Five Tips for Experiential Marketing


The warm weather is here and all over the city Torontonians are coming out of their condos and hitting the nearest park to sit in the sun or maybe do a little vegan grocery shopping on West Queen West. The fact is people are out in the sun and you should be too. This is the time of year people are making memories that include sunshine, friends, afternoons on patios and summer vacations. This is the time of year you want your brand to make an impression!

Experiential Marketing is a phrase coined by Bernd H. Schmitt in New York City circa 1999. The phrase refers to a marketing strategy – or strategy component – that emphasizes direct engagement with your audience – usually person to person – that creates a memorable and positive brand experience.

The term is commonly used today to describe pop-up installations, public-space product demos, event marketing, event sponsorship and covers most (if not, all)  kinds of participatory marketing.

Schmitt noted:

“One of the most fundamental concepts of experience marketing is that value does not only reside in the object of consumption (products and services), and in seeking out and processing information about such objects; value also lies in the experience of consumption.”

That means if your product is a cup of coffee, the average customer not only values the taste, smell and overall quality of your coffee but also values the experience of purchasing that coffee. That’s why walking into a Starbucks is inherently a more calming experience than walking into a more sterile environment like a Tim Horton’s. The experience is designed to be more calming and inviting with warm tones, forgiving lighting and signature Starbucks-style music. Watching and hearing the espresso machine hiss adds to the experience also.

We’re sighting Starbucks as an example of how an atmosphere can affect a potential customer – because they create an atmosphere of a comfortable independent neighborhood coffee shop, on purpose.

Although the experience at Starbucks is closely considered by the company and regularly re-evaluated – this doesn’t by definition count fully as experiential marketing. Here’s why:

Schmitt is also noted to say,

“Another key distinction in experience marketing concerns the unusualness of the experience. Ordinary experiences occur as part of everyday life; they are routine and result, to a degree, from passive stimulation. Extraordinary experiences are more active, intense, and stylized. Extraordinary experiences have been referred to as ‘flow,’ ‘peak experiences,’ ‘epiphanies’ and ‘transcendent customer experiences.’”

This is where things start to get more fun. It becomes more than just the space it becomes everything. A successful experience should be just as engaging as the Starbucks example – but it can’t be permanent. It can’t just be a great retail space. This is why timing becomes everything in an experiential campaign. Sometimes the timing revolves around a product release, a significant service launch or a film release. Sometimes the timing revolves around an external event like The Toronto International Film Festival or the annual PRIDE festival – to show your support and engage with the audience of that event.

The impact you can make on a human being in person, the connection you can establish through a look, through a taste, through navigating a scavenger hunt or just taking a moment to say hi on the street is invaluable. A few moments of total engagement with your brand can stick with a potential customer relentlessly.

Experiential marketing comes in all different shapes and sizes. It can be a complex process, like setting up a pop-up retail space for a specific product – even better if that product is not typically available in a retail store – or as simple as sending out some brand reps with some product samples and some smiles. This means there is almost certainly room for an experiential option within your marketing budget.

The most important thing to remember about experiential marketing is that it’s not solely about the people you engage with on any given day – it’s also about the people they relay their experience to, the story they tell, the feeling of missing out on something special that person’s story will garner in others. Clever (and usually incredibly expensive to produce) video advertising – is a distant second when it comes to word-of-mouth. Sometimes, an advertisement will be funny or clever enough to be talked about. Almost any good experience will have enough impact to be talked about.

1. Get it on Video

For added value, we always make sure there is at least one video production team on-site during more interesting activations and experiences. Capturing an experiential marketing event on film is a no-brainer. Why would you go through all the trouble of setting up a cool experience only not to capitalize on showing others what they missed!

2. Make it User-Friendly

Make use of other technologies and advertising strategies alongside an experiential campaign. Apart from those above – and obvious – video production. Things like supporting campaign websites, digital invitations, Snapchat hosts or YouTube/Facebook Live Streams. Not only does this provide peripheral exposure it also provides measurable metrics for engaged audience members.

3. Don’t Miss the Point

Make sure your experience has a clear point and a clear focus on your brand or product. Even it’s a loose tie-in like the brand colours as a dessert; or a logo branded t-shirt. Just make sure your brand is the focus, otherwise, it’s likely to get lost – people will remember the experience, but not the brand. You want both to be unforgettable.

4. Don’t Lose Focus

Further to point three – and another way to combat losing brand focus, ensure you have a greater campaign running alongside your experiential components. Added brand visibility before/after the experience generally helps to increase your brand recall, once a potential customer has interacted with it.

5. Be Different

This is a crucial part of experiential marketing. Be clever, be different, think carefully about the time, the place, the people and the message. Remember as per Schmitt – experiential marketing should be an experience out of the ordinary.

Point five is probably the most important. Without standing out, making use of at least some of these points, without focus, without clear messaging, without creating an experiential event can easily just turn out to be a wine and cheese party. Nice, but not the point, unless you’re selling cheese… or wine.

For a free consultation on your next experiential project – get in touch!






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