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Plan an Experiential Event Students Can’t Resist

by | February 1, 2023

Students are saturated with digital advertisements. That's why live, experiential events can attract attention and create engagement.
A food truck at an experiential event.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What is an experiential event? Let’s walk through one.

It’s game day. All around the stadium, excited fans, students, friends and family are gathered to watch their team bring home a W. You and your friends arrived in the wee hours to tailgate. When you cruised into the parking lot at 6 a.m., the car was loaded with cold drinks, good food, and plenty of team spirit gear. 

Now it’s 9 a.m. The cooler is running low on drinks, all the chips are gone, and more than a few folks have mustard on their shirts. Suddenly, you see a crowd of folks near the stadium’s entrance clustered around one of the pop-up tents. 

You gather a couple of friends to investigate and find a local gourmet hot dog stand throwing free T-shirts out into the crowd. You and your friends aren’t the only tailgate team whose supplies are running low. 

The T-shirts drew your attention, but now you can stock up on delicious gourmet hot dogs and refreshing drinks without heading home or braving the chaos of the stadium snack bar. You and your crew fill up on gourmet dogs and those with mustard on their old shirts have a new one to wear. 

You and your friends were just part of an experiential marketing event. The gourmet hot dog stand used experiential events to sell their products and spread brand recognition. Experiential events allow many types of target audiences to engage directly with a product or service. 

The hot dog stand used the following to create an immersive experiential marketing experience:

  • Attending a campus event
  • Setting up a pop-up location
  • Giving away free products 
  • Meeting consumers needs

Could an experiential marketing event boost sales and brand recognition for your business? Here’s why it’s worth considering. 

What Are the Benefits of an Experiential Marketing Campaign?

To put it simply: these kinds of events get your brand in front of customers. More than 80% of consumers say experiential campaigns make it more likely they’ll buy a product. After all, had the gourmet hot dog stand not had a pop-up shop at the tailgate, would you have ever known about them? Now that you’ve had their food, maybe you’ll try it again. That’s why more than 70% of consumers become regular customers after attending an experiential event.

Here are some other reasons experiential marketing is a great tool:

  • Get a big boost to your ROI. The use of experiential events can boost ROI 5-to-1. 
  • Adapt an event to meet your needs. Not every event needs to be huge. Use what you know about your target audience and brand personality to come up with something effective. Don’t forget to hold events online to widen your reach. 
  • Immerse consumers in your brand experience. To create a truly immersive event, it helps to know your brand’s personality and values. Remind consumers of your brand through every activity, food item, and event decoration. These details remind your audience of who you are and take the event a step further than on-the-spot sales.

Experiential Events Thrown by Big Brands

The Oreo Vault in Svalbard, Norway

The gourmet hot dog stand was a figment of our imagination. Yet there are very real, influential brands using experiential marketing to make a big impact. Here are some brands who have let their experiential imaginations run wild:

  • Netflix and “Stranger Things” created a drive-in experience during the pandemic. Fans of the show could watch episodes of the new season from the comfort (and safety) of their cars. 
  • Delmonte used street teams on 10 college campuses to hand out samples of Joyba, a new line of bottled bubble teas inspired by a current food trend.
  • Dole created the “Malnutrition Label” to showcase how diet affects overall health. In a classic guerilla marketing tactic, Dole put its label on trash cans around New York City. Dole’s marketing efforts included YouTube videos of consumers engaging with the projections to spread the word further.
  • IKEA stores worldwide used social media to educate the public about inequality in household roles between men and women. They even invited 100 people to spend the night in one of their stores. 
  • Oreo took over the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway where a million seeds (along with Oreo cookies) were preserved in case of apocalyptic disaster. Visitors were encouraged to come and see the vault for themselves. The campaign connects to the goodwill marketing theme of reversing climate change. No word on how fresh those cookies might be for survivors.
  • Eggo waffles created an interactive experience called the L’eggometer during the pandemic as a chance for exhausted parents to connect. With digital content from celebrity parents and everyday caretakers, Eggo encouraged families to log-in and debrief on the stressors of getting ready in the morning (with a chance to win free waffles).
  • Red Bull has been known for its guerrilla marketing tactics for years. Following the pandemic, Red Bull has supported local restaurants and musicians by hosting nightlife events in Nashville. Restaurants were encouraged to attend a Red Bull pop-up series where they recreated their dine-in experience at the series.

Plan Events to Remember

A sign that reads Free Smells

Ready to knock the socks off your customers in person? Here are five tips for creating an experiential campaign to showcase your brand personality and get tongues wagging. 

  1. Freebies and giveaways, but do it big. Remember how the hot dog stand threw T-shirts into the crowd? Even if beaning free goods at an eager public doesn’t fit with your brand ethos, find a way to give away the goods that’s creative. Bonus points if it generates user content on social media.
  2. Cater to your crowd. Live marketing is most effective when it’s pitched towards the people most interested in your brand. For instance, hot dogs are right for game day, but maybe not for the vegetarian conference. Before launching any experiential events, make sure you can define your target audience. It’s easier to design events with them in mind. 
  3. Hire campus ambassadors to reach more audiences and build brand trust. Loyal customers are often the best folks to spread the word about your products and services. Find brand ambassadors through campus groups, social media or speaking directly to customers. Consumers who enjoy your brand in the real world offer authentic recommendations to others. This type of brand trust is the most valuable. 
  4. Partner with other brands or talent. Is there a local band or clothing brand that matches your brand values? Red Bull used live events to sell products and support community retailers. Start a unique partnership with local chefs by hiring a food truck. Go online to find food vendors with mobile catering options. 
  5. Host an event online. IKEA created a card game on Instagram to educate consumers about women’s equality. Even if your topic is more gourmet hot dog than women’s roles, consider creating an activity or event online. These events are accessible to a wider range of consumers, no matter their schedule, physical abilities, or location. Instagram has its “live” feature and platforms like Zoom and Google Meet have only grown throughout the pandemic. 

Ready to Launch an Experiential Campaign?

College Marketing Group (CMG) has the tools to help your brand launch a killer experiential event. Using our years of marketing experience, we can help target your ideal audience, pinpoint your brand personality, and zero in on the right live marketing concepts. If you’re ready to spread the word about your brand, we’re right there with you.

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