Experiential marketing – which is also known as event marketing – is a form of promotion which (as the various names suggest) directly engages a customer in live, one-to-one interactions intended to strengthen their connection with a brand. In a way this type of marketing is nothing new – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is regarded by many as an example of the ultimate event marketing tactic – but newer technologies such as smartphone apps, touchscreens and virtual reality have presented marketers with new and ever more creative ways to engage potential customers through experiential marketing.
Three key steps in implementing a truly successful experiential marketing campaign:
- Designing the campaign. As in all aspects of business, the absolute core of an effective event marketing campaign lies in the creative design and planning stage. While this type of marketing campaign can exist exclusively in the real world (for example, interactive product demos that allow consumers to try, taste or test your product), the truth is that they work best when they combine seamlessly with an online social media promotional campaign. Consider how you can engage customers on a one-to-one basis, but also how you can use social sharing, live video streaming, gamification and other forms of tech to really spread your message. Push your thinking toward the fun and creative, especially if your product or service skews to a younger demographic.
- Build to launch. Perhaps paradoxically, some of the most successful experiential marketing campaigns centered around live events are heralded by what might arguably be described as a more traditional online marketing push. Surprise live pop-up style events can work, but in most cases, you want to spread the buzz beforehand. Think creatively about how and where to place your online ads. Make the best use of every social media channel at your disposal to tease and build interest. It’s important to keep this segment of your campaign time-limited; tease out the buildup for too long and people will lose interest. Get it just right, and you can not only attain optimum word-of-mouth buzz just prior to launch but maintain and grow it throughout and even following the live event.
- Monitor and learn. Experiential marketing – like every other type of marketing campaign – should be a learning experience. Ensure your metrics and KPIs are in place before you begin the campaign so you can measure its success – including, of course, ROI – and use that information to inform future event marketing strategies. Make full use of social media platforms and management tools to track hashtags and mentions, as well as engaging in social listening. Mentions and sales data will be useful, but it is equally important to pay attention to what people have said about your campaign – what they loved, what bored them, what they hated and why. This information is useful during the campaign as well: a drop-off in interest may prompt you to either push your online marketing efforts harder or in some cases perhaps even launch an event earlier than you had originally planned.
So there you have it. Experiential marketing isn’t always easy – particularly if it’s your first time – but done right it can attract an unprecedented level of engagement, both from those involved in onsite interactions with your brand and from those who are drawn into the buzz of the broader online campaign running alongside live events.