Why experiential marketing works and how to do it right

Thomas Paris
August 18, 2021
Why experiential marketing works and how to do it right | Hoppier

Experiential marketing is a powerful way to make a big impact and create unmissable moments for your target audience, customers, and the press. These live events, workshops, and experiences help you get closer to your customers and drive engagement, interest, and sales.

In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about experiential marketing. We’ll cover why it’s worth investing in, and how to plan an experiential marketing campaign that makes an impact.

What is experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing is all about creating a moment — or experience — for your customers to join in on. This marketing tactic, also known as engagement marketing or live event marketing, brings your audience closer to your brand’s products, services, values, or culture through live events and interactive activities.

Often, experiential marketing takes the form of an event — but not exclusively. Experiential marketing can also involve branded experiences, pop ups, and installations in different environments like on the street, in an art gallery, or in a mall. These installations or activations often involve marketers working together with event planners to create an immersive experience for guests.

Why experiential marketing is worth investing in

A man throws money in the air to represent investing in experiential marketing

Experiential marketing brings people closer to who you are and what you do. With that closeness comes big business benefits. Here are some of the main benefits of experiential marketing that make it worth trying in your business.

Get closer to your customers

There’s nothing quite like experiential marketing to really immerse your customers and audience in what you do, offer, or stand for. These live events, pop ups, and brand activations bring them closer than ever to your people, products, and services.

In contrast to traditional marketing methods that often “talk at” your audience, experiential marketing invites them in. People can enjoy a one-off experience, like walking through the set of their favorite sitcom with your drink brand, or sleeping under the stars with your sleepwear brand. These experiences give your customers unrivaled access to you, and in return, you get a chance to better understand what customers like or don’t like, which will help you with future product development and marketing campaigns.

Attract the right kind of attention

While experiential marketing isn’t about staging a publicity stunt, it can put you in the spotlight. Done well, your live event or branded experience can attract attention from potential customers, press, investors, and partners.

If you plan, design, and execute your experiential marketing campaign with your target audience in mind, they'll be excited to get involved and experience it for themselves. The right brand activation or live event experience can also increase brand awareness through positive press coverage, social media shares, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Create and reward brand loyalty

Experiential marketing can be an incredibly useful tactic to raise awareness for your brand, get mentions in relevant press or blogs, and get closer to your potential customers. It can also be a powerful way to foster and reward brand loyalty.

Live event experiences work great in combination with other loyalty programs and sales incentives for customers. Stage an amazing, immersive event for your most loyal customers — the ones who have collected the most points or been the most engaged throughout the year. Give them VIP access to your top people, the chance to try or customize new products, or an unmissable experience that they can’t get elsewhere.

Not only does this reward customer loyalty and create an emotional connection, it’s also a great way to encourage people to engage with you regularly to earn future rewards.

How to craft a compelling experiential marketing moment

A person is excited about an experiential marketing event

Experiential marketing can be a great way to connect with your customers and transform admirers into loyal fans through amazing, one-off experiences. Here’s how to turn your idea into a plan, and create a buzz with your experiential marketing event.

Start with a goal

Like with any marketing tactic or plan, you first need a goal in mind if you want your experiential marketing strategy to succeed. You need to know why you’re planning this live event or activation and what impact it’ll have on your figures, data, or brand awareness.

Think about what you really want to achieve through experiential marketing. Consider whether you want to reward loyal fans with a VIP experience that encourages future engagement, or create an impressive collaboration with an art gallery that’ll attract press attention so you can grow your waiting list. Knowing your goal helps you build a strategy and plan an experience that stands the best chance of meeting or exceeding your targets.

Be customer focused

At the heart of any great experiential marketing event or activation is that connection between your customers and your brand. These moments are the kind you can’t replicate with a tweet or through an email with your customer service team. So, take the opportunity to go all in and be super customer focused.

Aim to make customer experience the focal point of your event. As you plan your logistics, venue, marketing, and follow up, consider all the different ways you can tailor what you’re doing to your ideal customer. Survey your customers to find out what they’d love to see or get involved with, and find a way to make it happen. Offer unmissable experiences, and create real value through every interaction someone has with your team on the day.

Create plenty of interaction

Experiential marketing activations, events, and experiences are all about getting involved and letting people get closer to your brand than ever before. You want people to really interact with your brand, products, or services — so build this into your strategy.

The best experiential marketing event is a hands-on moment where someone can walk up, get to know you, and experience not only your products, but part of your culture too. Feature plenty of touch points like live demos, customization stations, videos, workshops, and take-away materials. Make the interaction last beyond the moment with an event or activation hashtag for people to use when they share content on social media.

Be exclusive or unmissable

Your brand experience should be something that people can't find just anywhere. It goes way beyond your brand culture and the kind of experience people can get from buying in stores or online, or interacting with you on social media. For an activation that really stands out, make it unmissable or exclusive.

Exclusivity and time-limited experiences feel much more desirable, as customers know they won’t be around forever. There’s no delaying things until they find a moment — customers take part now or miss out on a memorable experience.

Use this exclusivity to drive excitement for and engagement at your live event, workshop, or activation. For another great way to promote your event or experience, host a pre-launch event for a select group of invited guests and press. That way, you’ll already have people talking about how great it is, which will create even more buzz.

Track your results

Experiential marketing can often feel like a strategy or tactic that leads up to one big moment and then it’s done. That’s not the case though — to get the most out of your event you’ll want to collect and track your results.

Find different ways to collect data and insights from your customers throughout the event. Ask questions, hand out tablets with event surveys on them, and get people to take part in polls on social media challenges.

Combine this with information from your pre-event digital marketing campaigns, and you can start to build up a picture of what worked well and what to improve on for future events. Plus, you’ll be able to take your figures back to your company's leadership to demonstrate a clear uptick in leads, brand awareness, or whichever key metrics you wanted to track.

3 experiential marketing campaigns we love and what you can learn from them

Experiential marketing works — there are plenty of successful campaigns that prove just how valuable it can be as a marketing tactic. Learn from the best with these great examples of experiential marketing events, experiences, and activations.

The FRIENDS Experience

Ultra fans of Friends got the chance to get closer to their favorite TV show’s most loved scenes with The FRIENDS Experience. This popup experience across New York, Atlanta, and Dallas brings people into recreations of the sets they love most — from that iconic apartment to the Central Perk.

This experiential marketing activation works so well because it’s built on such a strong brand, plus it has the bonus of nostalgia. Friends is such a memorable show with a hoard of dedicated long-time fans, and for many, the opportunity to get involved is too hard to resist.

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb is about so much more than finding an affordable place to stay in a new-to-you city. The brand has created a community feel between hosts and guests, and that’s especially true for Airbnb Experiences.

Airbnb Experiences are stays with a twist. Instead of rocking up to stay a night or two, you can book a special experience with the host. There are plenty to choose from — with hosts offering up horseback riding, paddleboard lessons, chocolate making, vegan taxidermy, and so much more. This is experiential marketing at scale, and it goes beyond an event marketing experience, and facilitates memorable moments for everyone involved.

Red Bull Stratos

Red Bull did something truly amazing when it livestreamed Felix Baumgartner’s world-record-breaking skydive in 2012. It was an event that took the internet by storm, and Red Bull's audience was captivated and unable to break away from watching Red Bull Stratos as it played out in front of them.

This unmissable live-streamed event was an example of truly great experiential marketing. It was the kind of thing you had to witness for yourself to get the sense of occasion and excitement that came with being there — even if it was digital. It was history in the making, and for curious minds, it became a live experience they couldn’t miss.

Hoppier: A powerful way to create immersive experiences

Experiential marketing is all about using interactive elements to create experiences that people can feel. Hoppier can help you make that a reality, by offering a fun and user-friendly way to create immersive hybrid experiences.

A virtual credit card to offer guests an experience as part of an experiential marketing campaign

With Hoppier, you can add in-person elements to a digital campaign — perfect for those global launches or digital-first experiences. Send Hoppier virtual cards to your audience or VIP guests with a pre-loaded balance for them to spend at specific retailers as part of your experiential marketing activation.

Some brands you can buy from with a virtual credit card

Hoppier is super easy to use. All you need to do is set up a program, customize your card, add a spending limit, and select vendor options. Then you’re ready to distribute digital cards to your live event or experience guests. Create immersive, branded experiences with corporate gifting by limiting vendors to retailers that stock your brand or are brand partners, or invite guests to have lunch with you by allowing them to order from their favorite restaurant or cafe.

Make an impact with experiential marketing

The key to any great experiential marketing campaign is to do something that’s truly memorable. You need to create a moment in time that your die-hard fans can’t risk missing out on, and one that’s strong enough to pull in curious minds.

If you’re looking for more ways to make your event stand out, check out our webinar all about how to create memorable and engaging virtual events. It features tips from event experts at leading brands that you can use in your next event planning session.

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