Experiential Marketing: Connections Over Impressions

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Experiential marketing is the future of advertising, not just because it’s fun for participants and makes them feel more connected to the brand – though that’s true in a well-executed campaign. It’s the future because it’s more effective. As Business News Daily notes, when people participate in a brand experience or interaction, 40% say they feel more brand loyalty, and 91% are more likely to buy the brand’s products or services.

What Makes an Effective Experiential Campaign

The 2023 SXSW event showcased the latest experiential marketing, specifically with two standout campaigns. While taking vastly different approaches, what made these campaigns effective was the same: the ability to authentically connect with audiences.

Television network Showtime put all its chips on its popular Yellowjackets series about a high school soccer team that goes feral after a wilderness plane crash. The studio created an experiential marketing campaign that culminated in its Camp Yellowjackets display. Showtime’s marketers took over a warehouse and transformed the space into sets that transported participants from Texas to the Yellowjackets universe, connecting with fans of the show in visceral ways, including sensory experiences like temperature changes and an unsettling meat-cutting scene.

Audiobook and podcast service Audible created an experiential marketing presence by setting up an immersive sound experience in the form of a studio with a vintage feel, a DJ booth and listening stations that ably showcased its theme: music storytelling. The campaign worked with partners like Rolling Stone and highlighted collaborations with iconic musicians, exposing participants to multiple brands instead of focusing on a single asset.

Showtime took over an entire warehouse and created experiences that brought visitors outside the conference, at least psychologically. Audible took a different approach, leaning into the conference surroundings and collaborating with partners to amplify the experience. Their shared success was in building authentic audience connections.

How Campaign Measurement Is Evolving

The move toward modern experiential marketing means campaign measurement is evolving alongside it. Experiential campaigns build tangible audience connections in the moment. When marketers bring videos and images from the campaign onto their social channels, the connection continues to thrive digitally for consumers. Consumer expectations have changed, and Gen Z and millennials in particular, expect to interact with brands on their favorite platforms and use social media to learn about companies and products.

Brands are also leaning into influencer marketing for the same reason: to curate organic, positive conversations that ultimately form connections. Rather than measuring impressions or views, they’re looking at impact – and they’re leveraging video and images from experiential campaigns to extend their digital reach into social media channels. For assets like murals, brands can still measure metrics like QR code scans, but the value is in the human storytelling component.

Leading with Your Values

Experiential marketing works best when brands lead with their values and show up authentically. Consumers don’t necessarily trust businesses to do the right thing, so make sure you have a track record of supporting the values you’re emphasizing in each campaign.

Any campaign you develop needs to be meaningful and genuine to make an impact on your audience. Your brand should provide experiences that emotionally connect with consumers in order to generate lasting loyalty. As the SXSW campaigns demonstrated, sensory input can leave a lasting impression, and opportunities to layer in immersive technologies in experiential marketing campaigns are exciting. But ultimately, keeping these campaigns emotionally authentic is the key to driving connections over impressions.

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Muros, a global art activation agency authentically connecting brands with their audiences through art and culture.