The popularity of experiential marketing continues, with brand events and experiences proving bigger and better than ever. 

The benefits are clear. According to a study by Freeman, over half of global CMOs see brand experiences as a way to forge ongoing relationships with audiences, while 90% of global marketers think that brand experiences create more compelling engagement.

So, what has wowed us in 2017? Here’s a quick run-down of some of the most innovative experiential marketing examples, as well as the reasons why they worked.

29 Rooms by Refinery 29

29 Rooms was first launched in 2015 to celebrate Refinery 29’s 10th anniversary. It is an annual interactive exhibition made up of – you guessed it – 29 rooms, each one individually designed and created by retail brands, artists, and other creative types.

The theme for 2017 was ‘Turn It into Art’, and the brands involved ranged from Clarins and Marc Jacobs to Dyson and Dunkin Donuts.

With tickets selling for just $19, the event has proven to be a hit with fans of Refiney29. Essentially, it is an interactive art exhibition packed with pop culture references and creative technology. It’s also a ready-made social media feed, with each room offering visitors the perfect Instagram opportunity – and a ton of user generated content for both Refinery29 and the brands involved.

29 Rooms is also cleverly timed to coincide with New York Fashion Week, which increases visibility of the event, and makes brands even more keen to add their name to the list.

Lush Creative Showcase

On the other side of the pond, cosmetics brand Lush once again ran a number of Creative Showcases this year to promote its new products and efforts in digital innovation. 

Again, it is a ticketed event, meaning Lush fans from all over the world are able to attend to immerse themselves in the brand’s glittery and ever-so-sweet smelling world.

I was lucky enough to go to the London event myself, and was suitably impressed with the level of creativity on show. With giant slides and wobbly stages, it was very much an interactive event, also allowing visitors to test out new products and partake as much as possible.

Lush stores already aim to give a hands-on retail experience, with staff very keen to offer demonstrations and samples in stores. The creative showcase enables the brand to do this but on a much bigger scale, fostering the love and loyalty often shown by fans.

David Lloyd’s ‘Run for your Bun’ café

As well as full-on events, pop-up experiences remain a popular way for brands for raise awareness and coverage of a particular cause or product.

David Lloyd, the gym and fitness club, launched its very own pop-up café earlier on in the year which sold food and drink in exchange for exercise. Once they had ordered their lunch, guests were required to do a high intensity 10 minute workout in order to receive it.

The pop-up was used as a general promotional tool for the brand, created to highlight how regular exercise and nutritional food should be part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Its central London location was also deliberately chosen to target a specific audience, namely office workers who could be encouraged to work-out during the day rather than stay glued to their desks.

In 2017, David Lloyd’s experiential activity didn’t stop with the café. It also launched a ‘nap-ercise’ class, in which treadmills were replaced with beds. On the back of research that found 86% of parents suffer from fatigue, it was an opportunity for consumers to recharge, helping the brand to highlight the role of sleep and promote its overall dedication to well-being.

M&M’s ARcade

Technology is often a big part of experiential marketing, with many brands going to great lengths to dazzle and delight visitors. Augmented reality is one popular tool, allowing consumers to become heavily immersed in a brand’s world.

Earlier this year, M&M’s used AR for an experiential campaign to launch its new range of caramel chocolate candy. It set up an augmented reality games arcade (or ARcade) in New York’s Times Square, giving the opportunity for passers-by to use their phones to turn static billboards into vintage arcade games.

Alongside the opportunity to create a memorable interaction with individuals (and therefore increase the chances of turning them into customers) this campaign also allowed M&M to access valuable data, which could then be used for retargeting.

The campaign also cleverly involved consumers outside of New York too, allowing them to scan a barcode on packs of M&M’s to access the games on their mobile devices. 

GE Healthymagination

Experiential marketing is not just an effective tool for B2C brands. It can also be a great way for B2B companies to offer insight into their products or services, as well as get people talking. 

GE’s Healthymagination showcase is just one example – an event to illustrate how the brand’s healthcare technology is helping people in developing countries.

In partnership with agencyEA, it involved specially-made ‘movie sets’ designed to represent different healthcare environments, including an accident and emergency room and a rural clinic in Africa. Doctors gave presentations, telling stories about how GE’s technology has helped played a key role in these settings. 

By adding context and storytelling, visitors were given much greater insight into the product – far more than just a standard presentation or trade show might deliver. What’s more, while B2B events like this have the potential to feel corporate or overly sales-driven, the educational and inspirational approach meant that it provided greater value to potential clients.

Ministry Does Fitness

Finally, an example that demonstrates how brands are starting to create experiential events for more than just marketing purposes.

Ministry of Sound, which is an entertainment business better known for its clubs and music events, has recently ventured into the world of experiential fitness.

While exercising and clubbing might seem like activities on the opposite end of the spectrum, ‘Ministry Does Fitness’ aims to bring them together with music-fuelled work-out sessions – complete with celebratory cocktails once you’ve finished.

With its foray into health and fitness, Ministry of Sound appears to be recognising the demand for experiences beyond the norm. This means that instead of standard gym sessions, consumers want to experience something different – and that also means giving them something they’ll want to repeat and talk about with their friends.

Seen any better campaigns? Let us know below..

Nikki Gilliland

Published 20 December, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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