February 27, 2017
We tend to hear the same experiential marketing tips over and over: Plan an activation that’s creative and unlike anything your competition has ever done. Make sure the event engages several (if not all five) of the senses. Provide consumers with a quality experience that gives them something of value.
But there are also some key components of successful experiential marketing events that companies tend to overlook. We put our heads together and came up with five essential experiential marketing tips that your brand may be overlooking. They may be especially helpful if you’re struggling to plan activations that attract the consumers and media attention you want. Hopefully these tips will be enough to jar you out of your rut.
Start with the basics: goals, outcomes, audience and strategy
It’s tempting to jump right into the fun parts of planning an experiential marketing activation: what celebrities you’re going to invite; what high-tech activities you’ll arrange for guests; how amazing the food and beverage service is going to be. But any experiential marketing plan must begin at a much more basic level. Your first step should always be discussing your goals, desired outcomes, audience, and how the campaign fits with the rest of your marketing plan.
First, set out a series of measurable goals (both qualitative and quantitative) that you want to achieve. Is the goal of this campaign to communicate your brand’s values and mission to consumers in a memorable way? Is it to allow consumers to experience your company’s products or services with three, four or five senses? Is it to build your social media following or brand loyalty? What else do you hope to achieve?
Next, think about what you want to obtain from the experiential marketing campaign. Those things – which often come after an event has wrapped up – are your measurable outcomes. By the time the campaign is over, will you have 10,000 mentions on social media and 1000 new followers? Twenty hot leads to follow up on? Over $1000 in sales? Three earned media stories?
Closely examining your audience is a vital part of any experiential marketing campaign. If you don’t know who you’re targeting, you won’t understand what appeals to them. If you don’t know what appeals to them, you won’t be able to design an activation that makes sense to them. Who is your audience, and what do they like? What do they need? What do they value, and what drives their purchasing decisions? These are just a few of the questions you need to explore.
Experiential marketing activations should not exist in a vacuum. They should complement your existing marketing plan and include elements of all other marketing efforts (such as advertising campaigns and branding initiatives). Make sure all elements of your experiential marketing campaign clearly fit with your company’s marketing goals.
Brands tend to go it alone for most experiential marketing activations. After all, the goal is to promote yourself – your mission, your values, your products and services. Why would you want to share the limelight with anyone else?
There can be times when hosting an experiential marketing activation (or even a campaign) in partnership with another brand makes a lot of sense. For example, holding a joint event with a popular company or nonprofit can shift how consumers view your brand. If your brand has a reputation for being stodgy, hosting a youth-focused event with a trendy company can help change that image. Or perhaps your brand has a reputation as a polluter, but has made an authentic effort to clean up its act. Hosting a joint event with an environmental organization can show you’re serious about your commitment to being a good environmental steward.
If you’re a smaller organization, hosting an experiential marketing event with a larger company may give you greater access to capital, resources, influencers and earned media. It may also be an opportunity to get your name and message in front of a broader audience than you could reach on your own.
There are many more reasons two brands might join together for one experiential marketing campaign. The bottom line is that if you can find a partnership that aligns with your goals for your activation, give it serious consideration.
Save money by planning activations adjacent to big events
Let’s say your food, beverage or spirit companies has targeted March Madness attendees as the strongest audience for your products. If you don’t have a March Madness-sized marketing budget, an experiential marketing activation that targets them may seem out of the question.
There’s another way to target these consumers, however. Instead of paying to set up a booth at a big, expensive event, set up adjacent to it. Figure out which hotels people within your target demographic are more likely to stay in (are they budget or boutique type?) and set up your activation there. Go to restaurants where people are likely to eat. Hand out samples in the parking lot. There are lots of options for reaching consumers before or after major events rather than during them.
Focus on all aspects of event design
To many people, “event design” means figuring out what activities consumers will engage in at their activation. But to make your event really stand out from the competition (which is increasingly important), you need to think about all elements of event design.
Once you’ve come up with a stellar event idea, work to elevate every aspect of how it will be implemented. Can you find equipment and props that are different from what others in your community use? (Here’s a tip: Don’t use the same equipment vendor everyone in town is using.) How can you make the event layout easier, safer and more fun to navigate? What décor elements will add to the tone you’re trying to set – make it more elegant, more multicultural, or more high-tech than any event your target consumers have attended before?
For more details on the importance of considering all aspects of design when planning experiential marketing events, read this blog post.
Hire an experiential marketing agency
The staff at a good experiential marketing agency will make it their life’s mission to understand your goals, audience, budget, and everything else involved in planning a stellar activation. They’ll research what has and hasn’t been done in your industry (in some cases they may already know), and they’ll have the time to really sit down and think through what activation will work best for you – both things your company’s busy marketing staff may struggle to do.
Experiential marketing agencies also have access to resources your company may not have, including brand ambassadors in several cities and a network of contacts at hotels, festivals and other venues. A good agency will be full of tricks and tips of their own, all of which are geared at making your activation affordable and impactful.
It may seem like hiring an experiential marketing agency will cost more money. But just like hiring a wedding planner can save you money on your nuptials, hiring a good agency can save you money on your experiential marketing campaign. Your experiential marketing agency can also make your activation more effective and enjoyable.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, contact Factory 360 today. We’d love to talk to you about how our services can make your events even better.