What is Experiential Marketing?

Imagine…

you’ve walked into a shoe store and you come across a display with a sign that reads “These Shoes are Musical”, as you begin to touch one of the sneakers on display a low bass sound emits from it, excited you tap the surrounding shoes, a ballet slipper makes a snare sound, and the high tops sound like a hi-hat. You begin to realize these aren’t just shoes, they’ve transformed into a drum kit. What I’ve just described to you is similar to the experiential marketing performance event Nike launched with artist Hifana, for their Free Run + line of sneakers.

 

Nike and other successful brands are using technology and experience to create memorable campaigns that divert from traditional marketing tactics and templates. In turn these companies are creating emotional user experiences and a sense of “brand love”. 

According to Chief Creative Officer Layne Braunstein at Fake Love, an award winning experiential design agency, good experiential marketing has three key components:

  1. It focuses on active not passive engagement
  2. It has to be live
  3. It is multi-sensory

In a few words, experiential marketing engages your consumers with a unique interactive experience that only your brand can provide to them.

 

How can experiential marketing benefit your brand?

Experiential marketing is great because experiences permeate much deeper than traditional marketing tactics do. The impact that these events have on your audience create shareable moments and content that end up online and shared by your audience. Experiences that go beyond the ordinary and break up a consumers day establish a different type of relationship between your products and your consumers. In the shoe store example the shoes transformed from everyday footwear into something extraordinary and seemingly magical. It’s not everyday someone can play tennis shoes like a drum set, but it is something they’ll remember and post about online.

In-store experiential marketing is also a great way to increase foot traffic for your space.  In the shoe store example, having the playable shoe drum set transforms the shoe store into more than a retail space, it becomes a place to visit to see something different and new being done with shoes.  Even if someone isn’t in the market for shoes at the moment they’re still visiting the shoe store and interacting with the shoes. The product has been put into their mind and they next time they’re in the market for shoes that experience of the shoe drum kit will come up.

 

Installation Art as a simple way to integrate experiential marketing

Contemporary artists for years have been experimenting with installation art and creating interactive experiences for museum goers. Sculptor and Performance artist Yayoi Kusama’s famous Infinity Mirrors are a great example of successful interactive installation artwork. These rooms are interactive environments where visitors are invited to experience what is described by the artist as “self-obliteration”.

 

These Infinity Rooms have toured all over the world and often sell out museums. It’s not unusual for advance tickets to be sold in the hundreds of thousands. The success of interactive installations like these have completely shook the Fine Arts industry and are reshaping our museums. According to Dr. Sarah Kenderdine from the National Institute for Experimental Arts, museums of the future will be sensory experiences that combine art and new technologies to reimagine heritage and cultural landscapes.

That is to say: the museums of the future will be interactive, engaging, and highly instagrammable.

International brands like Adidas and Nordstrom have taken note of this and have implemented interactive installation art into their own marketing.

While promoting for their new sneaker line, Deerupt, Adidas set-up a tall netted archway called the “The Arch of Milan”. People could go up to the archway and push or pull on the net. As people pushed and pulled vibrato-like sounds would come out of the archway. Milan is famous for being a high-end fashion destination and has streets dedicated strictly to apparel brands. In a city that is saturated with other brands trying to make themselves stand out, creating this archway was a bold and effective way to get people’s attention and eyes on their product.

 

To celebrate the launch of a new flagship store opening in New York City, Nordstrom created an in-store Augmented Reality and Sculptural experience. Store guests were given tablets to use to scan the various scenes that were set up throughout the store. Once scanned the scenes come to life via the tablet screen.  This AR scavenger hunt prompted people to explore the entirety of the new store interacting with the merchandise in a new and fun way.

 

The technology behind creating impactful installations

The core component to the aforementioned installations is their use of new technology. Interactive technology and engineering has become increasingly beginner friendly and consumer accessible. This is partly why we’re seeing more non-tech brands utilizing tech to market themselves. 

One brand that is popular among creative technologists and artists alike is Arduino. Arduino is an open source electronics prototyping platform that provides people with simple,but powerful microcontrollers and kits to create interactive objects. Arduinos are often used in elementary school stem curriculums to teach kids the basics of programming and engineering. The applications for Arduino range from turning on an LED with a button to creating kinetic sculptures like Adidas’ Arch of Milan.  

In the shoe store example, while on the surface turning shoes into a drum kit sounds quite complex it would actually be relatively simple to create. The shoes would essentially be turned into touch sensors or buttons. Once the hardware on the shoe is touched it would trigger a sound to come out through the software. Different shoes would have buttons that correspond to different sounds.

 

It doesn’t have to be High Tech!

While experiential marketing does often explore and utilize new technologies it doesn’t have to. Experiential marketing can still be very successful and very low tech. An example for low tech or no tech experiential marketing campaigns could simply be showing the public how your product is made and having them interact with part of your creation process. For instance, if you run a screen printing company you could have a day where you have live screen printing tutorials. Perhaps customers could take home a t-shirt they screen printed themselves.

Maybe you don’t have a product that is easily demonstrable, perhaps you could set up a scavenger hunt that focuses on trivia related to your brand’s history. The possibilities are endless and dependent on your brand’s identity, the most important thing is to have fun and create an experience you- yourself would want to participate in!

 

In conclusion…

In today’s heavily saturated advertisement landscape experiential marketing can be a breath of fresh air and offer consumers a new way to engage with your brand.  Experiential marketing is consumer centric, it’s all about putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and remembering that we’re not just marketing to customers – we’re marketing to humans. We all seek experiences that are memorable, engaging, and emotional. 

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