Experiential can do what ads can’t. Here’s why.

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Rachel LaManna
by Rachel LaManna
Director of Experiential Marketing

Consumer trust has always been tough to earn. And now, in an era where public trust in nearly every institution is eroded, cultivating positive sentiment for your brand is more difficult than ever. Maybe that’s what makes the stats around Experiential Marketing (or “XM”) shine like a comforting light in the dark. Recent research shows consumers sparking to the authenticity, shareability, and “there”-ness of experiential activations and events.

According to data from EventTrack, after participating in a brand-run event, activation, or activity:

  • 40% of consumers felt they became more loyal to a brand;
  • 46% say they felt more positive about a brand;
  • 91% reported that they would be more inclined to purchase the brand’s product or service

Bearing those impressive stats in mind, it’s pretty clear that XM is more than a mere buzzword. Rather, it’s a provably effective arsenal of opportunities—all of which share a common tactic. “Experiential” as a label covers the spectrum of initiatives that engage audiences in a curated narrative between a brand and a consumer: whether it’s an event, an activation, a tour, or even a meaningful dimensional mailer. And unlike conventional advertising, metrics around XM show it eliciting a broad willingness—even eagerness—by participants to engage in a two-way conversation. All of which makes it a critical element of any ROI-delivering marketing plan.

So why the frequent misconceptions about XM? Possibly because it’s a victim of its own success: when you think “Experiential,” odds are you picture high profile, multi-million dollar engagements by Red Bull or Cheetos. And sure, while instances like these indeed can generate outsized ROI (through earned impressions and media buzz), they aren’t the only way to play—or to take advantage of XM’s strengths.

In fact, your brand doesn’t need a vast budget to leverage the power of XM. Table stakes are within nearly every marketer’s reach: namely, a well-defined target audience, a goal against which to measure success…and a willingness to engage your brand in a curated, engaging back-and-forth with prospects.

Here are some simple tips, to help you unlock what XM can achieve:

  1. Tailor your XM efforts to fit your budget:
    • Don’t bite off more than you can chew: beta test an opportunity—a market, a segment—so you can test results and garner key insights, before considering a full-scale roll-out.
    • Leverage your existing portfolio (of inventory, retail partners, sponsorship assets), and tap into like-minded partner brands—you can align strategies and co-op dollars to find experiences/opportunities that engage with a shared audience.
  1. You don’t need flash—you need focus:
    • Don’t start out by thinking SXSW or “Good Morning America” mentions: activations don’t have to be expensive—or flashy—to be effective. Ask yourself who you want to reach and what message you want to resonate most.
    • Set your budget, and define clear results: these will vary based on the goals, be it brand awareness, gathering data, boosting sales, etc.
  1. ROI is the key to effectiveness:
    • Set KPIs that you can quantify onsite: lead generation, interactions, demos, donations, etc., as well as what success will look like post-event.
    • Tap into the power of social media. Although some experiential is one-to-one, marketers can amplify benefit by creating sharable moments: remember, 98% of consumers create digital or social content at experiences and events. (EMI).

In a world where brand messaging can feel thrown at us from all angles, it’s important to remember the meaningful simplicity of the human connection. Receiving a thoughtful package, attending a fun event with your family, or seeing a brand engaging with the community you cherish goes a long way in showing consumers that your brand does more than talk the talk. And there’s never been a better time to start the Experiential walk.