The Power of Association

It’s safe to say that the human mind tends to associate experiences (both positive and negative) to the objects surrounding them. These associations are the reason why that piece of warm apple pie reminds you of your grandmother, or why you just can’t bring yourself to toss out a band tee you bought at your favorite concert. The idea that individuals form emotional attachments to products through experience has been explored constantly in consumer psychology, and it is the reason why Experiential Marketing is such an effective strategy.

Experiences that create positive memories, if successfully associated with your product or service, can have a huge impact on your audience’s emotion. So, your understanding of this concept is crucial to developing successful marketing campaigns for your brand. In this post, we’ll talk about some of experiential marketing’s many benefits and give you some examples that make us say, “Now THAT’S how it’s done.” But before we jump into that, let’s start with a quick definition.

What is Experiential Marketing?

According to, Experiential Marketing is “an advertising strategy that focuses on helping consumers experience a brand.” Experiential marketing veers off course from traditional strategies that broadcast brand and product benefits to a wide audience. Also referred to as engagement marketing, experiential marketing may be comprised of a variety of marketing strategies geared toward immersing consumers within the product by engaging them in as many ways as possible.

Ultimately, companies utilizing this strategy want to help customers form memorable, emotional connections with a brand to foster customer loyalty and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).

Participants can take part in these events either actively or passively and the experiences can take form at sponsored events, pop-up activations or even online.

Why Should My Company Market through Experiences?

Differentiating your Brand

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information through social media, television, and radio programming. And while those strategies have proven to be effective, they have the tendency to become repetitive, impersonal and easy for your audience to tune-out. Additionally, the conversation between you and the consumer through many traditional avenues of marketing is one-sided, without much opportunity to receive feedback in real-time.

Because of this oversaturation in the digital realm, experiential marketing tends to thrive in areas where digital strategies usually fall short. Allowing individuals to experience your brand instead of just passively acknowledging its existence is key in making yourself stand out against competitors.

Meeting the Consumer on Their Terms

One of the best ways to turn your audience off to the idea of your brand is to create a campaign that is intrusive, an interference or just plain annoying. While most forms of traditional marketing run the chance of being a nuisance, many individuals who take part in experiential marketing events do so voluntarily. By taking your marketing efforts to the place that consumers already are, the likelihood of positive reception increases. Exciting and passionate events such as concerts and sporting tournaments are great examples of places that your audience already wants to be.

But an opportunity also presents itself in the everyday locations that individuals have to be. Schools, parks and other areas individuals use in their daily commute are great places where introducing a fun or interesting experience can break monotony and create a productive interaction between consumer and brand. Watch below to see how Weight Watchers set up an affirming, interactive display at Grand Central Station.

According to the EventTrack 2018 Experience Marketing Forecast, consumers stated that one of their top two preferred advertising channels were events and experiences. In fact, Consumers prefer to understand their products through events and experiences 15% more than with social media ads.  “By a significant margin, consumers say the top two advertising channels that best help them understand the benefits of products and services are brand websites and events and experiences. Essentially all other marketing channels and brand-controlled information sources are considered secondary to consumers.”

Sensodyne Brings “The Great Sensitivity Test” to The Consumer

To give you an example, a case study by the Hotcow Agency highlights “The Great Sensitivity Test,” which was an experience created for Sensodyne in 2013 and placed in London’s Potter Field. The activity was broken up into three zones, each having an activity for participants to engage in. The first zone was the “Sensitivity Zone,” and allowed individuals to undergo a quick dental exam to check for sensitivity, get advice from professionals, and play games for prizes. The second zone included a giant molar that guests could have their pictures taken next to and the third zone gave visitors the opportunity to take the “World’s Largest Oral Hygiene Lesson” with the chance of landing their name in the Guinness Book of World Records.

This experience is a great example of meeting the consumer where they already are. By taking the experience to a highly populated location like Potter Field, Sensodyne is delivering to its audience an immersive and interesting experience to their every day activities. Additionally, like many companies, the success of Sensodyne’s product relies on people being able to fully understand it’s potential to benefit to their lives. Allowing the audience to have a physical, informative interaction through dental exams and product samples gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with the brand.

Creating an Emotional Connection

a midsummer night's run lexington kyOne of the best ways to create a positive emotional connection between your brand and your audience is to become a part of their favorite moments. Whether that be in the form of partnering or sponsoring events that your audience already loves, or manufacturing unique moments they won’t forget, creating the connection between these memorable experiences and your brand is an insanely effective way to create a positive brand image that will last.

The EventTrack 2018 Experience Marketing Forecast states that “Eighty-five percent of consumers are likely to purchase after participating in events and experiences, and over 90% have more positive feelings about brands after attending.”

Getting to know a company or brand is a very similar process to getting to know people. It is possible to have conversations over the phone or online all day, but until there is real, meaningful contact, you are still just an icon on a screen. This is why experiences play such an important role in developing a relationship with your audience. Because participants of these experiences get to have a real-time, physical exchange with your brand, there is a greater ability for them to form a meaningful connection with it. This connection helps them better understand the benefits of the relationship on a personal level, and because of that, you are not just some icon behind a screen anymore, but have become an impactful part of their lives.

Types of Experiential Marketing

Grass Roots Marketing

The strategy of grass roots marketing is very different from what many traditional tactics involve. Instead of targeting a large audience with the intent of reaching as many people as possible, grassroots marketing aims its efforts at small, very specific groups of influencers. The hope is that this group of influencers will then spread your message through word-of mouth and social media efforts. Grassroots marketing is a great option for small businesses, due to the fact that it is so cost effective and useful for smaller campaigns.

Donald Glover Targets Niche Audience Through Coachella Airdrop

At this year’s Coachella Festival, Donald Glover pulled a very unique marketing program. Select attendees of the festival received a notification asking them to accept an airdropped photo from Glover. The photo in question? A picture of shoes – his unreleased collaboration with Adidas. According to Marketing Land, “The lucky recipients had to sign a contract stating they would wear the shoes, attend the show, and keep the shoes on all weekend.”

Adidas relied on the select group of influential individuals chosen to promote their product. The program spread like wildfire through word-of-mouth at the festival and on social media, making the promotion a great example of effective grassroots marketing.

Event Marketing

Event Marketing is planning an event with the purpose to promote a company’s brand, product or service by providing an experience to the consumer. But, isn’t this basically the same strategy as Experiential Marketing as a whole? Well, not quite. Event Marketing and Experiential Marketing, while similar, are not synonymous. Event marketing does give the consumer an experience, but it does not encompass every aspect that experiential marketing can be. And while every marketing event is considered experiential, not all experiential marketing takes the form of an event. Event Marketing usually comes in the form of launch parties, contests and challenges, Festivals or conferences.

Chipotle Creates the “Cultivate Festival”

chef graham elliot chipotle cultivate food festivalChipotle started its Cultivate festivals in 2010 to inform attendees on brand vision and values through a fun and interesting platform. The events feature live music, chef demonstrations and interactive experiences. These festivals are great examples of using events to create a conversation about your brand vision and values.

In a 2016 news release by Chipotle, their chief creative and development officer stated “We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food, and that includes helping people understand how food is raised and prepared. The Cultivate events allow us to bring people together for a celebration of food and music, but also to educate them about how food can be raised responsibly and prepared safely.”

Brand Activation

A brand activation is the showcase or launch of a company’s new product through consumer interaction. Some of the most obvious forms of brand activation include product sampling and trials. The ability for a potential customer to touch, feel, and look at a product strengthens trust towards that item and its potential to meet their needs. The opportunity to physically interact with a product allows the individual to better visualize the real benefits they would receive from it.

Budweiser Shows Story Behind Product with The Beer Garage

Budweiser Beer Garage

The Budweiser Beer Garage is an event by Anheuser-Busch that offers attendees the “Ultimate

Budweiser Experience.” The event, which is also part of the SXSW interactive festival, uses virtual reality goggles, along with wind, sound, and scent effects to transport participants far from Austin, Texas to the famous Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery. In addition to the virtual trip to St. Louis, attendees were able to hear from leading entrepreneurs and tech giants (all while sipping on a Signature Draft beer, of course).

Interested in Learning More?

At BRAINBOX Intelligent Marketing, we have 20 years of experience creating an emotional connection between brands and customers. We work directly with clients to develop creative solutions to support them in achieving their goals. If you’d like to chat about using experiences to drive brand growth, give us a call or shoot us a message

Images: Hot Cow, Anheuser Busch, Steve Jennings/Getty Images North America