Experiential marketing is a powerful tool that enables brands to create memorable, immersive experiences for their customers. While experiential marketing has been around for over a century, but it has recently regained momentum as brands seek new ways to connect with their audiences. This article explores the origins of experiential marketing, why it is important for brand awareness and business growth in today's marketing age, and showcase brands that have created revolutionary experiential marketing campaigns. We will also share with you detailed steps on how to create a successful experiential marketing campaign and highlight caveats that brands must be aware of when attempting to create experiential marketing campaigns.
Origins of Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing can be traced back to the early 1900s, when brands like “Wrigleys - Chewing gum”, “Weiner - Hot Dogs” amongst others, started using events, product demonstrations, and trade shows to showcase their products. The approach gained eyeballs in the late 70s with Pepsi “Take the Pepsi Taste challenge”. Experiential marketing grew further in the 80s with the rise of music festivals and other large-scale events. It was during this time that brands began to realize the power of immersive experiences in creating brand awareness and driving sales.
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Types of Experiential Marketing
Any form of customer engagement with a brand or product forms the basis for experiential marketing. There exist 8 types…
Product Showcase. It is arguably the most popular type of experiential marketing because of its simplicity. It allows for customers to experience what the product does vs. listing features and benefits.
Immersive Experience. VR and AR technologies allow for an even better experience without even having the product physically present.
Exclusive Experience. Rewarding customer loyalty or offering exclusive “by invitation only” has always created desire with customers.
Stunts. Stunts are created with a large audience in mind. The content however has to be relatable and shareable for customers to interact and share.
Innovation and Service. Usually this type of experience marketing is leveraged as a long-term strategy as it does not result in immediate sales.
Event Marketing. Events offer brands a platform and the opportunity to engage with customers in a face-to-face format.
Brand Activation. Brand activation offers companies the opportunity to showcase the best of a product or service and even drive sampling of the product.
Guerrilla Marketing. This format of experience marketing is built around the element of surprise for a customer. If done well, the result is positivity from the audience.
Why Experiential Marketing is Important for Brand Awareness and Business Growth?
Capturing a customer’s share of mind in today’s marking ago is proving to be increasingly difficult. Customers are bombarded with communication messages from brands leaving them disoriented and quite frankly numb to most, if not all, efforts from marketers. This poses greater difficulty for brands to not only outspend the competition, break through the clutter, to only then discover a relatively disinterested customer. The proposition of experiential/ engagement marketing is to bolster a longer and stronger connection between brands and their customers. It needs to not only create experiences in a tangible and offline way, but also create online dialog around it.
In the battlefield for customers’ share of mind and wallet, when competing with bigger brands, bigger monies and greater staying power, experiential marketing provides brands with a unique opportunity to engage with their customers in an authentic, personal and memorable manner. Create immersive experiences, generate buzz, drive sales and maybe even create brand advocates.
15 Brands that have created Revolutionary Experiential Marketing Campaigns
Fortnight Virtual Concert with Travis Scott. The brand created a true-to-life CGI avatar of the musician, and fully embedded the avatar into a game world, with dancing and special effects. This virtual event attracted over 12 million live attendees and racked up hundreds of millions of views.
KitKat in Amsterdam executed a “have a break” from mobile phones by blocking all signals within a 5-meter radius of KitKat-branded benches. People who needed a break/ who wanted to disconnect, could sit down alone, chat with a friend, read a newspaper, relax and be human for a moment. KitKat’s experience marketing campaign flipped the typical story by taking a contrarian stance, and made it all about the “absence of something”.
Burger King‘s “I want my whopper” Halloween campaign played to the sometimes love but mostly fear that people feel for clowns. The campaign was so polarizing, goofy and harmless that it created massive awareness in spite of the free whopper that Burger King was offering between 8pm and 11pm.
Lean Cuisine’s “Weigh-in on your own terms” campaign turned the narrative of how women traditionally weighed themselves to how they wanted to be weighed (without once spotlighting the product). The experiential campaign was incredibly successful as it drove a 428% increase in brand conversations and a 33% increase in brand perception.
Adidas’s "Run for the Oceans" campaign was designed to raise awareness about the impact of plastic on the world's oceans. The campaign invited runners to participate in a virtual race, with each mile run resulting in a donation to the Ocean Conservancy.
Red Bull's "Stratos" campaign was a live event that featured skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumping from a balloon at the edge of space. The event generated millions of views and helped to reinforce Red Bull's brand as a company that pushes boundaries.
Lego's "Lego House" campaign was an immersive experience that allowed visitors to explore a 130,000-square-foot museum dedicated to the iconic toy brand. The museum included interactive exhibits, workshops, and a Lego Store.
Airbnb's "Night At" campaign allowed customers an irreplaceable experience - to spend a night in unique locations, such as a listing on the Great Wall of China or a room in a shark tank at the Aquarium de Paris or a night at the Louvre. Airbnb opened the doors to its customers to experience a night at this monumental masterpiece… For free!
Google's "Night Walk" campaign was a virtual experience that allowed users to explore the streets of Paris through the eyes of a local. The campaign helped to reinforce Google's brand as a company that provides innovative
Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign featured Coca-Cola bottles with customised customers' names on them. The campaign encouraged customers to share a Coke with a friend or loved one, reinforcing Coca-Cola's brand as a company that brings people together.
Coca-Cola’s “Happiness Machine” campaign delivered "doses" of happiness when Coke transformed an ordinary vending machine into a happiness machine.
Heineken's "Departure Roulette" campaign was a live event that invited customers at JFK airport to spin a roulette wheel and travel to a mystery location.
Taco Bell's "Taco Bell Hotel" campaign transformed a Palm Springs hotel into a Taco Bell-themed experience, complete with Taco Bell-themed food, decorations, and activities. The campaign generated significant buzz on social media and helped to reinforce Taco Bell's brand as a company that provides fun and unique experiences.
Amazon's "Treasure Truck" campaign revolved around a bright blue truck that traveled around cities. The treasure truck offered customers surprise deals on a limited number of products. The campaign created excitement and urgency, reinforcing Amazon's brand as a company that provides unique and exclusive deals.
Sonos + Google’s “Brilliant Sound Experience” brought awareness of not only the integration of the Google Assistant with Sonos, but also allowed the experience of how voice technology can make a person’s sound experience much better, while bringing the brand alive.
2 examples of experiential marketing campaigns that horribly failed
Pepsi - "Live For Now" Campaign: In 2017, Pepsi released a controversial ad featuring Kendall Jenner handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer during a protest. The ad was widely criticized for trivializing social justice issues and was ultimately pulled from air. The experiential marketing campaign that accompanied the ad, which involved a pop-up art installation, was also criticized for being tone-deaf and exploitative.
Fyre Festival: In 2017, a luxury music festival on a private island in the Bahamas was organised by entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule. The Fyre Festival was marketed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with influencers like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid promoting the event on social media. The attendees experienced poor accommodations, lack of food and water, and canceled performances that eventually resulted in the festival turning into a disaster.
These two examples highlight the potential pitfalls of experiential marketing campaigns. Brands must be aware of the risks involved and carefully consider the messaging and execution of their campaigns.
Here are some key takeaways:
Don’t trivialize serious issues: Experiential marketing campaigns require sincerity and sensitivity, especially when attempting to address social justice issues.
Deliver on promises: Experiential marketing campaigns that promise a unique experience must deliver on that promise. Failure to do so can damage the brand's reputation.
Address real concerns: Experiential marketing campaigns that attempt to address criticism or concerns about a brand must do so in a genuine and transparent manner.
Consider broader implications: Brands creating experiential marketing campaigns must consider the impact that a brand's business model or product may have on communities and society as a whole.
Safety First: Brands creating experiential marketing campaigns where potentially dangerous stunts or activities are involved, must prioritize safety and adhere to all necessary regulations and guidelines.
How to Create a Successful Experiential Marketing Campaign
In addition to the 5 points mentioned above,
Defining the campaign objectives: Defining the objectives before creating any experiential marketing campaign is the first step towards creating a successful experiential marketing campaign. What do you want to achieve? Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive sales, or create brand ambassadors?
Know your target audience: It is crucial to understand your target audience and their interests. What experiences will resonate with them? What will motivate them to engage with your brand?
What’s the big experiential marketing campaign Idea?; And does the idea pass the 11 pillars (is it exceptional, shareable, memorable, relatable, relevant, personal, targetable, connectable, adaptable, engagement worthy and credible)?
Create a unique and immersive experience: The experience should be unique and immersive, providing a memorable experience for your customers. Interactive elements, such as touch screens or leveraging virtual reality or finding new ways to incorporate the 5 human senses adds to the total immersive experience.
Leverage social media: Social media can amplify the campaign and generate buzz. Create a unique hashtag and encourage customers to share their experience on social media.
Measuring results: Measure the success of your campaign, by tracking engagement metrics such as website visits, social media mentions, and sales.
Budget: Experiential marketing campaigns can be expensive to execute. Creating a unique and memorable experience usually requires brands be willing to spend large sums of money.
Logistics: Experiential marketing campaigns often involve multiple moving parts, including logistics, staffing, and equipment. Brands must ensure that they have the resources and expertise to manage the campaign effectively.
Risk: Experiential marketing campaigns can be risky. Brands must be aware of the potential for negative publicity or backlash if the campaign does not resonate with their target audience.
Experiential marketing provides a unique opportunity for brands to engage with their customers in a more personal and memorable way. However, it requires careful planning, execution, and consideration of potential risks and challenges. By understanding the key principles of successful experiential marketing campaigns and creating immersive experiences, brands can generate buzz, create brand ambassadors, and drive sales. However, brands must be aware of the caveats involved in creating experiential marketing campaigns, including budget, logistics, and risk. Be mindful of the potential pitfalls and following the steps outlined in this article, brands can create successful experiential marketing campaigns that resonate with their target audience and help to drive business growth.
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