“Experiential marketing” may sound like a complicated buzz word to someone who’s never heard it before. In reality, experiential marketing is a fairly straightforward marketing technique that’s being used more and more corporations.

What is the best way to describe experiential marketing to someone who doesn’t understand it? We have four suggestions for educating your co-workers, your boss, or even your mom on what experiential marketing is and why it’s important.

Use a different term

It’s possible that using a different term will help someone who doesn’t understand experiential marketing make heads or tails of it. Experiential marketing is also called event marketing, on-ground marketing, live marketing, field marketing, grassroots marketing or participation marketing. Since everyone knows what an event is, that first term may be the most helpful.

Guerilla marketing and PR stunts are different, but they’re similar enough that they may be helpful in drawing a parallel between experiential marketing and other forms of marketing. Guerilla marketing is more commonly defined as a low-cost marketing or advertising campaign that generates high visibility. A PR stunt is an event that’s designed to generate publicity for a company, product or service.

An experiential marketing event may have a guerilla nature to it, and it may result in positive publicity. But it’s definitely a different animal than either of these things. If you use them to help your friend or colleague understand experiential marketing, make sure you point out the differences as well as the similarities.

Flip it around: “marketing through experience” rather than “experiential marketing”

Experiential marketing allows people to experience a brand with one or more senses (sight, taste, touch, hearing or smell). If you interact with a company’s product or service – by sampling a snack in a grocery store, smelling a perfume in a department store, or seeing the way a gem sparkles in the light – you develop a much better understand of it, and you’re much more likely to buy it. In that sense, “experiential marketing” can also be called “marketing through experience.”

Experiential marketing activations may also be more focused on providing people with an experience than giving them an experience with a product. For example, in 2011 McDonald’s sponsored a series of DJ competitions in 30 major cities. Amateur and professional DJs had to quickly mix music on an outdoor stage. Members of the impromptu audience members had to text in votes to determine if DJ’s would stay on stage to compete, or leave and see their dreams of willing come to an end.

The goal of this type of experiential marketing event is to create a positive association between a person and a brand. In this example, McDonald’s didn’t hand out hamburgers, French fries or anything else on their menu. However, they provided people with a fun experience and drove people to a website that publicized their products. This was enough to get people thinking about McDonald’s and hopefully making a trip to the restaurant soon.

Give some examples of experiential marketing

People encounter experiential marketing events all the time, even if they don’t know it. Giving a person who is confused about experiential marketing some examples of what an activation looks like will help them understand it.

When you go to the grocery store and try samples of food or beverages, that’s experiential marketing. When you stop at a booth at a music festival and play a game that’s branded with the company’s products or services, you’re participating in an experiential marketing event. When a company hosts a thank you event that’s interesting and creative enough to justify videotaping it and posting it to YouTube, it’s actually an experiential marketing event (as well as a thank you event). When you go to a concert or other performance that’s organized by a brand, it may be experiential marketing in disguise.

Red Bull is the best example of a well-known company that’s mastered experiential marketing. They have good-looking brand ambassador’s travel around in branded cars, handing out samples so people can try them before buying them. But they also put on all kinds of events that dive into their action heavy brand persona to build consumer goodwill and get Red Bull’s name out there.

Red Bull sponsors motocross racing, extreme cycling and extreme downhill ice skating events. They sponsored a man who did the farthest skydive ever attempted by a human (and became the first person to break the sound barrier without help from some type of engine). The regularly host an event they call the Flugtag, where people build strange-looking vehicles and launch them off a ramp and into a body of water (which often results in spectacular wipeouts).

The purpose of these events is to make Red Bull a company that’s cool, trendy, gives back to its fans, and in touch with their interests.

Describe what’s involved in experiential marketing

Good experiential marketing events require more than just a good event. Describing the different components that may be involved in an experiential marketing event can help someone get a more complete picture of what happens at them.

Experiential marketing events are often staffed by professional brand ambassadors who are welcoming, friendly and very knowledgeable about a company’s products. They are a key part of making experiential marketing work because they draw people in, make them feel welcome, and spread the right message about a brand.

Many brands chose to sponsor events rather than putting them on themselves. This can work particularly well when the event is organized by a popular nonprofit or group with a compelling cause.

Social media is a big part of any experiential marketing campaign. It helps brands spread their messages by creating something that’s worth tweeting about or posting photos to Instagram… instead of asking supporters to post boring product information.

Is your company still struggling to understand what experiential marketing is, why it’s important or how you can plan a memorable activation? Factory 360 would love to turn you into an experiential marketing experts and organize events for you. Contact us today to learn more about how experiential marketing can help your brand.

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