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On August 16, 2015

The Thrill of Experience: 3 Brilliant Experiential Marketing Campaigns That Made a Big Splash

We’ve all heard the platitude, “the best way to learn something is by doing it.” Whether that is our first day on the job or our first day on the golf course, most of us have likely been encouraged to “jump right in” at some point in our lives.

Now there’s a group of marketing professionals taking that philosophy to heart. In an attempt to forge deeper connections and grow brand influence faster than ever, marketers are creating inventive approaches that help customers not just to be exposed to a company’s brand, but to experience it in tangible ways.

An Experience You’ll Never Forget

In its most basic sense, experiential marketing is defined as branding or advertising that allows marketers to really immerse consumers in a company’s brand. Marketers around the globe are using this strategy in an attempt to transform their brand image from a concept into something that is concrete and real. As Karen Bannan of Adweek explains,

“In an increasingly digital world, consumers are getting a chance to touch, feel and respond to products personally, and live, face-to-face events are being used to entertain, educate and create the kind of emotional stickiness that brands crave.”

As a result, big time PR departments are creating innovative, “shock-and-awe” events that flood social media channels with chatter and generate word-of-mouth promotion as well. In fact, experiential marketing is catching on in such a big way that one of the recent SparkLabKC graduates, PopBookings, has set out to make staffing experiential events easier than ever for agencies and brand ambassadors alike by creating a mobile platform to match potential brand ambassadors to the agencies that hire them.

Given the recent explosion in experiential marketing, let’s explore three examples of campaigns done well:

Giving Their Brand Wings

Many in the marketing industry would agree that Red Bull is the king of experiential marketing. Since the early 1990s, Red Bull has been pouring thousands of hours of manpower into designing, creating, and televising their own personal extreme sporting events. Whether it’s the Red Bull Air Race, the brand’s Formula 1 team, or The Red Bull Flutag, an annual competition where Red Bull encourages customers to build their own amateur spacecraft, it’s clearer now than ever that Red Bull doesn’t want to simply be associated with extreme sports, it wants to be considered an integral part of them. Tania Hew, a marketing and business consultant, explains in an article for SparkSheet:

“More brands are putting purpose before product and are turning to experiential marketing to spread the message. Today’s smartest brands aren’t marketing themselves; they’re championing a purpose. It’s why Red Bull organizes events instead of only sponsoring them…”

Their latest experiential marketing event came in the form of Stratos, the event in which 52-year-old Felix Baumgartner leapt from a space capsule and broke the speed of sound in what was recorded as the highest parachute jump ever. The event was covered by news channels around the world, giving Red Bull an incredible amount of brand exposure associated with a world record.

It’s not Red Bull’s messages or slogans, it’s their tangible interactions with customers that builds brand loyalty and keeps their product front-of-mind for extreme sports fans everywhere.

Slicing into the Competition

Schick (owned by Energizer) made big waves at last year’s Comic-Con. Like the majority of companies, Schick realized that traditional advertising campaigns have greater impact when paired with an experiential element. Danae Abadom, director of Independent Events, writes in an article for Drum Magazine,

“Standalone social media campaigns can create reach a level of engagement but when blended with an activation they take on meaning which is not always achieved solely via a screen encounter. Experiential experience creates a deeper level of engagement which only a physical experience can achieve.”

This is precisely what Schick achieved.

Teaming up with Ubisoft’s best-selling video game Assassin’s Creed — set during the French Revolution — Schick used its razors to create an event that no one at Comic-Con could miss. After guests completed Ubisoft’s complex, revolution-themed obstacle course, they were seated under an actual guillotine where they could receive a top-notch shave. The goal: highlight Schick’s razors by creating a one-on-one experience that the customers would remember and share with their friends.

And share they did. Though Schick only handed out 200 shaves and some 2,000 razors, the event created a stir that rippled across social channels. Bannan explains,

“The event went viral quickly on social media, with its hashtag trending in second place on the first day of Comic-Con—no small feat considering the numerous branded events and launches going on.”

Schick personified their brand, giving it life, and in the process, created new brand ambassadors who took to Twitter and Facebook to promote and market their products.

A Surprising Stewardess

JetBlue used a similar experiential technique in New York City this year to entertain and even surprise potential customers. The airline created a virtual storefront window on the streets of Manhattan — complete with a seemingly digital stewardess who was available to interact, answer questions, and guide passers-by through a sign-up process through which they could win two free round-trip flights.

However, the participants received a big surprise when the digital stewardess began directly interacting with them. Eventually, she came out from behind the glass to reveal that she was in fact a real, human stewardess. Customers were so entertained by the experience that many provided JetBlue with their contact information. Moreover, many told their friends and families, who took to social media channels such as Twitter and Youtube, driving the JetBlue campaign to go viral. Lindsey Stein, a senior reporter at PR Weekly, explains,

“Anthony Petrillo, senior EVP at Pearl Media, tells me that more than 17,000 people played the game in one week and about 18% gave their email addresses, providing JetBlue with more than 3,000 new contacts.”

 The 17,000 people who directly interacted with the JetBlue stewardess were ultimately only a small portion of the total people who the event reached in one form or another.

From Personal to Universal

Even though the advertising world is trending toward technology and digitalization, Millennials are more interested in ways that they can tangibly interact with their favorite brands. Ironically, it’s the campaigns that give their brands the opportunity to have a personalized impact on customers that are the ones with a more universal influence. Red Bull, Schick, and JetBlue were able to create meaningful personal experiences for their audiences, which translated into viral videos, social media shares, and a greater amount of brand impressions.

How will you get your customers to jump right in? If you can answer that question, you’re on your way to building a successful brand.

Which experiential marketing campaigns have made a big impression on you? Let us know by tweeting @ridgeroutes!

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