Daniel Matthews

How Experiential Marketing Can Take Your Brand to the Next Level

By: Daniel Matthews | August 3, 2016 | 

How Experiential Marketing Can Take Your Brand To The Next Level

With all the data and technology available to marketers, it’s easy to focus on digital.

After all, email marketing alone has attracted 66 percent of online shoppers to make a purchase, and marketers give it the highest ranking as a marketing, conversion, and retention tactic.

Then there’s social media.

It can be tough to prove ROI, but the ease with which you can get your brand in front of consumers is incredible.

What are you emailing about?

What are you tweeting about?

What’s showing up in your Facebook feed and in your Vine videos?

Are you all dressed up with nowhere to go?

Experiential marketing solves that problem.

It immerses people in the emotional vitality of a flesh-and-blood experience.

Thanks to tools such as email, social media, and websites, you can use the experience to take your brand to a whole other level.

Experiential Marketing and Brand Activation

According to experiential marketing expert Matthew Kinsman:

Brand activation is essentially the process of making a brand well-known and loved by consumers, by promoting it in an experience-based way that generates interest, allowing consumers to experience the brand.

Activating and marketing your brand in an experience-based way involves multiple channels.

Kinsman gives the example of creating a mini-site dedicated to a specific product.

With experiential marketing, you would create a physical experience with the product and point your audience to the dedicated mini-site.

Digital channels, such as a mini-site, go towards reinforcing the experience and expanding upon it.

Then, these channels funnel the user to a conversion.

What, exactly, does a brand experience look like?

The Event

One direct way to create a brand experience is through an event.

It’s effective.

A study from Momentum Worldwide showed live events drive 65 percent of people to recommend brands, and 59 percent of people to buy afterwards.

Live events come with their own set of challenges.

For one, you have to make sure people know about it.

Here are some quick tips on how to market events:

  • Social: Create an event page on Facebook and a Twitter hashtag for the event.
  • Email: Tap into your email list.
  • Special occasions: Tie your event into a holiday or other occasion.
  • Signage: Craft posters and flyers to throw up around town.
  • Locality: Invite local businesses.
  • Timing: Give people plenty of advance notice via email and social media.

You’ll also want to notify traditional media channels, and there’s nothing wrong with creating a dedicated event website.

Now let’s look at an example and discuss corresponding digital action.

Red Bull Events  

Red Bull has taken the event experience and made it the brand’s signature.

Just look at the variety of events here.

They’re doing everything from a lifeguarding competition to a grand prix to festivals.

For Red Bull, the nature of these events fits the brand’s active and extreme image.

Think carefully about the brand image you want to project.

The events you host or sponsor will work best if they’re relevant to your niche and personality.

If the event is relevant to your product’s purpose, people will experience your brand in a very real way.

They’ll identify activity, the flesh-and-blood engagement, with your brand.

Website and Social Media  

Red Bull has a dedicated events website that does the following well:

  • Provides event-related images.
  • Provides detailed event information and links.
  • Provides news content related to events.
  • Provides a streaming video component (Red Bull TV).
  • Provides product info and shopping portals.

Note the overt focus here is the events, not the brand.

People come away with a brand impression by association.

Meanwhile, you have links to all the major social media channels at the bottom of each page.

If I go to the Facebook page, the first piece of content I see is a video that was originally a livestream:

Red Bull Event on Facebook Live

This reinforces their brand image, and it takes advantage of the streaming video option on Facebook.

Facebook Live video is more likely to appear higher in News Feed than other types of content.

The events calendar is easy to access on the left-hand sidebar.

You also have easy access to the Red Bull main website.

The brand is fully activated and marketed through the events, website, and social media.

Bringing It Home

Like the Mountain Dew Energy Tour, you can choose to make your brand experience interactive and disruptive, taking your product to the community.

Or, like the Anheuser-Busch virtual tour, you can use technology to immerse people in what you do.

What types of experiences can you think of for your brand?

Whatever you choose, create corresponding brand activation points online, through social media, your website, and email.

The experience will earn you recommendations, the digital channels, conversions.

What more could you ask for?

image credit: shutterstock

About Daniel Matthews

Daniel Matthews is a writer, part-time social worker, and musician who loves to explore topics ranging from technology to business culture and psychology. He has written for Social Media Today, Triple Pundit, Smart Data Collective, and YFS Magazine, among others. He is currently working on a book of poems.

  • Anyone absolutely hate experiential marketing? Love it? Let’s hear it!

    • I *love* being a part of it. Ultimately, you do have to have a product that does what it says it will do but yes. I would rather have a conversation with someone about something I happen to see them using/eating /etc than have a magazine ad fly by that just irritates me because it keeps me from getting to the next page of the article.

      • I agree, the effectiveness is definitely product-specific. the interesting one to me is the Anheuser-Busch VR tour. I mean, if people were just “experiencing” the beer it would simply be a sample tent. But as brands get more techie they can simulate a different kind of experience.

  • This is a great post Daniel.

    I mock Brian Solis for claiming it is always about the experience (it is not) but if you are in the right niche industry it can be powerful. Red Bull, Vans, Chobani/Ben&Jerry’s are great examples of this.

    Kraft Mac and Cheese? Good luck. While having your name on an event or doing something unique can have outsized impact on brand awareness and sentiment, it can’t fix a sucky product.

    Red Bull: Their product to me sucks vs Monster. I meant flat out sucks. It is 2x as expensive yet they do a great job selling the image especially where people order Vodka/RedBulls for example. So while I LOVE what red bull does for experiential marketing and will watch the flying tomato do his thing on a snowboard….I don’t buy the product.

    To really do this at scale is super expensive. Think Vans Warped tour (my guess this breaks even each year) or House of Vans events (not a money making event but used to sell shoes). So to really see an impact be ready to spend. And to be honest if Vans didn’t make great shoes they wouldn’t be selling any.

    So you could say to work you already need to have a great product. And if you already do….I bet you already over pay for marketing because the product probably sells itself.

    • Gini Dietrich

      We used to do all sorts of experiential marketing for Ocean Spray. I spent an entire summer going to festivals, popping up a tent, and handing out free juice. We killed it! It sold more cranberry juice than anything else in the five years I worked on that business. So it *could* work for Kraft, if they are in the right spots.

    • Ha! Howie I can’t agree with you more on the Red Bull vs Monster debate. And yes, the type of exp marketing Vans and Red Bull do is ultra spendy. But, and here’s the big but, within a specific niche, if a brand is out there all the time creating visibility, doesn’t have to be on the scale of Red Bull, they’re still going to have more consumer awareness than other brands. Ultimately, you’re right though. Product quality has got to back it up.

  • Gini Dietrich

    Daniel, you’re making me miss my event marketing days! I’ve done everything from host a a funeral for a fire ant, create a cranberry bog in Times Square, and build a celebrity chef content on a catfish farm. Super fun!

    These are all great ideas for companies with large budgets, but what do you recommend for smaller businesses that don’t have the staff or resources to create a virtual tour or host a festival?

    • Sounds fun, I’d be interested in finding out why you got out of it! Well, in answer to your question, for smaller businesses it depends on what you’re selling. For a business with a location and product on hand to sell, such as a restaurant or brewery–live music. If your location calls for acoustic music, that’s great. People love it. Even if people just come for the music they may end up buying something. Perhaps do some easy samples or specials during that time. Or, host a competition. Even if the return to participants is minimal, people still love to compete. Just a few ideas of the top of my head.

      • Gini Dietrich

        Oh, only because I started my own business and it wasn’t (isn’t) a core competency we offered.

        • Daniel Matthews

          A pretty great reason. I think we’re all happy you started your own business!

  • Mike

    Hi Daniel, very good read. It is important to keep the customers needs in mind when marketing. It is also crucial to give your customers a true user experience and personalization. Nice post!