You probably have at least one memory of a time when you felt a special connection with a brand or its product or service. You remember loving the brand so much that you’d literally stop on the street to watch its advert playing on a giant screen.

You know all the words of the song or jingle, and you are willing to line up for hours just to get your hands on a limited edition product. In other words, you are fully immersed in the experience offered by that brand.

You have just experienced, firsthand, what is referred to as “experiential marketing”.

13 Super Cool Examples of Experiential Marketing (Engage Your Customers Now)

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In this article, we discover 1) what is experiential marketing, 2) its pros and cons, and 3) inspiring examples of well played experiential marketing campaigns.

EXPERIENCING EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

Perhaps the phrase is new to you, and you are more familiar with its other name, “engagement marketing”. No matter; they are one and the same. In fact, there are other terms used to refer to the same concept, such as “event marketing”, “participative or participation marketing”, and “live marketing”.

Experiential marketing, or engagement marketing, is a marketing strategy that encompasses a consumer’s experience with a brand, product or service, inviting and encouraging his direct participation. This direct engagement allows the customer to experience the product or service firsthand – to touch it, to feel it, to participate in it, and to immerse himself in the entire experience.

Experiential marketers do things differently as, say, those who practice traditional marketing. Conventional forms of advertising and marketing often involves presenting the product – its features, specifications and the many benefits it offers – to the consumer, and letting the latter make his decision based on the presentation. Traditional marketers unleash their charm and their skill at sales talk to convince the consumer to buy them product or service.

However, in experiential marketing, the consumer gets to do more than just listen and watch. He will be allowed to try the service or test the product. The experiential marketer will facilitate this interaction between product/service and consumer and, afterwards, let the consumer make the decision whether to buy or not, based on his experience. Sure, there is still some sales talk involved, but the marketer will let the product or service do most of the “talking” and convincing.

This is certainly one way of putting great stock on the adage “experience is the best teacher”. They let the experience teach the customers why the product or service is worth buying, and why the brand deserves their loyalty.

Big and established brands are seen using a combination of traditional and experiential marketing in their marketing campaigns. Why is that, you ask? Because they will be able to reap the benefits of both traditional and experiential marketing.

 

PROS AND CONS OF EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

There are benefits and drawbacks to experiential marketing. Among the advantages that business may reap from it are discussed below.

  • Experiential marketing makes it easier and faster to direct the consumer’s focus and attention on a product or service, because it engages more than one or two senses of the customer simultaneously. For example, through a wine tasting event sponsored by a winery, the marketer will be able to direct the consumer’s attention to the taste and aroma of the wine, and the pleasure of feeling smooth wine glide down their throat. They are also opening up the customer’s awareness of sharing great wine in the company of friends.
  • Experiential marketing promotes brand loyalty of customers. If a product or service delivers what it promised or claimed, a consumer will definitely like it and decide to purchase it. Experiential marketing techniques will reinforce this positive impression in the customer, so he will decide to keep coming back to that product or service, and eventually stick to that brand for the long term.
  • This marketing strategy, when done right, can potentially increase the profitability of the company. Brand loyalty among consumers means that there will be a loyal following, which also means that there will be stability in the inflow of revenue. More revenue means higher profit, and more profit means greater opportunities for the growth of the business.

There is also another side of the coin, presenting drawbacks that must be addressed properly by the marketers.

  • Experiential marketing has a narrower reach at a given time, compared to traditional marketing. A traditional advertisement may be presented to hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands of target consumers at one time. Publish an ad in a national newspaper and practically every newspaper reader in the country is bound to see it. Air it as a TV commercial, and you can reach pretty much all the viewers who are tuned in at a specific time. With experiential marketing, that may be quite difficult. In order to let the customer get the full experience, one-on-one interaction is the best way to go about it. This means that you can only target a limited number of consumers at a time.
  • Experiential marketing requires a lot of marketing manpower. This requires a hands-on approach in dealing with customers, and since it is one-on-one, if the company wants to reach as many consumers as possible, there has to be a lot of “hands” on deck, working. More hands means higher expenses on labor and manpower.
  • In general, experiential marketing may be more expensive. Aside from additional manpower costs, the company will have to spend on other expenses related to its experiential marketing expenses, such as the cost of samples and other related overhead. Even the service hours that were rendered for free just so the customer can be apprised on the services of the company cost money.

SUPER COOL EXAMPLES OF EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

Over the years, many companies and brands have made use of experiential marketing. Some worked, some failed, and there are others that were so imaginative and “super cool” that they are bound to be remembered even years later. Here are 13 of some of the most super cool experiential marketing strategies ever.

1. “I Wanna Have a Sleepover in IKEA” of IKEA (2011)

When furniture retail giant IKEA found out about the Facebook group that called themselves “I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA”, it invited 100 winners out of the almost 100,000 members to a sleepover inside its furniture warehouse in Essex in the UK.

In the pajamas-only sleepover, the guests each got goodie bags, on top of massages and manicures. They were also treated to movies and a reality TV star swung by to read them a bedtime story. They also got to check out and test the various IKEA products inside the warehouse. It’s like a “first look”, only better, because they get to spend the night in furniture heaven!

This is a great example of experiential marketing utilizing social media.

2. “Livestrong Chalkbot” of Nike (2009)

Nike carved its name in experiential marketing with this award-winning campaign, meant to raise cancer awareness and promote Livestrong, the cancer foundation of Tour de France perennial champion Lance Armstrong, who is also famous for being a cancer survivor.

In the Livestrong Chalkbot interactive campaign, Nike’s ad agency Wieden + Kennedy commissioned Deeplocal and Standard Robot to build a purpose-built roving machine. Tweets, SMS and other messages via web banners and WearYellow.com were collected from Tour fans and spectators from all over the world, and the Chalkbot sprayed these messages in yellow chalk on the roads of the Tour de France 2009 route.

The world, especially those who participated in sending messages, became witness to the messages chalked on the roads for the three-week duration of the Tour.

According to Nike, this campaign brought its apparel sales up by a whopping 46%.

 

3. “Guinness Class” of Guinness (2012)

Guinness did not have a new product, and it did not have any new offering. But that did not stop it from coming up with a new campaign to build up on what it already has. For many drinkers in the UK, Guinness represents a lot of things, and the campaign played on that, awakening in them the desire or aspiration to fly to Dublin, Ireland on a private jet (the Guinness Class), with three of their best mates.

In order to get a chance to win the plum prize, consumers are encouraged to head to any of the 1000 participating pubs across the UK between 6pm and 8pm, from October 5 to December 1, 2012. During that period, staff of Guinness, wearing the flight attendant uniforms, will enter the bars at random, and whoever is caught to have ordered and is drinking a pint of Guinness will get a chance to win various prizes, to be indicated by a mobile tablet. Every night, one winner will get that private jet to Dublin prize.

The campaign ran for 9 weeks and a total of 85 lucky winners got to experience the Guinness Class.

4. “D Rose Jump Store” of Adidas and Derrick Rose (2013)

Getting Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose to sign a 13-year exclusive contract may have cost Adidas close to $185 million, but there is no denying that it was one profitable partnership, made even more successful by its experiential marketing strategy.

The most notable of these strategies is the pop-up store “D Rose Jump Store” that Adidas opened in London. When news about the NBA superstar showing up at the store spread, hundreds – young and old – lined up to catch a glimpse of Rose and even meet him up close.

But things got even more exciting when the fans got a chance to win a pair of Derrick Rose 3.5 trainers. All they had to do was to be able to jump up 10 feet in the air, to grab a pair from the top of the wall. They get to bring home the pair that they are able to grab.

5. “The Great Sensitivity Test” of Sensodyne (2013)

GSK, maker of the Sensodyne line of toothpastes, launched its new Novamin Complete Protection technology, specially designed for sensitive teeth. They gave away free samples of the Sensodyne Complete Protection, but they did not stop there. To ensure customer engagement, they allowed customers to experience “The Great Sensitivity Test”.

GSK set up “The Great Sensitivity Test” at Potters Field in London, and sent word about the activity with the help of YouTube celebrities and influencers. The area was divided into three zones. Zone 1 was the Sensitivity Zone, where guests can undergo a 10-minute sensitivity dental check, play games for prizes, and get free product samples and advice at the Product Demo. Zone 2, or the Giant Molar, is where guests can have their photo taken beside a 4-meter tall white molar.

At Zone 3, visitors get a chance to help nab an Official Guinness World Record for the “World’s Largest Oral Hygiene Lesson”. It may not have scored a world record, but the numbers during the event were impressive enough to count “The Great Sensitivity Test” as one of the best examples of real engagement.

6. “Just Dance Now” of Ubisoft (2014)

Ubisoft, the developer behind the Just Dance Now video game, was ready to launch the latest version of the app, and they needed to do it with a bang. In December 4, 2014, Ubisoft turned Piccadilly Circus into one huge dance floor.

In the annual lighting of the Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square, spectators were surprised when the Just Dance now troupe went up on the stage and danced. They hyped up the crowd and encouraged them to join along, using music from the Just Dance app. The whole place turned into something akin to a flash mob, with the crowd jumping in and having fun. Prizes were also given to those who downloaded the Just Dance Now app.

7. “Virtual Balcony” of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (2014 to present)

When RCCL first launched its high-tech “Quantum of the Seas” ship, it was touted as the world’s “smartest” ship, and they made that possible by introducing the “Virtual Balcony”.

Basically, every interior stateroom of the ship is fitted with 80-inch 4K screens on one wall, and these screens stream live ocean views and sounds, courtesy of footage captured by high-performance cameras strategically situated around the ship. Now this may not be a huge deal for those in staterooms that get the real view, but interior staterooms are windowless, so the virtual balcony is a stroke of marketing genius.

Some more awesome examples of experiential marketing campaigns.

 

8. “Bates Motel” of A&E (2015)

Part of the marketing of the TV show “Bates Motel” was the construction of a replica of the eerie hotel of the title and opening it to the public during the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival on March 13 to 21, 2015. The hotel replica was built beside the Austin Convention Center.

Fans (and even non-fans) of the series are welcome to enter the hotel and take a tour of the rooms, which are fully furnished, just like a real hotel. It has housekeeping and you can even chat with the front desk staff! (Some of the bathrooms, by the way, come with bath tubs that has – wouldn’t you know it – blood.)

And to prove that it is a working hotel, visitors can throw in their names for a raffle draw, and the winner got to spend one night in the Bates Motel, where they will get the whole hotel experience, complete with a welcome package of wine and brownies, as well as maid service and liquor minibar room service by collaborator brands Austin Bakery Delish, Tito’s Vodka, Drizly delivery service, and booking platform Handy.

9. “Probably the Best Poster in the World” of Carlsberg (2015)

Carlsberg is readily identifiable the world over for its tagline “Probably the best beer in the world”, which was used since 1973 and was dropped in 2011. In 2015, the brand revived the tagline by using experiential marketing.

In a collaboration with ad agencies Fold 7 and Mission Media, they came up with “Probably the best poster in the world” campaign, which consisted of a giant, rectangular poster with a green background and the words visibly printed, in white, in the company’s identifiable font style. The poster was set up at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, an area in London known as a hub for beer drinkers.

Now you may be wondering, what is so special about a large poster that occupies almost the first floor façade of a building? Well, it is not just a giant poster. It’s actually a billboard that dispenses beer, with an actual, working tap at the center of the poster!

Londoners – specifically those who are 18 years old and above – queued in front of the “best poster in the world” to get their one free pint of Carlsberg beer. This is part of Carlsberg’s aim to recapture the beer market that has been slowly edged out by lager brands over the years.

10. “The Bottle with a Mission” of Heineken (2015)

Dutch brewing company Heineken is now more than just about selling its world-famous pale lager beer. It has also developed the “Heineken Experience”, which has now become one of the tourist attractions in Amsterdam.

This museum, which is located in a former brewery, offers visitors an interactive tour through the history of Heineken. For the finale, visitors will be led to a tasting room and drink as much as they want.

In order to lure visitors to the Heineken Experience, the company commissioned ad agency JWT Amsterdam to come up with something. What they did was to fit the signature green bottles of Heineken with a GPS system. These GPS-enabled bottles are then placed in random spots in the city, where people can easily spot them and pick them up.

Once the person starts walking, with the bottle in hand, the built-in compass will cause the bottle to vibrate and point the person holding it to follow a route, following major sightseeing spots and landmarks of the city, until finally leading him to the Heineken Experience.

Clearly, this ploy has worked, because in 2014 alone, Heineken Experience recorded 730,000 visitors, with the number growing by the year.

11. “Stillness in Motion” of Delta Airlines (2015)

Delta Airlines’ campaign to introduce its suite of in-flight products that “help people become more productive when they travel” got its inspiration from travel writer Pico Iyer’s book, “The Art of Stillness”. The result was an installation aptly called “Stillness in Motion” and created by experiential marketing studio MKG. It was unveiled during the TED 2015 conference.

The installation was a mirrored chamber with a spa-like tranquility, where the user can sit on a chair and let the strategically placed biometric sensors do their work. The heartbeat of the user will be monitored by a heart rate sensor, and the space will be illuminated. Soon the lights and sounds inside the chamber will pulse in time with the user’s heartbeat.

Since this is meant to promote the idea of being productive even in stillness, the chamber will react as the user calms down and becomes still, as evidenced by a low heart rate. The lower his heart rate goes, the entire chamber will become brighter, offering an enlightening and dizzying (in a good way, the users insist) experience.

Around 800 attendees during the conference were able to experience Stillness in Motion and, according to Quartz’ Anne Quito, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

12. “Merrell Trailscape” of Merrell (2015)

This is another experiential marketing campaign spearheaded by MKG. Outdoor company Merrell wants to create positive buzz about its new Capra hiking boot, and revamp Merrell’s image, making it fresher, updated and relevant enough to hold its own against newer brands.

MKG made use of Oculus in-motion virtual reality technology in designing the Merrell Trailscape, which was set up during the 2015 Sundance Festival. Users are invited to try out the Trailscape and experience a simulated trek through a rocky mountain range, wearing Capra boots.

Wearing OR goggles, users will find themselves exploring the challenging and often treacherous trails of the Dolomite Mountains. They will also experience simulations of rock slides, strong winds, shaky ground and swinging bridges, among others. After the simulation, users can hang out at the swanky Merrell lounge.

13. “Weather Rooms” of Globetrotter (2016)

German outdoor and sporting clothing and equipment company Globetrotter took the concept of a “fitting room” to another level by introducing the “weather room” in its stores.

Customers who enter a Globetrotter store can now test whether the winter gear they plan to buy can really protect them during the winter. There is also a way to prove whether that waterproof jacket is, indeed, waterproof. How? By entering the weather room, which is essentially a chamber that lets customers get to prove the claims of Globetrotter products in a simulated environment.

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