What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns [Updated]

A couple of years ago we posted our first take on What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns. All of that wisdom is still relevant, and now we’ve been thinking about what experiences and events might look like post-pandemic. We’ve also spent two more years growing and evolving with the industry, so here are our updated thoughts on “What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns.”

Location

This is the most important element of an experiential marketing activation. You can design, budget, and execute the most engaging activation in the world, but if the location is wrong, your impact will be limited. The right site for your activation not only reinforces an experience, it maximizes the potential interactions you receive. 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.

And in the post-COVID world, location will matter in new ways. Spatial planning and allocating extra room for people to spread out is important for social distancing compliance and ensuring visitor comfort. Make sure the space feels open, the pathways are spacious and accessible, and signage is visible and plentiful. The world is eager to return to communal experiences, and yet people will be leery of crowds for years to come.

Safety measures and messaging

Health and safety measures have always been a consideration but how safety measures are presented and implemented will mean everything in a post-pandemic world. From abundant hand sanitizing stations, to dedicated staff cleaning high-touch surfaces to HEPA filters and air purification, you’ll want to mention the health and safety considerations of your event before, during, and after opening day.

In addition to wayfinding and branding, your event signage will need to promote good hygiene, social distancing, and health guidance without being intimidating. It may be necessary to explain new policies and restrictions in detail. People will notice the effort your brand puts into a fully detailed health and safety plan that includes smart practices like virtual queuing, safety checks or screenings, and touchless services. Use this as an advantage.

Focus on your core audience

Desire for events will be high but people will be apprehensive about crowds. Your brand’s return to experiential after the all-clear is the perfect time to focus on intimate events with a smaller number of people, whether that’s VIPs or those farther down your funnel. They will appreciate the feeling of being a part of the core community and the safety in lower numbers.

Following stay-at-home orders, brands and marketers can get ahead of the game by reaching audiences through intimacy, personal connection, and exclusivity. Hosting activations for smaller groups will also allow for reduced travel risk and crowd management risk. 

Reference: Adweek – Marketers and planners may have to adjust to new consumer mindsets.

Quality of the build

After quarantine, audiences will experience a new round of “first impressions” with many brands and experiences, which marks a unique opportunity for brands to get a second chance at first impressions. A high quality build with unique, memorable features and shareable moments will make a lasting impression and capture the imagination of visitors hungry for entertainment. 

This Nike+ Run Club experience created a fully immersive experience that emulated being inside of the Tron movie franchise, all while providing professional coaching and tech demos that built strong relationships with consumers.

While your brand may not need to go as far as dropping treadmills in Times Square, you should pay close attention to the level of detail and quality of materials used in your experience. Your guests might not remember all of the details at your event but they will definitely remember how they felt during the experience.

Time and patience

As we begin transitioning towards the future, now is the time to think, rethink, and plan your next activation. Nothing is moving as quickly as we would like, and while this may feel frustrating, it also creates ample opportunity to plan and design stunning experiences. Concerts and sporting events have been cancelled and indefinitely postponed, so now is not the time to set an event date. Instead, use this time to regroup, refine your messaging, and get creative. Consumers are eager to engage, but also nervous to do so. Brands are ready to return to “normalcy” but know that will take time. Patience and time management is critical right now because when we get the all-clear, experiences will be bigger, bolder, and more badass than ever before.

Never Stop Dreaming 

We are all in this uncertainty together. When we are free to plan and execute experiences again, it’s going to be an epic (and safe!) reunion for all experiential marketers and friends. By planning ahead, brands can position themselves well for future experiential marketing campaigns. If you can dream it, Pineapple can make it happen. And while we’re no strangers to making things happen on a tight timeline, having a plan in place will let your brand be one of the first to make a positive impression on consumers when the time is right.