Boost Event ROI: Modern, Immersive Examples of Experiential Marketing
Connect with your audience in a more meaningful and fun way with experiential marketing, which brings your brand to life with unique, immersive experiences. We’ve got examples of experiential marketing from White Castle, Airbnb, and more.
After being separated by screens, consumers and business buyers are ready to engage all their senses while interacting with brands. Experiential marketing can be part of your overall event marketing strategy or it can be something entirely different. We’re here to guide you as you brainstorm your next activity.
What is experiential marketing?
Experiential marketing is all about direct engagement with consumers through creative, memorable interactions. It’s also known as engagement marketing, live marketing, or participation marketing, and is often lumped into event marketing—even if it’s a far cry away from traditional conferences.
Though some experiential strategies involve live events as we typically think of them, others can be one-off installations that only last for a few hours. Whatever the format may be, experiential marketing has proven to boost event ROI and is a crucial strategy for marketing executives.
Experiential marketing typically happens in a physical setting, but with the acceleration of hybrid and virtual experiences, marketers began incorporating online elements into their experiential marketing strategies.
Examples of Experiential Marketing
At a glance, experiential marketing can include:
- Business events, festivals, award ceremonies
- Activities and kiosks at trade shows
- Samplings or demos
- Unique experiences that fit with the brand
- Ways for brands and loyal customers to do social good together
Experiential marketing is all your brand driving memorable experiences that will create brand awareness and affinity.
The Benefits of Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing can take place anywhere along the customer’s journey. Experiential marketing helps your team build:
- Brand awareness: Get your name out there! Brand activations are a great avenue for this.
- Brand affinity and loyalty: People purchase products based on their emotions — building positive experiences moves them closer to conversion.
- Offer a way for prospects to try your product: Not all channels let prospects touch, feel, or taste products. Experiential events do.
- Expand cross-channel efforts: Give people something to talk about on social media with a fun activity and a hashtag.
- Lead generation: Gather contact information and data on future prospects.
How To Create Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing is such a sweeping approach to driving brand awareness and conversions that there is no one exact way to plan and execute your event. But at the most basic level, you need to create goals, a budget, and then a cross-channel marketing plan.
And just like any other marketing campaign, it needs to be centered around your unique audience and be measurable with KPIs that make sense for your brand. Promote your event on social media or via your email list.
For event planning, promotion, registration, and measurement, it’s best to use an end-to-end event planning solution to make your event run smoothly. We can’t tell you what event will make the most sense for your brand — but we can share these interesting examples to give you inspiration.
Modern, Immersive Experiential Marketing Examples
1. KFC and Hip-Hop Artist Jack Harlow
You’re probably wondering what America’s favorite fried chicken brand, popular hip-hop artist Jack Harlow, and experiential marketing have in common. In 2021, KFC began working with Kentucky-based multicultural Agency Nimbus on a year-long partnership to attract younger, more diverse consumers to the chain of restaurants.
KFC x Jack Harlow launched on December 13, 2021, with a food truck outside the Grammy winner’s first hometown show in Louisville. Then, large trucks played Harlow’s tracks around the city December 15-16.
In March 2022, the next phase of the partnership launched, with guests being given the opportunity to order Jack’s favorites through KFC’s Quick Pick-Up option on the app or website in select locations. Once guests get to the restaurant, they can park in dedicated VIP parking spots and head inside to KFC’s new Quick Pick-Up shelf.
With more coming throughout 2022, we can’t wait to see what types of immersive experiences KFC and Nimbus come up with.
Key takeaway: It’s important to deliver experiential opportunities for your existing customers, but don’t forget to be aspirational and look at your future customers. Want more millennials or Gen Y folks? Make sure your experiences hit the right notes.
2. Tinder Pride Slide
In 2019 at Pride events in New York City, Tinder put up a 30-foot “Pride Slide,” with “Slide Into Your Senators” written down the side. The length of the slide represents the 30 states that didn’t have anti-discriminatory laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community. For each person that rode the slide, Tinder donated $10 toward passing the Equality Act. Throughout the same summer of this event, they also offered free advertising to nonprofits that supported the LGBTQ+ community.
(Note: The Equality Act passed the U.S. House in 2019 but is still waiting on Senate approval as of March 2022.)
Key takeaway: Experiential marketing can be fun, while also supporting a value your company has stood by for years. Be thoughtful, though. Consumers know when your team is being genuine or when you’re just putting on a show.
- Want more tips on championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)? Read this article.
3. Cheetos at SXSW
Orange dust all over your fingers? That’s called Cheetle and Art Basel Miami even created Cheetle-infused art in December 2021. The brand took it even further at SXSW 2022 with the Hands-Free House, asking the question: “Did Cheetle inspire hands-free technology?”
The house featured different rooms to show how tech can power hands-free activities, from something as simple as entry into the house to voice-controlled experiences with Amazon Alexa. After touring the house, visitors were asked to head to the backyard for more hands-free, Cheetos-inspired fun, including food and a hands-free vending machine.
Coudn’t attend in-person? Visit amazon.com/CheetosHandsFreeHouse on March 28 to explore a 360-degree digital version of the Hands-Free House.
Key takeaway: Consider industries that your brand/product would normally be unassociated with and think of creative ways to join forces to create an unexpected experience. And don’t forget your virtual audience!
4. The Peacock Playground at SXSW
Source: Austin Chronicle
You know what adults love? To feel like kids! NBC’s Peacock streaming service showed up with a pop-up lounge at SXSW 2022 to encourage visitors to get to know Peacock’s newest shows, including “Bel-Air” (a darker remake of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), “Girls5eva,” and “Joe vs. Carole.” The Peacock Playground featured a music video maker with neon-filled spaces and the opportunity to shoot your own 1990s-style music video plus mazes, seesaws, an open bar, interactive displays, an oversized chessboard, custom T-shirt station, and more.
Key takeaway: Experiential marketing should be fun! There’s a fine line between campy and fun, though, so be thoughtful and intentional about your activities. Make sure that they tie in clearly with what you’re marketing so the experience doesn’t feel like a gimmick.
5. JetBlue and the Ultimate Ice Breaker
In the dead of winter, there’s nothing more enticing than a trip to a warm and sunny destination. JetBlue knew this all too well and devised a clever way of promoting their new direct flights from New York to Palm Springs. They placed a number of summer accessories inside a six-foot by six-foot ice block and told New Yorkers that anything was up for grabs. People had to use whatever they had on their person to chip away at the ice to claim their prize. Prizes included summer accessories such as beach attire, golf clubs, and, of course, free tickets to Palm Springs.
This activation was done in partnership with the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, helping to bring more tourism to the beautiful California city. A full social media campaign was executed in tandem with the experiential strategy and the result was powerful online buzz for JetBlue.
Key takeaway: Consumers always love free things. Add another layer by gamifying the experienceand creating a vibrant social media campaign around the experiential strategy.
6. Doc McStuffin’s Check-up
Doc McStuffins is a popular Disney Jr. television show that is geared toward children ages 2-10. The show revolves around a 6-year-old girl named Doc who heals toys from her own backyard clinic. The team at Disney Jr. decided to recreate this same scenario of healing toys for the millions of fans who watch the show every day, giving them the chance to be in Doc’s shoes.
This experiential campaign consists of a nationwide tour of Doc McStuffins check-up clinics in which children are invited to conduct 10-minute check-ups on larger-than-life-sized teddy bears in need of a diagnosis. While waiting their turn to play doctor, children are given Doc McStuffins toys to play with, along with coloring books and puzzles. After each child completes their diagnosis, they’re awarded a Doc McStuffins certificate and given a free “Doc Is In The House” door hanger.
Key takeaway: For experiential campaigns that are targeting children, make sure you include as many opportunities to “play” as possible while also keeping in mind the parents’ experience as well. The goal should be to make both of them happy.
7. Immersive Experiences With Spatial
The key to powerful experiential marketing is immersive experiences. Spatial, an audio brand, created an immersive Spatial Holodeck experience that attracted more than 2,000 SXSW attendees over four days in 2022. Here’s what Spatial delivered:
- Guided demos
- Interactive installations
- Hands-on opportunities to explore the tech
- Collaborative installations with Meow Wolf
- QR-code tech to activate visitors
Spatial also presented panels with industry experts in the fields of design, wellness, immersive entertainment, and the future of work. With light- and sound-embedded art installations powered by Spatial tech, the entire experience was dynamic, powerful, and creative — perfect for the SXSW crowd.
Key takeaway: Think about powerful, immersive, and futuristic experiences that encourage people to use their hands and dive into a product or service.
8. “Slider Lover’s Point” at White Castle
During the pandemic, that romantic, candlelit dinner became a dream rather than a reality as indoor dining slowed to a near halt. White Castle saw the writing on the wall and got creative with Slider Lover’s Point, transforming 300 of its locations into “classic drive-ins, complete with carhop service.” Guests were invited to book a spot on OpenTable or the brand’s app and, once they arrived, they were directed to a parking spot where White Castle employees would take their order and deliver fresh, hot food to their car.
The campaign not only created a vintage experience, but the “Slider Lover’s Point” event marked the chain’s 30th anniversary of Valentine’s Day celebrations.
Key takeaway: Whether you create an immersive virtual experience or get creative outdoors, be sure you have a plan to keep marketing alive when a crisis hits.
9. Airbnb and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Experiential marketing doesn’t always have to be about participation numbers. You can deliver intimate experiences that generate extended media reach. We saw this when Airbnb, Will Smith, and the owner of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” house teamed up for the show’s 30th anniversary. The Fresh Prince house was decorated with Fresh Prince gear and made available for only $30 per night for a few nights.
It was a very limited event that maintained pandemic safety guidelines, but the media coverage received for Airbnb and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was extensive.
Key takeaway: With a great idea and the right team to pull it off, a small experience can be a real hit using other marketing channels.
10. Cafe Bizzabo at IMEX 2021
Can you taste the future of events? At IMEX 2021, we sought to deliver a fully immersive experience for attendees. With free coffee, treats, pedicab rides, and more, Cafe Bizzabo was our take on experiential marketing. We even set up billboards pointing attendees in the direction of our cafe. With full stomachs and an easy way around, attendees were able to hear about the future of event experience and carry on with their IMEX adventures.
Key takeaway: Think outside the box and figure out a way to bring people to your experience. Pedicabs, scooters, you name it … if you build it, they will come.
Short on Time? Here Are Some Key Takeaways
As a quick recap, here’s a look at some of the main lessons we learned from these stunning experiential marketing examples.
- The experiential strategy does not always have to involve the product. As long as the result is a powerfully positive brand association, the strategy is worth it.
- Be mindful of the pop culture trends and think of ways to incorporate them into your experiential strategy.
- Experiential marketing is all the more impactful when it offers something of actual value to the consumer, whether it be a free product or newfound knowledge.
- Never be afraid to think big and push the boundaries. Experiential marketing is meant to leave an impression so constantly push yourself and test the limits of your creativity.
- Remember that an experiential campaign can consist of multiple forms of engagement. Don’t restrict yourself to only one channel of interaction with consumers.