Experiential Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s caused many businesses to look at their marketing plans and come up with new, effective ways at reaching a target market when face-to-face meetings at trade shows, conventions, or other presentations aren’t advisable. When experiential marketing worst best for you, how do you adjust your experiential marketing plans and goals to fit the current demands of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Understand the Numbers

The pandemic may have left you frustrated. You can’t handle your experiential marketing campaigns in the same way, and virtual presentations didn’t go as smoothly as you’d have hoped. You’re not even sure the consumers you want to reach are out there.

The good news is that they are. It’s been a year of new experiences for everyone. People who were used to working in an office have learned the ins and outs of virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom. People have embraced virtual everything and are interacting with brands, businesses, and each other using today’s technology.

A YouGov study found that despite the pandemic, about 1 out of 3 consumers still attended a product demonstration. Around 1 out of 5 attended pop-ups and brand installations, and that amount claims they’re likely to attend some type of event with their favorite brands in the next year. There’s never been a better time to arrange an experiential marketing campaign.

Things to Think About When Planning Your Marketing Campaign

What steps do you take to make sure your experiential marketing campaign does what you hope?

#1 – Come Up With a List of Goals

You’re in the planning stages and need some guidance. Start with your goals. What are your goals with your marketing campaign? Do you want to get the word out, meet a target sales quota, or feel consumers out for their ideas regarding your brand? As you set clear goals, you’ll have a better idea of which techniques to use.

You may have more than one goal. List them all. If your goal for your marketing campaign is to get samples into the consumers’ hands and to convince 500 people to buy the item based on that sample, list them both. Prioritize which is most important to your goal. That’s the focal point of your campaign. Follow it with the next stage of driving sales.

#2 – Know What Consumers Are Looking For

You want your brand activation or marketing strategy to draw crowds. Product demonstrations seem to do well. Pop-ups and installations are the next two best. You’re thinking this is all hard because it’s hard to demonstrate your brand when you can give away prizes or food and drinks in person. Almost half of the consumers say they look for giveaways and a quarter look for events with live performances. It may be harder to use these methods virtually, but it’s not impossible.

Last summer, a company called For All Drinks took a look at the number of consumers looking to stop drinking so much beer, wine, and liquor while stuck at home. They held a virtual trade show for non-alcoholic cocktails, beer, and wine brands. Attendees received a six-pack of non-alcoholic beer and a bottle of non-alcoholic wine to drink during the virtual event. Representatives from companies making non-alcoholic spirits held Facebook Live presentations and sent out mocktail recipes. The event was a huge success. It’s led to a podcast and additional events from presenters who can give out coupon codes to attract new customers.

That’s one way to incorporate giveaways and product samples. It’s a good way to win over new consumers and long-time supporters. Think about how you could give the consumers something they can’t refuse. If you own a restaurant, you could include free samples of new menu items with an order. Create a frequent purchaser card where every $100 in orders gives your returning customers $5 or $10 off their next meal.

Reach your target consumers on social media and read their comments. Pay close attention to the things they want. You own a coffee roasting company. You see your social media base saying how much they wish they could get affordable sampler bags so that they can try a coffee before committing to a full bag. Meet that request and you’ll capture their attention in two ways. First, they realize how important they are to you. Second, they get to try your coffees, which can lead to a future sale.

#3 – Keep Promises if You Make Them

If you are going to give out freebies, make sure you put in terms stating “first come, first served” or “limited supplies.” If you don’t, you could end up with frustrated or disappointed consumers.

Going back to the event that For All Drinks hosted. The NA wine company ran out of free bottles as they didn’t realize there would be so much interest. Instead, they tried to give consumers a 10% off coupon to purchase a bottle of wine before the event. It didn’t go over well. Attendees had been told they were getting a free bottle of wine and were frustrated.

#4 – Use Technology to Your Advantage

With so many people at home, technology is key. Know the best ways to reach your consumers. If your brand targets the 60+ crowd, they may not adapt to Instagram as well as they would an email campaign. Teens may turn to TikTok faster than they would Twitter. Be sure you’re matching your group’s age and experiences with the technology you choose.

Make sure your equipment is working on your end. Test it repeatedly in different scenarios. You don’t want the event to start and suddenly find out that your microphones aren’t working. You don’t want to be about to stream live video and learn that the lighting has you all washed out and hard to see.

#5 – Be Smart if You Opt for In-Person Events

Pandemic marketing needs to be socially distant and online as much as possible. You can go out into the public, but you need to be safe about it. You don’t want the pop-up you decided to use to get linked to an outbreak a week from now. If you do go with an in-personal marketing event, remember to keep your crowd spaced out, ensure people wear masks (give out masks with your branding to get your name out), and offer bottles of hand sanitizer (again put your branding on the bottle).

Make sure you understand the regulations in the town or city where you’re hosting a product demonstration, pop-up event, etc. For example, there may not be a mask mandate in Montana or Iowa (as of 3/21). States like California, Illinois, and New York do have a mask mandate. Many states, such as Vermont, require all out-of-staters to have had both COVID-19 vaccinations or to self-quarantine (7 days with a negative COVID test or 14 days otherwise) upon entering the state. You need to make sure you and your attendees follow the current rules.

Know When to Ask Marketing Experts for Help

Be sure to ask for help when you need it. If you’re struggling with your experiential marketing plan, ask the experts. Factory 360 specializes in social media strategy and virtual marketing campaigns. We can assist you with virtual events and live streaming. We can also help with pop-ups, installations, and free samples/giveaways. Call us and let us know how we can help.