What Is Experiential Marketing?

Think for a moment about the most memorable ads you have seen, and the ones that have resonated with you the most. Maybe for you it’s Dove’s “Real Beauty” ads, which have been making women feel more comfortable in their own skin since 2014. Maybe it’s Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ads, which are most notable for their smart humor and elaborate single takes. Or maybe it’s Extra’s touching “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” ad from 2015. Chances are that the ads that really resonated with you told a story—and made you feel something.

That’s exactly the idea behind experiential marketing. Tell people a story that they’ll remember and tie to your brand even years down the road. Make them feel something so that they have an emotional connection to your brand. In short, give them something that lets them experience your brand.

Create experiences.

As you have probably already gathered, the most successful forms of experiential marketing go a step beyond creating a viral video. Experiential marketing truly centers around creating events that generate hype around your brand. Take Cotopaxi, for example. The relatively new backpack and apparel company holds adventure scavenger hunts, or “Questivals,” all over the country every year. At every Questival, participants can gain points by posting adventure oriented photos on social media. For points, the photo must capture them doing something adventurous or service-oriented while sporting a Cotopaxi branded backpack. The first Questival, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, generated 30,000 social media posts in just 24 hours. And every participant at Questival took away 24 hours’ worth of experience with the Cotopaxi brand.

Set yourself apart.

One reason experiential marketing is so powerful is that it sets you apart as a brand. In a market that is increasingly competitive as more and more goods and services are made available, experiential marketing gives consumers a memorable event or engagement that separates you from all the clutter. While catchy taglines and quirky ads might make you distinctive, nothing can quite compete with a full-on brand experience.

Establish brand loyalty.

Experiential marketing has the power to establish a deep emotional connection between a brand and a consumer. And when a consumer feels an emotional connection with a particular brand, they are more likely to remain loyal to that brand.

Document your experiences.

One final note—many might ask, “How powerful can experiential marketing be if I can reach only a limited number of consumers at any particular event?” The key here is to document the experiences you create. Your consumers can do a lot of the work for you (see the above Cotopaxi example). But creating a powerful and professional event highlights video of your own is a great way to show the world how you as a brand are interacting with people on an individual level.

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