Why Experiential Marketing is Essential in the Age of Digital Advertising
In today’s digital marketing landscape, forging a deep connection with the broader market and individual customers simultaneously is the key to successful campaigns and brand credibility. When lasting impressions are created, customers will remember your brand name and how their interaction with it made them feel. People often develop life-long loyalty to certain brands based on a few experiences with them, whether that be a fond childhood memory or another fun memory attached to it.
Experiential marketing can encompass many different approaches, including live events, pop-ups, or even virtual hybrid events hosted with hopes of reaching a wider audience. The concept of experiential marketing has radically changed in our digital era, with brand experiences able to reach more people, in more ways, and with ever-increasing creativity and innovation. Yet, in-person events and experiences still remain as prominent as ever due to their ability to create memorable experiences for customers that can generate organic, word-of-mouth marketing for a given brand.
When we look at the numbers, we can clearly see that marketers agree experiential marketing needs to be a part of an overall advertising strategy. According to surveys, 38.3% of marketers said that experiential and event marketing was the most effective marketing approach overall.
So, in the age of digital advertising, how essential has experiential marketing become, and how has it changed the marketing landscape?
Cutting through the clutter
No one would deny that the digital space is very crowded. There are hundreds of thousands of platforms, channels, influencers, and sites brands use for their marketing initiatives, and all of them are clamoring for attention.
Think about how many ads you see just while scrolling through your phone screen on a daily basis, then imagine trying to cut through that noise with your message. It’s a daunting prospect indeed. Experiential marketing allows brands to cut through all of that digital clutter and offer unique experiences to their target market they won’t soon forget.
One recent example of this that proved to be a wild success came in the form of life-sized doll boxes presented at the theater showings of the “Barbie” movie this past summer. Many theaters provided life-sized Barbie doll boxes for people to stand in and take pictures on their way in to see the movie. Soon, everyone’s social media feeds were full of their friends and family, donning pink, standing in big Barbie boxes.
This kind of experiential marketing helped spread excitement for the movie and left people talking for weeks about their own “Barbie” movie experiences. The little experiential touches that the theaters and the team behind the movie added to the release likely made a significant difference in terms of the popularity of the film.
Advertising works in frequency
The truth is that the number of times a person in your target market is exposed to your brand or your message matters. Following the initial touchpoint with your audience, the frequency at which customers encounter your message is the most important consideration for a campaign.
Frequency drives your audience to learn more about your brand. Once they hear your brand name several times over a set period, recognition and credibility naturally follow. At the same time, given the density of brands seeking to maximize their impact in the digital marketing space, brands must also keep in mind that their competitors are also fighting for that same recognition.
By layering approaches and offering experiential marketing options, you stand a better chance of being remembered and relied upon when the customer’s purchase decision-making time occurs.
Making connections with your customers
In-person events and experiential marketing allow you to get much closer to your customers by presenting opportunities to provide you with face-to-face feedback on how they feel about your brand, the experience, and any issues that you could improve upon. Experiential marketing is all about connections, and even though the digital landscape is an important factor in this field, brand marketers shouldn’t abandon the in-person event or experience marketing opportunity altogether.
Instead, marketers can infuse their in-person experiences with digital technology designed to entice the audience and drive engagement, such as virtual reality opportunities. Simply sticking with an all-digital marketing strategy removes much of the intimacy required for a long-lasting connection to one’s market. Online markets can be fickle, and it takes far more work to create a meaningful connection with one’s audience through only digital means.
Driving leads and sales
When you invite customers and potential customers to interact with your brand in real-life situations, you help them create a personal connection to your brand, which makes them far more likely to spend money with your business. One study showed that 91% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase following an in-person interaction with a brand.
Experiential marketing can also drive leads through events and experiences, allowing you to build relationships with the customers who regularly engage with your brand. They will bring those experiences home, share what they have experienced, and drive more attention and engagement to your brand through their own organic advertising.
With online-only marketing in our digital age, it’s extremely easy to block ads, scroll on by, or ignore brand messaging altogether. With a single swipe, your brand can be wiped clean from someone’s feed — and their memory.
Experiential marketing, on the other hand, allows engagement to be far more authentic and long-lasting. People will remember what they experienced, felt, saw, and who they spoke to about your product, service, or brand. This is where brand loyalty is built.
One of the best examples of this loyalty-building marketing is the Disney company. While Disney has taken advantage of digital technology with state-of-the-art animation and Imagineering, digital marketing pushes, and streaming services, it’s the experience of their parks that really solidifies the loyalty of people to their brand.
Disneyworld, Disneyland, and the company’s other branded theme parks all offer immersive experiences that are unmatched by their competitors and cannot be replicated digitally — not yet, anyway. It’s this heightened, in-person experience that has helped make Disney’s brand the powerhouse of a household name it is today.
People have strong emotions, memories, and experiences attached to the park experience, one that’s simply irreplaceable within a purely digital space. The Disney team understands — perhaps better than anyone — that continuing to place value in these types of experiences is a winning strategy for building and fostering customer loyalty with their brand.
Even with all of the advancements in digital marketing approaches, word-of-mouth marketing still has a place in brand building. Word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful, with a staggering 78% of people talking about their experiences with a particular brand on a weekly basis. An additional 23% of people speak about their favorite products or experiences with those closest to them every day, and 90% of those surveyed said they are more likely to trust a brand that came recommended.
Regardless of how disconnected our digital world may feel compared to 20 years ago, people are still talking about the brands they do — and don’t — love. With experiential marketing, word-of-mouth is stoked and can build authentically and organically around your brand.
Experiential marketing and event marketing are not new concepts, but may have to be approached in a different way in our increasingly digital world. Marketers should not discount or dismiss the power of in-person marketing or events simply because the latest advancements in digital technology are new and shiny.
By relying on tried and true experiential and event marketing strategies, brands can forge long-lasting, unforgettable relationships with their target audience and rise above the competition in today’s extremely crowded, heavily digital marketplace.
About Old City Media
Old City Media, Inc. is a national marketing agency helping brands connect with target demographics through experiential marketing at a fraction of the cost. This process is achieved through our robust network of clients and proven formula of brand integration.
By Ray Sheehan, Founder — Old City Media