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.

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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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Abstract People

The Psychology Behind Experiential Marketing Theory

Being able to put a face to a brand. Being able to try a free sample. Being entertained. We may think we understand why experiential marketing theory has such an impact, but do we?

Despite (or thanks to?) an increasingly digital world, person-to-person interactions are a powerful marketing tool. In fact, Bizzabo’s Event Marketing 2018 Study found that 95% of marketing executives agree that live events provide valuable opportunities to connect with attendees.

There are surface level benefits of experiences, but what is going on behind the scenes in a customer’s psyche? Psychology answers these questions and explains the magic behind experiences.

The Psychology Behind Experiential Marketing Theory

Considering psychology in marketing isn’t a marvel concept. After all, you’ve probably heard of color theory and price theory. It should then come as no surprise that there are psychological theories at play during every moment of an experiential marketing campaign. Below are just a few of the explanations that psychology can offer to why experiences work so well.

Free Samples are Fueled by Reciprocity

Have you ever received a compliment from someone, only to turn around and compliment them? If you have, you’ve fallen victim to the idea of reciprocity. Not only does this theory create a world of people going around ping-ponging niceness back and forth, but it’s also part of the reason free samples work.

Reciprocity is the idea that “when someone does something nice for you, it creates an urge for you to do something nice in return.” Therefore when you are using an event or experience to hand out free samples, not only are you giving people a chance to discover your product, you’re also making them indebted to you (in a nice way).

The impact of free samples is heightened even more at an experience because other people see a person try a sample. Joe Pinsker theorized that “samplers with a heightened awareness of the presence of others at the sampling station may feel a level of social ‘pressure’ to make a post-sample purchase.”

Interactions are Powered by the Propinquity Effect

The propinquity effect states that the more often we interact with a person, the more likely we are to form friendships with them.

This doesn’t just apply to classmates and coworkers, though. When customers can interact with your brand across different channels, in different settings, and at different times, you’re only increasing your chances of them becoming a lifelong friend.

Experiences also benefit from the propinquity effect because potential customers get to interact with your brand in real time, face-to-face with another person. Strong branding, campaigns, or spokespeople work to create a brand identity, but there’s still value in sending out brand ambassadors.

Influencers Stimulate Social Proof

It’s likely that you’ve heard of social proof before, but maybe you only thought about it in terms of reviews and testimonials online. Social proof plays out as the “Me Too” effect that explains the validation we feel and draw to act similarly to others when people we trust doing something.

Blue Sky soda saw the power of social proof from experiences first hand with their farm to table dinner. The soda brand brought 75 influencers to the Lyons Farmette to experience good food, good drink, and good company. The result? Influencers shared their experience, and Blue Sky soda received nearly a million social impressions.

Experiences don’t need to recruit influencers to benefit from social proof, either. 98% of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences, which means that nearly everyone who interacts with your brand will spread it to their network.

Awareness is Leveraged with Experiential Learning

Simply put, we learn by doing. Experiences sink information into someone’s memory far better than simply reading about it. By catching someone’s attention and turning a learning moment into an adventure, we create a lasting effect.

In a world that has an increasing number of distractions, it’s hard to cut through the noise and educate people on serious issues. The Colorado Department of Transportation recognized this and knew they needed to do something big and bold to get their message of pedestrian and motorist safety around crosswalks.

Honing in on the fact that 70% of pedestrian fatalities in crosswalks occurred at night, we decided to Light the Night with CDOT. As sports fans flowed out from a Colorado Rockies game, they were greeted with over 1,000 LED balloons. By taking community members by surprise and making a learning moment fully immersive, the message of safety left much more of a lasting impression than hearing a statistic on the radio.

First Interactions Get Your Foot in the Door

By agreeing to a small initial request, someone is more likely to say “yes” again in the future to a bigger ask. This is the concept behind the foot in the door theory and explains why small first interactions and asks at experiential marketing events work.

Starting with a simple interaction or gaining a point of contact is a small way to get the first “yes” that builds rapport and makes a further relationship more likely. Plus, people value a product more highly if it’s physically in front of them.

All marketing has an effect and purpose that is deeper than surface level, but experiences may be the most affected by psychology. On top of the psychological theories at play that affect purchasing behavior, events spark emotions. From surprise, to joy, to excitement, in person experiences add a layer to marketing that can’t be matched online.

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Why Sonos #ListenBetter Worked

Regardless of what their specific taste may be, people are passionate about their music. Music unites people, tapping into their emotions, for richer personal expressions and deeper human connections.

Sonos has connected with that passion to make their brand about more than selling speakers. They want to use technology to help people access their music and improve the audio listening experience from the ground up. The “You Deserve Better” campaign and #ListenBetter identities elevate the brand beyond their product, imbuing the Sonos brand with a values-driven mission.

Speaker systems are a product that is particularly suited to live, experience-driven events, because the product really can’t be demonstrated or sampled any other way. Sonos has built their brand, not on in-store demos, but on live, immediate experiences, connecting their product and their mission with their audience in a direct, meaningful way. Sonos does experiential marketing every day.

In late 2016, Sonos launched the “You Deserve Better” campaign, graphically demonstrating the poor user experience and unwieldy technology of most home audio systems. This campaign culminated in a dramatic “Speaker Amnesty” experience in the heart of London where they allowed the public to trade in their current home speakers for a free Sonos system.

The Speaker Amnesty event harnessed multiple phases to increase brand awareness and drive audience engagement:

  1. Working with Amplify, Sonos built an enormous, eye-catching kiosk at London’s King’s Cross Station, a central and highly-trafficked area
  2. Radio ads and print fliers were distributed heavily in music-friendly venues, inviting people to the Speaker Amnesty
  3. The first 300 people in line could trade in speakers for a Sonos system. This number was high enough, and the proposition appealing enough, to motivate people to start lining up at 4:30am
  4. The event was unusual enough to be news-worthy, attracting attention from traditional media and giving Sonos representatives a first-hand opportunity to explain the “You Deserve Better” campaign.
  5. During the day, working with a local art collective, the donated speakers were transformed into an on-site art installation, shared on Instagram Stories
  6. Overnight, footage captured at the event was edited into a film that was projected onto the kiosk, greeting commuters the following day, and distributed socially.
  7. People who photographed themselves with the installation and used the #ListenBetter hashtag had a further chance to win a Sonos system.

This unique, highly visible, 3-day event harnessed traditional advertising via print and radio, traditional media, social media, and a first-hand brand experience, to reach 450K real-time commuters, create 482K owned impressions, over 1M earned impressions, and over 2K direct consumer engagements.

The Sonos Speaker Amnesty event was an incredibly impactful brand story, and just one of the ways that Sonos has made experiential marketing and #ListenBetter the heart of their company. Sonos’ mission statement makes their values clear:

At Sonos, we will listen, learn and build a community to promote and protect the future of music. We will use our business to support those confronting music under threat, and work towards making music a central part of life for everyone

Sonos has a #ListenBetter grant program, supports musical artists and activists, is a policy advocate, creates meaningful creative and advocacy partnerships in the community, and has a robust calendar of events at tech events and music festivals.

By making the Sonos brand about music, rather than about speakers, Sonos has cultivated a deeper, more meaningful relationship with their consumer, connecting with them about the things that they are passionate about, and transforming their product into something that improves a consumer’s daily experience of their music, their technology, and their home. It’s natural for such a brand to embrace experiential marketing and own it in a way that none of their competitors have yet imagined. Sonos has redefined what people expect from a home audio system, and has Amazon and Apple chasing after them.

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Nike Shoes running up steps

Why Nike’s Breaking2 Worked

What if Nike had a marathon and 13 million people came?

Nike’s massive Breaking2 initiative culminated in a race in May of 2017, but the race was only the final reveal of a project nearly 3 years in the making. In a nearly perfect expression of the Nike brand, Breaking2 combined elite athletic performance, cutting edge shoe technology, and meticulous attention to crafting an unforgettable brand experience.

Scientists speculate that it might be possible for a human to run a marathon in less than 2 hours, but only barely, and only in the perfect conditions. And it’s a goal that is (so far) only theoretical. By announcing that Nike intended to break the 2 hour threshold, they could immediately command the interest and excitement of athletes, sports scientists, and sport enthusiasts around the world.

And Nike is the company to do it. Working in experimental laboratories in their Beaverton, Oregon headquarters, they have the facilities and the expertise to not only train the best athletes in the world, but to design, refine, and perfect the perfect shoe. That shoe ended up being the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, and a disguised, not-yet commercial version of the shoe was worn by all three of the 2016 men’s marathon Olympic medalists.

On the night of the attempt, only 800 people were present at the Formula One track in Italy where the race would be run. But 13.1 million people tuned in to the live stream on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, with half a million simultaneous viewers at its peak, making it Twitter’s biggest-ever brand-driven live event. The attempt commanded 8 times more viewers than the New York, Boston, or Chicago marathons. As of December 2017, 19 million people have watched the race, and the #Breaking2 hashtag has over 2 trillion impressions.

Using the footage, both Nike and National Geographic have made documentaries about the race. And Nike invited viewers to download their app and attempt to “Break2” on their own, with early access to the Zoom Fly shoe, the commercial version of the shoes worn by the runners.

As a race, although the world record was broken, the 2 hour barrier was not. As a brand experience, Breaking2 was unparalleled.

  • As a marketing tool, beginning with the 2016 summer Olympics through the May 2017 race, Nike designers and engineers commanded media attention by talking about the science and technology of their controversial shoe.
  • As a sporting event, it had all the breathless excitement and anticipation of a major event. The athletes chosen were all familiar to the public as elite, Olympic athletes, and the race commanded audience and media attention as a spectacle alone.
  • As a campaign, by holding the race themselves, Nike had complete creative control of all the content and promotion. They could position it exactly as they wanted, and generate hundreds of hours of unique brand content unavailable anywhere else, that can fuel unique content for years to come.
  • As a sales tool, the extensive discussion of the shoe itself, including when it would be available to consumers, was an integral part of the brand experience.
  • And as an experience, Breaking2 was comprehensive. Using video and blog content, traditional and social media, the Nike app, and the live stream, audiences around the world were immersed in a unique, unrepeatable, brand experience, the effects of which are still being felt today.


Breaking2 was a complete triumph. The meticulous, multi-level planning and execution, the vast investment of time and resources, and the masterful command of media attention and audience, resulted in a branded experience that we don’t yet quite have the vocabulary to describe. It’s been discussed as a sporting event, as an ad campaign, as a marketing stunt, and as a brand experience. In truth, it was all of those, and more. And, given Nike’s ability to execute long-term, complex projects, we can expect the effects of Breaking2 to resonate through the sport and marketing worlds for years to come.

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Experiential Marketing Ice Axe

Denver Welcomed Outdoor Retailer 2018 and Amazing Brand Experiences

It’s no surprise that one of the world’s biggest outdoor sports shows would be an experiential marketer’s dream. And Outdoor Retailer delivered this past weekend in Denver.

More than 1,000 brands from across the globe descended on the Mile High City to showcase their latest products at the four-day trade show, which moved to Colorado this year after more than two decades in Utah. Vendors were competing for the attention of 11,000 retail buyers, along with members of the press, industry advocates and politicians—so standing out was critical.

The most effective brand experiences were interactive. Take Kahtoola, which makes crampons for winter hiking and trail running. The Flagstaff-based company invited attendees to try on a pair of their MICROspikes and trot across several blocks of ice on-site at the booth. Not only does such a demonstration provide a great opportunity to highlight the product’s efficacy, but it also creates a memorable experience.

Indeed, ice was a common theme at the Outdoor Retailer show, which featured gear, apparel, footwear and accessories for all kinds of snow sports. At the Black Diamond booth, the Salt Lake City equipment manufacturer literally froze its Recon Stretch Ski Shell in ice. To show that their headlamps were actually water resistant, the company had them on display amid a constant stream of water.

Events were another great way that manufacturers engaged with audiences. Show organizers partnered with Icelantic’s Winter on the Rocks to host a Fridaynight fashion show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to exhibit the latest in cold-weather style. The theme was “the whole mountain,” marking the first time in three decades that the outdoor and snow industries joined forces for one trade show.

Simple as they might seem, activities or displays that allow potential customers to touch, feel and see a product are an easy way to induce busy attendees to pause in a crowded convention center. And of course, creating buzz and drawing traffic to your booth gives company representatives more opportunities for in-person brand education. This is even more critical for smaller brands that don’t yet have the retail footprint or name recognition of storied companies like the North Face or Patagonia.

Brand engagement in the outdoor space is more necessary than ever. Like other sectors, the industry is feeling pressure across the board given the shifting shopping habits of millennials. Retail sales of outdoor gear amounted to $18.9 billion during the period of December 2016 to November 2017—a 6-percent drop from the previous year, according to market research firm NPD Group. Younger generations are less likely to demand specialized goods, instead favoring versatility, NPD found.

One way to engage with millennials is to appeal to their commitment to sustainability, and politics was a major theme at Outdoor Retailer. That was due in large part to the industry’s decision to leave its home of two decades, Salt Lake City, in protest of the Trump administration’s decision to scale back Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Several brands used the trade show as an opportunity to weave their views on the issue into their experience.

At the massive KEEN Footwear display, an old-school phone booth was emblazoned the message “call to action.” The exhibit encouraged show attendees to call their representatives to protest the monuments decision. Not to be outdone, Patagonia partnered with environmental advocacy groups for a light show that projected directly onto Denver’s McNichols Building in Civic Center Park along with the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Lakewood. The light show blasted messages like “monuments for all” and “stand with Bears Ears” alongside a countdown clock to Feb. 2, when the Bureau of Land Management is set to open portions of the lands to mining and drilling.

At the Pineapple Agency, we love our outdoor brands and it was great to support our clients at the show: Eartheasy, a sustainable living company; Gogglesoc, maker of stylish and eco-friendly protective coverings for your goggles; Drysure, whose boot and shoe dryers don’t require heat or electricity; and Turbine Outerwear.

Outdoor Retailer is hosting two additional shows in Denver this year in July and November.

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People attending outdoor festival

Why South by Southwest is a Powerful Venue for Brand Activations

The annual Austin, TX film, music and interactive extravaganza known as South by Southwest runs from March 9-18 this year. Not only is SXSW the largest music festival of its kind in the world, but also it is also an exciting film conference and a Launchpad for emerging technologies.

Creative types from across the globe will be converging on Austin this March, and while the event is a yearly highlight for attendees, it’s also a golden opportunity for brands and marketers that know the value of experiential marketing.

A Brief History of SXSW

Way back in 1986, discussions began in Austin that would lead to the very first South by Southwest festival in 1987. The group that started the festival was looking for a way for local musicians to get more exposure. The overriding idea was to bring the rest of the world to Austin to get a firsthand look at what it had to offer.

In March of 1987 the first event began, and it wasn’t long before it took on a life of its own, growing year after year as more and more musicians took part. In 1994, the film and interactive events were added and as the Internet took off, SXSW quickly became what it is today, one of the preeminent festivals in the world for creative people to share and learn and grow.

How the Event Has Evolved

The addition of film and interactive to South by Southwest was a significant part of the festival’s evolution, but it wasn’t the only thing. Over time, it became apparent that the festival would be a major opportunity for brands, as many influencers in the music and film industries regularly attended.

Today, SXSW produces the highest revenue for the Austin economy outside of sporting events and U of Texas events. It has grown over the past several years from an estimated economic impact of $190.3 million in 2012 to $325 million in 2016. Super Bowl LI that was held in Houston brought an estimated $347 million.

A Hotbed for Experiential Marketing

The vast numbers combined with the influence on popular culture that many of the attendees have, make South by Southwest the ideal venue for experiential marketing. Even though the event began as a way to show more of Austin’s creative community to the world, it is now world-renowned and the demographic is perfect for what experiential marketing provides.

As an internet culture, we love interacting with technology, and immersive experiences have become what we expect. A brand activation at South by Southwest creates the perfect storm of audience, influencers, environment and technology. People from all areas of the globe who have shown up with an open mind and ready to share experiences will take that experiential marketing message with them when they leave.

At The Pineapple Agency, we love the idea of using interactive elements to bring everyone together and enhance your brand. And everyone loves the mission and feeling behind the South by Southwest festival.

Like to know more about brand activations and what we can do for you?

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Happy Event Attendees

2018 Trend Report: Ads are Out, Experience is In

The 2018 reports and forecasts are coming in, and the news is bad for advertising. Traditional advertising is flat or declining, with print taking a big hit and broadcast spending levels forecast to be about the same, year-over-year. The biggest loser is banner advertising, projected to drop a staggering 8.8%. The fact is, customers are avoiding advertising at an ever-increasing rate, with an ever-changing and expanding array of tools to block and avoid unwanted ads. CMOs are unwilling to continue their spend on ads that don’t get views, and to prioritize channels that don’t yield measurable results.

While all these reports may look like bad news for the advertising industry, the forecast isn’t entirely grim. The bright spot for the upcoming year is that experiential advertising continues to rise. In 2018, experiential marketing will become an ever-more-important feature of the advertising landscape, as 9 in 10 marketers recognize the importance of experiential marketing in driving brand engagement.

But experiential marketing is more than a short-term trend. As consumers have more and more choice and autonomy in when, where, and how to interact with brands, marketers must respond with content that is unique and compelling. Study after study shows that millennials value experiences over possessions, and reaching this coveted segment means being as mobile, creative, and innovative as they are. Even the projected increase in cinema ad spends, and Google’s focus on “near me” searches, reflects the fact that these consumers aren’t home on the couch in front of the TV; they are out and about, having new experiences, making new memories, and seeking the unexpected. Experiential marketing is a great way to both reach and engage them.

And experiential marketing isn’t just a way to target and reach the consumer, creating a unique experience that stays with them. Good brand experiences are also highly sharable, generating organic views for a influence and engagement that reaches far beyond the moment. A staggering 98% of consumers create digital and social content at events and experiences, giving brands a built-in opportunity for organic influencer marketing. Integrating social at every aspect of the experience appeals to consumers, who want to create and share content with their friends and followers, and user-generated content becomes brand content in turn. It’s a win-win.

Finally, positive brand experiences are shown to yield bottom-line results. When these experiences are fully integrated with mobile and social technologies, the result is real-time metrics that give brands the data they need to measure campaign effectiveness, as well as direct insight into specific consumer behavior. And it’s not just data that drives the success of experiential marketing. Studies show that it directly leads to sales, when 65% of consumers buying a product or service at an experiential marketing event, and 70% become regular customers. These kinds of real-time sales results and quantifiable data deliver so much more to marketing teams than vague metrics like ratings and views. A single compelling brand experience gives companies invaluable, ongoing insight into the effectiveness of all their marketing efforts.

2018 is the year of experiential marketing, but it’s not just a trend or a shift in spend for the year. It’s the dawn of a whole new way to engage with consumers, generate traffic, and grow sales. It’s the future of relationship based advertising.

Want to learn what experiential marketing can do for you?

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Experiential Marketing Notebook

Think Your Mid-Size Brand Can’t Afford Experiential Marketing? Think Again!

For mid-size brands, experiential marketing is not only possible, it’s a must. The experiential marketing campaigns of larger brands such as M&Ms and MasterCard may make experiential marketing seem impossible, expensive, and overwhelming. This growing marketing trend is possible on a mid-size brand scale with our creative team. Let’s focus on 3 key factors of why experiential marketing is not only necessary but affordable:

1. Experiential Marketing Defined

Experiential marketing is designed to build an emotional connection between consumers and products through face-to-face interaction.  This type of interaction results in immediate response and feedback. Add social media sharing and the value of experiential marketing greatly increases. Consumers share experiences on social media; they do not share ads or billboards.

A fun example of experiential marketing is the 2016 Orangina commercial featuring a specially designed vending machine. The product is well-known for its shake-the-can marketing because as promised, the drink is tastier when the pulp is shaken. The vending machine featured in the commercial is designed for the can to purposely get stuck, resulting in customers shaking the machine to free the stuck can. Watch the video here.

Creating emotional connections with consumers often comes through moving or touching experiences. Philips successfully captured these emotions in an ad based on their experiential marketing campaign of “Harnessing the Physical Energy of Mothers.”  In celebration of Mother’s Day, a fall event in Argentina, Philips installed specially designed batteries into the shoes of busy mothers, literally capturing their energy. The fully-charged batteries were then used to power an entire neonatal ward in a hospital. Philips creatively captured the hard work of busy moms and transferred that power to new moms. What’s not to love about this experiential marketing campaign?

2. Creativity Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

Perhaps the greatest feature of experiential marketing for mid-size brands is the fact the brand is capable of creating more personal experiences for consumers versus mega brands simply reaching the masses. When it comes to experiential marketing, event planning, and creativity are essential. Mid-size brands have a world of opportunity when it comes to targeting their audiences in a personal/direct way. Think about what you offer and how consumers interact with your products. Now consider where your audience gathers; is it the latest trade show, football field, or even the state fair?

Be strategic. A smart strategy connects your target audience with your products in an interactive way.  Going less high-tech may create more memorable experiences for consumers than something high-tech and complicated. The more complicated the events and interactions, the less sharing, and purchasing. Technology advances have made it easy to incorporate technology while still keeping experiential marketing affordable. It all depends on the type of event and the level of complexity. A custom virtual reality game, for example, requires a large budget. By aligning your event and brand thematically, an off-the-shelf virtual reality set makes for a similar experience at an affordable price. Simple engagement is perfect for mid-size brands to attract target audiences in a timely manner that sparks enjoyment rather than something time consuming and frustrating. Stay focused on the end goal of creating an emotional connection between your brand and consumers.

 3. You Can’t Afford Not  to do Experiential Marketing

Consider these statistics from the 2018 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends Report:

  • 80% of companies overperforming their goals will increase their budgets for live events for 2018.
  • 75% of marketers believe that in upcoming years, live events will become increasingly important to their organization’s success.
  • 30% of marketers believe live streaming will impact events the most.
  • 60% of smartphone users are using their phones at social gatherings and live events.

Is All This Measurable?

Yes! ROI is gathered through hard and soft measurements. For example, the number of attendees at the event or the number of social engagements are considered hard measurements. Soft measurements are the “a-ha” moments when a consumer experiences an emotional connection to the brand. Setting the groundwork for measurement starts in the planning process. Establishing clearly defined goals and outcomes and integrating them throughout the event is essential to experiential marketing success.

Experiential marketing isn’t slowing down. Our team thinks outside the proverbial box and will work hard to develop creative, high-quality experiential marketing tactics designed to bring you much success in 2018.

Is your mid-size brand onboard?

Let’s chat.