How to maximize experiential marketing initiatives

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By Andrew Witkin, founder and president of StickerYou,

More and more, companies are working on ways to get their marketing initiatives off the page or screen and into the real world, to create opportunities for people to interact with their brand up close. Effective experiential marketing causes a lasting impression on consumers and creates positive feelings for them, and as research shows, feelings are incredibly important. According to research by the Tempkin Group, when individuals have a positive emotional association with a specific brand, they are 8.4 times more likely to trust the company, and 7.1 times more likely to purchase more. 

 Here are a few tips on how to create an experiential marketing initiative that stands out:

1. Demonstrate the values that really matter to your company

Your experiential marketing campaign doesn’t have to be directly tied to your product, but it should always reflect the values of your company. One example of this is an experiential marketing initiative by the frozen meals company Lean Cuisine. Their very name is attached to the idea of weight loss, but in recent years they have sought to rebrand their image and focus less on pressuring their customers to be thinner, and to focus more on health and feeling good. To demonstrate this reframing, they did an experiment at Grand Central Station in New York City: an artist made “weigh scales” that looked like normal scales but were actually little chalk boards, and asked women to write down how they want to be weighed. Rather than writing their ideal weight in pounds, women wrote about the accomplishments they want to be seen for: finishing college later in life, caring for homeless people, being a successful single parent of four kids.

The video is very emotional, but it also ties into the new way that Lean Cuisine wants to present itself. That’s a very successful campaign.

For us at StickerYou, our values are in our motto: Make What Matters Stick. We offer products such as custom stickers, custom labels, decals and iron-on patches. When we opened our retail location in Toronto, Canada, we aimed to create an environment for consumers in which they could observe the power of the sticker and be inspired by the possibilities of customization for business or personal expression. We will achieve this through unique use-cases in-store, a sticker art exhibition and a permanent sticker museum installation as well as other initiatives to engage our audience.

2. Showcase your product in unexpected ways

One of my favourite examples is the Pantone pop-up cafe in Monaco. Pantone is known for its iconic colour chips — not for coffee. But every year in Monaco they create a cafe with a simple menu, with each item they sell named for the Pantone colour it corresponds to – for example, the 13-0221 Pistachio eclair. You might expect a colour company to do something that much more directly related to its product, which is why this was such an unexpected, and effective, surprise.

3. Create opportunities for people to linger

You want people to stay around and interact with your experiential initiative for a while. Ideally you also want them to have opportunities to socialize and have a good time, allowing them to build their own memories associated with your brand. The Pantone example comes back here because a cafe naturally does that, too. It creates an opportunity for customers to come and linger a while, chat with people they care about, and really have an experience. There are lots of ways you could set this up. If you’re set up at a busy music festival, create a “chill zone” where people can go relax in comfy bean bag chairs and listen to relaxing, low key music or do yoga. You could set up a little bar somewhere, or set up games that allow people to interact.  

4. Get competitive 

People love a good competition and a fun challenge. If you can find one that ties into the idea of your brand, you’ve got a winner. One great example is the airline JetBlue’s “Icebreaker” challenge. They had just started offering direct flights from New York to Palm Springs, so to get people in the mood for a warm getaway, they set up a big stack of ice blocks with summer-themed prizes inside — sandals, tennis rackets, snorkel gear, and even free tickets. Passersby could stop and use whatever tools they had on them to chip the items out of the ice. If they could do it, they got to keep the goods. It’s a great example because it’s fun, it’s surprising, and it perfectly aligns with the idea of offering New Yorkers a warm getaway in the chilly winter.

5. Make it fun

Never underestimate how much people want the opportunity to get silly and have a good time. Adulthood is often very serious and when people get a chance to play, they are so grateful! The Icebreaker challenge above is one example, but it doesn’t need to be a competition. Volkswagen wanted to show how having fun is a great tool to change your personal habits. It was part of a shift for the company towards more environmentally friendly products, which can necessitate a shift in your routine or what you’re used to. So they turned a staircase at a Stockholm subway station into a giant piano (yes, it really made sound!) to show that having fun would motivate people to take the stairs instead of the escalator. Then they set up their cameras to watch it unfold. It worked — more and more people went up the stairs, jumping back and forth from one stair to another to make music, instead of riding up the escalator. No matter how old you are, we always want to have a good time, and your experiential marketing initiative can be a great way to let people have fun.

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.