated their commitment to playing a positive role in the community and highlighted an important cause, plastic pollution, all while offering a playful activity for children and families to enjoy together.
Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to launch your own experiential marketing campaign, you can’t do better than our industry experts! Call Pro Motion today at 636.449.3162.
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