Experiential Marketing Action Plan – Getting Started on Your XM Campaign

Marketing is, first and foremost, about getting noticed. If no one sees your products or knows about your services, you make no sales. You have to be seen and heard. But in the internet age, getting noticed online has become a whole lot harder. That’s why experiential marketing, or XM marketing, is gaining attention as a means of attracting, engaging, and captivating leads and customers. 

In this article, we’re going to explore the basics of experiential marketing and look at a few examples. But then, we’re going to show you how to do it. 

Experiential marketing isn’t only for big companies with huge budgets and techno-wizardry capabilities like augmented reality and crazy interactive 50-foot screens. Yes, it’s for them, and if you work in marketing for a big company, this article is for you too. But experiential marketing can be done by just about anyone. 

Big companies that are at risk of having their brands run stale due to the same old advertising can use experiential marketing to recapture excitement from their customers and prospects. 

Small companies trying to gain a foothold and make a lasting impression with their target audience can use it to leapfrog the usual hurdles.

So let’s dive in.

What is experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing is about encountering your brand or products in interactive, live, engaging and unique opportunities. Experiential marketing usually happens in person, although it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Also known as ground marketing, live marketing, and participation marketing, experiential marketing gets people talking. It generates sharable content like photos and videos. It breaks through the barriers of most forms of traditional marketing. It doesn’t feel like sales or advertising. 

The goal of experiential marketing is to create a unique context where your ideal customers and leads can enthusiastically engage with your brand.

Where can you do experiential marketing?

One of the great benefits of experiential marketing is that you can do it almost anywhere. It’s flexible and adaptive. You can do it online with livestreams, or in person at targeted locations such as:

  • Conferences and conventions
  • Trade shows with kiosks and booths
  • Sports events
  • Concerts
  • Carnivals, bazaars, and festivals
  • Community events
  • On the streets and sidewalks

The locations you select depend on the types of people you want to reach, and the size of the potential audience. The best experiential marketing locations maximize both the size and the targeting of your audience.

What do you do at these locations?

You can set up booths, exhibits, and product demonstrations. You can set up a popup store, a temporary shop that gets attention and engages people on the spot. You can also do what’s called guerilla marketing, which can be done just about anywhere. This is hard to define because it can incorporate just about anything, from streetside magic shows to dunk tanks to people canvassing an area with lots of foot traffic to interview or quiz passersby. 

Do any of these well, and you get a lot of attention and engagement that you can turn into revenue. 

interior of a busy store

One of the advantages of choosing pre-existing events like carnivals, conferences, and concerts is that someone else is already publicizing and creating the event. You just have to show up and take advantage of an audience that was already going to be there. 

Benefits of experiential marketing

Experiential marketing can accomplish marketing goals in much less time than you would spend using other marketing strategies. 

With a well-planned and successful participation marketing campaign, you can

  • Forge unique bonds and relationships between your brand and new customers
  • Let people experience your products before buying them
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Make a lasting and memorable impression that alters buying behavior
  • Go viral

Experiential marketing taps into emotions that rarely get activated with conventional advertising. You can elicit joy, wonder, surprise, suspense, and many other feelings. And when the brain experiences feelings like these at high levels, the effect on memory lasts and deepens. 

Want some science to back this up? One study on emotion and memory says that curiosity “prepares the brain to learn and remember,” and that because the emotion of surprise represents a “discrepancy between prior expectations and the new information,” it produces a “cognitive reset” that enables deeper learning and stronger memories. 

purple photo of a brain in blank space

This is why experiential marketing can work so well.

You can incite curiosity, surprise, shock, suspense, and joy in ways that are just much harder to replicate in any other way. 

It’s also what motivates people to create and share content that may take your campaign viral. Going viral is every marketer’s dream, but it’s very hard to make it happen on purpose. Experiential marketing campaigns can go viral much easier than regular marketing, and for a tiny fraction of the cost.

Think about the cost of a 30-second TV ad during a prime-time TV show or sports event. You can run experiential marketing campaigns for far less, and if they go viral, you can get an even bigger audience and make a lasting impression. You’ll see some examples of this a bit later.

How to create an experiential marketing campaign

Here’s an action plan for getting started on your next live marketing campaign.

1. Don’t go it alone

It can seem difficult to get started on this, because the concept is so open-ended. Telling someone they can do “anything” doesn’t make it easier to do “something.”

You’ll do better working with an experiential marketing consultant who has experience setting up and running successful campaigns. This is one of Power Direct’s services, which we refer to as Brand Ambassadors

And even if you end up not working with us, just having a conversation with someone who has experience with this type of marketing can spark ideas and give you some direction and guidance, to focus you on a more specific plan.

Another way to avoid going alone is to partner up with another company. Find a company that is not a competitor, and team up to create a compelling and engaging experience. This way, you split the costs, and you both benefit from whatever attention and traffic you generate.

2. Decide what you want to achieve

Experiential marketing campaigns can achieve a great variety of goals. You can pursue immediate revenue. You can collect customer information. You can promote brand awareness. You can do all three of those at once and more.

Here are a few live marketing goals that can guide you in your planning:

  • Make a sale — such as a loss leader product that gets your foot in the door
  • Collect leads and their contact information
  • Get signups for a free trial or other service
  • Schedule demos or follow-up calls
  • Pass out free gifts such as branded merchandise or gift cards to promote word of mouth and customer loyalty
  • Pass out coupons to motivate a later purchase
  • Get leads from offline to your online marketing platforms
  • Facilitate user-generated content that gets shared online
  • Get impressions, clicks, views, and visits on your social media pages or website
busy flea market with lots of shoppers

3. Select your target audience

The goal you want to achieve determines the audience you want to target. 

What does a campaign cost?

Get a custom-built sample campaign with real targeting data, ad creative, cost estimates, and distribution plans.

Use the Project Estimator

If you want new leads, which demographic or other customer attributes do you want to focus on? If you want to pass out gift cards, what sorts of people do you want to give them to?

Remember, experiential marketing is about going where your people are. If you’re targeting retirees and want to get leads for a hearing aid product, running a popup shop outside a football stadium probably isn’t a smart move. 

If you want to get new customers to sign up for your new mobile app, doing something on or near a college campus makes a lot of sense.

4. Get creative and be smart

Once your experiential marketing campaign goals and audience are set, you can start thinking about creative ways to attract and engage them in person.

Here’s where the opportunities abound and why it’s helpful to see a few examples. But remember, the key is to get attention and create a memorable, engaging, and unique experience that translates directly into the goals you have set.

For example, if you want to add people to your email list, make sure there’s a natural flow within your live experience that leads people to sign up. 

One simple way to do this at trade shows, farmer’s markets, and other booth-oriented events is to have a guessing contest. You put some number of objects in a container and have people guess how many are in there. To win, they have to give you a way to contact them, and they won’t feel coerced by this step because they want to win. Include an opportunity to opt-in for marketing messages and many will accept.

If you want people to generate their own content, create a branded hashtag to go with your campaign as a subtle nudge for them to share online whatever they create.

5. Track your metrics

You want to know how well the campaign worked, based on whatever goals you set out to achieve.

If you pass out gift cards, coupons, or other items that are meant to result in a purchase at a later date, have a way to track these so you know how much revenue was generated.

With a branded hashtag, you can track how many people share and re-share content from your campaign. 

You can track impressions on your social media pages. You can track calls, signups, surveys filled out, quizzes completed, email addresses collected, and whatever other metrics are relevant to your campaign.

But you have to set this up beforehand so you know what data to collect, and how to collect it.

Examples of experiential marketing campaigns

As you will see, the range of creativity here is very wide. The best XM campaigns will emerge when you devote significant amounts of time on the front end dreaming up and brainstorming outlandish possibilities. Here are a few attention-getters:

JetBlue’s frozen vacation

During a freezing winter season in New York, JetBlue froze a bunch of sunny vacation items in huge blocks of ice and stacked them up right on the sidewalk. They were advertising direct flights from New York to Palm Springs. The campaign was done in partnership with the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, so this is a good example of working with another company.

Passersby even had the option of chipping away the ice to claim the items inside, one of which was free tickets. 

This is a surefire way to get people talking about and sharing your brand, and even if not everyone books a flight to Palm Springs, JetBlue won big on the publicity from this stunt.

Frontier’s community service initiative 

Consumers, especially the highly sought after younger demographics, pay attention when brands do more than serve themselves. Frontier used Power Direct’s brand ambassador staffing services to create community service campaigns in their emerging markets. 

Power Direct team member with someone from Frontier

Roadways became cleaner, families fed, and Frontier’s reputation boosted. This is a program that local and regional marketing directors can quickly approve because they’re relatively low cost when compared to a stunt like the one from RedBull that we discuss below. 

Haagen-Dazs GIF photo booth at wimbledon

Wanting to promote their new Strawberries & Cream ice cream, Haagen-Dazs set up a photo booth outside the Wimbledon tennis tournament that included a swing where people could snap pictures of themselves.

They used this to encourage people to take photos and create their own content that would feature the brand and thus promote the new flavor. 

This is a great example of a relatively inexpensive way to cast a wide net and reach far more people than the ones who saw your experience in person. You can do this at trade shows, conferences, outside sports events like this one, or on the side of the street in a busy area. 

Vans popup shop near skate parks

For a good example of reaching your target audience, Vans had a new shoe line that honored David Bowie, and they decided to promote it by setting up popup shops near some popular skate parks. 

skate park on the beach

This targeted their skateboarding segment, and instead of trying to get these potential customers to go somewhere and buy their shoes, Vans went to them.

There is much less resistance to buying when you show up where your audience already is. 

Red Bull’s 24 mile freefall world record

As the tagline goes, Red Bull gives you wings. What better way to take that idea to the max than to set a world record for highest freefall.

Several years back, Red Bull ran a livestream event where they sent a skydiver 128,000 feet up in a space capsule-like object. Then, he jumped out and spent over 4 minutes in the air. 

This is an example of a stunt that creates suspense and delight. Red Bull captivated people for over an hour when they ran this live. The brand reach it produced and the brand affinity it generated was far greater than any TV commercial could achieve. 

You can do stunts on a smaller scale live and in person, too. Anything that captivates people enough to stop and pay attention will help achieve your campaign goals.

Want to explore your own experiential marketing campaign?

Power Direct can help you with this. This article isn’t just another informational post that you have to take and figure out how to use all by yourself. We can actually help you create a real participation marketing campaign that will target and engage your audience and give them a memorable experience that will help achieve your goals, which we can help you track.

Get in touch with us here, and let us know you want to discuss a brand ambassador or experiential marketing campaign idea.