Experiential marketing can end up feeling like a PR stunt, with many brands guilty of creating flashy but ultimately forgettable brand activations.

In contrast, the very best examples of experiential marketing tend to include an element of education, whereby consumers are able to learn about a brand or its product (plus the value of it) in a truly immersive way. This typically creates a much more memorable experience, and deeper levels of engagement as a result.

This type of experiential marketing is particularly useful for brands that do not want to focus on selling specific products, but to deliver something more conceptual.

Here are four recent and noteworthy examples.

Comfort’s ‘Swap Shop’

Sustainability is a big issue in retail, but also for brands that are indirectly related to clothing and fashion, such as detergent brand Comfort (owned by Unilever). In order to raise awareness about the importance of buying second-hand and up-cycling, Comfort hosted a swap shop in partnership with Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Oxfam this summer.

Visitors to the pop up could swap an item of their own clothing for one that was donated by the aforementioned partners, which would be washed with Comfort’s Intense range before being taken home.

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SWAP SHOP Our founder @tazlimastyle with @gracefvictory @comfortuk SWAP SHOP. Our founder says “One of the reasons why I started @taslima_k_ was to create a movement on how precious clothes are, not to just wear once and throw away, but recycle and last for a long term, quality, unique piece for your wardrobe. Or give away the piece you no longer wear and let someone else enjoy it. Perfect place for this is the Comfort Swap Shop by @elleuk @comfortuk @hearstliveuk @cosmopolitanuk supporting @princestrust where you can swap your clothes or purchase or both, which I did????????.” Get yourself down to 52 Brewer Street! We love sustainable fashion movements! . #longliveclothes #ambassador #comfortswapshop #designer #sustainablefashion #fashion #womenswear #princestrust #elle #comfortuk #cosmopolitan #hearst #TASLIMAK #adayinalife #stylist #fashion #sustainable

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Michele Vincitorio, brand manager at Comfort UK, told Campaign: “We know that our clothes can improve not just how we look but our state of mind in a positive way too and it’s important we show them the love they deserve.”

Brand purpose has been at the forefront of strategy for many brands, particularly big corporations like Unilever. By uniting on a common goal – and creating a physical experience to highlight it – Comfort has been able to deepen its connection with consumers who care about the same issue.

Proving that experiential marketing can have a wider purpose than just increased awareness or sales, Comfort donated all proceeds from the ticketed event to the Prince’s Trust, also ensuring a wide variety of causes would be able to benefit from the event.

Sonos’ ‘The brilliance of sound’

Speakers are a product that’s hard to market online, which is why Sonos chose an ‘IRL’ experience to promote its new integration with Google Assistant.

In order to show off the brilliance of Sonos sound, the brand created a three-day pop-up experience in New York this summer, complete with three different rooms for different artists.

The concept didn’t just involve blasting loud music. One room for artist Holly Horndon was designed to demonstrate the physics of sound, by matching sounds in time with light bulbs dangling from the ceiling. The other two rooms were designed to show both the structure and emotion of music. One involved different parts of a song being played from different speakers, and the other displayed digital data visualisations of visitors’ brain waves when listening to a song.

Overall, the aim was to give consumers a real sense of Sonos, while educating them about the transformative power of music in general. Simon Wainright, senior director of brand activation, told AdWeek that: “We want to show up physically… you really have to hear Sonos sometimes to really understand the beauty of it. So it’s important that we convey that brilliant sound in a physical experience.”

As well as using big name artists to generate interest, Sonos ensured that consumers would be left with a memorable experience, as well as a connection to the brand that couldn’t be achieved by listening via a pair of headphones in-store.

Three’s ‘Future of living’

Three is, somewhat aptly, the third mobile network to launch 5G in the UK (following on from EE and Vodafone earlier this year).

To mark the arrival of its 5G broadband offering, Three recently unveiled the “living room of the future”, which is an immersive experience inside its Oxford Street flagship store.

The aim of the activation is to help consumers understand 5G’s potential, and how the technology can revolutionise everyday life.

As a result, Three set out to create a tangible experience for consumers, complete with visual and audio elements. To do so, the brand uses Magic Leap’s mixed reality technology to allow visitors to experience meditation, gaming, and shopping in a variety of different ways – all activities that Three believes will be transformed by 5G. 

The ‘living room of the future’ also features a collaboration with designer Henry Holland, who helped to design the space (although this seems like a rather arbitrary element). The real value of the experience is in how it brings the concept of broadband to life, showing consumers exactly what 5G can do in a creative and immersive way. 

WWF’s elephant hologram

Okay, this is an October 2018 example, but recent enough. WWF (The World Wide Fund for Nature) works to help many important causes such as deforestation and plastic pollution. One of its perhaps lesser-known campaigns is to do with animal trafficking; particularly the plight of elephants who are still heavily targeted for their ivory.

In order to bring this issue to the forefront of the public’s mind, WWF launched an experiential campaign in 2018 that involved a hologram of a five-metre elephant roaming the streets of London. The idea was to confront passers-by with the reality that – while it’s unusual to see an elephant in London – the sight could also become a rarity in the animal’s natural habitat.

As well as the elephant, the campaign also included holograms of other endangered species including snow leopards and turtles, along with related facts about their plight. In the end, WWF succeeded in its aim to surpass the 100,000 signatures on the petition to stop wildlife crime, eventually recording 124,664 signatures.

The highly impactful campaign was successful in educating the public on an important (and forgotten-about) issue, as well as creating a visually arresting spectacle that people would be likely to share and discuss on social.

Experiential Marketing Best Practice Guide