Increased audience engagement and participation ranks near the top of the priority list for most modern businesses and brands, and experiential marketing is an excellent way to achieve that goal.
Experiential marketing, also known as participation marketing or engagement marketing, brings consumers directly into the brand or product experience. It goes beyond event marketing, which can be limited to stuffy cocktail hours and boring product presentations. It is instead the process of immersing people in a memorable experience that they’ll relate to your brand.
While experiential marketing doesn’t look the same in every market or for every brand, it always focuses on helping consumers experience a desired feeling or message. It appeals to people in a way that traditional marketing often doesn’t, going above and beyond the traditional marketing role to develop and nurture relationships.
Whether it’s giving out samples of your product in a creative environment or emphasizing a unique take-home message, experiential marketing can—and should—be a part of your marketing strategy, too. And don’t forget the power of a good hashtag!
For inspiration, check out these seven standout instances of experiential marketing undertaken by companies all over the world.
Sensodyne: The Great Sensitivity Test
When Sensodyne launched its Complete Protection toothpaste, the brand put on an outdoor exhibit near London’s Tower Bridge that allowed passersby to get a tooth sensitivity check with a dentist, win prizes, and try free samples. A 13-foot-tall white molar provided a fun photo op, and Sensodyne even attempted to set a world record for the world’s largest oral hygiene lesson. In one day, Sensodyne distributed close to 6,500 toothpaste samples and talked to hundreds of people. With more than 150 social media mentions, the campaign achieved an overall media reach of 4,000,000.
In an attempt to bring awareness to a serious global issue—limited health care access in impoverished areas throughout the world—GE hosted a Healthymagination event, where real doctors shared their stories with 700 industry professionals. Of course, the presentations weren’t merely informative; GE created sets depicting real places where Healthymagination impacts lives: an emergency room, an urban clinic, even a clinic in rural Africa. Attendees saw firsthand how GE’s health care technology had meaningfully helped doctors and patients in the real word. By using this approach in conjunction with the doctors’ anecdotal experiences, GE immersed participants in both awareness and brand appreciation.
Zappos: Cupcake Takeover
When Google was essentially giving away free cupcakes to promote their new photo app, Zappos saw an opportunity for easy marketing—and a little humor. As Google’s food truck gave customers free cupcakes in exchange for taking a photo with the app, a few feet away a Zappos box dispensed free merchandise, like shoes and watches, in exchange for a cupcake. By cleverly piggybacking on an already-popular campaign, Zappos got free exposure and its very own #PayWithACupcake experiential promotion.
Disney: Doc McStuffins’ Checkup Clinic
If you’ve never heard of Doc McStuffins, it’s a show on Disney Junior about a 6-year-old “doctor” who fixes toys and dolls when they’re hurt or broken. To promote Doc’s second season, Disney set up mini clinics in kid-centric stores throughout the UK and let children pretend to be the doctor for 10 minutes. More than 8,000 children took turns “diagnosing” a giant teddy bear. The most important part? Parents whose kids participated in this checkup experience were 5.3 percent more likely to buy Doc McStuffins merchandise.
IKEA: Store Sleepover
In 2011, some IKEA fans in the United Kingdom started a Facebook group called “I wanna have a sleepover in Ikea,” and the company shrewdly responded by picking 100 of the group’s members to actually spend the night in their Essex, England store. IKEA went all out, giving these super fans massages, manicures, and even a bedtime story. Not about to miss the opportunity for further marketing, IKEA also brought in a sleep expert to advise customers on potential new mattress purchases.
Google: Building a Better Bay Area
When Google decided to donate $5.5 million to nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area, instead of simply announcing their donations after the fact, the company let average citizens weigh in on where the money should go. They used the hashtag #GoogleImpactChallenge, and people could vote for different nonprofits either online or through touchscreen posters located throughout the community. The campaign ended up getting more than 400,000 votes in less than a month, making a huge impact without even using a specifically Google-branded product.
Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis
As part of a large social media campaign in 2015, Lean Cuisine set up several “scales” in Grand Central Station in New York City. Instead of writing down their weight in pounds, women were invited to write down an achievement or goal that reflected how they actually wanted to be remembered—for things like providing for their families, helping the less fortunate in their community, or obtaining higher education. Launching the hashtag #WeighThis, Lean Cuisine effectively steered the conversation away from weight loss and toward things that really mattered to their customers.