What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns

Whether it’s in business, weddings, home renovations, or anything in between, chances are there are places to save and places to splurge. The ideal would be only to use the best of every element, but when a budget is involved that isn’t always possible.

Even in a digital world, experiential marketing is becoming a larger focus for companies. In fact,
90% of marketers
agree that brand experiences deliver more compelling engagement, and 1 in 3 plan on spending anywhere from 21%-50% of their marketing budget on brand experiences.

How should marketers be allocating their brand experience budget, though? When it comes to experiential marketing campaigns, it’s often the same elements that can make and break an activation. The difference? Whether each element is done well. These different parts deserve plenty of attention and a respectable spot in your budget. Here are the six most important factors to consider when budgeting and branding an experiential marketing campaign.

The Most Important Elements of an Experiential Marketing Activation

Location, Location, Location

You can have the most unique, engaging, and exciting activation in the world but, unfortunately, if the location is wrong, your impact will be limited. The right site for your activation can add to or reinforce an experience while also maximizing the opportunity for foot traffic and impressions. The importance of location isn’t focused solely on the volume of people, either. It also needs to be relevant to the audience you want to reach. For example, an activation for your collection of knitting needles and boutique yarns would probably fall flat outside of a CrossFit gym.

Lean Cuisine understood the importance of location for their experiential marketing campaign and worked to place their Weigh This campaign in the middle of Grand Central Station in New York City. The position guaranteed that they would reach a vast and varied audience to add to their installation. Even if Grand Central Station isn’t in your experiential marketing budget, you should still aim to find the most relevant and highly trafficked location in your area as possible.

Weigh This campaign in the middle of Grand Central Station in New York City.

As we’ve mentioned, the perfect location isn’t just about volume of foot traffic. Consideration should also be put towards the fit between your brand and the activation location. While Wrangler had the goal of reaching a younger audience with an activation, the brand fit still needed to be there. To find the perfect match of modernity and cowboy culture, we installed their activation at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Quality of the build

Once the location for an experiential marketing activation is set, you then need to fill the space. Therefore, the next make or break element of the activation is the quality of the build. First impressions are important, and a cheap display or half-baked effort at creating an experience will leave a bad taste. If a large build-out isn’t in the budget, opt for smaller yet high quality display  as opposed to more extensive and low-quality setup.

To further prioritize the physical elements of the activation, ask yourself which aspects of the event are most critical to the activation and focus quality on those. Other supporting props or features can then be dropped into the “save” column, as opposed to splurging.

The Google Home Mini Donut shop installation focused their build quality on a show-stopping element – a donut conveyor belt. The long tracks of conveyors that circled the pop-ups added another layer of fun to the already cute stores. Additionally, the conveyor belts paired with asking a Google Home Mini a question in exchange for a mystery box containing either a donut or Google Home Mini added suspense and surprise. They could have had people handing out the boxes, but instead invested in the conveyor belts. Google also invested in a sprinkle booth that needed to flawlessly rain down confetti on visitors for the perfect Instagram photo op every time.

Google Home Mini

Sometimes the need for high-quality builds for experiential campaigns stems from a set of unique challenges. For example, LifeStraw wanted to bring a running water feature to a trade show. Frequently, experiential activations don’t have the luxury of just looking good; they need to function perfectly as well. In these cases, a faulty build would end up being an embarrassing (and costly) mistake.

Experiential Marketing campaigns

Brand Ambassadors and Influencers

You’ve budgeted for the location of your activation and the wild and wonderful elements that will fill it, and now it’s time to consider who will be representing your brand. The success of experiential marketing activations rely on two sets of people; the staff that is working the activation the influencers who attend or share content.

First, you’ll need to consider who will talk to potential customers at your event. Hiring and training any employee is no small feat, but for experiential campaigns, you often need short-term help that is extremely well versed in your company and cause. The staff working your event need to be friendly, excited about the brand, able to answer questions, and understand the tone of the activation overall. Experiential campaigns are people-driven by their very nature, and filling your space with the right people is critical.

The Alabama Tourism Department understood the importance of choosing the right people to represent a brand, so they send a group of ambassadors well versed in all things Alabama to New York City. To make the activation a success, these individuals needed to be able to answer any and all questions about their home state that people in the Big Apple may have, an ultimately, sell the idea of visiting Alabama.

The next set of individuals that are critical to the success of your EM campaign are influencers. Whether you choose to host an event exclusively for influencers, like Blue Sky Soda did, or you want influencers to share content around your brand, it’s important to choose wisely. Twitter users report a 520% increase in purchase intent when they are exposed to promotional content from influencers, so a plan to engage with influencers is a worthwhile investment.

A Solid Measurement Plan

There’s no doubt that experiential activations are fun, but they are also here to do a job. Before an event, it’s important to establish clear goals for the activation as well as understand how you’ll measure success. The first component of a measurement plan is establishing the metrics you’ll measure and the ROI you’re aiming for.

You don’t want to put the time, budget, and energy into creating an event and then be unsure if it met your goals. In the case of our Camp Bow Wow activation, success was 6,000 entries to the contest, 3,000,000 social engagements, 58 dogs adopted, and 1,548 branded balls dispensed from an 8-foot tall gumball machine. These metrics were a tangible way to measure the goal of promoting the Camp Bow Wow brand.

A Way to Document (and Share) the Experience

Experiential marketing is best served up live, but you shouldn’t let your investment go to waste by letting it die on site. A team dedicated to documenting the experience means customers who weren’t able to attend can still join the fun and ensures you’ll have plenty of promotional materials. Assets and media for the activation can be used to promote your brand before, during, and after an activation, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.

There are elements along the entire experiential marketing planning and implementation journey that are worthy of a well-invested splurge. From the location to the people and items that fill the space, along with the plans to measure and promote the event, there are many moving parts to consider.

Feel overwhelmed? We can help;

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How to Create Successful Music Festival Brand Activations

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, and that can only mean one thing; music festival season is upon us. These multi-day concert extravaganzas have become a playground for attendees and brands alike, and are the perfect place to hold an experiential marketing activation.

As with any marketing campaign, though, there are right and wrong ways to create a music festival activation. Let’s take a look at how to create a successful music festival activation, and why you should care.

Why Music Festivals are the Perfect Venue for Experiential Marketing

When it comes to music and marketing, it’s a perfect duet. In fact, a Nielsen study found that brands sponsoring music events hit the right note with listeners. However, brands need to think outside of the Bach’s to make the activation a hit.

Okay, no more music puns. I promise. It is true, though, that consumers like when brands partner with concerts. 76% of festival-goers favor brands that sponsor events, and 74% of music streamers like when brands engage with them through music giveaways and sweepstakes. It’s clear that consumers like to encounter brands at music events, but why else would a brand want to try music festival experiential marketing?

Music festivals are full of crowds looking to have fun

Concert and festival attendees aren’t just passionate about music; they’re passionate about fun. Festivals are essentially multi-day parties that give attendees a chance to hang out with friends under the summer sun. In reality, 84% of millennials attend music festivals simply to escape the daily grind.

Attendees want a break from their normal, and this includes traditional marketing. Experiential marketing activations are fun and unique, and definitely don’t fit the mold of how consumers expect to engage with brands.

Music festivals are insta-worthy

Concerts, festivals, and experiential marketing activations are three places where consumers love to take and share pictures. 98% of consumers create social content at events and experiences, and they are especially primed for sharing when attending a music festival.

Your activation may not elicit the 28 million global interactions that “Beychella” received after Beyonce’s recent Coachella performance, but even a gaining a fraction of social media content that comes out of the festival for your event makes the investment worthwhile.

Music festivals are curated

There are (at least) hundreds of music festivals that take place all across the U.S., so you’re bound to be able to find one that caters to your demographic. Festivals of every size, genre, and location can be chosen to match most closely with your brand and target audience. You’ll be especially intrigued by music festivals if you happen to target millennials since they make up almost half of the 32 million annual festival attendees.

Festivals, particularly the largest ones, can also be pricey. The average low-end price to attend Coachella is $627, which indicates that all of the attendees have at least some level of disposable income that they are willing to part with.

Elements of Successful Music Festival Brand Activations

Now that we understand how lucrative music festivals can be for experiential marketing campaigns, let’s take a look at brands who have incorporated the elements needed for a successful activation.

Connect to a cause

Nearly 2/3rd of millennial and generation Z consumers prefer brands with a point of view who stand for a cause. CLIF incorporated this element into their activation at the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival.

The energy bar brand partnered with Alliance Great Lakes, a non-profit focused on conserving and restoring the Great Lakes, to create an activation that led to an average dwell time of 13 minutes. CLIF’s activation included a temporary tattoo station where the brand would match donations to the non-profit, along with a solar-powered charging station, product sampling, and adult coloring station. The activation cassette tape backdrop also appeared in the background of 1 in 20 Instagram photos for the hashtag #PitchforkFest.

Make it (feel) Exclusive

Exclusivity is alluring, and lucrative, as Marriott displayed at their 2018 Coachella activation. Their Luxury W Hotel Yurts offered something for Marriott Rewards members and the general public alike, though rewards members got a sweeter deal. Before the event, rewards members could bid on the rights to use one of the luxury yurts to escape the heat and crowds, and one yurt went for 800,000 reward points, which is the equivalent of $38,233.

Rewards members at the festival who didn’t score a Yurt could get exclusive access to WiFi and summer treats, while non-members could still escape the heat in their general admission tent. The entire activation rewarded members of their loyalty program and likely caused some serious FOMO for non-members.

Make an Impact Before and After the Event

Experiential marketing activations are all about creating a “wow” experience in the moment, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the time before and after the event.

Peet’s coffee built awareness and anticipation for the festival by presenting a contest to win a VIP experience to Coachella by texting in “coldbrew.” Their product promotion continued as brand ambassadors rode bikes around the festival handing out ice-cold cold brew coffees.

While Peet’s extended their experience to include the time before the event, Levi’s focused on creating an activation that would have a lasting impact after the festival was over. They did so by creating a tailor shop popup event that allowed influencers to customize Levi’s pieces. These customized accessories are takeaways that will be worn and shown off even after the event is over.

Another way to make your music festival activation expand beyond festival grounds is through live streaming. In addition to the social content that you’ll create and share before, during, and after the event, live streaming allows you to share your experience with fans who couldn’t make it.

Make it Useful

It’s great to have an activation that is wild and exciting, but sometimes the most lasting impressions are made when you’re simply there to help. Method used this idea when they partnered with Coachella to create “clean zone” washing stations featuring their products. Naturally, their cleaning station featured a giant rubber ducky photo opp and made their Instagram followers wish they were there.

Make it High Tech

Technology like AR and VR are becoming more widespread, but there is definitely still a “cool” factor to these technologies that intrigues festival attendees to check out experiences that use them.

Amex is one such company that is promoting the use of AR through experiential campaigns. The credit card company previously created a “Pro Walk” AR experience at the US Open where visitors could experience what it was like to walk onto the court as a tennis star. Most recently, however, they partnered with the Coachella mobile app to integrate shoppable AR technology. Amex cardmembers could click the “shop” button in the app and see an array of AR items that they could buy appear in front of them.

Gatorade also brought a high-tech experience to 2017’s SXSW with their “Gatorade Combine” activation. At the event, visitors could “experience the future of athletic evaluation” with a glimpse into three high-tech ways that athletic performance can be measured. Gatorade’s activation is a perfect example of how to bring in unique experiences that intrigue and excite, while still aligning with your brand identity.

Make it your own

There are plenty of existing festivals with built-in audiences to connect with, but what if none of them fit your brand just right? In that case, you can just create your own festival. Absolut vodka decided they could make a festival experience all their own, and created Midsommer in Sweden. A Midsommer, or summer solstice celebration, in Sweden isn’t a new concept, but Absolut did put their own spin on it. The event brought in guests from 25 countries, and featured music, games, and of course, cocktails.

Music festivals are the perfect venue for experiential marketing campaigns, and there’s nearly no limit to the wild and wonderful campaigns that you can create. Above all, though, it’s important to make sure that the activation has a clear brand connection. If there isn’t an obvious correlation, it can create a negative association.

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