There’s a reason why Nascar is the number one spectator sport, and there’s a reason why people go to concerts.
We love the experience. The physical impact. Emotion and excitement. That’s what experiential marketing’s all about. It’s sexy.
But how does experiential marketing actually work?
Experiential Learning Theory says that people learn from an experience through either becoming a part of it or analyzing it.
By presenting someone with an experience, you’re giving them a choice. They must choose to participate or reflect. Their learning style determines their choice.
Everyone connects with an experience in some way. Experiential marketing gives people the chance to get to know your brand personally. It involves them. It lets them make a choice. By doing so, it gets at the deep-rooted essence of what it is to be a human being.
And now, thanks to social media and the digital world, experiential marketing can take on a whole new, huge dimension.
Experience it for yourself. Here are five ways to go big with experiential marketing and your digital marketing strategy:
1. Be visually appealing
The power of an incredible visual experience is intoxicating. Images can burn themselves into your brain and leave an indelible impression.
Take, for example, the portfolio from marketing and branding agency Base Creative. For Credit Suisse, Base Creative created and managed an event called “Conversations with the Innovators of the World”. The event used Edison’s lightbulb as motif.
The lightbulb is a symbol of the event’s identity.
Through the lightbulb and its association with discovery, and through the concept of innovation, Credit Suisse is linked visually and conceptually to innovation.
Elsewhere, Base Creative created and marketed the grand opening event for luxury retail group Harvey Nichols. The marketing portion included a pre-invitation, designed to appeal to the Harvey Nichols’ target audience.
The event included a brand video, interactive fashion exhibits, a 3D projection wall, and of course, cocktails.
Harvey Nichols used wings made from clothes hangers to represent the brand’s focus on fashionable clothing.
Key takeaways from this visual approach include:
- Identify the core of your brand – what it stands for, what it values
- Create a visual representation of what you stand for – use your symbol in combination with an event
- Identify a target audience for marketing the event
- Incorporate your branded symbol in the marketing
- Deliver a message of your company’s intent and value to attendees
Your mission is to throw an event that makes an awesome impression on attendees. This impression extends to your brand.
Corresponding digital action: live video feed via social media
There are multiple platforms on which to do this, including Twitter, Meerkat, and Periscope. And on Facebook, live video gets a ranking priority over other types of content (at least, that’s what Facebook says).
Since it’s far and away the biggest network, let’s concentrate on how to do this with Facebook:
- You’ll need an iOS or Android device
- Let people know ahead of time when you’ll be going live and what the event is
- To stream directly from your company page, tap to update your status and tap the Live icon
Image Source: Social Media Examiner
- Post a title or description of the event in the status update
- Select your audience – in this case, choose “Public”
- Tap “Go Live”
- Respond to comments and ask viewers what they think and what they want to see
Earlier I mentioned that you’ll want to let people know about the event on Facebook ahead of time. After the live feed, make sure Follow is enabled on your Facebook profile, so anyone can get updates on when you’re going to post future feeds.
2. Market the event
To really get your event out there, make your marketing a well-rounded campaign. Square has some valuable tips on how to market events:
- Use holidays and special occasions – get creative and look for occasions other businesses might ignore, such as the Summer Solstice or a TV show premiere
- Don’t forget physical signage and flyers
- Include local businesses – invite them, it will help build a sense of community and attract their customers; consider partnering with them for maximum effect
- Send emails – (see below)
- Get social – include teaser videos; have contests to win free tickets (use social media management tools to achieve maximum effect)
- Consider timing – give people plenty of advance notice
- Get contact info – build your email list and regular mailing list
- Follow–up with attendees – send thank-you emails, tag them with pictures on social media, make it personal
And of course, you’ll be contacting local publications – newspapers, cultural publications – well ahead of time to get the word out.
Corresponding digital action: email marketing
There are plenty of reasons to do email marketing, including:
- Marketers rank it best for awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention
- Emails are 6 times more likely than a tweet to get a click-through
- Email is 40 times better than Facebook and Twitter at customer acquisition
To market your event via email, consider this example from the Big Sea Breakfast Club:
Image Source: Campaign Monitor
From this example we learn:
- Make it visually appealing and elegantly simple
- Use a voice appropriate for your audience (in this case, “Tampa Bay area leaders”)
- Make it sound exclusive – even if your event isn’t invite-only, use verbiage such as ‘special occasion’ or ‘unique’ to set it off
- Deliver your message – be very clear about the value your event offers attendees
Email marketing can be very successful, but it’s important not to end up in the spam folder.
Here are some tips in that regard:
- Remove inactive subscribers from your email list
- Become a verified sender through email authentication
- Avoid SPAM trigger words
- Provide a relevant subject line
- Use SPAM testing platforms prior to sending emails
Experiential marketing isn’t just events. Now it’s time to look at just how interactive this can be.
3. Get interactive
Remember when Red Bull had a truck driving around target cities, offering free products?
iDAgency and Mountain Dew took that idea and drove with it for a 43-day ‘guerilla tour’ of the UK. The campaign targeted festivals, transport hubs and city centers.
Fifteen brand ambassadors drove around in a branded truck delivering samples. They hosted competitions and giveaways. One of the competitions was the ‘Bottle Boxing Boarding Challenge’, which gave participants the chance to win a branded T-shirt and their name atop a Facebook leader-board.
The ROI for the campaign was $2.47 for every $1.33 spent. 55% of the target audience ended up buying Mountain Dew, and the brand got a 1000% spike in Facebook timeline interactions.
From Mountain Dew’s Energy Tour, we learn to:
- Be disruptive – bring the experience directly to public places and involve your target audience
- Give people a taste – let people experience what you have to offer, and be there with them for the experience
- Be branded – every facet of the experience and the experiential team should showcase the brand
- Include games and competitions
- Have product on hand to sell
Your interactive experience won’t be complete without social media.
Corresponding digital action: comprehensive social campaign
You’ll want to fire on all social cylinders with this.
- Create a Facebook event with the dates and locations of stops
- Post live streaming videos of the experience on Facebook, Twitter, Meerkat, and Periscope
- Post edited videos on Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, and Tumblr
- Create a hashtag for the experience
- Create experience-dedicated pages on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
- Create a special page to showcase competitions
- Make regular posts at each stop, including pictures
- Get video testimonials
- Tag users who engage, thank them, follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, connect on LinkedIn, etc
This is oh-so-important. Social media is how experiential marketing campaigns get huge.
If people participate, they’re likely to share the experience on social media. Give them a way to access your brand experience throughout the campaign on as many channels as you can manage.
4. Think differently
Danish brewer Carlsberg knew exactly how to engage its audience with this campaign: let the people drink free beer.
The ‘give them samples’ idea is nothing new. But Carlsberg thought differently, and thought big, by tapping a gigantic poster to serve up pints to passersby (with an ID, of course). Londoners were able to engage directly with the brand and its product on the street level.
Note how Carlsberg takes a risk: the most prominent things here are the slogan and the beer tap. This lets the beer speak for itself. It doesn’t shove the Carlsberg brand name in people’s faces.
Media giant The Guardian took note, and the YouTube video has received nearly 185 thousand views.
Corresponding digital action: blog with visual content and customer testimonials
Experiences are fantastic for generating visual content. They’re also great for generating blog content:
- Blog 2-3 times a week about interactions with people during the campaign
- Ask folks if you can snap a picture during your interactions with them
- Solicit testimonials – quick question-and-answer sessions about their perception of the experience
- Post pictures and testimonials on the blog along with your own running commentary
Through photos, customer commentary, and your own thoughts, your blog will effectively deliver a powerful narrative.
5. Use technology
Market Force recommends using cameras and beacons to understand customer experience. Video footage will do the following:
- Tell you how many people are engaging with the experience
- Tell you how people are reacting to certain aspects of the experience
- Allow you to compare conversion numbers with engagement numbers
- Give you plenty of material for social media and blog posts
Create an app for the experience. Beacons, in combination with an app, will accomplish the following:
- Let you know dwell times – how long people remain
- Allow people to ‘check in’ to the experience on the app
- If it’s a mobile experience, like the Mountain Dew truck, people will be able to track location
It can oftentimes be tough to gauge ROI with experiential marketing. By using cameras, an app, and beacons, you can get important information to compare with subsequent conversion rates.
Create a survey to go with the app. That way, you’ll know how long people wanted to hang around, and what they thought about the experience.
Another option with technology is the Virtual Reality experience. Anheuser Busch did a fine job of this at the most recent SXSW:
The immersive Virtual Reality experience teaches us to do the following:
- Give the participant a ‘virtual tour’ of the most fascinating part of what you do
- Setup the VR experience at a high-traffic event, such as a festival (there are thousands to apply to each year)
- Get creative – think of multi-sensory ways for the user to participate
The great thing is that many festivals are including tech showcases. If you’re in a tech niche a festival is a great place to showcase what you do with a live presentation or movie.
Corresponding digital action: everything!
Do all the forms of digital marketing I’ve been discussing. Live streaming video, social media campaigns, edited videos, email, blogging – it’s all game.
With a combination of physical experience and digital marketing, your campaign will be a smashing success.
Guest Author: Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer and musician from America’s Northwest. His passions are writing, creativity, and humor. He specializes in writing about company culture, marketing, and tech, with a sprinkle of anything super-interesting in the world right now. Please find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.