Experiential marketing has become all the rage in an age where brand differentiation is harder than ever.
To make your brand stand out, customers can’t just see or read about it — they need to experience it.
- Experiential encapsulates any interactive experience between brands and their consumers.
- Brand experiences are one of the best drivers of word-of-mouth marketing.
- The best experiential marketing taps into customer emotions.
What is Experiential Marketing (and what is it not)?
Experiential marketing brings brands to life by creating interactive, memorable experiences between brands and consumers. It comes in many forms — events, contests, viral content, product launches, and demos, online challenges, and more.
It’s also one of the most effective forms of marketing. A whopping 98% of consumers are more inclined to make a purchase after having a positive experience with a brand. To boot, experiential marketing improves brand perception and boosts sales.
One common misconception about experiential marketing is that it’s simply another word for event marketing. It’s important to note that while experiential marketing includes events, it also encapsulates so much more.
In fact, we’ve learned more than ever over the past year that experiences don’t even need to happen in person — digital engagement can be just as effective (and often has a much wider reach) than an experience tied to a specific location.
The biggest benefit for brands implementing experiential marketing is its impact on word-of-mouth brand advocacy. Consider this:
- 92% of consumers trust brands recommended by their peers
- People who enjoy a brand experience tell, on average, 17 people
If 92% of those people trust that recommendation, you’re earning 15 potential customers from every person who has a positive experience with your brand!
When you’re planning experiential marketing campaigns, remember that it ultimately needs to be about your brand. There’s no sense in planning a really cool event or a fun challenge if it doesn’t lead customers back to your brand and make them feel like they know it better.
5 Creative Experiential Marketing Examples
Milka is an international chocolate brand whose tagline is “dare to be tender.” In 2013, they set out to make customers experience this sentiment using their product as the vehicle.
Milka altered their manufacturing process to produce 5 million chocolate bars with exactly 1 square missing. In place of the square, customers found directions to a website where they could choose to have the square returned to them or send it to a loved one with a personal note.
In other words, Milka invited consumers to dare to be tender by sharing their last piece of chocolate.
The results? More than 800K web visits, 500K last squares sent to loved ones, 95K social media shares, and 1.3 million euros in earned media. Not too shabby.
Lean Cuisine #WeighThis
Lean Cuisine shifted away from its focus on diet marketing and instead posed a question to consumers: How do you want to be weighed?
In 2015, they created a powerful campaign around this question, asking women about their accomplishments and showing how those accomplishments (children, relationships, degrees, travel, personal triumphs, and more) weigh in on the scale.
A year later, they created a pop-up experience in Grand Central Station, asking people passing through to write down how they want to be weighed and adding it to the brand display.
This experiential marketing effort created an important shift in brand perception, from Lean Cuisine as a diet food to a brand that cares about their customers true worth, regardless of a number on the scale. It’s obvious from the videos that it resonated with customers.
WestJet Christmas Miracle
WestJet Airline capitalized on the busy holiday travel season by putting a boarding pass scanner at an airport departure gate. When travelers scanned their passes, Santa appeared to ask them what they wanted for Christmas.
Children and adults alike made their Christmas wishes, asking Santa for everything from big-screen TVs to cameras to Thomas the Train sets to socks and underwear (ah, an old classic). Little did they know that a WestJet team was working to have those gifts ready for them upon arrival.
Customers were surprised and even overwhelmed by the gesture. WestJet took what is typically a stressful experience (holiday traveling) and infused a feeling of Christmas joy.
As for the ROI? They created long-time loyal customers who felt valued by WestJet.
White Castle Valentine’s Day
The pandemic forced brands to get creative with experiential marketing in a time when in-person events were mostly off the table. WhiteCastle didn’t want their customers to miss out on their annual Valentine’s Day reservations and created a drive-in restaurant at 300 locations where couples could park, receive restaurant-to-car service, and eat their dinner.
The experience came complete with a “Slider Lover’s Luv Channel” playlist and personal shoutouts and stories from customers. It might have looked different, but White Castle got creative and kept their 30-year Valentine’s Day tradition alive.
Doc McStuffins Clinics
When Build-a-Bear launched their product line in partnership with Disney’s Doc McStuffins, they made it experiential by launching pop-up “bear clinics” in retail stores where children could bring their bears to be sewn and stitched up or just undergo a regular check-up (for healthy bears, obviously).
Children were given the role of Doc McStuffins and took part in diagnosing and treating the bears. More than 8000 children visited the clinic locations in the UK and 75% of parents rated the experience as “excellent.”
The clinics managed to promote new products in a memorable way while rewarding current customers who had already purchased a bear.
What’s the common thread?
The one thing all of these campaigns share, despite their variety of industry, target audience, and products are that they tap into human emotion, the central part of any real experience.
They focused not only on what value their products could provide but on how they could make people feel, and create experiences to show them. This is the power of experiential marketing.
How Content Helps
Quality creative content is an important complement to any brand experience.