How to Use Experiential Marketing for Customer Acquisition

You know when you're trying to tell your friend about something significant that happened in the past, but it's not coming out right? That feeling where you want to make them laugh because of how really messed-up the story is, but they end up confused (or would just give you a hollow laugh just to give you the satisfaction)? They couldn't relate to the story, so they do not react as you hoped they would.


That is precisely how some marketers feel nowadays. No matter how hard they reach out, they can't seem to connect with their customers. It could be attributed to ad blindness, or it could also be because the ads are not catchy enough to capture the audience’s attention and keep it.


You can always try Shock Advertising, but if you are not an expert in this marketing strategy, you may end up driving people away instead of getting them to like your product or brand.


The next best thing to do is to engage your customers via Experiential Marketing.

This blog post will discuss the following:

What is Experiential Marketing?

Requirements of Experiential Marketing

Benefits of Interactive Marketing

6 Steps to Creating an Engagement Marketing Campaign

Excellent Examples of Experiential Marketing Promotions

Engagement Marketing in Online Ads

What is Experiential Marketing?

Ever since the invention of the internet, marketers have been in a frenzy trying to find new ways to reach their audience. Consumers are bombarded with ads and messages from all angles – television commercials, banners on websites or social media feeds - it's hard for them not to be overwhelmed by marketing communications. But what if instead of just presenting your product as an advertisement and hoping someone will buy it someday, you actually give consumers an experience?


This is where experiential marketing comes into play. Rather than looking at customers as passive receivers who can't make up their minds about whether they want this thing or that one, engagement marketers believe these people should get involved with brands. Hence, audiences learn more about products, services, and offers through firsthand experiences.


Experiential marketing comes in many names, including engagement marketing, participation marketing, interactive marketing, or brand experience.


According to Ulric Neisser, experiential marketing starts out with the Theory of Cognitive Psychology. He stated that people were more likely to respond when they are caught up in a sentimental state than when prodding them with objective information and asking questions based on rational reasoning.


This kind of marketing is where people engage with the brand through a sensory experience rather than just being sold to.


When we say sensory experience, it means other senses are prioritized, not just sight (which is the primary sense targeted by ads). Other senses such as sound, smell, taste, and touch are used or incorporated into the advertisement for a better experience.



The essence of experiential marketing is to create an environment or event that engages consumers on a personal level and sparks their imagination about what it would be like to have your product or service in their lives.


Suppose you can create an experience for people to engage with, and they come out with positive emotions or reactions to the experience. In that case, they will remember the brand or product when making their purchase decisions later on down the line.


There are many different types of experiential marketing, including sampling events (where consumers can try out specific items before buying them), interactive creative devices (such as using QR codes to unlock exclusive content from your favorite movie), or even sponsorships such as putting logos on football fields. 


These methods create some type of interaction between users and brands. For this article, we will focus on marketing that requires engagement from the people.


Requirements of Experiential Marketing

Three basic requirements govern engagement marketing campaigns. In order to ensure the success of your campaign, you must fulfill these three; else, the strategy can feel incomplete and may not yield the expected results.


1. Audience Participation

I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a product! When it comes to marketing, experiential campaigns are king. That's because they allow consumers an opportunity that would otherwise be impossible: interact with their favorite brands in ways not previously thought possible. And these interactive elements have been taking things up another notch, allowing audiences to take home more than just memories from events.


Allowing your target audience to interact with you or the product makes them feel like they have been part of the process. Their reaction or participation is essential, which makes them feel valued.


If your audience doesn't interact with your promotion as intended, then you won't be able to engage them in a way that would help to build trust and understanding.



Think about reality shows that include home viewer voting to choose the winner, like American Idol, The Voice, and dozens of others. These shows generate great ratings and viewership mainly because viewers at home are given the opportunity to choose the winner by sending their votes in. 


Experiential marketing draws its roots from the idea of audience interaction, which is necessary to achieve a seamless user experience.


2. Relatability

What is it about the consumer and their personality that makes them so special when it comes to marketing an event or product? It involves relatability: something consumers have a harder time seeing in ads, billboards, television commercials.


Right now, brands that perform best are those that are seen as being run by "real" people. Think about the most popular brands that post on social media, like Netflix, for instance. Their posts are so casual and relatable; you are so sure that the people behind the social media profile actually watch the shows they offer.



We can learn a lot about creating stronger customer relationships through experiential marketing. The interactive elements offered by such campaigns not only present an atmosphere of fun but also make the brand appear more approachable and relatable.


3. Sensory Immersion

A good furniture store would group the same items together neatly. All the chairs here, all the tables there, cabinets in the corner, sinks lumped together; this arrangement is great if you came here looking for a replacement item or furniture.


On the other hand, a fantastic furniture store will put together the best pieces to imitate what a Scandinavian-themed dining area would look like; with the right colors and textures. And let's not forget about spritzing attractive scents throughout the space! 


Customers would wander over to the installation and realize that they want these chairs, or those table settings, or the entire set! All because they have seen and felt what it was like to have this setting.


Experiential marketing is designed to create an immersive experience for consumers by immersing them in a particular environment. 


Crafted to increase engagement, this sensory-driven marketing strategy aims to entice consumers into participating in the product or service they're selling.


The use of sensory elements such as decorative lights, tasting sample products, or spraying a novel scent throughout the area allows consumers to be more immersed in the experience and therefore appreciate it more.


Benefits of Interactive Marketing

Before starting any marketing campaign, you must first determine whether it will yield the results that you expect.  The following are some of the benefits you can expect from using experiential marketing:


  • Memory Retention

One of the foremost benefits of experiential marketing is the increased likelihood that consumers will remember the brand. Experiences have an emotional impact on people and trigger their imaginations about what it would be like if they had your product or service in their lives.  


When people are more immersed in the experience, they appreciate it more. Research shows that they will remember a brand better if they have had an emotional reaction to it.


  • Audience Recommendations

The effects of experiential marketing also influence the decisions that other people make about your product or service. If someone had a good experience with one company, they are more likely to compare it favorably against another brand and purchase products from them in the future.


As such, it increases word-of-mouth marketing because customers often want to share these experiences with other people who may not have heard or seen what you're promoting yet.


This leads to viral content across social media platforms, which can lead to more sales for your company!


  • Increase Brand Awareness and Perception

Novel ideas easily catch interest because they are unique. This form of marketing gets people's attention quickly, and if you use your creativity, the return on investment can become tenfold.


A savvy marketer knows that events and experiences are a powerful way to get consumers' attention. According to EventMarketer, over 90% of customers feel more positively towards brands after attending an event or experience, so it's clear why they're piquing the interest of marketers everywhere!


Marketing should be a two-way street, and no matter what else you do to engage with customers, if the marketing campaign does not have some level of emotional appeal, consumers will walk away unimpressed. The right experiential marketing campaign can improve your brand perception by making people feel like they are part of something special or exclusive when attending an event or using the product in question.


  • Increase Purchase Intent 

If someone has had a pleasant experience interacting with your company's products or services in person, then this will lead to increased purchase intent. This can include future purchases that may occur online as well. 


When companies make use of experiential marketing campaigns, their goal is usually long-term engagement and loyalty from their customers.


As is discussed in our article about Consumer Buying Decisions, it is often easier for companies to convince consumers through an emotional appeal rather than logic alone, at least when it comes to something like purchasing their products or services where there may not be much-perceived difference between brands. 


This happens because emotions help us decide on what we want without any rational thought process getting involved, so this can lead to impulsive buying behavior which benefits businesses who market experientially.


6 Steps to Creating an Engagement Marketing Strategy

And while they may seem like common sense to some people, it's important for businesses to understand these basics before embarking on any campaign in order to avoid costly mistakes and to ensure a successful outcome.


There are many ways by which you can make a campaign more engaging, but it is not easy. You need to have the right plan in place and follow through with an interactive strategy that will be memorable for your target audience. Here are the basic steps to creating an experiential marketing plan:


1. Have a Deeper Understanding of Your Audience

It's not enough to know the sex, age, and familial status of your audience. You have to really know who they are, what are their interests, what are their buying habits, and more. In short, having a detailed target persona is a must.


If you don't know who your potential customer is, then it's going to be hard for you to create a campaign that resonates with them. This step can take time and research but the investment will pay off in the long run when customers respond better to what they are seeing because you know their interests more intimately.


It's also a way for brands to position themselves as an insider in a consumer's life and create social capital that will lead audiences towards the purchase or other behaviors that positively impact the brand. The more you know your audience, the deeper you can get involved. 


Knowing your target market seems obvious, but many brands forget this step in their experiential marketing campaign because they're so caught up trying to create something new and "cool." Don't make the same mistake, so prioritize this step!

2. Determine Your KPIs

When creating a marketing strategy, you must have an end goal in sight.  With a defined end goal, you can establish your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and measure the success of your campaign.


Here are some good KPIs for experiential marketing:

  • How many people participated in the activity we organized?

For offline marketing campaigns, you can manually record the number of people who participated by counting them one by one or asking them to sign a list.


If it's an online marketing campaign, it's easy to track how many people engaged based on viewership and click engagement.


  • Were they willing to engage with us again at any point during their day after coming into contact with us?

How are they reacting to the brand after they participated in the experiential marketing? Is it in a positive light, or are they trying to avoid you at the mere mention of the brand?


  • Did the promotion lead them to purchase anything from us, write a review about what we offer, or even share something on social media?


You can determine this by following up with retargeting ads to those who initially engaged with your campaign. Of course, the higher the subscription rate or purchase, the better the result of the experiential marketing campaign.


Are they saying negative things about the experience? Do they seem interested in what you're doing? Are the reviews that come out of your marketing campaigns positive and reflective of future purchases? These are just a few questions you can ask.


Once you have determined what you want to achieve, that is when you can start laying out the plans for the actual promotion. If you don't have a target, your engagement marketing promotion may end up achieving nothing for your business.


3. Make Sure Your Message is Clear

Your brand has a voice that needs to be communicated in order for your followers/customers to feel connected. While clarity is important, it's crucial the two mesh well, as contradictory messages can make customers feel cheated and disconnected from their chosen platform or company. 


Experiential marketing campaigns are good ways of building towards who you want your audience envisioning; don't go too far from what they currently think because this just leads back into disconnection.


Ensuring that your message is clear means that at the end of the marketing campaign, you will get the response that you expect from your participants. If at the end of the campaign, your participants had fun or were excited about the promotion but did not see its relevance to the product, then your message wasn’t clear enough.


4. Choose the Platform

Now that you have determined the results that you are aiming for, the next step is to establish the platform. Will it be an online or offline/physical event?  What are the pros and cons of each type? Let’s discuss for a bit:


  • Offline:

Sending people to an offline event is a great way to get them involved with your product. You can offer free samples, discounts on items, or even giveaways in order to encourage people to walk through your doors at some point during the day.


The downside here is that you will need more staff members who need to attend these events as well (which may not be possible if they work remotely). It also takes time for promotional materials such as flyers and posters to reach their target audience too - so make sure you plan accordingly!


  • Online:

In today’s online world, many consumers are connected through social media networks or are browsing on websites during downtime. This is why experiential marketing has become increasingly popular as a way to differentiate brands and capture their attention.


Marketers are now developing ways for customers to try products, not just watch ads; go on digital tours, not just read brochures; etc., all without abandoning digital channels.


For those who do most of their shopping online already, it should come as no surprise that this technique works wonders when incorporated on websites or apps. These online spaces can also offer interactive demos and videos, or even step-by-step tutorials for newbies who need an extra nudge before they make their first purchase online.


Online engagement marketing is so rampant nowadays because almost everybody is connected online. Native ads work well when there's strong brand recognition involved because you don't want your audience seeing this ad and questioning its authenticity.

5. Choose How You Want to Engage or What Senses to Tickle

We've mentioned above that experiential marketing must engage the senses. You don't have to use all senses, but at least two would be best.  You can use sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch to engage your customers.


This type of marketing affects different parts of the brain in order to encourage new behavior with an experience that will create memories they care about. It evokes emotion without requiring anything more than participation from its audience, which makes this form of advertising especially powerful because those who participate have already been drawn into what you're doing.


Experiential marketing is not just for brand awareness and advertisement - it's also a way to make people feel good about themselves while experiencing the product or service you are offering. But you should choose the “senses” that make the most sense to deliver your message (as is mentioned in Step 3).


Remember when magazines were popular and perfume companies would place a "rub to smell'' full-page ad? It's not enough that they have a visually stimulating ad of fields and flowers and what-not. They want you to be able to smell it and try it out for yourself; they are selling perfumes, after all! The methods they chose to engage are the visual and olfactory senses.


6. Execute the Engagement Marketing Plan

Now that you have the plan and preparations have been set, it's time to execute.


Make sure to document everything as much as you can. When doing offline experiential marketing, having some photo and video coverage would be great.


For online campaigns, make sure to use advertising trackers and even use heat maps so you can efficiently record the engagement, click-throughs, how long they stayed on the page, which parts they interacted with the most, and more.

Businesses are looking for innovative ways to connect with potential customers and re-engage old ones. The concept of experiential marketing is a way to do that through real-life experiences mixed with technology, which can be used in any industry.


The purpose behind experiential marketing is simple: encourage people to see your brand firsthand (or experience it) to make them feel involved with the product or service. As such, they will end up remembering that brand and will get you more sales.


Excellent Examples of Experiential Marketing Promotions

If you're thinking of using experiential marketing campaigns, it would be best to follow in the footsteps of those who have already succeeded in this type of advertising. 


Let’s start with the usual ones.


1. Road Test for New Cars

Since time immemorial, automobile companies have always allowed potential buyers to test drive cars. This immersive experience allows potential car owners to properly decide which car to purchase. After all, this is not a cheap buy.


Here’s an example of a user (AutoTopNL) test driving a Tesla car with POV video. 


2. Free Food Taste Offers in Supermarkets

It’s possible that you have purchased dozens of new products because you were given a free taste in the supermarket. It could be anything from ham, to nuts, to wine, to virtually any kind of food.



When Starbucks began offering free coffee samples, its sales increased by 20%. Because of the success of this marketing style, they have since offered samples every time they have a new product. This is a great example of experiential marketing because customers can try out the product for themselves to see how it tastes and determine if they want to buy it. 


3. Perfume Testers in Malls or in Scented Strips in Magazines

This is one of the oldest experiential marketing techniques, but it is still effective. By spraying the scent on their wrists or on paper strips, consumers can smell the product and determine if it is the right perfume for them.


The marketing team for perfume company Prada used this technique to great success as well when they installed booths throughout malls with small strips of fabric sprayed with fragrances such as "Infusion d'Iris" while shoppers passed by. 


The perfume brand also accomplished the goal they set out for: people stopped to see how the scents smelled up close and were swayed into buying something from the store since they could now identify which fragrance might be best suited for them.



Now that we’ve seen the common ones, let’s take a look at engagement marketing examples that are pretty awesome, you are bound to remember the brand.


4. Virtual Reality Demonstration of Ocean Dives by Google Earth and Chasing Coral

To promote their cause of protecting the world’s oceans and biodiversity by taking care of corals,  Google Earth partnered with Chasing Coral to present a virtual reality demonstration of ocean dives. The VR film takes users on an immersive, 360-degree journey through the Great Barrier Reef and other underwater locales.


The Google Earth team used its mapping technology to take viewers along as they descended into the water for what feels like a real dive experience that few people will ever be able to realize in person. You would feel like you’re swimming among stunning coral reefs teeming with sea life.



You can try this Google Earth Virtual Dive for yourself as it is still available right now. 


5. The Greatest Showman Covent Garden Comes Alive via Flash Mob

The Greatest Showman is a musical film about the life of P.T Barnum, who founded one of the largest and most famous circuses in history. To promote this iconic movie coming out to the theaters in the UK, Disney created an awesome flash mob event reminiscent of the show. This took place at Covent Square in London for all fans to enjoy!


The group surprised passers-by by performing two of the film's leading tracks; Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song "This Is Me," and "The Greatest Show."


This campaign not only got people interested in catching their own local screenings but also heightened awareness about how big this kind of promotion can be -- and how many different ways there are to do it!


6. T-Mobile’s Angry Birds Live

If you've ever played Angry Birds on your phone, chances are you couldn't imagine seeing them live. This is exactly how T-Mobile proved audiences wrong by creating a real-life humongous Angry Birds game. The event was called Angry Birds Live and it took place in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress.


This experiential marketing gave participants and audiences the time of their life. Players can play the game using a mobile phone, but the output of the game is performed by giant-sized Angry Birds, complete with exploding pigs and live music. This event drew crowds who recorded the event on their phones and shared them publicly online.


Take a look at the video and tell me if that isn't cool.



7. HBO’s Westworld Immersive Experience

Despite having the highest ratings for a new HBO series, there was a 16-month gap between the seasons that caused people’s interest to dwindle. To increase hype leading up to the second season of "Westworld," HBO created experiential marketing campaigns that engaged fans.


The TV network created a Westworld-themed park that mirrored the show’s setting, which was concealed from consumers until they booked reservations at and completed an assessment quiz to determine their "personality type" before visiting.


They created a fictional town from the show where visitors can explore 16 structures in 90,000 square feet. Participants were allowed to explore freely and interact with the AI characters played by not less than 60 actors. When participants arrived at the post office, they found a personal letter waiting for them that directed them to unfolding adventures within the park, all of which were tailormade.


The result? It was the hottest event in SXSW (South by Southwest). The experiential marketing for “Westworld” became viral on Twitter. It created 1.9 billion social impressions, and nearly 500 pieces of articles were published globally. The campaign went from trending on social media to being lauded as one of the best publicity stunts of this century.



8. IKEA Place App - Augmented Reality Furniture Showcase

IKEA has always been an innovator in furniture retail, but with its interactive AR app, it was able to take customer engagement to the next level.


IKEA is famous for its affordable and stylish furnishings that make up people’s homes all over the world, so when they released a new augmented reality mobile app back in 2013, we knew this just had to be something special!


The company took a different approach which made the "try before you buy" process more exciting. Their customers simply put their printed catalog on the floor and scanned it with their smartphone or tablet cameras, then they could see the furniture appear in place. This AR has now been updated, so it can work even without printed catalogs.


Users can evaluate what color would be best for them in real life or whether that piece of furniture fits where they want it to; all without having to physically go anywhere! This sparked interest better than other methods because AR gives people an up-close virtual experience at home instead of just seeing something online then going into store!



This app is still being used today, eight years after it was first launched, and continues to deliver sales for the furnishings company. Now that’s a successful engagement marketing technique!


9. The Social Swipe by Misereor

Misereor is an international charity based in Germany whose focus was helping people in third-world countries. To attract attention and provide possible donors information about how their donation can help, the organization set up interactive displays in airports. These interactive billboards showcased either a pair of hands tied with rope or a loaf of bread on a table. When potential donors swipe their credit cards, they would be shown the effects of giving €2 to Misereor.


"This is a great way for us to show how we work and what people can do," said Misereor's spokesperson. "We also don’t want donors to leave with just an image of our logo, but with an understanding that these are really important things they are helping in."


The Social Swipe by Misereor was an awesome experiential marketing example because it showed donors how much their donation could help while attracting attention in airports so more people were aware of them. 


Experiential marketing allows organizations like this one to present themselves well, which will hopefully bring in more significant donations as well as funds from other sources!



10. IKEA’s Biggest Warehouse Sleepover

IKEA has created a unique in-store shopping experience which not many companies are able to match. Apparently, that's not enough for the retailer. It’s not that we’re fans of IKEA’s marketing techniques, but they’re really very good at experiential marketing. 


In 2011, IKEA UK hosted an unusual event in their store -- a sleepover! This idea came from a Facebook group entitled “I Wanna Have a Sleepover in IKEA.” 


The furniture retailer randomly selected 100 lucky winners from a pool of over 100,000 people and fulfilled their wish. The event was so fun the participants didn't want it to end!


As expected, this particular experiential marketing campaign was a huge success that the company expanded the campaign to other IKEA locations in the world.

Engagement Marketing in Online Ads

It’s easy to assume that experiential marketing only applies to offline ads -- this cannot be further from the truth. As is demonstrated by IKEA’s Augmented Reality app, it is also possible to bring this marketing strategy online.


Here are other examples of how companies are utilizing this marketing technique:

1. Playable Video Game Ad

Have you ever noticed that when you're using a free app on your phone, from time to time, you will be asked to try a different game? The ad won't close until you give the game a try or until the countdown for the ad expires, so you go ahead and try it for yourself. One great example is this playable ad for Narcos: Cartel Wars.


You try the game and end up actually liking it! As a result, you click on the button to get the full version of the app. The marketer succeeds in pulling you in.


Image from Hubspot


Experiencing the game convinced you to download or purchase the app, right? If it was a normal banner, you would have closed it in a heartbeat. Such is the power of experiential marketing in the digital space.

2. Dating Website Chat Ad

Marketers have found that a user that interacts with ads is more likely to sign-up for the service immediately -- even if the service is not free. This is why interactive chat ads are among the best performing landing pages when it comes to the Dating vertical.


As can be seen from the image below, the bot in the landing page that opens up after clicking a native ad or banner ad releases timely messages to encourage the user to respond. 



In the bot-to-human conversation, the user is prompted to join a paid service after replying with his first message. This tactic will convert more people than a static landing page, which is why this lander is one of the top performers today! 


The use of a bot combined with persuasive messages and images helps marketers create an interactive experience that consumers cannot resist -- they get what they want and the business gets new leads from it as well! 


3. Virtual Makeup Try-On

Anybody can become a runway model with the help of L'Oréal Paris's new technology. You don't have to guess what colors will look good on your skin tone or ponder how different shades of blush would suit you because this innovative try-on tech from ModiFace features both makeup and hair color styles that are sure to make you feel like a celebrity.


Users will never get bored playing around in virtual beauty land again, thanks to these fun options! Once you get the final look that you are satisfied with, you’ll be given a list of links to the products that you have tried out so you can head over and purchase the ones you like.


Image from


Similar to what L’Oreal has done, several apps that allow you to change your features have cropped up recently, the most popular of which is the Face Swap app. 


This app promoted itself by offering an “experience” of the app during in-app ads. The promotion was highly effective and resulted in millions of downloads worldwide. The app is now a household name.


4. 3D Interactive Ads

Google's Swirl Ad is a relatively new 3D display ad format that allows people to interact with ads in an unprecedented way. Many advertisers are excited about this new form of advertising that helps build awareness for a product, increases consideration, and delivers a great user experience.


Swirl ads are interactive and bring to life the features, benefits, or messages of a brand. One of the pioneer users of this ad format was Purina. The pet food company partnered with MediaMonks to create a Swirl ad that demonstrates the behaviors of a healthy pet. The dog in this Purina ONE food commercial can actually be played with!



These are just some of the ways experiential marketing can be used in online advertising. Since people are now being forced to stay at home, it’s only a matter of time before some new technology is developed, mainly for engagement marketing.

Get Creative!

Experiential marketing is a great way to wake consumers out of their stupor. It's an engaging tactic with the power to capture people's attention and make them feel like they are part of something big - leading to more purchases or loyal customers. 


Interactive ads give people something tangible to talk about and share online (leading back into word-of-mouth promotion). A multitude of research has shown experientially marketed products have helped marketers engage with clients in ways that were once impossible before. It has also helped customers feel happier with their purchase decisions as well. 


The key takeaway: if you want your marketing efforts noticed and recognized by today’s distracted consumer audience, get creative! Experientially market your product/service for instant engagement and watch your revenues increase.


There are quite a few ways to attract audiences to participate in your interactive landing page, one of which is via native advertising. If you’re ready to take a dive into native ads, we’re ready to help you out. Reach out to us at and we can talk about the best ways to get more eyeballs on your brand.