Why Experiential Marketing Matters
Traveling is often cited as an experience that can open one’s eyes to a different way of thinking, mind to fresh ideas, and heart to cultural considerations and ways of life. Good marketing, in practice, should evoke feelings that are one in the same.
When people think of marketing for their business, they often think of the specific tactics that represent its output: public relations, SEO, out-of-home advertising, organic and paid social media, and so on. While those are certainly important means for getting your audiences to know, like, and most coveted of all – remember – your business, one important aspect often gets over looked, or worse, forgotten along the way: experiential marketing.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably know what experiential marketing is – even if you can’t put a definition around it. Some call it “event marketing,” “special events” or “engagement marketing.” Regardless of whichever nomenclature you may know it by, the point is to understand its primary concept: engage consumers in a way that encourages and invites them to interact directly with your brand. Unlike passive messages that can be channeled through traditional tactics, experiential marketing – as the name suggests – requires the consumer to be immersed in an experience with a brand.
Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about life experiences. I’ve had some incredible moments over the past few years that have ignited such intense feelings within me, which, in turn, makes those experiences impossible to forget.
This feeling and lasting imprint ties poignantly to one of the favorite quotes from Maya Angelou: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In marketing, we often try to make people feel something, but it’s usually done in a one-dimensional manner, not three-dimensional. What better way to pique someone’s interest in your brand and in turn get to know you, like you, or even remember you than to give them an experience that they are not likely to forget?
During the holidays, I traveled to Ireland, Scotland, and England and was struck by how so many businesses embraced the idea of experiential marketing. While Europe is widely known for their gorgeous buildings and refined taste, they don’t just rest on their laurels. Small businesses – from restaurant and retail stores, to nail salons and everything in between – take careful measure and invest quite heavily in beautiful, stand-out interiors and exteriors. Even one-off occasion displays or campaign activations are used to draw people in, and often end up having a life of their own on social media.
It’s often easy to brush off the value of experiential marketing if you own a business that is not a restaurant, retail store, or day-to-day consumer-facing shop. If you own a manufacturing company, professional services firm, or something of the like, you may be feeling that an experiential avenue is not something you should – or could – pursue.
We all have customers. The point of experiential marketing is to reach your customers in a way that is memorable. And, don’t forget we all have one very important customer set that interacts with our company every day: our employees. Each company has the ability to provide a tangible opportunity to interact with its employees and build brand loyalty, which is a relationship and value that should not be taken for granted or overlooked.
When you brand your business, it’s as critical to invest in the experience you provide as much as your logo and materials your audiences engage with. What does not make sense is the inability to think beyond your logo. Investing the time and money to properly add to the physicality of the space your business occupies is just as important as what lives on paper. Actually enjoying being in a place, feeling enriched by the experience of being there, and having all your senses be beguiled is something I believe is worth investing in – especially if returning customers, referrals, and happy employees are on your list of must-haves.
Below is a compilation of photos of the businesses and sights I visited on my recent travels, as well as other photos that help demonstrate excellent experiential marketing tactics. I hope these inspire you to think about how to facilitate your business’ communication practices in a way that is as memorable to your audiences as these places were to me.
An example of a couple of storefronts that created experiences with their facades during the holiday season. Passersby stopped, took photographs and shared.
Would you believe it if I told you that was a bathroom and that pod is where you handle your business? London’s sketch has been called “quite possibly the most beautiful restaurant in London” and, judging by the bathroom alone, we tend to agree. They took what, in many businesses, is an afterthought and turned it into an experience that guests can’t help but document. The rest of the restaurant (and its website) is worth exploring.
Another of sketch’s rooms, “Meet us Under the Mistletoe”. Wallpaper is in again. It serves as a great backdrop for photos, adds texture and layers to design.
London’s famed Covent Garden is a car-free plaza with shopping, food and entertainment. Stores and vendors go all out to decorate for the holidays and the plaza itself constructs installations that cause visitors to stop and stare.
Consider the floor to ceiling experience. You can lead a consumer’s eye with design, like the ornament fixture in the spiral staircase above. It communicates that the holiday shopping experience continues on each level and isn’t just reserved for the ground floor.