December 16, 2021December 22, 2021Marketing15 Min ReadExperiential Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Immersive Branded Events (Plus Examples)Nolan EtherWith a slew of content hurled at your consumers daily, standing out is required to keep your brand top of mind.Getting noticed, however, requires branching out from one-way marketing (where only brands do the talking) and embracing two-way marketing (experiential) where consumers get to interact with brands in creative ways. These innovative, interactive experiences bring brands to life and make consumers feel more connected to the companies they buy from. The result? Getting noticed and becoming unforgettable.Creating a memorable personal experience for your customers leaves a lasting impression that is difficult to replicate with other non-engaging, one-sided marketing channels.This article will explore experiential marketing and why and how brands use it to deepen their relationships with consumers and solidify their market standing. We’ll also discuss varying types of experiential marketing with a strong focus on events. Why events? They are more commonplace, less risky, and often easier to execute because of a proven roadmap for event planning and execution.We’ll also provide numerous examples of experiential marketing to inspire you and give you creative ideas. What is experiential marketing and why is it so popular?Experiential marketing involves interacting with a brand offline or outside of the typical place of business. It evokes positive memories and experiences for your audience that create a positive association with your brand and fosters loyal customers.What else can experiential marketing help your brand accomplish?Generate high engagementExperiential marketing invites the level of engagement required to get people’s attention. Consumers respond to new and exciting experiences that catch them off guard or provide an element of surprise.Increase brand exposureExperiential marketing also leads to more buzz and brand exposure, making it easy to boost brand image and reputation to more easily attract new customers, build key relationships, increase brand affinity, and drive leads and sales.Create viral opportunitiesExperiential marketing allows consumers to physically or digitally experience your product, which sparks opportunities for shareability.Save money on repurposingAs if you needed another reason to dive into experiential marketing—you can repurpose the event content you produce over and over. Events and experiential marketing can produce the raw materials for marketing assets for the next year, if not longer.5 types of experiential marketing (plus real-world examples)What does experiential marketing look like in real life? Let’s look at some examples!We’ll talk about the five types of experiential marketing and show a real-world example of each one. You’ll notice how each provides an element of humor, surprise, intrigue—essentially something unexpected and inviting.Experiential marketing brings people into a brand experience, sometimes without their knowledge.1. Brand activationsBrand activation campaigns involve some sort of interaction that allows your target audience to engage directly with your brand. Brand activations connect consumers to brands and provide experiences that leave a lasting impression and generate brand awareness.What do you get when you combine a little creativity, some insanity, and a brilliant activation campaign?You get an ice block in the middle of New York City full of gifts, one being airfare and accommodations for a trip to Palm Springs, CA.The branded stunt was designed to commemorate JetBlue’s new direct flight from New York to Palm Springs. Participants could use whatever they wanted to crack open the ice block and retrieve an item they could bring along to a Palm Springs vacation.If you couldn’t visit the ice block in person, people could participate on social media to win prizes.With this brand activation, JetBlue found a way for people to have fun interacting with the brand in a cool and exciting way that generated a lot of buzz and publicity.2. Guerilla marketingGuerilla marketing is an unconventional form of brand marketing that arrests attention with the element of surprise and intrigue. If your campaign isn’t unexpected and doesn’t make people stop, stare, and possibly take pictures, it might not be “guerilla” enough.We could also categorize the JetBlue ice block as a guerilla marketing experience, but this example below might arrest more attention.It’s not every day you see cotton briefs on a giant statue of a bull right in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.SourceGoldToe was known for selling socks until the day it dressed a bull statue in larger-than-life underwear. GoldToe wanted to promote the launch of its new undergarments, and the once sock-focused brand needed a way to disrupt the norm and use some creative guerilla marketing to get attention.3. In-house retail experiencesBring a community experience directly into your retail store. Compel your customers to experience your brand along with you.In early 2020, Vans opened its first retail and event store in downtown Los Angeles. Aside from Vans products, the two-level store also features local artwork, a dedicated community experience studio (Studio 808), and an on-brand warped checkerboard room.Checkerboard room inside the new Vans DTLA store.The community studio offers art and design workshops in partnership with lifestyle magazine Monster Children to empower underserved community members and enrich the public.4. Product showcasesCustomers are used to the way products line shelves, lay on hangers, or sit in cabinets. Change it up! Uniquely showcase your product to elevate your products and inject an element of surprise.Dolce & Gabbana worked with Coffee ‘n Clothes to create a traveling pop-up store featuring their products in a customized Airstream. The mobile pop-up store rode the streets during summer 2021 and attracted a lot of business for the brand.Appealing to their customer base who did not want to travel around looking for the store on wheels, Dolce & Gabbana allowed customers to make an appointment to have the store travel directly to their homes. The brand used the concept to showcase its products uniquely and give people a safe way to shop during the pandemic.5. Event marketingEvent marketing is experiential marketing that can help brands gain awareness, generate buzz, and get consumers to interact with them more closely.Global training software company Lessonly partnered with Socio for its Yellowship event. Lessonly took advantage of Socio’s customizable mobile event app, which allowed them to customize an immersive event experience for attendees, exhibitors, and llamas (yes, we said llamas). Lessonly leveraged Socio’s customizable mobile event app to give attendees a fully branded event experience, making event navigation and participation seamless.The brand also created “Llama Loot,” a game to boost engagement and reward a winner with a LEGO kit to build Ollie Llama (the brand’s trusty mascot).Lessonly used Socio’s Lead Retrieval feature to capture and qualify leads with QR code scanning. No business cards are needed.The result? 780% app adoption: 480 out of 695 attendees downloaded the Yellowship event app284 social wall mentions: Lessonly enjoyed 100 social wall posts per day and noticed continued app engagement days after the event.33% participation in gamification500 leads: 77% of the leads were considered 5-starValuable data feedback: Socio’s in-app app data gave Lessonly a simple way to gather feedback and improve future events.According to Lessonly, “Without Socio, we’d have no quantitative idea of how each session went, but they made collecting that data feel simple and seamless. This data is already helping us make more informed, smarter decisions as we prepare for Yellowship 2021.”Experiential marketing strategy (how-to and best practices for event marketing)Before you set off to create your next event experience, ensure you’ve created a rock-solid marketing strategy.We’ll talk a little about goals and your target audience as it relates to experiential marketing and how that helps create an overall strategy for your event. A successful event will set you up for increased visibility for your brand and products/services. This section will detail how to market your event so it becomes a success and boosts your brand. For more detail on these subjects, visit our article on event marketing strategy.Customer personasFirst, determine the audience you’re targeting with your event. Are you targeting a specific consumer type? A particular audience segment? Consult your customer personas, or create new ones that will align with your event. Customer personas are real or fictional representations of your ideal buyers or target audience. Your personas drive your strategy and provide direction for your marketing campaigns. They will tell you which channels to launch your promotions, how to word messaging, handle objections, and what strategy tactics to use.Personas are vital to launching successful experiential marketing campaigns since they provide two-way connections between brands and consumers. You can’t authentically connect with people if you don’t know who they are, their behaviors, preferences, and interests.Choose a few personas to target with your event. The number of personas will depend on the size and scope of your event. For example, if you’re hosting a local in-person event with no virtual access, you might limit your promotions to the people who reside in a specific locale.Goals, strategy, and tacticsYour goals also determine your strategy.If your event goal is to generate awareness for your organization that fights childhood obesity, for example, your strategy will encompass how you want people to act on this goal. Do you want people to visit your website and donate to related causes? Do you want to generate donations from schools that want to partner with you and adopt associated programs?Think closely about how your goals will play out and what they will lead to, and develop a strategy focused on these elements. Your strategy will determine the specific tactics that will allow you to reach your goals.Then, create KPIs that align with your goals and make sense to your organization.Sales/leads/signupsWebsite hits (traffic)Brand awareness (social engagement)Subscribers (leads)Product hits (sales)Find 41 more event metrics in this article on virtual event objectives.Develop cross-channel marketing tacticsWhy is your event noteworthy? What will make it memorable for attendees?Focus on answering these questions as you develop your tactics and refer to your market research (data used to create personas) to understand the people you’re targeting for this event.What are their interests? Think about incentives, influencer or celebrity appearances, or maybe a charitable cause—something that sparks an emotional connection and compels people to register for the event. Below are some popular event marketing tactics/channels:Social mediaContent marketingEmail marketingBloggingEarned media vs. paid mediaYou can learn more about these marketing tactics in our event marketing plan.Delight attendees at every touchpointPersonalize your attendee’s experience as they take their event journey. Why? Because it works.Personalization boosts customer and brand loyalty, helps you outperform competitors, and provides event-goers with fantastic customer experiences.The data you’ll need to personalize campaigns will come from your initial research on your chosen market segment/s and the information you collect from registrants at registration.Let’s take a look at a typical event attendee’s journey. The key to success is adding personalized touches throughout an attendee’s journey before, during, and after your event.So to personalize Mary’s journey, some tactics could include:Track where Mary originally found out about your event. In her case, she discovered your event from the event speaker’s email/website. Perhaps you could personalize her promotional emails with emphasis on the speaker.Personalize promotional messaging and advertisements according to the type of topics this speaker’s audience prefers.During registration, gather information on Mary’s preferences for potential event topics and classes. Collect some data on her background, such as job role, event goals, and expectations.Use the data you collected from registration to personalize her event reminder email to encourage attendance. If she told you she preferred topics on digital marketing, personalize her email with a focus on digital marketing topics, speakers, and classes.Personalize Mary’s event agenda by suggesting sessions and classes based on her preferences. Work with sponsors to use this data to connect attendees with sponsors.Send Mary personalized push notifications during the event with reminders on events she would like based on her preferences.Measure event performance and successYou’ve got metrics that connect to your goals, but you need a way to track their activity and record the output. Ensure you have the technology and tools to gather the correct data so you can effectively calculate and prove ROI.This is best accomplished with event technology that collects data in the background while you focus on your event.Event software like Socio houses built-in features that provide top-level and granular metrics on:Attendee engagementAttendee/sponsor interactionsSession views and preferencesAttendee networkingAttendee-specific actionsTraffic/registrations/attendee numbersSponsor traffic, clicks, views, leadsTrack marketing metrics before, during, and after the event to calculate ROI and leverage the data to discover what worked and what didn’t work so you can improve for your next event.How to design immersive and memorable eventsIt’s one thing to follow a well-planned roadmap and create an event that checks off items on a list. It’s another thing to go the extra mile and make your events creative and immersive. That requires some creative flexing!The purpose of experiential marketing is to make your brand come to life for your audience. But if your events are boring or lack creativity and immersion, they defeat the purpose.Experiential marketing events focus on the experience. Make your attendee’s experience as memorable as possible so you can smash your goals and get rewarded with more exposure.You don’t have to be super creative to create immersive, memorable experiences. Piggyback on what has worked before (we provide plenty of examples in this article, with more below), and make sure your idea aligns with your target market’s preferences and interests to set yourself up for success.Here’s how:Make in-person events active and memorableSimple attention to an attendee’s needs can make all the difference.Create visual experiences with Live DisplayProvide functional information (schedules, agendas) and fun activities (group classes, challenges) via a live display at your eventUse Live Display boards to customize your content in real time directly from a web browser. Showcase event news and updates, social wall posts, Q&As, poll results, schedule changes, game winners and leaderboards, sponsor shoutouts, and more.Equip attendees with a customized mobile event appAllow attendees to navigate your event and engage in the activities via a mobile event app.A Socio branded event mobile app gives attendees an immersive experience right in the palm of their hands. They can access live video streams, connect with sponsors and attendees via video meetings, Shake & Connect, and get event updates and news. You can also control content visibility and craft customized attendee experiences with audience segmentation and advanced metrics. Sponsors can leverage opportunities such as profiles, video rooms, push notifications, banner ads, and more.Brand activation for eventsThis is where the magic happens. We talked about brand activations earlier in this article. But how do they relate to events?Brand activations can take your event to the next level and showcase your product. A brand activation would be a good idea if your event marketing goals are brand awareness and/or product leads or sales.Consumers need to understand how your brand will fit into their lifestyles and that your product does what you say. Use brand activations and implement activities that incorporate your product interactively and excitingly.Attendees should be able to immerse themselves in your activation. But avoid making it a noticeable marketing play. Incorporate your brand (you want attendees to know who created the experience) but make it about the attendee and their experience (e.g. don’t simply show commercials and marketing videos). Below are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:LushGlobal cosmetics company Lush featured its new products at a London Creative Showcase event. Lush used the opportunity to deliver a hands-on experience for its consumers with product demonstrations and displays mixed with immersion.Attendees could try Lush’s new naked shower gel in real-like showers, play with bubble spinners in a giant human-sized sink, or gawk at the wobbling stage made of jelly lined with Lush’s new shower jelly.BudweiserBudweiser got high-tech with its interactive Beer Garage, a 4-d immersive reality experience at the South By Southwest Interactive event. Attendees wore VR goggles and were taken on an interactive tour of the Budweiser manufacturing experience.The other areas featured product showcases in different settings (stadium, in-home, in-store, bar/restaurant) that enabled drinking-age attendees to sample beer. Other aspects of the event activation included a Start-up Pitch Competition (eight startups could win seed funding) and fireside chats called Start-Up Success Stories.Keep engagement high for hybrid and virtual eventsHow do you make virtual and hybrid events fun and memorable?With a bit of creativity and the right software, your virtual or hybrid event can provide unforgettable experiences for your audience. Here’s how to get the job done.Book a main attraction or notable speakerNotable speakers draw their own crowds and will make your event appear more reputable and professional.Webex secured some notable speakers to engage attendees at its hybrid event, WebexOne. Event attendees had the pleasure of hearing from veteran NASA astronaut, author, and artist Nicole Stott and Dr. Sian Proctor, who recently became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft: the SpaceX Inspiration4. Also on the roster were Olympic and World Championship gymnast, Simone Biles and Founder of Spanx, Sarah Blakely.Below is part of the email Webex sent to promote the event and introduce some of the event’s speakers:Offer entertainment and classesA virtual event can host a lot of the same activities as in-person events. Think about things like yoga, meditation, cooking, and incorporate pre-event swag. Event swag can be both virtual and physical as well. For Socio’s EventHack Hybrid Games, Managing Partner of SBHH Events Rachel Quan, and Primary Partner of SBHH Events John Monroe incorporated event swag into their event in a creative way with their “Avatar Bar.” They allowed attendees to create customized avatars, and brands could sponsor options for the avatar, such as shirts with company logos.In-person attendees also received sponsor-donated Bluetooth headphones, and virtual attendees received sponsor-provided headphones and Oculus virtual reality goggles. When they signed on to the Socio event, virtual attendees could join their in-person attendees at the virtual bar and drink stations.What a cool and exciting way to engage virtual and in-person attendees while also giving sponsors creative opportunities to connect with attendees!Some other ways to entertain attendees:ComediansAcrobatsMagiciansThe National Speakers Association (NSA) didn’t let their hybrid event stop them from offering premier entertainment for attendees. Partnering with Socio, the NSA enjoyed a groundbreaking event that engaged and delighted attendees with fun and creative experiences. If you have a stage, you can live stream anything you want to virtual attendees.If you’re gearing up to host a hybrid event but don’t know where to start, check out our comprehensive hybrid event guide that goes behind the scenes of NSA’s successful hybrid event!Provide live experiences and interactive featuresYour virtual and hybrid events should have interactive components to allow attendees to engage and fully immerse themselves in your event. Below are the engagement features that power interactive virtual events.Live chatVideo roomsNetworkingLive pollsLive Q & AGamificationPro tip: Ensure your event management platform or event software can facilitate these types of real-time interactions. Look for an all-in-one event platform that provides immersive event experiences and allows you to be creative. Experiential marketing is all about experiences. Make them fun and unique for your audience and reap the rewards.Socio’s all-in-one event management platform simplifies and powers experiential marketing eventsThe power behind experiential marketing is the two-way communication and connections that occur between consumers and brands. Your event must allow attendees to experience and interact with your brand creatively and uniquely to make it stand out from the rest.Using end-to-end event management software can be game-changing for the planning and management of large-scale events. You need a solution to engage attendees and capture their attention like we have been discussing.Let software do the heavy lifting and give you the tools to provide immersive attendee experiences. From powering data-rich event registration and customized event apps, to boosting attendee and sponsor engagement and robust analytics, Socio has your entire event covered.There’s gold in the dataCreative and unique experiences are also meaningless if you cannot capture how they perform and how your attendees connect with them. Leverage programs that track, measure, and record every attendee action and preference so you can personalize your engagements and delight attendees in real time. Get event data as it occurs during your event so you can course-correct quickly if needed and make immediate decisions.Socio’s end-to-end event management platform provides the following benefits:Streamline data-gatheringEliminate siloed information and increase collaboration and efficiencyAutomate registration and collect attendee data and preferences to personalize experiencesOffer unique sponsorship opportunitiesConnect attendees with a branded mobile event appProvide live engagement and gamification for attendeesMeasure performance with advanced analytics and reportingAccess specialized event management training and servicesNo technical experience requiredWant to see Socio in action? Sign up for a free personalized demo of Socio and get connected with a partner in powering amazing immersive events.Nolan EtherNolan is a Content Marketing leader at Socio (part of Webex). He’s passionate about helping brands connect with their customers through engaging storytelling and immersive experiences.