• Eli Collins

What is Experiential Marketing and Why Might It Be Right For Your Company?

Marketing used to be about which brand could shout the loudest and the most frequently at its potential customers. People were inundated with brand messages (usually from print and digital marketing) on a daily basis. Eventually, when they had a need for a product or service, they would be likely to remember the company that had put their product in front of them the most often. But consumers are a lot more discerning today than they were forty years ago. What worked for the mega companies like Coca Cola and McDonald’s at their conception is less likely to work for the modern consumer. Not only do people have more choices today, but they also have much higher expectations for the brands they are loyal to. They are more informed and less likely to accept brands that don’t cater to their specific needs and desires. The also want to buy from companies that are aligned with their values and beliefs. This shift away from traditional media and marketing has left an opening for a new niche: experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing is a form of marketing that creates a brand experience for the customer. It allows the customer to not only be “marketed” to, but also to interact with a company with two-way communication and be a part of its brand evolution. This form of marketing creates a real, tangible brand experience. And since it is integrated into the customer’s day to day interactions, they are less likely to think of it as “advertising” in the same way they think of the thousands of ads plastered along Subway tunnels and street corners. If a person is at a city event and they are handed a free energy drink from an experiential marketer, they’re likely to drink it and decide whether or not to become a customer right in that moment. It could take months (or even years) for that same customer to decide to purchase the drink based solely on traditional marketing.

Experiential marketing takes a few different forms. One form, guerrilla marketing, aims to attract attention in a very visible and creative way. At first, you may not even recognize that you’re looking at a marketing campaign. The movie Superman Returns had a great guerrilla marketing campaign when they placed twisted telephone poles throughout busy city streets. The movie was advertised on the side of the pole, but before people noticed the signs, they noticed the twisted poles and had a visceral reaction. It was a great way to get people talking about the film’s upcoming release.

Another form of experiential marketing is event marketing. This can be done through in-store demonstrations of your product, handing out coupons outside of a major league baseball game, or hosting large community events. Red Bull does this exceptionally well with Flugtag, an annual event in which contestants build flying machines and launch them off a ramp into a river.  Whoever can “fly” the farthest wins. Red Bull’s brand is all about freedom, fun, and energy, which perfectly matches the excitement in the crowd at each event. And since their slogan is “Red Bull gives you wings,” the event reinforces the brand personality and improves the brand perception in a fun and memorable way.

Experiential marketing can also be done through digital campaigns as long as there is still a two way communication involved. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls campaign sets up booths at red carpet events and allows Twitter users to send real questions to celebrities. The activity happens digitally, but the interaction is genuine, inspirational, and highly effective at reinforcing the brand’s message that we need to ask women real questions on the red carpet, not just “Who are you wearing?”

How Your Company Can Benefit

The most effective way to connect with your customers is to build a brand connection by demonstrating that your brand mission, values, and personality are aligned with your customers’ beliefs. You want to demonstrate that your brand matches the type of life they want to live. Experiential marketing lets you do just that. For instance, if your company provides outdoor sports equipment, you can place a rock climbing wall in a public place. The wall would match your branding colors, and the surroundings (music, background, etc.) would match the type of life your clients want to experience. Later, when they are looking for outdoor sports equipment, not only will they remember your rock wall, but they’ll remember the rhythm of the music and the personality of the brand ambassadors at the event. They will be much more likely to purchase a product from you since they know your brand is aligned with their values and goals.

Experiential marketing is especially helpful for companies with complex or hard to explain products. If your product is superior to that of your competition, but you don’t have an effective way to communicate the benefits to your target market, then it’s likely they’ll never become customers. Though on-ground or in-store demonstrations, you can show off the actual usability of your product in a way that a billboard ad cannot do. The brand ambassadors at each event can connect with consumers, answer questions and act as advocates for your company mission.

Even though experiential marketing is highly effective, it’s still a relatively new and misunderstood marketing method. Odds are high that your competitors are either not using experiential marketing or they’re not taking full advantage of its potential. If you choose to engage in experiential marketing tactics, you’ll have a chance to meet potential customers in a relatively unoccupied marketing space in a highly memorable way.

Want to learn more about how experiential marketing can help your brand or agency client’s business flourish? Contact Modern Promos to schedule a meeting today. We’re the best agency to staff your experiential marketing events with trained brand ambassadors!

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