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The Ultimate Guide to Experiential Marketing

Jul 8

No longer can businesses rely only on adverts. Consumers want more. They want memorable experiences. Viral moments. Commercials just don’t cut the mustard anymore. Indeed, with ad blocks now ubiquitous, many people go days or even weeks without ever seeing an ad. That’s led to the rise of experiential marketing.

After all, the goal of marketing is to be unforgettable.

To educate, excite, inform, and engage consumers – so that next time they need something to buy, it’s your product that springs to mind. Or even better, you trigger an instant desire for the product or service.

That all sounds expensive. But trust us – it’s got one of the best ROIs in all marketing.

We’re here to guide you through the basics of experiential marketing. Are you planning your next big company event? Do you have a product you need to launch? We’ll discuss how you can transform your events into the biggest marketing date in the company calendar.

What is the experiential marketing definition?

How do you define experiential marketing?

Experiential [ex·pe·ri·en·tial]: relating to, derived from, or providing an experience.

While in recent years – with the onset of social media – companies can market to consumers more easily than ever. And yet, they’ve found themselves lost in the white noise. With so many online ads buzzing around, consumers blank them all out – or they just block them.

Nothing makes a lasting impression anymore.

The solution was to go offline: back to the real world. Here, consumers are engaged in real-life interactions with a product or service. They can poke, prod, pry, and play – it’s all about them experiencing the product.

Experience unites us all.

These events bring brands to life. But don’t think of them as just another event. They’re experience-led. That makes an experiential marketing campaign a bespoke event. Not off-the-peg but tailored and unique.

You can harness public interaction to boost your brand through an experiential marketing agency. You’ll both spread your message through word of mouth, but also, you’ll capture some fantastic, genuine clips you can share on social media. It’s a win-win opportunity.

What is an example of experiential marketing?

Are you struggling to visualize how an experiential marketing event works? Experiential marketing can differ wildly. They’re generally based in a physical setting. But increasingly, they also have a virtual component – driving the hype and buzz into cyberspace.

Hashtags and shares are the media by which experiential marketing events ripple into the wider world. But what kind of events generate buzz in the first place:

  • Business events, festivals, awards
  • Samplings or demos
  • Stalls or demonstrations at a trade show
  • Unique, imaginative experiences
  • Retreats
  • Brand loyalty activities that create a social good

Sparking any ideas yet? Here are a few mind-blowing experiential marketing examples:

Airbnb and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the legendary tv show the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the homeowners teamed up to open the famous mansion to the public for only $30 per night.

Exclusive. Sure. Experiential. Most definitely. The story generated extensive coverage for Airbnb – it also shaped its public image.

Google Impact Challenge

In 2015, Google put aside 5.5 million dollars for ten non-profits throughout the San Francisco Bay area. But Google wanted locals to have a say.

Around the Bay area, Google set up interactive posters as voting booths. Locals simply clicked on the non-profit they felt was most important. Then, once the votes were tallied, Google split the money based on the number of votes.

Social responsibility can be at the heart of experiential marketing.

Coca-Cola: Small World Machines

Coca-Cola isn’t synonymous with world peace. Yet, in 2013, they set up two “small world machines” in shopping malls in Pakistan and India. The machines were linked, and participants could see the other person. The goal was to work together and solve a cooperative task.

The message: peace is possible.

The campaign was a huge success. But it was also a risk. Taking overtly political messages is in vogue at the moment. However, if you pick a controversial topic, you risk alienating part of your customer base. Still, when it works, it works.

Smirnoff Comic Book Party

When you think of Smirnoff, comic books might not be the first idea that leaps to mind. But Smirnoff knows a zeitgeist when they see one. This experiential marketing campaign is nothing more than an excuse for a giant party – and it worked!

Hosting full-sized comic illustrations and inviting guests from all across the industry, they created an event with spectacle and glamour. This wasn’t your typical black-tie event. It was a memorable experience, unlike any traditional marketing event.

Nor did Smirnoff lose sight of their brand. Keeping to the red color scheme, bartenders dressed like fictional characters – serving classic Smirnoff drinks and cocktails, of course. It was their experiential marketing campaign; no one else could have done anything like it.

HBO Escape Room

Almost every big-name brand is jumping on the experiential bandwagon. Why? Because it works. Even HBO, on the back of major hits, used the popular Escape the Room game to breathe life into their incredible shows. The concept is simple: a group of people are locked inside a room and must work together to escape. There are clues, mystery, and a little mischief.

Needless to say – it was a massive hit.

HBO tailored the escape rooms to three of their biggest shows: Veep, Silicon Valley, and, of course, Game of Thrones. Reinventing the game and these shows innovatively and engagingly is at the heart of a solid experiential marketing strategy. It’s being creative and passionate about your product – and getting the customer to feel the same way.

As people often put it: it’s all about the hype.

Ralph Lauren’s Be Part of the Art

Who doesn’t want to feel glamorous for the day? When a global mega-brand like Ralph Lauren offers customers the chance, you know it’s going to be unique. Drawing upon live art, music, and design, Ralph Lauren launched a contest for their fans named the ‘Project Warehouse Campaign’.

Winners would be treated to a live portrait by famous artist Alexa Meade, a live music section by DJ and Producer AVICII – in a lounge with cocktails. Finally, they experienced their slice of fashion heaven. Ralph Lauren’s top designer Arran Gregory created a personalized denim design for the guests.

Photos and videos were promoted on social media platforms, as well as by the guests themselves. It worked amazingly, reaching a broader audience while rewarding their loyal customers. It’s unlike any experiential marketing event before or since. And that’s the point; it’s a memorable experience whether you were there or not.

What is the purpose of experiential marketing?

Sounds like fun, right? But what’s the point? How does marketing to a small number of consumers make a dent in your sales?

That’s not how to think about it.

Rather, what you’re trying to do is create an ad campaign led by your customers. Before, you’d tell your customers what was amazing about your product. They’d see the ad on tv and decide if they wanted it.

No more. Today, experiential marketing creates buzz – an event to be noticed. Customers come along. They interact and appraise your product. What does it look like, how does it taste, who is it for… then, if they’re impressed, they share the experience on social media.

Now it’s not a company that tells you the product is amazing; it’s your best mate or dad or colleague—someone you can trust.

Experiential marketing does it all. But there are other benefits too. Experiential marketing helps:

  • Brand awareness. How are you? And what are you about?
  • Lead generation. Network, and gather contacts and data on prospects.
  • Brand loyalty. Building an emotional connection with a brand keeps customers coming back.
  • Sell products. Rarely do people get to sample before they buy? But once they’ve tried it, they’ll want to buy it.
  • Broadcast on social media. Generate hype with a fun activity. Get your hashtag trending.

But how does all this translate to practice? Are big brands using experiential marketing?

Yes. Yes. And double-yes.

What brands use experiential marketing?

Sports events are amongst the most popular times for experiential marketing. With thousands of people milling about, you can hook them into your product through a common interest.

American Express

Take American Express’s AI tennis game at the 2017 US Open. Young kids and adults alike joined in to play a quick game of virtual tennis. But, best of all, American Express built brand awareness and loyalty.


Even the Superbowl itself could be thought of as experiential marketing for the NFL. It’s a landmark event that puts football on the map. Indeed, the 2017 Houston Super Bowl spilled into the wider city, with decorations and projection shows. It was all about hyping up the game ahead.

MasterCard and Swarovski

Now brands are also integrating the latest technology into experiential marketing campaigns.

Not only is it novel, but it also sparks interest. For example, MasterCard and Swarovski teamed up to virtually showcase what Swarovski’s luxury décor items look like in a home setting. Seeing as 65% of customers report that live events and product demonstrations help them better understand a product – you’re not only selling the product, you’re also educating customers about it.


You’re trying to turn the consumers from passive watchers into active participants. For that, it’s supposed to feel special and exclusive.

That doesn’t mean you need to abandon everything you know about marketing. To highlight their cellulite bump reducing product, Nivea covered a billboard in bubble wrap.

I mean, who doesn’t want to pop bubble wrap all day?

Red Elephant

Meanwhile, Red Elephant Car Wash had ingenious business cards printed out. On one side was a faux bird-dropping picture. But, when you picked it up and turned it over, it told you how to get your car cleaned.

Simple. Effective. Genius.

Experiential marketing doesn’t always need to be big and bold. Sometimes clever and subtle works just as well.


Is there some simple controversy about your brand – use it. That’s what M&M did by delving into the peanut versus regular debate. Rather than pick a side, they created ‘flavor rooms’ where customers could visit and decide the next flavor the company should choose. The pop-up rooms were each dedicated to a different flavor, be it mint or orange. There were M&M-themed cocktails and, of course, plenty of snacks to try.

You can bet how much hype it generated online. Everyone was clambering to visit.

The most important takeaway is the value of fun. Experiential marketing can be real-world; it can be anything you imagine. So go a little wild. Put your customer in the driving seat with an experience unlike any other.


Sometimes, however, you don’t need to reinvent the world; you just need to give a fresh twist. Haagen-Dazs did just that at the Wimbledon tennis championship. Famed worldwide for their strawberries and cream, Haagen-Dazs saw an opportunity. Pioneering a new, limited-edition ice cream flavor (yes, strawberries & cream), they set out to Wimbledon to create a buzz.

Branding themselves “the official ice cream of Wimbledon”, they got people talking. They also brought along a booth with a swing, where famous tennis players, models, and influencers could snap some incredible social media pics. Meaning not only did Haagen-Dazs generate a buzz, but they also did it on a budget. Social media did the rest.

It’s genius experiential marketing!

What are common mistakes in experiential marketing?

Whether you’re trying to raise money for charity or create an experience that gets people talking, you’ll want to avoid these common pitfalls.

Poor prep

In experiential marketing, preparation is everything. You don’t just create a cohesive marketing campaign overnight. It takes weeks or months of planning. As we always say, it takes a lot of effort to look effortless. Give yourself enough time to prepare and plan your campaign, and always keep in mind your target market’s wants and needs.

Thinking small

Experiential marketing is all about being bigger and bolder. Why limit yourself to the local? With social media and hands-on experiences, you can create an experiential marketing campaign beyond your local area. Perhaps you could even take your campaign on the road, with a roadshow to remember. Just think – the more people you involve, the more potential viral moments can occur. It only takes one!

Assuming perfection

No plan survives first contact with the public. They’re unpredictable. The major upside of this type of marketing is that you generate organic customer interactions and create a natural interest in your product. But it won’t all go smoothly. If you’re assuming everything will go to plan, you’ll end up being unprepared.

Try to think of all possible negative events (even the unsavory ones) and then devise a plan of how to deal with them.

Being bland

Playing it safe – what’s the point? You’ll just get lost in the crowd. As we’ve seen, experiential marketing campaigns are bold and creative. Ralph Lauren painted and clothed its fans; HBO locked them in a room and got them to escape. On paper, it sounds like a disaster; in reality, it was a wild success.

Of course, there’s a fine line between the bold and the mad. Campaigns should always stick to your brand’s ethos and core selling point. Just think about how you can do it in the most imaginative way possible. Be innovative. Be inventive. Just don’t ever be bland.

Let’s recap: What did we learn?

Here are the biggest takeaways from the guide above:

  1. Experiential marketing is defined as an interactive, engaging event in which customers take part.
  2. There’s no single way to do experiential marketing – all it takes is an original idea.
  3. Experiential marketing creates a broader impact through original customer social media posts.
  4. You can truly push the boundaries with an experiential marketing campaign. Just remember to always relate your campaign to the product.
  5. Customers prefer to interact with a product before they buy it. That’s why all experiential marketing campaigns should be engaging, educational, and interactive.

That’s it—your complete guide to experiential marketing. If you’ve got a product to sell, market, or hype up – try experiential marketing. We’ve got extensive experience transforming marketing campaigns into events customers never forget.

Put your brand on the map. Be unforgettable.