Marketing Concepts: Experiential Marketing

More than almost any other profession, marketing is rife with buzzwords and obscure terminology.

It can seem like every month brings with it a new type of marketing. And each one comes complete with its own set of best practices and arguments for why your company will be left in the dust if it doesn’t adopt this new marketing approach immediately.

As part of our ongoing efforts to help real marketers make sense of the ever-changing marketing landscape, MarketerGizmo will be tackling these terms in our Marketing Concepts series.

Up today: What is experiential marketing?

We’ll cover basic definitions, measurement, best practices, and examples so you can look smarter next time the term gets tossed around in a meeting.

What is Experiential Marketing

Put simply, any marketing that is designed as an experience for your physical senses can be considered experiential.

This usually means a marketing campaign that goes beyond simple PPC ads or tweets, although some people argue that social media often qualifies as experiential marketing.

A good rule of thumb is to determine whether or not something turns marketing from passive consumption of media into active engagement. If it does, it’s probably experiential marketing.

Adage recently provided a good roundup of some executive definitions of experiential marketing:

Jeff Benjamin, chief creative officer at JWT North America:

an evolution of what interactive advertising was a few years ago — anything that pulls people into the brand, digitally or physically. “It just has the gas pedal on it now because of social media and technology.”

Michael Ventura, CEO of Sub Rosa in New York:

a forum where a brand can “extend a hand” to touch and engage the consumer. At the end of the day, social media “isn’t physical,” he said.

Sabina Teshler, CEO at the experiential agency SET:

any visual environment, including retail. And with social media, it has become possible to justify an investment in an experience knowing that it will pay dividends when people share.

Social Media and Experiential Marketing

As you can see in the quotes above, there’s some discrepancy about whether or not social media falls under the experiential umbrella.

If we’re talking about marketing that helps consumers really experience the emotion behind a brand, most social media marketing doesn’t seem like it would fit the bill. However, promotion via social channels is most often the way that these types of campaigns go viral or get exposure.

So it seems that you can’t really do successful experiential marketing without some kind of social component even if social media itself isn’t strictly experiential.

Measuring the Success of Experiential Marketing

The way that you gauge the success of this type of campaign will depend on the medium you’re deploying, but some of the most common metrics are:

  • Video views: if you (or attendees) share videos of your event, you’ll want to track how often they are viewed and shared.
  • Social shares: with just a few retweets and organic shares your message can reach an exponentially larger audience. Track your overall reach as well as engagement.
  • Free media: Like its cousin newsjacking, experiential marketing has the potential to get you tons of free coverage in news outlets (print, TV, and/or digital). Get a PR tracking system in place before the campaign launches so you aren’t scrambling to chase down each piece of individual coverage manually.
  • Real sales or other conversions: If you offer coupons for your product at an experiential event you should be able to track how many people make a purchase with them. Hopefully you’re also capturing contact details so you can continue to reach out to customers via more traditional marketing means later.
  • Brand recall or awareness: Even those who don’t ultimately make a purchase after an experiential marketing event may have better associations with your brand and be more likely to buy later. Running a brand awareness survey before and after your event can help quantify this result.

More and more brands are being smart about these types of measurement. In 2015 79% of brands reported measuring their event and experiential programs, which was up from 78% in 2014 and 71% in 2013, according to the 2015 EventTrack Event & Experiential Marketing Industry Forecast and Best Practices Study.

Their top ten criteria for measurement (according to the same study) are:

  1. Total attendance, participation, or visits
  2. Facebook ‘Likes,’ social media activity, postings, etc.
  3. Leads
  4. Post-event sales
  5. Public relations, press coverage
  6. Website traffic
  7. Gross sales related to the event
  8. On-site sales
  9. Time spent at experience
  10. Other online activity and postings

Why Brands Use Experiential Marketing Campaigns

According to the EventTrack study, brands share many of the same objectives when it comes to using events and experiential marketing.

The top 10 goals are:

  1. Increase/create brand awareness (81%)
  2. Increase sales (79%)
  3. Enhance product knowledge and understanding (62%)
  4. Influence deeper customer involvement (57%)
  5. Launch new products (55%)
  6. Gather leads (50%)
  7. General media impressions/press coverage (45%)
  8. Build prospect database (41%)
  9. Incase website traffic or Facebook ‘Likes,’ social media activity (40%)
  10. Conduct research; learn (26%)

These marketing efforts are also paying off by generating actual sales, with 65% reporting a correlation in 2015 compared to only 59% in 2014.

The Importance of Products

If you want to really make an impact with an experiential marketing campaign, there’s just one thing you’ve got to be sure is included: your product.

By using events to allow people to try a product, you’re taking away some of the risk associated with buying it.

So regardless of what kind of experiential event you’re considering, make sure that your product has a prominent place there.

Here’s why people were more inclined to purchase after encountering a product at an event, according to EventTrack:

  • 78% Gave me the opportunity to try it out first
  • 50% Showed that the company believed enough in its product or service to let me check it out
  • 49% I was given a discount coupon or special offer that made me more likely to buy

The things that are most influential on a purchase decision are:

  • 80% I sampled, used, or saw a demonstration of the product/service and liked it (-3%)
  • 57% I had a better understanding of the product/service from the event (+19%)
  • 49% I was given a coupon offering a discount (+15%)

High Profile Examples of Experiential Marketing

Adidas create a pop-up store in London to promote a new pair of shoes, complete with an appearance by the shoe’ namesake Derrick Rose. If customers could jump high enough to grab the shoes, they could take home a free pair.

adidas experiential marketing example

Image courtesy of


Heineken installed GPS devices in several bottles of beer and placed them around Amsterdam. When passersby picked them the caps glowed red and shone a light directing them to the Heineken Experience attraction via several local sites.

heineken experiential marketing

Image courtesy of


At TED2015 Delta offered an interactive experience that encouraged attendees to tap into their inner stillness. Titled, “Delta Stillness in Motion,” the installation invited people to enter a sphere and sit in a chair that could monitor their heart rate. As their rate slowed down and they tapped into their inner stillness, lights in the sphere slowed down to mirror their calmness.

Photos and a “heartbeat orb” would remind them of their time in the sphere and how stillness can actually enhance productivity.

Delta used the campaign to promote their inflight experiences that can enhance productivity, such as wifi and in-seat power.


experiential marketing example 3

Image courtesy of Vimeo

Your Experience With Experiential Marketing

What’s your experience with this type of marketing campaign? Is it worth the time and effort? Are you able to track its return accurately?

Share with the group in the comments below!

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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