Underside of a plane flying over three palm trees

Let’s say you’re given $1,000 to be spent on something fun (not to pay bills or put into savings or investments).


You could use the money to travel, go on a shopping spree, attend that event or concert you’ve always wanted to go to, there's a lot of options. How would you choose to spend your $1,000? (Personally, a nice long vacation somewhere tropical sounds like just the thing right about now).


After the past few years, you're probably more likely to spend it on an experience rather than more material goods. You may have noticed the shift that’s been happening more and more recently - a shift towards prioritizing experiences over things.

Shifting Priorities

According to a study by Harris Group, more than 3 in 4 millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable, and 55% of millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before.


This trend isn't exclusive to millennials and younger generations either: experiences are gaining more traction and value across the board.


The great news here is that you’re in the event business! You literally sell experiences for a living - you're selling exactly what people are looking for. The hard part of finding a product or service that people want is over, now you have to find a way to market and sell it (which can also be a difficult task but becomes easier when there's a demand for your product/service).


That's where the many benefits of experiential marketing play their part. Forget flat, impersonal marketing strategies employed in traditional marketing and think fun, engaging marketing that excites your fans.


So, What Is Experiential Marketing?

You’re probably reading the phrase ‘experiential marketing’ and wondering what that even means. You may have heard it referred to as ‘engagement marketing’ instead, but essentially it’s an immersive marketing strategy which directly engages with the consumer. 


Let’s put it this way: in traditional marketing, the consumer is a passive recipient of the company’s message, while, in experiential marketing, the brand directly involves the consumer and works to forge a relationship with them. 


Why Does This Work?

As humans, we’re emotional creatures seeking connection through experience. When you involve your fans in your brand and your story, they feel connected instead of simply sold to. Your fans want to be a part of your journey and, ‘invited into your living room to hear your life story’ as it were. 


IKEA Sleepover event with people laying in beds.


What Does An Experiential Marketing Campaign Look Like?

One of the most memorable experiential marketing campaigns was introduced by IKEA in 2011 (this was over a decade ago but it went over so well with customers that it's worth mentioning here). Renowned for their unique in-store experience which has transformed the idea of shopping for many consumers, IKEA is no stranger to experiential marketing and immersive experiences.


In 2011, however, they raised the bar. In their Essex store in the UK, an overnight IKEA sleepover created months (even years) of buzz surrounding the IKEA brand. After a Facebook group called 'I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA' emerged, the brand listened to the people and gave them exactly that. 100 of the group's 100,000 members were given the opportunity to actually have a sleepover in the store.


This was no ordinary sleepover, however, and IKEA really pulled out the stops to make this experience one that would be remembered for years to come (clearly). Don't worry, we can talk about the details of this experiential marketing phenomenon later, but for now we'll outline the benefits campaigns like this one can have for your brand.

The Benefits

1. Boosts Brand Awareness

One of the benefits of experiential marketing is the boost it gives to your brand awareness. How can your fans attend your event if they don’t know about it?


Experiential marketing could go a long way in boosting your brand awareness and leave a lasting impression on your fans. When you engage your fans with your brand, you create a relationship with them and become memorable. 


Of course IKEA was already a global brand in 2011, but this campaign and experience put their name in every news outlet and on all social platforms for months. The buzz and excitement was tangible. 

2. Builds a Positive Brand Image

Experiential marketing is all about immersing your fans in your brand and the experience you offer. First impressions can be so important when it comes to marketing. 


When done right, experiential marketing can provide you with the opportunity to make an amazing and lasting first impression. Traditional advertising/marketing doesn't have that same effect. It's flat and lacks that uniqueness that experiential marketing brings to the table.


Your fans are more likely to remember and have a positive impression of your brand/event if they feel involved in the journey. 


In the case of IKEA, their fans loved that they had the opportunity to be a part of this unique experience. Not only did the participants have a great time, but IKEA's generosity went a long way in boosting their brand image publicly.

3. Drives Word-of-Mouth Marketing

People talk. They talk about the great movie they just saw last weekend, or the concert that changed their life. Word of mouth can be an incredibly powerful tool, one that feeds off experience.


When your fans enjoy something, or are excited, they will shout it from the rooftops. Especially on social media, where you can generate social media buzz and encourage online engagement. Give your fans a space to tell you how pumped they are for your events!


Those 100 lucky sleepover participants will never forget their experience at IKEA. And you know that every single person they know heard about it for weeks/months afterwards too. 


Silhouette with heart hands at a concert.

4. Cultivates Brand Loyalty

The next step after boosting brand awareness, is cultivating brand loyalty. So far, you've boosted brand awareness, built a positive image, gotten some great word-of-mouth marketing going, and now you're building loyalty among your fans.


Whereas traditional marketing strategies tend to focus on saying whatever they need to in order to make a sale, experiential marketing creates real-life moments with fans and aims to build an emotional tie through memorable experiences.


A happy fan is a loyal fan. If they're satisfied with what you've given them so far they're going to keep coming back for more. Not only that, they'll want to share these amazing moments they've had at your event with everyone else in their lives - on social media, in person, etc.


At the IKEA Sleepover, a sleep expert was brought in to offer participants tips on how to achieve a satisfying and restful night of sleep. They offered their guests value that would be useful beyond just that night. They of course promoted their selection of bedding options which could help achieve a good night's sleep and created a relationship with participants based on mutual interest and value. This, above many other things, will go a long way in cultivating brand loyalty.

5. It’s Authentic

Authenticity has always been high up on the list of important brand attributes. Fans want to interact with brands that are authentic and real, they want to feel like they can trust you and your brand is real.


Traditionally, ads tend to be impersonal. Another benefit of experiential marketing is that it allows your brand to create a conversation with your fans and offer them experiences which humanize your brand. You're showing them your brand's personality, values, and what makes you unique.


According to Motista, 71% of consumers are more likely to stay with a brand they've built an emotional connection with and even recommend it to others at a much higher rate. Showing your brand's authenticity is one way to build that emotional connection with your fans.


IKEA literally opened their doors to the public and said - 'it's yours for the night.' They allowed their guests to be more than just customers, they forged relationships with them (they did spend the night together after all). Ditching the sales pitches and gimmicks, they gave their fans exactly what they asked for and it has paid off (literally and figuratively) in spades.

6. Engages All the Senses

According to JWT Worldwide, 73% of millennials crave experiences that stimulate their senses. Your fans want to be fully engaged, in every sense of the word. A great benefit of experiential marketing campaigns is that it allows your brand to engage multiple senses and maximize your success.


Think back to marketing campaigns that you remember and had an impact on you - they probably engaged more than one of your senses. Maybe you saw a commercial for a new sandwich at your favorite fast food joint and hearing the crunch as someone bites into it is what influenced you to actually buy it. 


IKEA nailed this one on the head. Guests were gifted goodie bags filled with sleep masks, snacks, towels, and slippers. They were even served cocoa, cake, and non-alcoholic mulled wine from the cafe. That covers touch, smell, and taste, leaving sight and hearing which they covered with entertainment. Guests were treated to a viewing of 'Monsters Inc' and a bedtime rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears which was read to them by reality-TV star Sam Faiers.


Finger tapping on a phone with social media graphics.


7. One Half of a Powerful Duo

Experiential marketing campaigns play very well with others. You won't be limiting yourself to one campaign at a time, you can easily pair it with other marketing strategies and increase exposure. Paired with social media marketing, your experiential campaign could be a powerful and impactful strategy. 


Give your fans something to talk about on social media and with their friends and family. You can easily engage in marketing campaigns in multiple channels and of varying kinds. Maybe you attach a fun hashtag to your experiential marketing campaign that drives your fans to start a conversation on social media. Not only does this engage your audience, it also helps you reach an even broader one. 


In IKEA's case, they plastered social media with videos and promotions for their Sleepover experience. Not only that, they spent time engaging in the Facebook group that launched the whole project. Not only did they create an immersive experience, but they took to social media to share about it too. And in the process, over 300 editorial pieces were written about it as well which is the definition of great free press.

8. Has the ROI to Back It Up

Experiences attract fans. Experiential marketing, as we've outlined above, can go a long way to help you build experiences and market them in a powerful way. Experiential marketing campaigns can have such a large, positive impact on your brand and all of that leads to a boost in sales. Like any type of marketing, it requires an up front investment, but if done right, the ROI can be huge. 


IKEA saw a huge rise in bedding sales after their sleepover campaign. Today, bedding sales have risen to be their most popular category. They positioned themselves as an expert in the space and created a positive brand association which has led to a great return on their investment and heavily boosted brand awareness.

Bring It Home

The beauty of experiential marketing is that it affords you a great opportunity to include your fans in the conversation. It's all about forming connections instead of just selling to them. It doesn't have to be complicated or over the top, just something creative and engaging. It can be as simple as a fun social media campaign encouraging participation by your fans.


And, when your campaign goes viral and your event is exploding, you  may need a great platform to handle your ticketing. Cue our entrance. Passage can help you stand out with features like contactless payments, virtual queues, timed ticketing, product bundles, social media discounts, and more. Schedule a demo to see how we can help you reach more fans and sell more tickets.

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