The best experiential marketing:
- invites consumers to engage emotionally and physically with the brand or a particular product
- promotes the brand’s message and values
- solidifies an association with a partner brand/product or lifestyle
- gains mainstream media exposure and social media mentions with a branded hashtag
- grows lasting relationships with participants through digital interactions following the physical interaction
While this form of marketing is generally associated with a higher price tag, the majority of companies say their efforts pay off in sales. Beyond the immediate cost-benefit analysis, 91% of consumers say experiential marketing done right leaves them with a positive impression of the brand, and 85% of participants say they are more likely to continue doing business with the brand.
Here, we explore three types of experiential marketing that will have long-lasting effects: events, mobile campaigns, and retail installations.
3 Effective Types of Experiential Marketing
1. Experiential Event Marketing
Events are the most common type of experiential marketing, as they provide direct face-to-face interactions between consumers and brand ambassadors. Millennial consumers, in particular, often seek out these experiential events out of curiosity, fear of missing out, appetite for entertainment, or social media relevancy. One study found that 56% of millennials said they would feel more welcomed by more in-store interactions.
The definition of an experiential event depends upon a brand’s budget and desired exposure:
- Mega Events: Some gatherings focus on attracting celebrities, industry influencers, potential partners, and media exposure. They feature speakers, VIP guests, demos, parties, prizes, and entertainment during events that can last for days or span several different locations. Venues, booths, tents, and tables can create events-within-events that add impactful fun.
- Guerilla Campaigns: Guerilla marketing, or street-level marketing, sends droves of brand ambassadors into the crowd on a mission—typically with free samples, flyers, or some other type of value proposition. These events can be organized in conjunction with a retail partner, a festival, at a park, outside a mass transit station, at a shopping mall, or in night clubs.
- Pop-Up Shops: Pop-ups are all the buzz these days, whether it’s a toy store outside the subway station, a perfume hut in the park, or a food stall erected in a previously vacant spot. Pop-ups allow merchants to demo, educate, “wow” with technology, and sell right on the premises.
- Exclusive Experiences: Rewarding loyal fans with exclusive “invitation only” VIP experiences is another way to express gratitude and stay at the forefront of shoppers’ minds. The gesture can create an incentive for others to reach new spending tiers, whether it’s to receive a few hours of early or late shopping; special hors d’oeuvres and cocktail hours in a VIP lounge; or entertainment at a popular restaurant, theater, or sporting event.
2. Experiential Mobile Marketing
Smartphones have opened another window of opportunity for marketers to leave a lasting impression on consumers. Videos, gamification, and augmented reality can be incorporated into a mobile-friendly experience. Whether users are scanning QR codes to enter a contest, playing a location-based game, or participating in a scavenger hunt for a particular item in the supermarket for reward points, mobile makes the promotion more effective and affordable.
QR codes allow mobile users to interact with a brand seamlessly, without having to download an app or type an address into their web browser. With a quick camera scan interaction, shoppers are instantly redirected to a well-thought-out virtual brand experience. QR codes are ideal for late stages of the buying journey when shoppers may need just a little more information before buying. QR codes on product labels or point of purchase signage can direct users to comparisons with other brands, provide more information on pricing, or explain raw material sourcing.
Smartphone users are often on their phones frequently ending searches with the phrase “near me.” Linking an experiential campaign to location-based keywords is one way to integrate mobile into experiential marketing events and increase foot traffic. Location-based mobile marketing can also be used to send loyalty members special perks during events. For instance, attendees at Disney’s Coco Live event in LA received exclusive photos of stage performers for sharing on social media. At another event, baseball game participants made themselves into virtual baseball cards or bobbleheads and shared with friends.
Mobile apps have become the latest frontier in experiential marketing. Experiential retail doesn’t have to be extreme to be effective. Sometimes simply having the right products in the right place at the right time is enough to meet expectations, while the availability of an app provides the added stimulation needed to make a lasting impression. Brands needn’t have their own app to engage. Shopkick is a well-known shopping app that brands can partner with to create experiential campaigns in-store. Users interact with brands in exchange for rewards points they can redeem on gift cards.
3. Experiential Retail Installations
Brands choose an experiential retail display in order to promote discovery, convenience, and community. These physical spaces deliver added value shoppers can’t get online or at home. They may provide a selfie-worthy space to snap a photo, a relaxing lounge, a museum of interesting items, or a technology nirvana for guests.
Customers want to be surprised and delighted by the retail display, but also be able to find what they want or need on a practical level. Experiential displays needn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—though, some do. Brands can strive to make the most efficient use of space with mid-floor bunkers, uniquely designed displays that substitute for wall shelving, or floor graphics in a bare strip of space. Point of purchase signage and brochures can invite shoppers to scan QR codes or pick up a brochure. Adhesive window decals, printed vinyl wall displays, magnetic signage, and custom POP stands are all affordable ways to grab attention and engage shoppers. Simply having a product out of the packaging and available for demo is a powerful invitation to enjoy with the senses.