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Photo from Elevate Staffing

The State of the Experiential Market

Experiential marketing has evolved from a one off side project to an essential part of any brand’s strategy.

When in the past marketers would only be spending surplus budget to create an experience that only involved a photo booth or simple giveaway, today agencies are designing top notch one of a kind, encounters that foster deep connections. According to the 2019 State of Experiential Research Study by Agency EA, “92 percent of brand-side respondents believe integrating experiential marketing within the overall sales and marketing funnel is imperative to their success.” However, according to Eventbrite, “Nearly 60% of event creators aren’t using experiential marketing.” This is one number that is expected to change over the next year as the live event industry gets on track with the rest of the marketing world. Through the integration of more technology and an emphasis on creating memories on site and online, live event organizers can utilize onsite experiences to leave lasting impressions on attendees that translate into brand loyalty for both the event hosts and sponsors.

What Is Experiential Marketing?

While digital content is king, everyday potential customers are being bombarded more and more with advertisements online. According to Altitude Branding “close to 32% of all internet users now use plug-ins with their browsers to block annoying video ads and pop-up ads.” This is why in person advertising has become a more advantageous means of reaching potential customers. Not only that, but having real people representing the brand and interacting with consumers has proven to be the most effective form of lead generation. Experiential marketing takes that interaction and kicks it up a notch through creative and meaningful engagements. 

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Graphic from 2019 State of Experiential Research Study by Agency EA

Live events integrate experiential marketing through installations on site, be them for sponsors or from the event itself. From art installations to breaking records to onsite laundromats, experiential marketing can take many forms. Brand activations help to increase fan engagement, provide a better experience for attendees, win new customers, and foster stronger brand loyalty. What sets this marketing strategy apart is that it can leave a more lasting impression since you are getting in front of consumers in unique ways in person. “People are curious and playful, and in the last ten years we’ve been so focused on new tech and media, that we haven’t paid attention to the full person,” Alex Beim, creative director at Tangible Interaction, says to Eventbrite. “We are creatures moving through space, and you can really engage people with their senses. Brands can make a real impact just by understanding this.” 

Brand activations can also help to bring in sponsorship revenue for the festival or sporting event. Especially at music festivals, activations are a powerful way for the brand to connect with attendees. According to Havas Media survey of festival goers 36% claimed “that they would be ‘more likely to buy a sponsor’s product’ after experiencing their activation at the festival.”

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Graphic from PublicisXP

Leveraging Social Media and Technology 

What’s even more is that Havas Media also found that festival goers “spend an average 220% more time online than the average global consumer.” This is why it’s important to not only create an experience and capture it, but to also leverage that coverage online. Before and after the event, a marketer can create a 360 campaign that amplifies the activation to audiences outside of just those attending the festival. The  digital content surrounding an experience can evoke emotion that can connect more strongly with viewers. By displaying sneak peaks and teasers before, potential guests can get excited and be drawn them to this area of the festival before they even arrive onsite. Dropping footage after not only re enforces a positive memory for those who got to participate, but also allows the activation to reach those who were not there. “Storytelling is an amazing opportunity for brands,” Chad Issaq, head of sponsorships at Superfly, tells Eventbrite. “There are so many different cultures, communities, and stories that come to life at a festival. Brands can naturally create an amazing narrative for their social channels via short form or docu-style content.”

Anyi Raimondi Global Head of Brand Activation, Airbnb spoke in depth to Eventbrite about how important she views socials in regard to experiential marketing. “Experiential really used to just be sampling products — through street teams and field marketing. And then it came to mean parties and events, where someone could come and have a “brand experience”. I think that is still part of what experiential is. But more and more, it’s about crafting experiences for real people — not just so they can have a great experience, but so you can capture content of them having that experience, and share it through advertising or social. My philosophy at Airbnb for experiential has always been ‘lived by some, shared by many.’ Today that ‘many’ you reach through the experience you build for “some” increasingly scales; every consumer has the megaphone of social media to speak to their networks through. Social also has finally given us a means to track ROI.”

Brands can track how effective a campaign was through a variety of data points online. Social mentions and impressions are an efficient way to track this. Other technologies, like RFID and beacons onsite can also aid in data collection that can not only measure the success of an activation but also give indicators of areas needing improvements. According to the 2018 State of Experiential Research Study by Agency EA “94 percent agree technology has a positive impact on an event, but less than 50 percent have seen success using emerging technologies.” This should continue to change as more marketers discover that tech can not only help them track ROI better but also create more interactive activations that stand out. Event technology can boost engagement by making typical experiences more interactive. For example, by making attendees wristbands LED lights that create stadium wide light shows coordinated to music automatic makes every member of the audience a participant. 

While the live event industry it is still catching up, the space will continue to see an increase in experiential marketing being integrated into an events overall marketing strategy. One of the main drivers of this trend is a strong emphasis on in person connections to foster deeper connections between brands and consumers. Utilizing content created from these experiences online to create fuller campaigns will continue to be a competitive advantage those who prioritize working experiential into their marketing plan. Furthermore tracking ROI via social channels and integrative technology will continue to be key factors that help improve the overall strategy of an activation. 

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