Social media, emerging technology and new business paradigms have shaken up the online marketing game for good. And this disruption isn’t bound to let up anytime soon.
These influences are also actively changing in-person marketing, too.
Today’s customers expect more from an “IRL” (in real life) event than a pile of business cards, product brochures or promotional items (see: branded stress ball). They want to actually experience something.
According to the Event Marketing Institute, 77% of brands view experiential marketing as a core component of their marketing strategy. Done right, a branded experience drives loyalty, recognition, and builds credibility.
Instead of talking at your audience, consider your next event as an opportunity to create a face-to-face branded “experience.”
What is Experiential Marketing?
So, what exactly is experiential marketing? While it may sound like a Snapchat filter brought to life, experiential marketing refers to the idea of creating a meaningful exchange inside an authentic, branded environment.
Experiential marketing aims to bring a more interactive experiences to events such as a conference or festival. Done right, it offers visitors an opportunity to network, learn, and yes, take a few selfies.
Where the “experience” differs from a traditional event is that it speaks to a broader marketing strategy, rather than a one-off engagement. Savvy marketers use experiences as one of many touchpoints in the customer journey.
As such, experiential marketing needs to tie into other marketing efforts like email campaigns, blog content, social media, and company website in order to create a cohesive end-to-end experience anywhere a customer might interact with your brand.
Let’s look closely at a few things you should consider before jumping headfirst into creating an experience:
1. Design Your Booth with Interactions in Mind
Trade shows remain a core strategy for reaching new customers, but at big shows, it’s tough to stand out in a sea of colorful booths competing for the same eyeballs.
Attendees want to be part of the conversation. They don’t want to listen to a lecture or a long-winded sales pitch. Instead, you should aim to connect with your audience through an immersive, tactile way.
How can you design a booth that helps facilitate the conversations that guide people to a desired action? The short answer is careful planning.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start considering the booth design:
What’s the Game Plan?
Just like any other marketing campaign, experiential marketing depends on setting clear goals and a method for measuring success.
- What post-show actions do you hope to drive?
- How will you make it easy for customers to take the next step?
- How will you measure success?
These goals should be more detailed than merely driving sales or collecting cards. Think: building brand awareness, generating qualified leads, increasing your reach on social media or launching a new product.
Your Booth Should Tell a Visual Story
Each design element needs to align with your branding, but also must help you reach your marketing goals.
Ask yourself the following questions before you dive into design:
- What is your brand’s story?
- What emotions do you want to evoke with your experience?
- How can you showcase your brand’s unique style?
- How can media enhance that experience?
- Is there an opportunity to teach visitors something new?
If you do plan on incorporating media like VR or touchscreens, consider how it will help tell your story. Are you unveiling a product? In that case, a VR demo or product tour can be a great way to give attendees a sense of what your product is all about.
2. Create Interactive Displays
Now, it’s important to remember that an interactive, inventive display isn’t just about making a big splash.The most effective trade show displays bring the drama and creativity needed to drum up buzz. The experience also needs to tell your brand’s authentic story AND align your values with what you present to customers at the event. Click To Tweet
Here are a few practical examples:
Teach People Something
Experiential marketing helps brands explain how their product/service works. Roughly 65% of consumers say that live demos give them a better understanding of a product than any ad could.
That’s not to say you should turn your booth into a mini lecture hall. Consider how you can showcase the value of your offering creatively.
Take this example from Facebook. At their Facebook IQ event, the social media giant put together the IQ Mart, a fake retail setting that demonstrated how online shoppers use social media to inform buying decisions.
The “mart” featured photo opportunities like latte art that you might find in a typical Instagram feed.
Visitors were able to engage with the brand in a fun, immersive way—but most importantly, 93% of attendees surveyed about their experience said that they walked away with valuable insights on using Facebook for Business.
Incorporate Virtual Reality
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers, it’s an immersive tool sure to fill up your booth. Brands can benefit from using the tool for product tours or demonstrations.
MasterCard and Swarovski teamed up to create a VR shopping experience that customers could try for themselves. Most people likely haven’t tried shopping with a headset on, so this “show instead of tell” approach brought more value to the table than any marketing brochures or lecture ever could.
Let People Create Something
Your booth experience doesn’t need to be 100% high-tech to draw a crowd. Brands with a relatively low-tech offering may be better off embracing the analog.
Greeting card company, American Greetings is a good example of a brand embracing the analog in a shareable way. At SXSW 2016, attendees were able to color a mural-sized coloring book and create analog GIFs inside the booth.
This worked well for several reasons. One, the “analog” experience sells the brand’s offering—hard copy greeting cards. Two, attendees were given a hands-on activity, and three, were encouraged to tag their activities on social using the hashtag “#analog.”
3. Create an online dialog around the offline experience
Social media and the offline experience feed into each other to drive conversations about your brand.
Here’s a look at how you can use social media as an “experiential complement” before, during, and after the event.
Ahead of the Event
Before you get started, decide which channels you plan to use. Some channels are better suited for specific events and audiences. LinkedIn, for example, works best for corporate events, while Instagram is ideal for promoting engaging visual content. Facebook is something of a catchall, ideal for reaching a large-scale audience.
In the weeks and months ahead, make sure you use social media to promote event registration and generate buzz.
Create a unique event hashtag and create a range of content that gives people a taste of what’s ahead. Your pre-event marketing is an opportunity to give people a look behind the scenes, announce a product launch, and connect with bloggers and influencers who can help expand your reach.
At the Show
Yes, trade shows are an in-person affair, but social media can add more value to the experience. Consider the event as a way to collect new content and generate more enthusiasm for your brand.
Incorporating social into your at-show strategy can help you engage with attendees as well as those who stayed home. Encourage visitors to use your event hashtag and let them spread the word.
While you should map out some plan for social, some of the best posts come from the authentic, in-the-moment content. Alternatively, your booth is the perfect backdrop for live-streaming Q&As or short demos on social media.
Finally, the last piece of your social media push is the follow-up. Make sure you post thank-you messages to those who stopped by and collect feedback from attendees. Try promoting a link to a survey in your posts so you can learn how to make an even bigger splash at the next event.
The Custom Booth Experience is Hard — You Don’t Have to Do it Alone
Experiential marketing can lead to serious ROI, but there are a lot of moving pieces that must come together to pull this off.
If designing a booth on top manning the hashtag strategy and putting together a killer VR tour sounds like a lot, you might want to outsource your booth design.
Echelon Design is all about thinking outside the booth—bringing technology, storytelling, and great design together to create an experience your audience won’t forget.
Get in touch to learn more about the planning process.