Experiential Marketing: What Is It and How Can I Benefit?

Every year new marketing trends emerge, and our prediction is that 2019 will see the trend of experiential marketing taken to new levels.

There’s already huge amounts of buzz surrounding the topic, especially amongst media, brands and advertising agencies—and it’s easy to see why. Did you know that the average person is exposed to a minimum of 3,000 advertisements per day?

That’s a lot, right!

But how many of those thousands of ads stand out enough to provoke a reaction, or inspire somebody to take action?
How many of those ads do you think people even remember?
How many do you remember?

The chances are, not many!

This is, in part, due to the volume of advertising that people are exposed to, causing them to become desensitized to noticing them. Which means brands are having to compete harder than ever for a consumer’s attention.

That’s where experiential marketing comes in.

What is Experiential Marketing?

Experiential marketing is a technique used by marketers, to create an experience between a brand, and consumers. This can be done through a variety of metrics, such as creating an impression, telling a story, or designing a moment that gets people involved.

This engaging technique was adopted because put simply, experiences stick. Think back to when you were at school and took the VAK Questionnaire to see whether you were a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. The majority of you will have noticed that your results tended to have a balance of all three. And it’s the same with marketing. If you want people to learn about what your product or service is about, you need to communicate with them in a variety of ways. You need to have an integrated approach.

The good news is that thanks to this new-age digital realm we’re currently living in – it’s easier than ever. Content such as blog posts and podcasts can be amplified across social media. Consumers can participate in surveys to help brands understand their customers directly and marketing efforts can ricochet across multiple platforms to build brand presence. Resulting in both an increased following and often, brand loyalty.

The success of social media has proved the power that lays within storytelling, but with this discovery came the bandwagon. And with that came a profound impact where people became more connected than ever but also became desensitized to what they were consuming.

Which is why experiential marketing has been such a game changer.

Experiential marketing has enabled brands to capture people’s imaginations and interests, and now brands are no longer speaking at or to consumers, they’re speaking with them. Whether that’s through something they experience firsthand like a branded event, or secondary through live storytelling. Experiential marketing has incorporated connection back into interactions.

But to what does experiential marketing owe its success?

Jamie Sanyal, the former Head of Global Experiential Marketing for PayPal, thinks it’s due to the following. In a recent article by Eventbrite he said:

“The personal interactions achieved through experiential marketing can help humanize your brand, which in turn builds advocacy and ultimately ROI. When you leverage experiential in conjunction with advertising, social, and PR, you can tell a really powerful story and create a strong connection with your customers. And with a crowded and noisy online environment, a good experiential activation allows a company to capture their audience’s attention and deliver their message without distractions.”

Jamie Sanyal

A statement we agree with because here at emc3, experiential marketing is about making every moment count.

Since 1999 we have been in the business of creating experiences that matter. For us, powerful experiential marketing is about creating levels of contact and engagement through intimate and individual journeys. We started as a concierge service and have grown into a full-service agency, where the magic of experience is ingrained into every detail of our delivery to clients.

Which means that your senses are always taken care of. We believe that everything you see, feel, taste and touch should interact with the environment. So whether it’s an intimate wedding or a large scale conference for LinkedIn, we offer an experience that captures that.

What is the ROI from Experiential Marketing?

It’s business 101 to know that you always want to make more than you spend with your campaigns—or at the very least, break even. Which is why ensuring you have defined goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place prior to your campaign is vital.

After all, how can you measure something’s success if you’re not measuring the results!

In an article on Eventbrite about experiential marketing, Ethan Eyler, the Ride Experience at Lyft, explains his view, “It’s about crafting an incredible experience for a few individuals and getting as many media impressions as possible.”

But whilst this is true, it depends upon what you’re trying to achieve with your event.
Is it press coverage? Sales? Lead generation? Product launch support?
Each goal will require different techniques to achieve, and track. For example; brand awareness is often the most popular goal. But it has always been one of the harder metrics to track, as it isn’t always instant and often takes time to see the full results.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Thanks to social media tracking campaign impressions (either through the brand’s own platforms or by inviting influencers and members of the press to the event for more exposure) can be done. Both in terms of reach and engagement levels on stories, social media posts and surveys. Other examples include using event-specific hashtags or exclusive discount codes, but even though social media can help to leverage experience, the experience has to hold on its own. Experiential marketing needs to be something that people will remember.

How can I leverage Experiential Marketing?

Brands are putting more of their marketing budget towards experiential marketing, but with such a noisy digital space, it’s important to do something that stops people scrolling. The execution is a lot harder than people often assume, as it requires a deeper understanding of an audience and what they’ll respond to. But in the past year, we’ve seen some great examples of experiential marketing done right. Such as the Stella Artois Sensorium experience.

Hosted in Toronto, Stella Artois created a dining experience designed to stimulate all five senses. They achieved this by developing a five-course meal which challenged and provoked the attendees’ sight, smell, touch, sound and, (perhaps most importantly at meal time!) taste.

Every detail was well thought out. From the aroma of herbal tea to the sound of the orchestra that was playing in the garden, to the liquid ingredients inside test tubes that the attendees themselves, poured over their dishes. There wasn’t a single sense that was overlooked, capturing the journey from onset to endpoint. A skill that is essential in creating something so enriching and complete.

According to Euromonitor’s most recent trend report “spending in the experience economy is predicted to rise to US $8.0 trillion by 2030,” with brands becoming increasingly invested in creating immersive experiences to engage their consumers – and with the success of Stella Artois’ campaign, it’s easy to see why!

But whilst experiential marketing is perfectly adapted for today’s market, it’s by no means a new technique.

In 1886 Coca-Cola began to apply the experiential marketing concept, by distributing coupons for samples of the product. Coupons would be given in bulk to churches and chambers of commerce with soda fountains filled with enough syrup to cover the number of coupons distributed.

And in 2011 IKEA took experiential marketing to a whole new level when it hosted a sleepover in its warehouse. The event came about due to a fast-growing Facebook group called “I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA”. It turns out the brand listened – because they hosted the event for 100 lucky people complete with free massages, manicures and mattress advice from sleep experts.

An article released by Forbes earlier this year highlighted the potential that surrounds the experience economy. As more people begin to crave meaningful experiences and emotional connections, there is a huge space available for many industries to step in and create platforms catering to this.

And if you’re wondering how to incorporate this into your own marketing plans, our advice is this:

Start with the details.

From the moment the client has an idea, to the story that evolves as a result, each and every detail counts. Events aren’t just about attendee numbers, but rather they’re about the journey that each attendee goes through. So tap into the senses and use a unique space for sensory engagement – we promise it’ll be worth it!