The experiential marketing ecosystem: Before, during and after the event

Experiential marketing and instore campaigns have one big problem.

It’s easy to mistake the visible part of the campaign – the demo, the stand, the samples – for the entirety of the campaign. The savvy brand manager’s goal isn’t just to bump up sales in-store and get some social media responses going on one day.

Experiential marketing extends far further than the event itself, and getting the most out of experiences means putting in the work before, during and after the day.

Experiential marketing: Before

Lead times are absolutely crucial. The more time you give your agency, the better the experience will be. Three months is ideal. Longer lead times mean you can build up previews on social, get traditional advertising out in good time, secure the best people for the job and get them briefed. Briefed on what? Well:

  • What else the brand is doing – The more we know, the more we can build in compatibility and coherence with the rest of your marketing.
  • Broader brand values – This knowledge helps us match people with the right skills to your campaign, delivering the brand training, ensuring they’re walking, talking ambassadors for your brand’s values.
  • Competitor insight – The more we know about what your competitors are up to, the more attention we can secure for you: the goal is to get your event’s signal out there, competing with as little noise as possible.
  • What else is going on in the stores – We need to be aware of the bigger picture, so we can build what we’re doing to complement what else is going on. Why do a product demo in store the week after the product is on offer? (Yes, this has happened to us, and funnily enough, the demo didn’t do well – everyone who would have bought had done so days ago.)

Upfront work is necessary for a quality campaign. The longer you have to create a buzz, the busier you’ll be on the day, and the more notice you can give third parties, the better the execution and creative thought will be. Tight deadlines aren’t the end of the world, but it pays to have thinking and breathing space. Both are essential to great brand experiences.

Experiential marketing: During

This is the visible part – the bit people are good at thinking about. What things look like and whether they’re on brand is the bread and butter of experiential marketing. Most businesses have the basics down pat. But it’s worth mentioning that during the live campaign, brands should:

  • Share on social – Social media posts have a massive impact: they can increase the reach of an in-store experience a thousand times over, and since the day is already about your brand engaging with customers, there’s no reason not to double down.
  • Take photos – Something about a thousand words springs to mind? And to be honest, the unscripted surprises when someone really enjoys your product are light years beyond any posed, carefully curated image.
  • Run competitions – A demo or sample is one thing, but gamifying it brings out the instinct to… well… compete. And win. And be chuffed that you had the opportunity. Competitions and games build loyalty in the simplest way around – they give participants something to be proud of.
  • Gather data for marketing (Within the limitations of GDPR, obviously) – Experiential marketing events are a touchpoint between you and your customers, a chance to learn what they like and why, and because you’re interacting directly, you can ask the follow-up questions that give you qualitative data. It’s one thing to run the numbers on a customer persona – quite another to find out exactly why those numbers look the way they do.

While we’re talking about the events themselves, there’s one thing we have to point out. In-store marketing is out of the routine for some retailers. Look at the difference between Costco, where demos are routine and shoppers make a beeline for them, and the likes of Tesco or Asda, where the demo is often a disturbance to routine, and shoppers often consciously, deliberately avoid them.

That means, on the day, you and your retailers need to advocate for the experience you’re putting on – you need to overcome that sense of disruption, awkwardness, reticence and reluctance, and convince people it’s worth going out of their way for your event.

Experiential marketing: After

There’s a reason we made one of our ten principles for experiential marketing the right way  “aftercare is not an afterthought”. It’s the bit everyone is prone to forgetting. Data is a big opportunity and so many brands miss it entirely. Experiential marketing goes so much further than that. We’re working to influence and change long-held customer behaviours: it won’t be done and dusted in a day!

When it comes to post analysis, take the long view. Where were sales before the event? Where were they during it, and immediately after it, but above all, where do sales settle? That 400% uplift on the day is only the start of the story – where’s the long term change?

Other things to think about after the event include:

  • Follow up campaigns – Make the most of those photos, those experiences, that data – get an idea of who’s into your brand and market to them. Put everything together.
  • Newsletters – Every marketing experience will give you something to share with your customers, some success story – and it’s a bond-building “I was there!” moment for anyone who signed up on the day.
  • Prize draws – Remember what we said about competitions and gamification? Same thing. People love to win, even more so if they didn’t have to risk anything, or even do very much. A prize draw is a great value offer to make in return for people’s data – the names and numbers that will inform your later campaigns.
  • More social – Collect those shareable moments, make those responses, talk to people. Extend the touchpoint out after the event, and keep your eyes out for reviews and responses. They’ll tell you what you did right and wrong, and they’ll give you an opportunity to build relationships down the line.

Lanson Lanyards

To show how it all comes together, look at how Lanson Champagne have worked with us on a recent campaign. Beforehand, they used their retailer’s customer magazine to build awareness for in-store activity, and carry out data capture for future marketing. They distributed a physical invitation to their in-store activity to drive footfall: an invitation which detailed a competition to win a magnum of champagne, and included the Wimbledon schedule, building on the brand’s link with the tennis championship. The invitation also included a branded lanyard, designed to act as a brand ‘reminder’ long after the event. It’s hard to quantify how long this lasted – but we certainly saw evidence weeks later of Costco members shopping with their car keys on the Lanson lanyard.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to field and experiential marketing than just turning up on the day with some goods to share. Give your agency the time to find the right people, brief them on your brand, and join up with your other marketing efforts. Advocate for your experience on the day, bring people out of their routine and into your world. And afterwards,  gather data, sign people up, and share the stories.

You’re creating experiences for people: make the most of them.

To see how we’ve helped brands take the long view – planning before, during and after the experiential event itself – take a look at our work to date.