Getting your audience’s attention as a marketer has never been more challenging. Marketing and advertising teams need to constantly look at developing new channels and ideas. Experiential campaigns are a great way to cut through the noise.
By connecting directly with customers, experiential marketing allows brands to not only establish awareness but build loyalty. People are more likely to buy from a brand they feel personally connected to.
Experiential has, traditionally, been primarily an offline channel used to build brand awareness. Now, campaigns are shifting to include richer online experiences, with purely offline experiences almost being the exception. Here are a few recent experiential ideas we’ve found particularly interesting.
1. Spreading Joy for Social Views: Netflix Holiday House
2022 marked the inaugural Netflix Holiday House event in Toronto. To promote some of their holiday-themed movies (like the much-anticipated Lohan “Hallmark” spoof, “Falling for Christmas”), Netflix launched the experience as an open-house free of charge, located at the picturesque and historic Campbell House.
The four-day event is geared toward guests of all ages. They’re invited to enter the festive and fun space where interactive and “instagrammable” moments await. The event also featured treats and crafts for both kids and adults. If this doesn’t entice you to watch some Netflix Christmas movies, nothing will.
2. Building a Narrative: Harry’s House
For his studio album, Harry’s House, singer Harry Styles – and his marketing team – designed a series of pop-ups that allowed fans to physically enter the space featured on the album art.
As the singles dropped, fans could engage with the music through the campaign website, furnishing their own virtual house with items “purchased” by listening on Spotify and liking the album’s songs through the streaming platform.
The interactive site used the themes and imagery from the album and tour, letting fans feel like part of the fun – all while selling merch and concert tickets.
Giving fans the opportunity to feel like guests in Harry’s house built and reinforced tremendous brand affinity (read: biggest-selling album and single of the year).
Photo Source: Columbia Records
3. Tasty Escapism: Stranger Things + Baskin Robbins
In Stranger Things season three, a few characters foray into the world of part-time summer employment – at “Scoops Ahoy”, a fictionalized version of Baskin Robbins.
In 2019, when the season aired, there were over 2,500 Baskin Robbins locations in the US. And before long, all the stores were changing their signs to “Scoops Ahoy” and showcasing a range of Stranger Things marketing material. Employees wore “Scoops Ahoy” shirts, and their tagline changed to: “Stranger Things Are Happening at Baskin Robbins”. The campaign also included interactive morse code labels and three temporary ice cream flavors: U.S.S. Butterscotch, Eleven’s Heaven, and Upside Down Praline.
The incredibly popular Netflix series attracts viewers of all ages. The campaign had over 5 million digital impressions, with Baskin-Robbins benefiting from a market share increase of 16% in their target demographic.
In 2022, Netflix continued the trend of bringing the “upside down” to real life. With “Stranger Things: The Experience”, fans could interact with the character of Dr. Brenner off-screen and get the actor’s autograph. The experience also allowed fans to interact with foods, sets, and elements from the fictional world.
4. Positive Self-Image: Dove’s Self-Love
Jumping on ESG trends is a good way to stay on people’s radars and feel good about your work. Dove has a long track record of promoting body positivity through feel-good campaigns.
Recently, Dove’s “Anti-Selfies” let consumers participate in the campaign through social media. The video campaign pushed the idea of posting a “reverse selfie”, free of alterations, filters, or makeup, to promote self-esteem on social media.
Anyone with a phone could virtually give themselves “the selfie talk”.
Using the trending topic of self-love, Dove let people experience its marketing concept rather than simply viewing it.
5. Taking Online Experiences Closer to Offline: Etsy Home
In-person shopping experiences like customers get going to Ikea engage our senses. For example, as you walk through Ikea, you can touch and use the items. The realistically staged spaces allow shoppers to experience what the couch, bed, or dresser will look and feel like when they unbox (and painstakingly build) it at home.
This type of experience is more challenging for platforms like Etsy, an online-only store.
Near the holiday shopping season, Etsy offers a similar (virtual) experiential shopping option. “The Etsy House” lets customers browse Etsy products in a virtual reality simulation of a cozy house, allowing you to see what the item might look like when styled in your own home. Shoppers can explore home goods and decor items in virtually-styled rooms and spaces.
6. Promoting Inclusion: Lululemon
To sell fashion, it starts with selling an idea and a lifestyle.
DEI-based campaigns are an important part of current marketing methods and successful campaigns. Lululemon has faced criticism for marketing to an affluent customer base positioned within a narrow socio-economic sphere.
Recent Lululemon campaigns, however, are working to integrate their leggings and activewear with inclusion trends. Lululemon’s Proud & Present campaign aimed to reach and build an inclusive audience by speaking to the LGBTQ+ community during Pride.
The campaign invited ambassadors to reflect on topics of pride and showcased these experiences as a live installation. It featured their stories installed opposite full-length mirrors, where visitors could literally reflect. And in the last few years, Lululemon has expanded its inclusion efforts to include extended sizing 14-20 in all new collections.
7. Jumping Into The Metaverse: Gucci and Wendys
There’s a way for everyone to enjoy luxury retail shopping – Through the world of VR.
In early 2022, we predicted a strong push toward the AR and VR trends.
Gucci launched “Gucci Town”, a metaverse-based virtual reality world where you can explore the history of the brand and interact through mini-games, virtual art exhibitions, and conversations with fellow Gucci Town explorers. And, of course, you can purchase Gucci clothing for your virtual avatar.
A similar direction was taken by the fast-food chain restaurant Wendy’s. Wendyverse used VR to give consumers an “experience beyond taste”. They can interact with the brand in their virtual world by walking behind the counter, chatting with friends, and playing games.
8. Finding Social Connection: KLM Take-Off Tips
After over a year of stay-home regulations, travelers were excited to get back to it. But back to cramped and chaotic airports? Not so much.
The KLM “Take-Off Tips” campaign placed booths in airports where travelers could interact with holograms of real people waiting at their destination airports. The idea was to connect with locals “face-to-face” and get vacation tips.
The branded campaign promoted KLM’s idea that the experience of travel doesn’t just start at the destination.
The Experience of Experiential Marketing
The marketing and advertising approach to experiential is shifting. From VR to the power of the senses, the reach of digital, work from home, and everything in between will push experiential campaigns to hybrid, if not online-only tactics.
While we will see plenty of brands focus on offline experiences first, the associated digital efforts will become more complex, with a richer range of touchpoints.
One thing is for sure – Covid has put us through a rapid digital transformation, and as in-person ramps up, we will see some fascinating multi-touch experiential campaigns in the next few years.