Just What Is Experiential Marketing and How Can I Use It?

Pratt_head shot[4]So, experiential marketing: what even is it? At its most basic, experiential marketing is when the experience itself serves as the marketing platform. It’s a marketing message you can physically see, hear, touch, taste, or smell.

Want examples? We came prepared. It’s free salsa samples driving sales at the Cherry Festival. It’s sponsored T-shirt cannons building brand awareness at a Beach Bums game. It was when Red Bull sponsored the Felix Baumgartner jump, and we all watched, Tweeted, and took bets on where Felix would land, generating social media impressions galore.

The goal with experiential marketing is to build authentic experiences that let people engage with your brand directly, allowing you to forge positive brand associations and connect with consumers. There’s a reason those examples are familiar to you, and it’s because the experiential campaigns made an impact. You’re a consumer. They connected with you. Check and mate.

Why Should I Use It?

Maybe you’re a numbers guy. You like insights. Statistics. We get that. Now, think about what you’re hoping to accomplish.

Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Excellent. According to the 2015 EventTrack Summary, 96 percent of people say that after attending an experiential event, they talk about it, both digitally and in person.*

Are you looking to increase sales? Awesome. 65 percent of people make their purchases at the event site. But after an experiential event, 87 percent are more likely to purchase again, and 70 percent are more likely to become regular customers.*

Are you looking to improve brand perception? Perfect. 74 percent of participants say they have a more positive opinion about the company following an experiential event.*

Bottom line: you should do experiential.

Is Experiential Marketing Just for Big Businesses?

Experiential marketing is for all businesses. Big-name brands may already be well established, but small brands have a lot of potential for growth and plenty of opportunities to build brand awareness. The name of the experiential game is innovation, which means exciting and memorable campaigns can be tailored to your brand’s specific marketing strategy—even if you’re a small business with a small budget.

How Do I Execute An Experiential Marketing Event?

Glad you asked. Try these on for size:

  1. Identify your goals and budget. Start off with a clear, concise idea of what you want to achieve.
  2. Understand your audience. What demographic are you trying to reach? How old are they? Where do they live? What are their interests? Do your homework. Find out what it will take to prove you’re worth their while.
  3. Come up with a medley of creative ideas.
  4. Create a solution. Narrow down your ideas based on what’s feasible/most likely to be effective. Develop a strategy that meets your goals and budget, and aligns with the needs and wants of your target consumers. (See step 2 about knowing your audience.)
  5. Execute the program. This is the part where you actually get to bring the program (and your brand) to life.
  6. Measure the results. Think back on your goals from step 1. Whether you’re measuring success by looking at in-market sales, ROI, or the number of interactions/impressions, make sure you determine what worked and what didn’t—and keep those successes and improvement areas in mind for next time.
  7. Return to the first step. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sarah Pratt is the director of Client Services at Gemba Marketing, a full-service experiential marketing agency headquartered in Traverse City. With almost a decade of experience, she has managed national marketing programs for Country Financial, The Hershey Co., Hostess Brands, and Verizon; www.gembamarketing.com.

*Statistics courtesy of the Event Marketing Institute’s 2015 EventTrack Summary.