With the rise of digital marketing, experiential tactics provide a unique way for brands to stand out from the online noise and connect with consumers on a personal level.
For event marketers, experiential marketing opens up countless creative possibilities.
From pop-up shops to large-scale festivals, events provide the perfect vehicle for delivering immersive brand experiences.
By thinking outside the box, event marketers can craft memorable happenings that attendees will rave about long after the event is over.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about planning successful experiential marketing events.
You’ll learn what experiential marketing is, why it’s so effective, and how you can use it to meet your event goals.
We’ll also walk through the key elements and strategies for pulling off a buzzworthy experiential activation from start to finish.
Follow our tips and you’ll be on your way to creating the type of events that consumers can’t stop talking about. Let’s dive in!
What is Experiential Marketing?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of planning, let’s start with the basics – what exactly is experiential marketing?
Experiential marketing is a form of advertising that engages consumers by giving them the opportunity to interact directly with a brand, product or service.
The goal is to create a memorable brand experience that forges lasting emotional connections with consumers.
Other names for experiential marketing include:
- Event marketing
- Live marketing
- Participatory marketing
- Engagement marketing
- Immersive marketing
- Experiential advertising
- Experiential PR
No matter what you call it, the purpose is the same.
Experiential marketing aims to build relationships with consumers by staging unique, branded interactions that people can see, touch, hear, feel and engage with.
These experiences can take many forms, but typically experiential marketing involves:
- Interactive brand installations or exhibits
- Pop-up shops, restaurants or displays
- Product sampling opportunities
- Guerrilla marketing stunts
- Event sponsorships or brand activations
- Immersive, multi-sensory experiences
- Virtual or augmented reality interactions
The goal with any experiential marketing program is to immerse consumers within a branded environment in an engaging, memorable way.
Rather than pushing a sales agenda, the focus is on letting people interact with the brand on their own terms.
Done right, experiential marketing delivers immense benefits for brands including:
- Increased brand awareness & visibility
- Positive brand associations & affinity
- Enhanced consumer loyalty
- Brand interaction opportunities
- Direct consumer engagement
- User-generated content & social buzz
- First-hand data collection
In many cases, experiential marketing also provides instant gratification opportunities for consumers.
This could mean anything from receiving free giveaway items to enjoying fun entertainment or exclusive access to something desirable.
With so many benefits tied to experiential marketing, it’s no wonder this strategy is growing increasingly popular.
So how can event marketers capitalize on this trend?
The great news is events naturally lend themselves to experiential activations.
As an event pro, you have the perfect platform to dream up immersive experiences that will wow attendees and leave a lasting impact.
Why is Experiential Marketing So Effective?
What makes experiential marketing so much more effective than traditional ads or digital marketing?
There are several key reasons this strategy works so well:
It’s personal – Experiential marketing removes the barriers between brands and consumers, allowing for direct, one-on-one interactions. This personal approach helps brands forge emotional connections with consumers.
It’s tangible – Unlike ads, experiential marketing allows consumers to physically engage with your brand. Experiences are tangible and memorable.
It’s shareable – Experiential marketing fuels social sharing and word-of-mouth buzz. Consumers naturally want to talk about interesting experiences.
It’s immersive – By immersing consumers within branded environments, experiential marketing makes a big impact. It’s a sensory, interactive experience.
It’s targeted – Events allow brands to directly engage with their core target audience. The right consumers receive the right messaging.
It’s trackable – Experiential marketing makes it easy to collect consumer data and measure campaign success from impressions to sales impact.
It’s flexible – This strategy is endlessly customizable to suit brands of all kinds, big or small. The possibilities are limitless.
It builds loyalty – By focusing on connections over promotion, experiential marketing improves brand sentiment and drives loyalty.
It boosts reach – With consumers and influencers sharing experiences online, it expands brand exposure beyond just event attendees.
It drives sales – Experiential marketing gives brands the chance to put products directly in front of consumers to drive on-site or post-event sales.
Thanks to these inherent advantages, an experiential marketing strategy can take your events to the next level when it comes to reaching business goals.
You’ll boost brand exposure, interact with your target market, inspire social conversations, and have data to back up your event marketing ROI.
Developing a Successful Experiential Marketing Strategy
Now that you know what experiential marketing entails, let’s talk about how to develop an effective strategy.
Follow these steps.
1. Define your goals
Like any marketing effort, you need to start by defining what you want to achieve. Potential experiential marketing goals include:
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate leads
- Educate consumers
- Launch a new product
- Promote a special offer
- Boost social engagement
- Collect consumer data
- Drive event attendance
- Encourage product trials
- Improve brand sentiment
- Inspire online buzz & conversations
- Sell more products on-site
Get clear on your priority goals so you can craft experiences tailored towards those aims.
Align goals with your overall marketing and brand objectives.
2. Identify your target audience
Once you know your goals, get ultra-specific on who you need to reach.
Define your target demographic and psychographic attributes.
Also determine your existing brand advocates – those already familiar with your company.
Crafting personas for each audience segment will help inform your experiential plans.
Know who you want to attract and what matters most to those consumers.
3. Choose your experience
This is where you brainstorm the types of experiences that will resonate most with your goals and audience.
Consider your brand identity, products, budget and other factors as you ideate.
Pick something unique that will capture attention and play to what makes your brand special.
The experience should align seamlessly with your brand story and image.
4. Plan the logistics
Now it’s time to map out the nitty gritty details of your experience. Consider key elements like:
- Overall theme & design aesthetics
- Specific activities & levels of interaction
- Technology needed
- Venue requirements
- Staffing roles & training
- Rules for engagement
- Entertainment features or special guests
- Food & beverage ideas
- Merchandise or giveaway items
- Length of activation & timing
Script out exactly what you want attendees to see, hear, taste, touch, feel and do at each step of the experience.
5. Promote & amplify
Don’t keep your experience under wraps – get the word out!
Promote through channels like social media, email, influencer marketing, paid ads, website, PR and more.
Create anticipation and excitement leading up to the event.
Provide teasers and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks. Enlist influencers and media to help tell your story.
6. Execute flawlessly
Pull out all the stops when go-time arrives!
Have an on-site team ready to manage the activation and engage with consumers.
Document the experience through photos, videos and consumer testimonials.
Be prepared for anything and have protocols in place to quickly address issues.
With thorough preparation and training, you’ll wow attendees!
7. Measure & optimize
Post-event, analyze key metrics tied to your goals like brand lift, online buzz, lead gen and sales.
Survey consumers for feedback.
Identify what worked well and where improvements could be made for future events.
Continually refine your experiential strategy based on data insights and lessons learned.
The more events you run, the more skilled you’ll become at delighting your audience!
Creative Experiential Marketing Ideas & Examples
Now for the really fun part – coming up with innovative experiential marketing ideas!
The possibilities are endless, but here are some awesome examples to spark your creative genius:
Immersive Brand Environments
Transport consumers into a branded world where they can explore products and interact with your brand on a sensory level.
Famous examples include the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam and Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Temporary retail experiences are a hot trend right now.
Pop-up shops allow brands to introduce new products, test markets or generate hype around launches.
See how Target executes pop-up shops at festivals or events.
Samples allow consumers to try before they buy.
Get your product directly into people’s hands so they can experience the benefits first-hand.
Sampling works for food brands like Costco or consumer goods like P&G.
Known as wild postings or ambush marketing, this tactic turns public spaces into a stage for your brand.
Think flash mobs, 3D chalk art on sidewalks or experiential signage around cities.
Deploy brand ambassadors at events or busy public areas.
Have them engage with consumers, answer questions, provide samples or demos, and create buzz around your brand.
Secure a sponsorship for a local event or festival.
Then set up an on-site booth, lounge or experiential environment to promote your brand to attendees.
Link your brand to something consumers are passionate about.
These unauthorized marketing tactics aim to surprise consumers and get conversations going.
Executed right, guerrilla marketing generates viral buzz.
Think T-Mobile‘s flash mob concerts.
Experiential Gifting Lounges
Host a private lounge where influencers can receive free products or experiential gifts.
They’ll share the experience with followers, driving awareness and interest.
Brands often leverage gifting suites at major awards shows or events.
Influencer Marketing Activations
Work with social influencers to co-create branded experiences centered around your products.
Their credibility sways consumer opinions.
Multi-City Brand Tours
Take your activation on the road!
Tour through different cities to reach more consumers and generate hype at each stop along the way.
Team up with another brand that shares similar values for a co-branded pop-up or experience.
It lets you tap into a wider audience and pool resources.
Consumer Contests & Sweepstakes
Run contests for chances to win cool prizes or exclusive brand access and experiences.
Contests build buzz while collecting consumer data.
Combine digital elements with live experiences using hybrid event tech. This allows more consumers to participate remotely.
The key is crafting experiences that feel fresh and reflect your brand’s unique personality.
Know your audience, get creative with ideas, and incorporate interactive, shareable elements and you’ll be primed for experiential marketing success!
Bringing Your Experiential Activation to Life
You have the strategy defined. You know what experience you want to create.
Now it’s time to actually bring your experiential activation to life in a memorable way.
Try these tips.
Pick the Right Venue or Space
Your venue will set the entire vibe and flow for the experience.
Think through factors like:
- Size – Will it accommodate your expected number of consumers?
- Location – Is it easily accessible for your target demographic?
- Amenities – Does it have the facilities you need? Electricity, WiFi, equipment, restrooms, etc.
- Ambiance – Does it align with your brand? Will it enhance the experience?
- Budget – Can you afford the rental fees?
- Permits & Legalities – Are you allowed to execute your activation at this venue?
- Logistics – Load in/out access, parking, staff areas, etc.
Take your time scouting to find the perfect experiential venue.
Be creative – it doesn’t have to be a traditional event space.
Brands have taken over airports, museums, hotels, outdoor urban spaces and more!
Design an Immersive Environment
Visually bring your experience to life through enticing design and decor.
- Use concept colors that tie back to your brand or products
- Incorporate branded props, signage, furniture or fixtures
- Display imagery, branding or logos on walls or floors
- Add lighting elements to set a mood
- Use materials that engage multiple senses – soft textures, scents, etc.
- Craft designated spaces for different experience zones or activities
- Allow for selfie-worthy Instagrammable photo ops!
Every detail should reinforce your brand story and transport consumers into your world.
Make it Interactive
Participation is key!
Come up with ways for consumers to get hands on:
- Product demos and trials
- Create-your-own product stations
- Quizzes, contests or challenges
- Surveys, opinion boards or voting stations
- AR/VR experiences
- Photo booths or video share stations
- Customization activities
- Games, simulations or virtual reality
- Live product or brand experts on site
The more interactive touchpoints, the more consumers will actively engage rather than passively observe.
Create Shareable Moments
Build in moments made for social media:
- Fun photo ops with vibrant backdrops or props
- Unique shareable merchandise or giveaways
- Hashtag signs or neon light art
- Unexpected surprises that wow consumers
- Emotional brand stories consumers connect with
- Crave-worthy food or drinks
- Celebrity or influencer appearances
Satisfying, joyful moments inspire attendees to capture and share online – extending your brand exposure.
Hire an Energetic Staff
Your staff will make or break the experience!
Recruit people who:
- Are outgoing, friendly and eager to engage
- Feel passionate about your brand
- Can answer consumer questions
- Are trained on rules and event flow
- Can handle problems quickly and smoothly
- Are easily identifiable via uniform shirts
- Create a welcoming vibe
From parking attendants to brand ambassadors, thoroughly train your staff to deliver 5-star service.
Promote & Document Extensively
Don’t keep your activation secret – amplify exposure!
- Promote across all brand channels, plus PR and influencer partners
- Create video trailers or teasers
- Post real-time updates during the event
- Run contests for free entry or merchandise
- Document through professional photos and videos
- Collect UGC from consumers to repost
- Send follow-up surveys to participants
Before, during and after – maximize buzz at each stage.
Provide Value for Attendees
Focus on creating value vs. overt selling:
- Offer free food, drinks, gifts, or entertainment
- Create exclusive experiences
- Curate inspiration or education
- Introduce new products first
- Offer limited merch, discounts or trials
- Supply convenient amenities – charging, relaxation lounge, etc.
- Feature contests, prizes or sweepstakes
- Collect data for future personalization
Give consumers tangible incentives to attend and participate.
Plan for Safety
Don’t overlook safety:
- Create ample open space
- Control entry/exit points
- Implement wristbands or badges
- Have medical staff or first aid on standby
- Assign security teams
- Follow all venue and legal protocols
- Ensure ADA accessibility
- Sanitize regularly
Stick to capacity limits, monitor occupancy, and take steps to protect consumers.
Bringing an experiential activation to life is no small feat.
But stay focused on creative solutions, listen to your consumers, and deliver a uniquely branded encounter that leaves a lasting impression!
Key Takeaways and Wrap Up
There you have it – everything you need to start planning unforgettable experiential marketing events!
With a thoughtful strategy and creative vision, you can craft experiences that consumers are eager to be part of.
Experiential marketing done right drives brand love and loyalty like nothing else.
The key is understanding your consumers and integrating your brand strategically into experiences they’ll genuinely appreciate.
With creativity and commitment, any brand can bring their marketing to life through immersive experiences that deepen emotional connections with customers.
For event marketers, experiential marketing is a powerful tool that opens up a world of possibilities beyond conventional activations.
With consumers increasingly craving interactive, share-worthy encounters, the experiential approach lets you provide value while also capturing data.
You’re now armed with expert tips to plan show-stopping experiential marketing events.
But executing next-level ideas takes next-level guidance.
Let the innovative masterminds at We & Goliath spark your creative genius to new heights!
Our team of industry leaders is obsessed with designing the most talked-about brand happenings on the planet.
We’ll dig deep into your goals to devise a custom experiential strategy that excites your audience and delivers ROI.
The time for brainstorming is now.
Let’s connect to turn your wildest event dreams into reality!
With We & Goliath, the possibilities are limitless.
Schedule your free strategy session today!