Experiential event marketing, or creating unique, in-person branded experiences, has become a popular marketing strategy in recent years. The hard numbers back up the perceived popularity of experiential. According to Bizzabo,* the average chief marketing officer allocates 24% of their budget to live events. The majority of event marketers plan to invest 63% more into live events, including budget and number of events. And experiential marketing has benefits beyond the duration of the event itself — 98% of consumers attending an event create and share social content with their network.
With 79% of brands planning to execute more experiential programs in the coming year, it is increasingly important to execute an exceptional experiential campaign. Luckily, psychological science provides insights that will help your brand excel at experiential marketing.
Using events to “learn by doing”
The basic principle behind experiential marketing is David Kolb’s theory of experiential learning. Kolb proposed that “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (1984, p. 38).** Experiential learning can be broken up into 4 stages:
- Concrete experience. Concrete experience involves providing your audience with an opportunity to “learn by doing.”
- Reflective observation. Reflection, or consumers remembering and thinking about your brand after the experience, can be encouraged by providing branded freebies and following up over email or social media.
- Abstract conceptualization. Consumers associate your brand with an unrelated concept .
- Active experimentation. Consumers purchase and use your product outside of the original context (the event).
Pro Motion provided an opportunity for experiential learning with KaBOOM! and Target Play Everywhere Tour. Attendees experienced and learned about KaBOOM! at one-day family events in 4 cities. They were encouraged to consider the brand after the event by being provided freebies, including Target gift cards. The event allowed audiences to connect the two brands to local public parks and family playtime. After a positive experience at the tour, families likely used these gift cards and had a positive impression of the Target brand!
Wanting to return the favor
Reciprocity is the idea that when someone does something nice for you, you have the urge to do something nice in return. This can be as simple as feeling compelled to return a compliment when someone compliments you. A simple way to tap into reciprocity is to offer something of value to your audience at events. We have written previously about the psychology behind offering “free stuff” at events. When people receive something for free from you, they’re more likely to feel like they should try to make it up to you somehow – for example, by buying your products.
Providing something of value can go beyond offering freebies and samples. A unique example of providing giveaways to consumers was the Pro Motion street team activation for Energizer’s Energi to Go device. The street team provided power to attendees at events such as Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and other places consumers needed to charge their phones and lacked access to a power source. The street team engaged with over 125,000 consumers at these events, and charged 100,000 devices!
Capitalizing on social proof
Attracting consumers by providing something of value, such as giveaways, has the added benefit of tapping into social proof. Social proof is the theory that individuals will conform in order to be similar to and accepted by their community. A large crowd at your event suggests that others like your product and see your brand as trustworthy and credible. As a bonus, customers who are aware of the presence of others at a sampling station may feel a level of social pressure to make a purchase.
Social proof can also be incorporated into events by including influential testimonials, or by using technology such as a tweet wall showing social engagement with your event. Basically, your goal is to make consumers feel like they are joining a wider social sphere by engaging with your experience.
The importance of in-person interactions
The propinquity effect is a psychological phenomenon where the more often we interact with a person, the more likely we are to form friendships with them. In other words, think back to how your friends in school and college were probably the people who lived in your dorm or had the same classes. The application to marketing is that the more consumers engage with your brand, across different settings and times, the more they form positive connections to your brand.
Experiential marketing increases the chances of forming a “lifelong friend” in a customer, due to face-to-face interactions and positive experiences with spokespeople. Hiring excellent brand ambassadors is especially important for creating lasting positive impressions on your audience. Read more for tips on staffing quality brand ambassadors and street teams.
Starting small to get big returns
Finally, the foot in the door theory states that by initially agreeing to a smaller request, someone will be more likely to say “yes” to a bigger ask in the future. Start with a simple positive interaction: Even getting a consumer to approach your event is an example of that first “yes,” an agreement to interact with your brand. Your audience may agree to small asks, like providing their email address or following the brand on social in order to receive a free sample. The foot in the door theory states that these individuals will be more likely to purchase your product in the future!
Is your brand ready to use the power of science to create exceptional experiential campaigns? Pro Motion is here to help! Want to chat with one of our experts? Give Steve a call at 636.4493163
** Kolb, David A. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.