We hear about it a lot, and it is certainly a very popular area of marketing, especially before the pandemic when there were no restrictions and social distancing. But what exactly is experiential marketing and what do so-called experiential marketing agencies deal with specifically?
Experiential marketing is a marketing strategy that aims to engage the consumer directly, actively, and creatively to create a special and unique experience that will be remembered over time. Often this type of strategy is also referred to as ‘live marketing experience‘ or ‘event marketing experience‘ or ‘field marketing experience’.
Why do companies use this strategy?
Companies have many ways and many tools to communicate with their customers and consumers. These depend on the strategy of the company or brand, the target audience, the budget available, the territories and so on.
From classic advertising – i.e. all the messages disseminated through the major media such as TV, press, radio, posters, internet, social media – to all those activities that are part of BTL – below the line marketing – such as events, sponsorships, licensing programmes, special collaborations, promotions, e-mail marketing, etc. – the company’s strategy depends on the target audience.
Every day, consumers receive a huge number of messages that are communicated through various media.
If you think for a moment about your daily life, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you are certainly aware that you are constantly being prompted by companies that want to communicate something to you: from the various messages on social media that you check first thing in the morning, to the advertisements on TV when you watch the news, to the box of cereal you read while you are still asleep at breakfast, to the advertisements on the radio while you are driving, to the billboards or videos you see on the street when you are walking, to the advertisements while you are playing games on your tablet… And I could go on with a very long list.
Thousands of messages bombard us every day, and which of them do you remember?
Engaging the consumer effectively is increasingly important
In the myriad of daily messages, being remembered is a very difficult task, I would say titanic.
Generally speaking, we remember something either because we have a need for it at a specific time or because it has moved us and therefore left us with a particularly strong memory.
I’ll give you two examples: I’d like to buy an air-frier and so I go looking for all the information about that specific object. I go on Google, then I start comparing the various brands, I look for prices, I read reviews… In the meantime, if I come across an advertisement for an air-frier, I will certainly pay attention to it and watch it with attention and interest; in that specific moment I am sensitive to a series of messages because I have a specific need. When that need ends, so does my interest in that topic.
Or: I am invited to an aperitif organised by an air-frier brand, where a chef prepares delicious canapés using the latest model just launched on the market and on the same evening there is a guest speaker, a famous sportsman or a famous nutritionist who talks about the benefits of a balanced diet and how to prepare healthy food even with that type of kitchen accessory. The evening is fun and pleasant, the topic and whoever is presenting it involve me, I can taste good products that maybe I can make again at the first dinner with friends. Certainly, that evening will stimulate my desire to buy that product immediately or I will remember it the moment the opportunity arises to want to buy it.
This is why experiential marketing companies come into play: their aim is to try to bring the consumer/customer into contact as directly as possible with the brand through the creation of live, different, unique experiences. These experiences create a deep emotional bond between the brand and the consumer, involving both emotions and cognitive skills – that is, all the processes of feeling, holding, experiencing, using information.
This bond will ensure that the customer/consumer will remember the brand in a positive way, for example, at the time of purchase and will prefer it to another identical product with which they have no connection.
Experiential marketing is a way for a brand to be recognised amidst the ocean of messages from all the others.
So what experiential marketing services can agencies offer companies?
The world of experiential marketing firms is a vast one and the services they offer are many and range over various sectors. Generally speaking, we can say that there is no set format that agencies offer their clients; they are tailor-made projects built ad hoc for each individual client.
There are in fact many different types of experiences that can positively and directly involve the target audience and that depend on their passions. The agency will then propose various options to the company based on the objectives, target, and budget.
You will often have come across promotional stands (either in busy open-air places such as squares, streets, stations, or inside shopping centres or malls, or even in the shops themselves) where you can try out products directly or take part in fun engagement activities with prizes or gadgets as gifts.
Coca Cola, Red Bull, Heineken, Nike, adidas, are just some of the brands that are super active in engagement activities, both real and virtual. From direct product testing, such as shoes for running or football, to game simulators, live fitness activities, DJ sets with music and entertainment. Cosmetics brands often offer make-up sessions with famous make-up artists for the presentation of new collections; at the end of the session, you will certainly be tempted to buy the products that were used to make you beautiful.
The agency, whether it is a top experiential marketing agency or not, is spoilt for choice in creating ad-hoc activities for brands.
And what about sport, how does it position itself in this area? Do sports marketing agencies also offer experiential marketing services?
Sport is an excellent pool from which to organise many different experiential marketing activities. Why?
First of all, because sport is a passion and interests and involves billions of people around the world; therefore, any experience linked to sport always generates great appeal and succeeds in deeply involving the client/consumer.
Think, for example, that the 2018 World Cup was watched by 3.572 billion people; the France-Croatia final alone by 1.12 billion people* .
If we move on to Formula 1, the cumulative TV audience for the 2021 season was 1.55 billion, with 445 million unique viewers. The season finale in Abu Dhabi was the most watched race of the season, with over 107.8 million viewers**.
So, it’s clear that any experiential activity involving these, or other popular sports will generate a lot of public interest.
A sports marketing agency can also be an experiential events agency.
An example? Hospitality at major sporting events
Companies can use sports events as prizes for competitions or incentive activities. The chance to attend a major sporting event is certainly a memorable experience that leaves a lasting impression.
There are different levels of experience to choose from, depending on the companies’ budget and target audience.
For example, there are the hospitality areas in Formula 1 or MotoGP, where guests can be hosted and entertained in an exclusive setting, with a privileged view of the start of the races and a series of ‘live experiences’ dedicated exclusively to guests.
The same applies to corporate hospitality in football or tennis; reserved areas, equipped with top-quality services, where guests can enjoy their favourite sport live and enjoy a unique experience.
Not to mention the possibility, in some cases, of meeting your sporting idol for an autograph or a photo: the company that gives you this experience will have a unique and special memory in the heart of the fan forever.
We have, for example, organised special weekends for clients of a company who were big fans of skiing and tennis: in the first case we organised a weekend on the snow with a famous ski champion who spent the days on the slopes skiing with the guests. In the second case, we organised tennis clinics with a famous tennis player.
In both cases, the participants had a special and unique experience that they will always remember.
The bond created with the host brand could not be more profound.
But think also of all the activities that are organised for the public at sporting events. The sponsors of the event are present with promotional areas where all kinds of activities take place involving the fans; if you went to the ATP Finals in Turin there was a real village where fans and others could come into contact with the brands and the world of tennis; games, promotions, photos with some tennis players, product tests.
During Wimbledon, sponsors such as Pimm’s and Lacoste organised personalised viewing areas with screens, seating, and entertainment in various locations across London for those who wanted to watch the tournament matches with friends and live.
If you are a company or brand and you want to engage your target audience in an active and deeper way, then get an agency to support you, possibly by finding the agency that best suits your needs, which doesn’t have to be the best experiential marketing agency.
If sport is an area of interest to you, please do not hesitate to contact us.
*Publicis Media Sport & Entertainment (PMSE) from the official television auditing agencies in markets, via the FIFA Media Rights Licensees (MRLs).
** Formula 1 and Motorsport.com