You may have heard some buzz about experiential marketing lately, but what exactly does it mean? After the Saffire Marketing Team attended the branding track of South by Southwest this year, we got a pretty good taste of experiential marketing firsthand! This unique marketing strategy helps engage audiences with awareness of a brand, by allowing them to be a part of the brand creation itself rather than just passively receiving a message. The brand’s value is activated, or realized by the consumer, creating a stronger relationship between the consumer and the brand.
SXSW has increasingly become one of the greatest places to show off your brand to festival attendees, and during the conference, downtown Austin becomes one giant advertisement for 10 days. Instead of online campaigns, brands focus on taking over bars, restaurants and venues to transform them to experiential marketing wonderlands. Some of the activations this year included: German Haus, E.U. House, Peru House, Pinterest House, and Snickers House. These brands swooped in and transformed trendy bars into billboards full of free food and drinks, swag, and live music.
On a tamer side of things, some brands chose to have small lounges scattered throughout hotel and convention meeting spaces. These typically monotonous meeting spaces were transformed into places for attendees to relax, recharge, rehydrate and learn a few things about the lounge’s hosts. Two of our favorite examples were the Brazil Lounge and a giant cheese spread by the state of Wisconsin. It is definitely better to TASTE cheese from Wisconsin rather than read about it on social media!
One of the best activations was the Google Assistant Fun House, an entire house focused on immersing the consumer into a smart house powered by Google Assistant. Check out the house by clicking on the video below:
— Google (@Google) March 12, 2018
How your organization can utilize these fun ideas? It doesn’t have to be super fancy! All you have to do is let users experience your brand or your sponsor’s brand firsthand. Here are examples of things that your organization can implement:
- Experiential marketing is a great way to grow an event and offer your sponsors something different and unique. Have a sponsor cover the cost of a lounge, bar or booth and let a sponsor deck it out with their branding. Attendees LOVE free samples of any kind, so encourage sponsors to come with fun giveaways. Rather than a traditional booth for a sponsor, make it something more fun!
- Have a brand? Why not travel with it! Look for outside events where you can bring your brand to life. This works especially well if you are marketing a destination–bring food samples, mini drinks or small crafts to events and festivals and let consumers get a taste! As mentioned above, various destinations had activations at SXSW, including Germany, Peru and Fort Worth, Texas!
- Set up a pop-up booth about your organization in a market you are hoping to grow. (You can either partner with that city to do something in your hometown or at your event, or just get permission first.) Pick somewhere with high traffic like a park and do a fun giveaway! Offering a special discount to people that visit your event or destination after meeting you at a pop up is also a great way to measure the ROI on your effort.
As our world becomes more digital, sometimes the best way to connect with your audience is to let them experience your brand off-screen. Think of another way you can utilize experiential marketing in your marketing mix? Feel free to share it with us!