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The Complete Guide to Experiential Marketing in 2020

By March 12, 2020 April 9th, 2020 No Comments

The Complete Guide to Experiential Marketing in 2020

What is the difference between viewing a sports game via live streaming and watching it in the stadium? Why do we choose to go to live concerts when we can listen to the music we like at home? 

We do it to get a powerful, unique, and memorable experience. Participating allows you to be a part of something, which is viscerally different from just witnessing an experience via technology. Marketers around the world have recognized the power of experience and how harnessing it can be very beneficial to their B2C or B2B brands. 

Experiential marketing creates a long-lasting impression that strengthens a brand’s relationship with consumers. However, it’s something that cannot be achieved through traditional marketing methods. 

If you are eager to jump on the experiential marketing bandwagon, you will need to understand what experiential marketing is, how your brand can benefit from it, and how you can integrate it into your marketing strategy. For that purpose, Pro Motion has created a handy and ultimate guide to experiential marketing where we will cover everything you need to know to make it work for you.

What is Experiential Marketing?

Experiential marketing (also known as experience marketing) is a similar approach that brands already use when crafting their event experience. It is about immersing consumers in engaging live experiences. Also known as engagement marketing, the name itself suggests – is a type of marketing that involves creating live experiences that can leave an impression, compel, and intrigue consumers. Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, which include one-way communication, experiential marketing is all about two-way interaction where consumers actively participate in the experience a brand has created for them. The primary goal for experiential marketing is to delight and surprise audiences with a unique and positive brand experience (instead of just pushing a product).  We call it creating the “A-ha Moment”.

As the years go by, people are becoming more and more cynical about brands. They are picky and carefully choose brands they will be loyal to and support. Also, they use ad-blocker extensions on their devices because they’ve grown tired of all the ads that pop up on their screens. This has brands struggling for attention to remain meaningful and relevant in the market, and many of them realize that they need to re-think their marketing strategies. Instead of traditional ads, B2C consumers want experiences and also customers in a B2B environment.

According to research done by the Harris Group research firm and Eventbrite, 55% of Millennials (people aged 18-34) say they spend more on live experiences and events than ever before, and 78% of them say they would rather spend money on experiences than buy something desirable. The Walker Group study has shown that customer experience beats product and price to become the most important differentiation of a brand. As for brands, Agency EA’s study says that 87% of brand marketers invest in experiences to emotionally connect with their consumers, which is a 30% increase from 2018. 

Red Bull is one of the best-known brands in the world, and it stays ahead of the game by spending only 20% of their marketing resources on traditional marketing. The rest goes to experiential campaigns, sponsorship, and content creation and diffusion. They’ve always been associated with bold and risk-taking actions – we all remember Felix Baumgartner (professional skydiver) for setting the world record for the highest parachute jump. Red Bull sets a precedent in experiential marketing by sponsoring athletes in sports that weren’t mainstream at the time (motocross, snowboarding, BMX, etc.) and starting great event marketing and media campaigns with these athletes as their main attraction. They have never made conservative moves and managed to change experiential marketing forever.

There are countless examples of using experiential marketing in the B2C field, but B2B companies can also rely on its potential. For example, manufacturers, software companies, health care, biotech and so many other industries are seeing the value of mobile vehicle tours or mobile sales centers where brands bring their products or services directly to their customers instead of doing a trade show where customers have to come to them.

What are the Benefits of Experiential Marketing?

No marketing technique can compare to experiential marketing, and the long-lasting and unique benefits it can bring to the table. B2C and B2B brands don’t just use it for driving awareness and trial of a product, but to let their target audiences see, feel and experience how it can enhance their lives. They effectively create an association between their brand and those positive vibes. Also, the first instinct is to think that experiential marketing is employed just by B2C brands, but the B2B world may just be the fastest growing segment in the experiential marketing industry. 

The benefits of experiential marketing include:

Improved brand awareness

Traditional ads cannot help consumers become aware of your brand on such a deep level like experiential marketing can. In today’s crowded market, experiential marketing allows brands to stand out by breaking from the ordinary. People pay attention to things that are different, and launching a bold and creative experiential marketing initiative helps you get the attention of your consumers as well as of influencers and media.

Word-of-mouth marketing

What do we typically do after having an amazing experience? We tell others about it! People who have a good time and like the experience will voluntarily share it with their peers, both in-person and online, becoming brand ambassadors. Taking photos and recording videos of enjoyable experiences is a normal thing to do, and most people share the content on social media. As a brand, you get user-generated content as well as word-of-mouth advertising.

User-generated content

According to recent studies, about 85% of consumers find user-generated content more influential than brand content. UGC will remain among top content marketing trends because it allows brands to create more content with fewer resources and because consumers trust it more than traditional ads. Experiential marketing has proven effective in driving organic content generation because consumers get a memorable experience that they can record and share. 

Authentic relationship with consumers

Millennials are known for wanting enriching experiences more than material possessions. Also, they don’t trust traditional advertising and media, which puts experiential marketing as the perfect marketing method that will help brands deepen the connections with their audience.

Increased brand loyalty

Since we realized that customers want experiences more than physical products, unique experiences are crucial to ensuring they keep coming back to your brand. In other words, if you want to make your customers loyal, you can do it by giving them the experience worth remembering and repeating. According to a 2018 survey, 85% of consumers said they’re more likely to buy a product or service after attending a live event or experience, while 91% of them say their feelings about a brand are more positive after a live event.

What are the Types of Experiential Marketing Strategies (B2C)?

Because of its elasticity, experiential marketing has brought us some of the most creative and exciting live experiences. With a few innovative ideas and creativity, you can create a campaign where you will get consumers engaged, active, and only receiving your marketing messages. This kind of experiential activation can be tailored to fit every business and budget because it comes in various forms, shapes, and sizes. Let’s take a look at a few essential experiential marketing formats to help you find the most appropriate for your business.

Sampling

“Try before you buy” has been around since the very beginning of retail. Humans get direct experience with a product or service and know what to expect when they buy it. Whether it is a free product sampling at a trade show or a street team with a free product sample at a local concert event, or even a demo of a new lawn and garden tool, people will get excited.  And, sampling pays out big time! Club stores like Costco and SAM’s are the best retailers when it comes to sampling. Who doesn’t like a stroll through SAM’s on a Saturday afternoon and get the opportunity to sample lots of great food?

Guerilla marketing

Also known as ambush marketing, guerrilla marketing got its name after guerilla warfare – a type of irregular warfare fought between smaller groups of people using military tactics and a traditional military. In guerilla marketing, brands use unconventional tactics and rely on the element of surprise (raids and ambushes) to reach their consumers. Forms of guerilla marketing include street art, posters, flyers, art installations, logos, and stencils. For example, the Casino of Venice (Italy) painted a baggage claim conveyor belt to look like a huge roulette wheel, and visits to their casino increased by 60%.

Mobile vehicle tour

Another way to engage your consumers is to create a meaningful experience around your brand and load it up and take it on tour.  Mobile vehicle tours are a great way to immerse your consumer into your brand’s story with the flexibility to go nationwide or regionally.  Mobile vehicle tours are also called roadshows, product roadshows and mobile roadshows. Mobile roadshows can go to fairs, festivals, music events, sporting events, retail or wherever your consumer would be open to the experience.  

Stunt marketing

When done right, a marketing stunt turns into a living and breathing moment for your brand, becoming a temporary proof of what your brand believes and does. Stunt marketing is a type of experiential marketing that’s subtly different from guerilla marketing. While guerilla marketing aims to create an original experience that evokes emotion and increases brand awareness, the goal of stunt marketing is to attract attention and generate a buzz. It’s about staging a bold activation in public to grab media attention, communicate your brand’s message, or introduce a new product quickly.

Street Teams

A street team is comprised of people who understand a company’s product and are skilled brand ambassadors. Perfect for engaging consumers where they live, work, play and shop.  When you have professionals like these at your disposal, you should provide them everything they need to act as your most effective consumer outreach. They are an excellent way to engage your clients face-to-face. Most of the time, street teams are always in motion going directly to consumers and engaging with them.  Sometimes on bikes or mopeds, sometimes pushing cool product carts or even with a shoulder bag full of great samples. Thanks to a street team, your product sampling strategies will get immediate valuable feedback from your consumers.  

Photo marketing

The power of visuals in marketing has never been higher than it is today. Even in the past, beautiful and compelling photography played a central role in marketing because it commands the attention of customers. Our brains process images 600,000x faster than text, and since we live in the age of smartphones and selfies – photo marketing is absolutely essential to brands. 

One of the easiest ways to immerse consumers of your brand is through experiential photo marketing. For example, you can create a memorable brand experience using photo booths. People use them when they are feeling and looking their best, so set up a photo booth at an event, installation, or your premises where customers can take photographs with interesting filters or props and watch them share their experience on social media.

Pop-up activations

Pop-ups are temporary stores (also known as guerilla stores) that can generate instant excitement and buzz. Since 2004, when they started gaining in popularity, brands began staging pop-ups everywhere, from inside other stores, to empty storefronts, to airports. Brands use them to attract the attention of a new demographic or test new products on a small scale.

However, pop-ups have become so ubiquitous that brands need to combine it with a unique experience in order to stand out and get noticed. Back in 2016, Bark & Co set up a pop-up shop in Manhattan and invited dog owners to bring their pets to try out their dog toys in person. They tracked the toys that each dog played with the most by fitting the pet with an RFID-enabled vest. Their owners could see and purchase their dogs’ favorite toys from the event’s custom mobile app.

Event marketing

Event marketing often gets confused with experiential event marketing. Event marketing refers to the promotion of a brand, product, or service by developing a themed presentation, display, or exhibit to leverage in-person engagement. But the difference between event and experiential marketing lies in the very nature of the experience of the consumers. In other words, not all live events are experiential. It becomes experiential when infused with sensory engagement, authentic storytelling, emotional impact, personal interaction, and the ability to share the experience (the five elements of experiential marketing). 

One of the best experiential marketing examples of a well-executed experiential campaign is Budweiser’s 2018 “Light Up the FIFA World Cup” campaign, which was activated in a football stadium. The campaign involved interactive digital campaigns, drones, and the Red Light Cup (which was the most interesting element of the campaign). Their campaign featured millions of noise-activated drinking cups that light up whenever the level of clapping and cheering increases during football matches. That made for a highly visually engaging spectacle. 

Besides that, Budweiser also hosted viewing events and parties across the world that included post-match DJ sets, street food, and cold brews. By providing people with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to interact with the brand, the campaign resulted in the successful engagement of millions of people and lots of social sharing.

How Can B2B Companies Employ Experiential Marketing?

B2C experiential marketing relies on the excitement of a challenge, tactile hands-on demonstrations, memorable surprises, and other ways to make an emotional appeal. With the B2B industry, this is becoming more and more true too.  B2B experiences are even beginning to embrace technology like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and creating an emotional connection with their B2B customers like the B2C world has been doing for years. B2B experiences are becoming more and more creative and immersive in the same way brands have been attracting consumers for years. 

Trade shows

At trade shows, in order to stand out in this very crowded marketplace, B2B companies must provide integrated and creative hands-on engagements and sampling to the right decision-makers. With competition on the trade show floor being so competitive, if you just set up a booth with a table and some product displays the way marketers have done for years, you will be missing a huge opportunity to generate a long-lasting impression that will live well beyond the trade show event.

B2B mobile roadshows

You may have heard some people say that trade shows are dead and that they have been replaced by mobile roadshows. We don’t think that trade shows are going anywhere soon, but mobile roadshows or mobile trade show tours are definitely becoming a go-to strategy for many B2B industries. They basically function as reverse-trade shows where the B2B company is the one visiting clients and there are no competitors in sight (unlike at trade shows). Roadshows are an essential element of B2B sales because they help companies place products directly in front of the decision-makers and their support teams too. Because you are able to get all the decision makers and influencers experiencing a product at the same time, it speeds up the decision-making process and fosters loyalty after sale. If your clients cannot attend an event, then bring the event to them. This experiential marketing strategy often drives more ROI than other types of experiential marketing because you can experience the sales cycle in real time.  This strategy is also sometimes called a mobile sales center or a mobile trade show.

Conferences

A conference is a platform for your brand to engage with industry leaders, educators, and influencers. It can offer many opportunities for pop-up marketing, guerilla marketing, sponsorships, and speaking engagements.  Conferences are a high touch opportunity and many large tech brands see a lot of success with user based conferences. Before you decide to create your own conference, find a good conference/event company who has lots of experience because there are more moving parts than with most B2B events.

What are the 5 Elements of a Successful Experiential Marketing Campaign?

After creating hundreds of successful experiential marketing campaigns over the past 25 years, we have identified several components that we find indispensable in a winning strategy. 

  1. Sensory engagement. If you can create an experience that will stimulate all five senses of your consumers (colorful visuals, pleasant ambient scents, and the right music to set the mood), they will find the experience captivating and enticing. Brands with edible products can create great taste experiences, while research says that touch has the capacity to alter consumer perceptions positively.
  2. Authentic storytelling. This is a crucial component of any type of marketing campaign – an engaging and authentic story helps people understand your branded message and brand values. Stories appeal to consumers emotionally and help create stronger personal connections. With experiential marketing activations, brands can take the understanding of their story to another level by bringing it to life (in 3D) and immersing customers into their brand story.
  3. Emotional impact. People’s loyalty to a brand and purchasing decisions are largely driven by emotion. They often appreciate brand values and put that before product attributes and features. That’s why people tend to buy brand-name products over other (generic) products with almost identical functions, components, and style.
  4. Personal interaction. In experiential marketing events, having personal interactions with your consumers is critical. Having conversations with customers fosters emotional connection and helps build trust. Listen carefully to their feedback and pain points, and find out more about them. From their standpoint, they will engage with your brand in a hands-on manner.
  5. Sharing the experience. During the event, take photos and videos, and use that material to reignite positive emotion in attendees as well as show those who couldn’t attend what they missed. Give your customers something they can share, like, and comment on, and ask the attendees to use your branded hashtag when sharing visuals that they recorded themselves.

How to Measure the ROI of an Experiential Marketing Campaign

In traditional marketing campaigns, customers react afterward, either through detailed feedback or a purchase. Experiential campaigns, on the other hand, collect real-time feedback by observing reactions to different variables and by having one to one live conversations. The staff is there with the customers, guiding them through the event, which is a personal touch that amplifies the customers’ experience. Enthusiastic chatter, laughter, smiles, and crowds can indicate an effective campaign, but it’s the data that can’t be measured easily.

In other words, traditional marketing and experiential marketing campaigns are entirely different beasts. To measure the ROI and gauge the true value of your experiential campaign, you need to measure them using different metrics than you would use in traditional marketing. Deciding what to track is important to gauge success when the ROI boils down to experiences.

Set your goals. The goals of your experiential marketing campaign may include – increase brand awareness, brand sentiment and social engagement, building relationships, creating memories you can reinforce later, heightened product interaction, and lead generation. Be as specific as you can when defining your experiential marketing goals to reap the best results and have them in place before your program launches. For example, if you want to increase social engagement and see a particular number of photos of the event shared, you will understand that your staff should find a way to encourage consumers to take photos and share them.

Establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). When you define your campaign goals, it is essential to establish KPIs for each one of them. Some KPIs are difficult to measure, such as gauging how well your customer relationships were built. Others can be measured easily, such as the number of leads or email addresses captured.

Unlike digital marketing (which uses online methods to engage their consumers), experiential marketing involves engaging them in a live setting that encourages interaction with the brand directly. We can only conclude that B2C and B2B brands that invest in creating experiential campaigns with immersive experiences for their consumers are the ones with the most chance of succeeding. 

Keep track of the marketing news within your industry, find the best examples of experiential marketing, and get inspiration to create your own experiential marketing strategy. With some innovative ideas and the right execution, you can apply this technique to run a successful campaign and drive awareness of your brand.            

Want to work directly with an accomplished experiential marketing agency with 25 years of experience? Pro Motion is an industry leader in creating engaging, effective campaigns. Give us a call at 636.449.3162.

Learn More About Experiential Marketing from PMI President Steve Randazzo in his book Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!