What is Experiential Marketing? Everything You Need to Know As Beginner

What is Experiential Marketing? Read this post to get an answer to this question and understand the history, purpose, and planning basics of any experiential campaign!

Experiential Marketing, also known as Engagement Marketing aims to put customer engagement at the center of a marketing exercise.The increased engagement results in a stronger relationship between the brand and the target customers, resulting in the increased lifetime value of the customer acquired well beyond the marketing campaign being run.

This post is a part of our series on Experiential Marketing (visit the main page by clicking on this link) or download the guide directly in PDF format from below.
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A brief history of Experiential Marketing

The year was 1893. A few marketers thought that there were far too many firms selling various products to the same set of people. So many that the customer had no way of trying out most of them before deciding what to buy. Even the old ways of advertising, including experiential advertising, were losing their impact as too many products were being advertised. Something else needed to be done to entice the target customers by the latest offerings.  

Eventually,  the solution was to organize an event with the sole purpose of letting the customers experience the products – rather than hear about them or see them depicted. This was possibly the first instance when 'experiential marketing' was used. World’s Fair was organized in Chicago that year. The event it marked was 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering Americas. It was successful enough for it to be organized again in 1900 in Paris – without the Columbus excuse, of course.


Though the technique became much more popular when General Motors and Ford Motor Company were able to introduce cars to people who had never felt the need to drive one through a series of events. These were the famous car shows of 1920s. Companies around the globe started following experiential marketing trends by creating immersive experiences for their target customers

Experiential Marketing today

The basics of how an experiential marketing campaign works haven’t changed over the years – event marketers still want to showcase state-of-the-art technology in these events, sometimes the products that the users get to experience only the art-of-possible – not something that can actually be marketed. And they still want mass communication (read experiential advertising) to be built around this event, with the goal of leaving a lasting impression on the customer.

For example, Razer’s demonstration of Project Valerie got them a lot of attention and credit with their target customers. But, as a product, it is still years away from being sold.


Another famous example is Felix Baumgartner’s Stratos Jump. This event carried the brand of Red Bull. The 52-year old broke the record for the highest parachute jump during that event. As many as 8 million people watched the event, and every major news outlet carried a story about it.


No doubt it was a successful experiential marketing event – but was it an experiential marketing campaign at all? Some would argue that this is content marketing at its best – Red Bull created content and people came together to watch this content. While this is true, it is an event that everyone watching felt a part of. It is directly engaging the consumer in some way – even if there is no physical interaction involved.

So, despite only one person – Felix himself – experienced the jump, we still consider this as an experiential marketing activity. Stratos Jump was an event like no other – we can say this because despite the record being broken two years after the jump, we still talk of Felix’s jump and not of the Google Exec’s jump.

Why do you need Experiential Marketing?

customer engagement

Experiential Marketing is not a tool to run a single campaign, but a way of thinking that dictates how marketing works for you.

Events and competitions where people can interact with the brand become key touch-points for an Experiential Marketing campaign.

Engagement with the customer is a phenomenon that dictates what the brand does across all touch-points and channels, online and offline.

exhibitions become key touchpoints for marketing

Where to execute Experiential Marketing?

How you execute an Experiential Marketing campaign depends on how you wish to project your brand, and how your customers prefer to interact with you.

Product demos and free samples are among the most low-key ways of engaging the customer.

You could do this both at a trade show where you have a booth or by deploying a pop-up booth in a location where you expect a large footfall from your target group.

These don’t just allow the customer to experience your product but also is a great way of influencing her purchase decision based on the strength of your product alone.

influencing customer decision

But experiential marketing has truly been revolutionized by augmented reality technologies.

With experiences that cross from the physical world into the virtual, customers get to use mixed reality to understand your products much better than through traditional demos.

She gets to experience multiple variants, even when only a handful can be made available for trial in the real world.

More importantly, mixed reality has taken experiential marketing beyond demos and ensured that even traditional-looking ads on billboards or newspaper are interactive.

It brings the best of digital and physical worlds together - into a seamless whole mediated through the customer’s smartphone or a smart kiosk she walks into.

photobooth is an effective marketing tool

Planning Your Experiential Campaign

Before planning, you must have a strategy for experiential marketing in place that will lay the basic framework for your campaign. Read our post on experiential marketing strategy to get into the details of strategy before you move on to planning phase.

After that, the first step to plan, like most marketing activities, is to decide the budget you are willing to allocate for an experiential marketing campaign. As you finalize the scope and size of your campaign, you will find that the planning stage is the most time-consuming one – or at least feels like the most slow-moving phase. Therefore, it is important to set the budgetary constraints upfront, thereby avoiding disappointments and revisits to the plan later.

Next step is to pin down overall strategic goals of the campaign. There are multiple multi-disciplinary teams involved in mounting an experiential campaign. The best way to ensure that everyone will work towards the same shared goal is to have all the stakeholders sit together in a room and talk about the goals they would like the campaign to achieve.

This is also the time when a preliminary agreement on logistics and crisis control plan is reached. Once you have the budget and goals clearly defined, you will be able to select the right tactics to make the campaign successful.

You will be working with a large team, and therefore it is important that each member understands the role they play within the team. It is equally important to ensure that turf wars between different teams are avoided by setting the right expectations. For your experiential marketing strategy to be implemented well, it is essential that the chain of command is unambiguous.

Equally important is to ensure that your experiential marketing event is staffed appropriately – not all events will require the same staff, and missing a key role can be disastrous.

For example, not all events may need a building inspector but forgetting to engage one on an event where necessary may lead to regulatory troubles when launching the actual event. Also make sure that you know what to do if any of the staff members fall sick or become unavailable for some reason at the last moment.

social media makes it easier for your customers to judge your product

Create an experience for your customers that resonates with who you are, and it will stay with them longer. Evoke their feelings through a great experience, and you have earned yourself brand loyalists.


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