October 19, 2023
By Anna Linthicum

Shortening attention spans. Ad fatigue. Content overload. Changing consumer behaviour. Today, these challenges have put a wedge between marketers and their audiences. But experiential marketing could be the solution. 

It’s all about creating memorable, fun, and tangible experiences for your audience. Telling a story, being authentic, and creating an emotional connection will have a profound effect on the way people perceive and interact with your brand.

Read on to learn more about experiential marketing, what makes it so effective, and how you can turn your experiential marketing campaigns into a roaring success.

What is experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing campaigns, also known as XM engagement marketing or ground marketing, are about creating immersive, fun, and engaging experiences for your audience. 

Examples of a campaign of this type could be pop-up events, immersive installations, product sampling, or virtual and augmented reality. In one survey, Agency EA found that the most engaging experiences for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) attendees alike were networking events/initiatives.

Learn more: Event Marketing: The Definitive Guide

Experiential marketing in action

In 2018, Burger King geofenced approximately 14,000 McDonald’s locations across the US. When users came within 600 feet of the rival chain, they received a notification offering them a Whopper for one cent. The app then directed fast-food lovers to Burger King’s nearest restaurant. 

This experiential marketing campaign resulted in 1.5 million app downloads and is proof that thinking creatively and taking calculated risks works. 

The benefits of experiential marketing

Experiential events can be a large investment of time and/or money. But the rewards are worth it. 

  • Increased brand awareness: When you generate buzz and PR around your marketing campaign, you amplify your brand’s message and reach.
  • Enhanced audience engagement: Experiential marketing fosters two-way communication, allowing brands to engage with customers directly and receive immediate feedback. 
  • Differentiating from competitors: In crowded markets, it can be challenging to stand out. Experiential marketing allows you to create unique, memorable experiences that set you apart.
  • More revenue: You need to spend money to make money. Increased brand awareness, audience engagement, and competitive advantages lead to more revenue over time. 
  • Customer loyalty: Interactive, fun experiences help you connect with existing customers and keep them coming back for more. 

What makes experiential marketing so effective?

We know experiential marketing strategies work, but why? What do they offer your audience that traditional marketing methods don't? 

The answer is that experiential marketing taps into the part of your audience’s brains that want to be entertained and connected with. It leverages the power of human experiences, emotions, and interactions to create deeper connections between brands and consumers. 

Experiential marketing isn’t new and, with the evolution of technology, it’s changed a lot. Today, you can engage with your audience when they’re sitting at home on their laptop or phone. 

Here are a few things that make experiential marketing so effective:

  • Emotional engagement: Experiential marketing creates opportunities for emotional engagement by immersing consumers in memorable and meaningful experiences. 
  • Authenticity: Consumers tend to appreciate authentic, real-world interactions with brands. Experiential marketing often feels more genuine and authentic compared to traditional advertising.
  • Memorability: People remember experiences more vividly than they remember information they've read or heard. Well-executed experiential campaigns create memorable moments that consumers recall long after the event.
  • Audience participation: Experiential marketing encourages active participation from the audience. Instead of being passive recipients of advertising messages, consumers become engaged participants in the brand's story.
  • Personalisation: Many experiential marketing campaigns are tailored to specific audiences, which increases relevance and resonance. Personalised experiences make consumers feel valued and understood.
  • Word-of-mouth and social sharing: Successful experiential campaigns often prompt attendees to share their experiences on social media, extending the campaign's reach and influence through word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Educational opportunities: Experiential marketing provides an opportunity to demonstrate features and benefits in a hands-on way, helping consumers better understand and appreciate what's being offered.

7 best practices for a successful experiential marketing campaign

Experiential marketing is a dynamic and evolving field. Staying innovative and open to new ideas is just as important as creating a robust strategy. 

Here are a few best practices for when you come to create your experiential marketing campaign: 

1. Understand your audience

The success of your experiential marketing campaign hinges on how well you know your audience. Are they businesses or individual consumers? What are their preferences, behaviours, and challenges? What are your audience’s demographics? These are important questions to take into consideration. 

The type of experiential experience should suit your audience. Agency EA found that health/mindfulness activities are engaging for B2C audiences, but not for B2B.

Tailor your campaign to resonate with your specific audience, ensuring that the experience is relevant and engaging to them.

2. Budget wisely

In experiential marketing, where creativity and innovation play a significant role, budgeting wisely empowers you to create impactful experiences while ensuring that the campaign remains financially viable and aligned with your organisation’s goals.

Allocate your budget strategically and consider factors such as venue costs, technology expenses, staffing, and promotional materials.

3. Choose the right venue

If your experiential marketing campaign involves an event, choosing the right venue is a critical task not to be overlooked. The venue itself and the service it provides could make or break your event—and your campaign. 

When deliberating over venues, consider factors like: 

  • Is the venue aligned with my audience?
  • How accessible is the venue?
  • What is the capacity? 
  • Does the venue have the right atmosphere?
  • Are there any customisation options?

Pro tip: Use venue-sourcing platforms like the Cvent Supplier Network to find your next event venue. 

4. Design engaging experiences

Design an experience that is unique, memorable, and emotionally engaging. Think creatively and consider how to surprise and delight participants. Make the experience shareable, so attendees are compelled to talk about it and share it on social media.

M&M’s Flavor Rooms are a great example of an engaging experience. This immersive pop-up experience in New York City involved multiple rooms each dedicated to a certain flavour. Attendees could drink M&M-themed cocktails and snacks.

5. Tell a story

Storytelling is an age-old way of engaging someone’s interest, whether it be a parent reading a story to their child, a teenager playing a video game, or an adult watching Game of Thrones

A compelling story can help your audience relate to your brand and message on a deeper level. Tap into real challenges your audience faces or tell the origin stories of your organisation. Leave bland presentations in the past and incorporate storytelling elements into your campaign to create a narrative that connects with your audience. 

But how do you tell a compelling story that captivates your audience? Consider using the classic storytelling structure: an introduction, conflict or challenge, climax, and resolution. Weave the brand message into the narrative naturally. Here are a few stories you could tell:

  • Origin stories: Share the story of your founding. Include the vision and values that inspired the brand’s creation.
  • Customer success stories: Showcase real-life stories of customers who have benefitted from your products or services. Better yet, get your customer to tell the story. 
  • Behind the scenes stories: Take your attendees behind the scenes to reveal the people, processes, and dedication that went into creating your brand or event. 
woman listening with headphones

6. Ensure brand alignment

Whatever you do, your experiential marketing campaign must align with your brand. This is important for a few reasons: It helps brand recognition, trust, loyalty, and a cohesive brand experience. But it also ensures that attendees have a positive encounter with your brand, reinforcing its identity and values at every touchpoint.

Maintain consistency with your brand's identity, values, and messaging throughout the experiential campaign. If you’re known for your sustainable practices, make sure your experience is fully sustainable—and shout about it!

7. Provide value

While your experience might just be designed to give attendees a good time and build positive brand associations, providing tangible value is also a good way to engage with your audience. 

Offer real value to participants through educational content, entertainment, or useful takeaways. The experience should be rewarding for attendees beyond the initial engagement.

Measuring the ROI of experiential marketing

Understanding the impacts of your efforts and justifying your budget spend is essential. According to Agency EA, 89% of marketers say that capturing and leveraging data from their experiential programming has made a positive impact on their marketing strategy. 

Due to the multifaceted nature of an experiential marketing campaign, measuring your return on investment (ROI) can seem tricky at first. It doesn’t have to be. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to measuring the ROI of your experiential marketing campaign: 

Determine your goals and KPIs

Before creativity begins, you need to lay the groundwork. Set specific and measurable goals for your experiential campaign. Think about what you are aiming to achieve. Is it enhanced brand awareness, more sales, the collection of consumer data, or another objective? 

Defining clear objectives will guide your campaign strategy and keep you on track as you make and execute decisions. Next, choose the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll track. These will indicate that you have achieved your previously set objectives. Your KPIs could include metrics like:

  • Event attendees
  • Lead captures
  • Conversions
  • Social media reach

Collect audience data

Collecting as much data as possible throughout your campaign will help you prove its success, find out what didn’t work, and replicate what did. Fortunately, there are countless ways to gather data and track your audience’s engagements, such as: 

  • Registration technology: Registration software can capture valuable information such as names, email addresses, job titles, and company affiliations. Macmillan Cancer Support, for example, used Cvent Registration Paths to access dashboards, monitor traffic, gather attendee feedback, and more.
  • RFID technology: RFID technology is a great way to not only engage attendees but also track data. Stage Right Entertainment hands out RFID-enabled wristbands at their events which can then be registered and personalised to each attendee. 
  • Social media monitoring: Encourage attendees to share their experiences on social media using a dedicated event hashtag. Lean Cuisine’s campaign, for example, was a hashtag: #WeighThis, making it easy for their audience to share their experience on social media. 
  • Mobile apps: Create a dedicated mobile app for the event that attendees can download. The app can offer event information, interactive features, and surveys to collect feedback. YPO used the Cvent Mobile Event App to meet the networking needs of their members and create a sense of connectivity and community.
registration at cvent connect europe

Common experiential marketing mistakes 

As with anything, there are pitfalls around every corner. But go into experiential marketing with an idea of what to avoid and you’ll find success. Here are a few common mistakes marketers should avoid when putting together experiential marketing campaigns: 

  • Being inconsistent with your brand identity: Failing to maintain consistency with your brand identity, messaging, and visual elements can confuse attendees and diminish the impact of your event.
  • Having an overly sales-driven approach: While experiential marketing can drive sales, focusing too heavily on sales pitches and promotions can turn attendees off. The primary goal should be to create an engaging and valuable experience.
  • Being ineffective at storytelling: Storytelling is a powerful tool in experiential marketing, but poor storytelling or failing to connect the story with the brand can undermine the experience.
  • Making your event too complex: Making the event overly complex or convoluted can confuse attendees and overwhelm your team. Keep the experience straightforward and easy to understand.

Grow your brand with experiential marketing

Experiential marketing brings your brand to life, connects you with your audience in creative ways, and ultimately brings in more revenue. To make the most out of your campaign and drive ROI, it’s important to design and strategise thoughtfully, taking your audience and your brand’s identity into account.

Although these campaigns aren’t always cheap (or simple), the audience engagement, brand awareness, and revenue generation are well worth it in the end. 

Want to get even more engagement from your audience? Download our latest ebook, Dialling up Your Event Engagement.

Anna Linthicum

Anna Linthicum

A recent graduate of Washington and Lee University, I am currently the Sales Development Representative for the Marketing Partnerships team here at Cvent.

My writing journey got its start with stories about my cousins and our incredible adventures together on family vacations. You can find me organizing my closet, doing Kayla Itsines workouts, or watching The Office for the umpteenth time.

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