Experiential Marketing Best Practices and Examples

In the rapidly changing world of modern marketing, it seems a new technology barely has time to fully integrate into society before something offering higher click-through-rates, more advanced audience targeting, or fancier data usage comes along and kicks it to the curb. Remember banner ads? It’s been almost twenty years since the first rainbow-colored banner ran on HotWired, Wired Magazine’s digital arm. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of SEM and PPC, social network advertising, and retargeting; all of which are beginning to feel dated next to the progressive explosion of programmatic and automated data science used by modern ad-tech companies.

However, no matter how well you target, segment, and time your advertising, the truth is becoming readily apparent that consumers are tired of being carpet bombed by ‘salesy’ images and video 24 hours a day. It’s in the space created by this ad-fatigue that experiential marketing has arisen as a necessary and powerful way to authentically connect to new potential buyers and brand loyalists; a return to humanism in a crowded marketing marketplace of algorithms and data manipulation.

A massive amount of creative brainpower across the globe has turned to developing interactive and memorable experiences for potential consumers, yet the exciting part is that it still feels like we’ve only begun collectively scratching the surface of possibilities. Here are three best practices that have arisen as standard necessities when planning an experiential campaign that will stick with people, and a few recent examples of the practices performed brilliantly.

1. Design Something Positive and Authentic: Trapped in the midst of an international media filled with disaster-related news and frightening presidential campaigns, there has been no better time in history for a brand to make a passerby smile and feel appreciated simply for being human. While some brands can pull of more risqué fair, the grand majority of experiential campaigns that succeed are centered around positivity, generosity, and comradery. Honda’s ‘Helpful Honda People’ campaign is a strong example of a campaign that has been able to succeed in a host of different markets, been shared through a myriad of media outlets, and has genuinely helped people. Another incredible example of this came from Zappos, who along with agency Mullen changed a baggage claim the day before Thanksgiving into a ‘Wheel of Fortune’-style giveaway bonanza. On a day most travelers were stressed and exhausted, Zappos earned the opportunity to make them smile and relax for a moment, along with something to share with their friends and families over the holiday.

2. Include Social as an Integral Piece: Today’s consumers can instantly tell if a brand regards social media as a chore, or as a real outlet for sharing amazing content. Experiential campaign success greatly depends on word-of-mouth marketing, and there isn’t any more powerful way to share a new experience than on social. Pick a unique, memorable hashtag for the event and promote it consistently on branding, backdrops, and online. Create social sharing incentives that force consumers to take out their phones and share the experience with their friends, because there is no way they were going to let their network miss it. Purchase event-original Snapchat geo-tags, and tie your hashtagged photos into real life tech such as the jumbotron or photo booths. Whatever you do, don’t put up a couple Instagram logos on the corners of two signs and expect your visitors to share anything consistent. The best example of using social to explode an experiential campaign comes from the inaugural Landmark Music Festival, during which Linder Global Events seamlessly incorporated the #makeyourmark hashtag into interactive activities across the festival, resulting in a final reach of over 1.2 billion online.

3. Tell a Story Through the Campaign: As important as authenticity and sharability are for an experiential marketing campaign, they are both rendered useless if your experience doesn’t tell an interesting story. Disjointed activities, no matter how interesting, won’t result in the kind of brand lift that you’re company is going to want after investing a significant amount of funds into a real-life campaign. HBO’s Voyeur project is an example of a brand telling a story – literally that HBO tells amazing stories – through an interactive online web experience, a film, and ultimately a massive display of the film on a wall of an apartment building in Lower East Side Manhattan. All the pieces were consistently relating the same message with unified branding and styling – and it resulted in one of the most shared and talked about marketing campaigns of all time.

Whether your brand is pulling off a beautiful and grandiose art project such as MKG’s ‘Stillness in Motion’ campaign for Delta Airlines at TED 2015, or simply planning a local activation to get the neighborhood involved with your brand, be sure to remember that experiential marketing is all about the consumer, not the brand.

If you create a memorable experience that people want to tell their friends about, they will inevitably return the favor by sharing your branded content and becoming invaluable brand activists for a long time after you’ve cleaned up the confetti from your experiential launch party. Red Bull’s notorious ‘Stratos’ campaign is a perfect example of this: you didn’t see skydiver Felix Baumgartner cheesily drinking a Red Bull before he completed the world’s highest skydive from 24 miles above Earth – Red Bull provided an incredible experience for their viewers, and the viewers reciprocated.

If you’d like to speak with an experienced team about putting together an experiential marketing campaign together for your brand, contact A Design Partnership and let’s bring some positivity and authenticity to the world together!