Experiential marketing: is it right for your business?

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By Andrew Witkin, founder and president, StickerYou

Experiential marketing, also known as engagement marketing, is a hot topic in the modern marketing industry. Companies and brands are looking to create brand loyalty through experiences that breed trust and inspiration in consumers rather than gaining attention through traditional advertising methods. It makes sense – in today’s ad-saturated online environment, the investment necessary in order to secure attention through ads can be astronomical, and not that effective. 

Today’s consumers are media-savvy, concerned about how brands are interacting with the world, and what loyalty to a brand says about them as people and community members. Online ads are just background noise in a media environment that is filled with flashy tidbits trying to pull consumer attention. To reach and truly engage audiences, brands have to connect on a deeper level. Often this deeper connection can be achieved through experiential marketing. 

According to the Event Marketing Institute, 74 percent of consumers have a better opinion of a brand after a successful experiential event, and 84 percent of brands with marketing budgets of $10 million and up are using some form of experiential marketing. And therein lies the issue. Experiential marketing can get expensive, fast. And not every company that could benefit from experiential marketing has a marketing budget of $500,000, much less $10 million.

So is experiential marketing right for your business? 

Consider how consumers can interact with your brand

When considering whether to incorporate experiential marketing tactics into your marketing strategy, evaluate your product and the benefits that could come from consumer engagement with your product, and how those consumers might engage with your brand or your brand message in a live experience. 

At StickerYou, we are opening an experiential retail location in Toronto, Canada as a way of introducing customers to our products (custom stickers, labels, decals, iron-ons and temporary tattoos) and providing experiences that will both engage and inspire customers in how our products might benefit them. Customers can benefit and gain more product knowledge from touching and feeling the quality of our stickers, of being in a place in which they are surrounded by inspiring example use cases of our product and the cultural history of stickers. This experience, we believe, will create a lift in brand awareness that will generate a corresponding lift in online sales.

Build out a budget

Experiential marketing initiatives can get expensive, fast. But that doesn’t mean that all experiential marketing initiatives have to come with a large price tag. If your business is still in the beginning stages, draft a budget of what you can afford to spend on an experiential campaign and go from there, rather than considering the campaign first and then the budget. Experiential campaigns can be tailored to smaller budgets with a little creativity and imagination. 

Consider a smaller, community-based campaign to test how customers interact with your product and brand. Pair up with local partners, attend local festivals and events, or create an event of your own. 

Think about the message

It’s not enough to simply place your product in the hands of potential customers. A large part of experiential marketing is focused on sending a message to your consumers about what your brand is and what it stands for.

Having a message is key to a successful experiential marketing campaign, and in many successful campaigns, the product is almost secondary to the message. For example, Lean Cuisine’s #Weighthis campaign chose to emotionally connect with consumers by sharing a message that weight isn’t all about physical appearance. With a pop-up set up in Grand Central Station in New York City, the brand asked consumers to evaluate what they would most like to give the most “weight” to in their lives. The answers ranged from love of one’s children to work ethic. The campaign went viral almost instantly, garnering over 204 million impressions.

Whiskey company Glenfiddich invited customers in London to use an app to answer a question about themselves that would then match their personalities with the best type of whiskey for them. This not only exposed customers to the product, but also to the message that whiskey preference is intensely personal, and that Glendfiddich recognizes this level of sophistication in whiskey.

Knowing what the message is, is a key element in the success of an experiential marketing play. For us, StickerYou’s motto Make What Matters Stick is the message we want to drive home to consumers. Our products are a way for them to make what matters most in their lives, whether it’s a business, or a personal endeavor, stick. It’s an inspirational and empowering message, and this is what drives our experiential initiative.

Evaluating whether an experiential marketing campaign is the right choice for your business at this moment in its development is an important step in creating an effective marketing campaign that makes an impact. Consider your product, budget and message that you want to convey to your consumers, and this will shed light on whether this method of marketing makes sense for your business.

Andrew Witkin

As the founder and president of StickerYou, Andrew Witkin believes in the enormous power of customization. With over a decade of StickerYou success, he is one of Canada’s leading experts in e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Witkin has previously served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel.