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Standout Experiential Marketing Examples Ideal for Events

Last updated July 28th, 2021

It is the most exciting and rewarding job on the planet. There is nothing quite like the buzz of delivering a live ‘show’ - often with no rehearsal - it's creative, energetic, intense & totally varied . No day is the same

Lorne Armstrong, Director, The Event Academy

Event marketing is the one task that begins as soon as you have a concept and doesn’t stop until days after the event. It’s a full time undertaking that rewards the effort you put in with more engagement, higher levels of participation and a higher profile for the event, sponsors and stakeholders.

So, how do you market an event to a public increasingly weary of marketing? One answer is to leverage experiential marketing.

This post is going to explain the concept and then share some standout ideas for utilising experiential marketing to promote your next event.

What is experiential marketing and why should you use it?

Experiential marketing is also known as engagement marketing, participation marketing, live marketing and lots of other names.

It’s an approach that involves the audience with the brand being marketed rather than keeping them passive.

For example, getting the audience to interact with a 3D installation or participate in an activity connected to the brand.

Any active engagement between a brand and the audience can be classed as experiential marketing. The interaction doesn’t even have to feature a product or service. The intent is to create positive, memorable associations between that brand and the audience.

If it does that, it’s a successful campaign.

To give you a flavour of what experiential marketing is all about, we have collated some examples of campaigns we have seen that we thought particularly successful.

 

Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience

The Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience was an excellent example of experiential marketing. It was designed to promote Netflix’s series Stranger Things and involves a live event within a drive through in two American cities.

The event was an hour long and showed the series actors back in 1985. A warmup from some series actors included interactive quizzes and actors running around acting out scenes.

Once the show was underway, the audience watched a special live show set in the Stranger Things universe supplemented by recordings.

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Volkswagen – Piano Staircase

The Volkswagen piano staircase is a very famous example of experiential marketing and it would be remiss of us not to include it.

Car brand Volkswagen installed a piano staircase in Stockholm that played a note when you stepped on a stair. It’s a deceptively simple idea that did so well that many other brands used it as inspiration. You could too.

The stairs have nothing to do with cars. There is no mention of cars anywhere. Yet it worked incredibly effectively.

It used ‘fun theory’ which is the theory that if you provide something fun for people to do, they will create positive links between the experience and the brand that provided it.

For all intents and purposes, it worked incredibly well!

While we wouldn’t recommend copying this, it’s an excellent example of how using a bit of fun can have a positive impact.

 

29Rooms

29Rooms is a campaign by lifestyle brand Refinery29. It uses a series of 29 individual rooms within an installation that offer games, activities, demo products or other experiences sponsored by different brands.

Each room is different and offers an individual experience. The events are held annually, with brands, themes and activities changing regularly. No year is ever the same so there is always something new to see and do, which is why it’s so impactful.

29Rooms is held in New York so isn’t accessible to everyone. This could provide a lot of scope for offering something similar at home.

This could work especially well for sponsors or events with numbers in their name as that could be turned into the number of experiences on offer!

Misereor Social Swipe Billboard

Another excellent example of experiential marketing is the Misereor Social Swipe Billboard.

It was a simple installation in Germany that showed slides of all the areas of the world the NGO Misereor worked. It showed images of the plight of the people they were trying to help and what happens to the people in those regions.

The installation had a credit card reader where a swipe would donate €2 to the charity. After every donation, the slide would change to showing the effect of that donation.

That included roped hands being untied, a slide of bread being cut for a starving person and other real-life outcomes of those donations.

The campaign also included a thank you note on the donator’s bank statements next to the transaction with a link to making the donation a regular monthly occurrence. Genius!

 

Doc McStuffin’s check-up clinic

Another light-hearted experiential marketing campaign was run by Disney to promote the show Doc McStuffin.

They set up a popup clinic in Tesco, Smyths and Toys R Us. Children would play the part of Doc McStuffin and help diagnose problems with teddy bears like they do in the show.

It’s another deceptively simple idea that was easy to pull off yet incredibly powerful in engagement. Not just for the kids but for the parents who could watch their children engage with the experience.

To add to the effect, whenever kids had to queue, they were given free colouring sheets or Doc McStuffin merchandise to play around with.

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IKEA store sleepover

The IKEA store sleepover is one of the oldest examples of experiential marketing we know of but it hasn’t dimmed over time.

It was held back in 2011 in Essex and was set up as a result of a social media comment made on one of Ikea’s accounts asking if they could sleep over in a store. The store set up 100 beds and allowed people to sleep over in the warehouse.

The store held manicures, massages and had a bedtime story read to those staying over. There were also sleep experts on hand to offer advice and guidance to participants who had trouble sleeping.

The event was so successful that the brand now offers sleepover events at stores across the world.

 

David Lloyd and ‘Run for Your Bun’

David Lloyd is one of the few brands we know of to ever have successfully managed to combine promoting exercise in return for something sweet.

They held a popup café in London where visitors could ‘pay’ for their food or drink with a short 10 minute workout. Similar popups reduced that to 6 minutes.

The idea was to engage with passers-by, create a positive association and show how even a small amount of exercise can impact our lives and still fit into busy days.

It’s another simple example of how you can use a relatively low overhead event to create positivity around a brand and a lifestyle.

Guinness Class

Guinness Class was another older experiential marketing campaign that worked exceptionally well.

The drinks brand Guinness set up 42 teams that visited pubs and bars that sold Guinness. Staff dressed as cabin crew visited pubs, asked people to buy a Guinness in return for the chance to win a prize.

Most prizes were cheap and low key but still branded. One person per night would win a trip to Dublin on a private jet with four friends.

This campaign used what Guinness was already doing with an experience to deliver something over 85,000 people actively engaged with.

The campaign also included a thank you note on the donator’s bank statements next to the transaction with a link to making the donation a regular monthly occurrence. Genius!

 

Coca-Cola – Small World Machines

Coca-Cola is no stranger to experiential marketing but one standout campaign was Small World Machines.

The company installed two vending machines, one in Lahore, Pakistan and the other in New Delhi, India. Participants could see the person using the other machine and could interact with the screen. They could write messages, pull faces, make the other laugh and generally interact.

Once the experience was over, the machine dispensed a free can of Coke.

This campaign was emotive as well as experiential and worked on many levels. It not only positively promoted the brand but also sought to show two peoples that they are more alike than they might realise.

While this would take some resources to pull off, it can provide ideas for something simpler or cheaper for your own event.

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Experiential marketing for events

You can use experiential marketing for events and in events. Both can have an equally powerful impact when done right.

While the examples in this post have all been and gone, they should provide inspiration for you to come up with your own variation of a theme or completely different angle.

If you do use one of these examples, share your event with us in comments or on social. We would love to see what you came up with!

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