We’ve discussed why experiential marketing attracts new consumers, increases brand loyalty, drives sales and delivers attractive ROIs. Experiential marketing is one of the most successful strategies a marketing team can utilize. This strategy will likely increase in popularity as consumers are tired of being “sold to” by endless one-way communication. However, despite its successful track record, experiential marketing is also challenging to get right. In this post, we will explain three different experiential marketing types and their key takeaways.
Product sampling is the strategy most of us know. Brands typically hire brand ambassadors, people who mimic the demographic of their target audience, to hand out samples or get consumers to try something. Typically, product sampling occurs at trade shows, concerts, festivals, fairs, sporting events, retail outlets and even busy street corners using pop-up booths and lounges. However, it can also work in e-commerce too — for example, a company can throw in a free sample or two when a customer places an online order. Another benefit is gaining invaluable insights into what consumers think of your product, which you can share with your design team.
Instead of telling consumers how great your product tastes, smells or feels, they can try for themselves without any obligation to buy. Biore, a skincare company that makes bandage-like pore cleansing strips, hit the jackpot in 1997 when they were a sponsor at Lilith Faire, a nationwide concert tour featuring female artists. Lilith Fair attracted a mostly female audience between 18 and 34 — Biore’s exact target audience for the pore cleansing strips. Brand ambassadors walked around handing out free strips. The buzz and free press generated by photos of women rocking out a concert with white strips on their noses catapulted the new company into stardom, vastly exceeding its sales projections.
Key Takeaway for Product Sampling: Product sampling can be an exceptionally successful way to attract new customers, increase brand awareness and enhance loyalty when executed properly. (Learn more on our blog post, “What Does It Take to Create Effective Product Sampling Campaigns?). It’s essential to understand where your target audience is going to be.
Many brands make the “spray and pray” mistake — wasting time and money distributing free samples to consumers who have no need or interest in their products.
Similar to product sampling, demonstrating how your product works, feels and sounds is an excellent way to allow consumers to experience your brand. For example, we launched a product showcase for ISOPURE, a high-performance sports nutrition company, at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, CO. We built an inviting pop-up lounge with comfy couches and our skilled brand ambassadors invited consumers to create custom samples of ISOPURE’s sports drink products. The campaign worked because we chose the right place, time and message for ISOPURE’s target audience!
With virtual and augmented reality technology, you don’t even need to have your product physically present. For example, Audi launched a highly successful virtual reality campaign where adults were reminded of how fun it was to create sand structures and then drive toy vehicles around them. Each participant built a course in a real sandbox, and then a depth-sensing camera scanned their creation. Next, participants donned a virtual reality headset and sat in a driving simulator that mimicked how the new Audi Q5 handled the bumps and jumps in the custom-built course, including realistic sound effects.
The initial VR experience launched at a premier Audi dealership in Norway and then went on the road to other locations. Norwegian Audi dealers reported a 57% increase in visitors during the tour, and the Q5 became Audi’s best-selling model in Norway.
Key Takeaway for Product Showcases: The product showcase must do more than display the product — it must generate buzz and provide an authentic, memorable experience that allows consumers to engage with your brand.
Consumers can spot a gimmick a mile away, so your engagement must feel authentic and have the right time, place and message to connect with your target audience.
Brand Activation & Event Sponsorship
Another way to engage with your target audience is by sponsoring an event — a sporting, music, community or charity event. However, event sponsorship no longer means simply paying to display your logo before and during the event. Whether you’re sponsoring an event or introducing a new brand or product, you want to make a splash and “wow” your target audience.
The annual SXSW festival in Austin, TX, is a veritable guidebook for how to sponsor events using experiential marketing. From parking-lot-roller skating rinks (VICE) to giant wave pools (TNT), photo and video opps sitting at Michael Scott’s from The Office desk and a Project Runway experience (Comcast NBCUniversal) and a garden with a 20’ tree bar (Amazon Prime Video), the multi-day festival is just teeming with innovative, exciting opportunities where brands engage consumers. SXSW is extremely popular because attendees get to experience fun, surprising, delightful activities beyond just watching music performances — activities that get a lot of free press coverage and get shared on social media, allowing brands to reach a much vaster audience than simply the event attendees.
Red Bull is the master at event sponsorship and always sponsors experiences and events that align with its extreme action/sports reputation. However, even brands that don’t immediately seem to correlate to an event can produce a successful experiential marketing sponsorship. For example, butter maker Land O’Lakes launched a highly successful activation at SXSW using references to Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer who discovered the Earth rotates the sun, not the other way around, making the sun the center of everything. Copernicus also had a reputation for being a truth-seeker, so Land O’Lakes capitalized on that angle. It promoted the idea that the company was seeking the truth about our food system and hosted several events and activities to match that theme.
However, brands must choose suitable events for sponsorship and activation. Not only should the brand and event “personalities” match or support one another, but they must also match in size and scope. A small company won’t likely see much ROI sponsoring a large event, and vice versa. For example, a massive company like Coca-Cola won’t get much exposure sponsoring a small community event. A smaller company will see a much better ROI sponsoring or activating at a niche event where its target audience will be, and participation costs are much lower.
Key Takeaway for Event Sponsorship & Brand Activation: Choose events that match your size, scope, and brand image for sponsorships and brand activations.
Get creative and find ways to engage your audience in surprising ways.
These are just three experiential marketing campaigns. Stay tuned because we’ll discuss more experiential marketing campaigns in our next post, including cause marketing, mobile tours, VIP hospitality, and special events.
Need some help with launching an experiential marketing program? Leverage our 25+ years of experience and expertise in creating impactful, successful programs.