Experiential Marketing: Creating a Lasting Impression

This article explains the importance of experiential marketing and uses examples and data to show how it helps brands improve.

The cover image of Antavo's experiential marketing article

If you asked any of your customers what their most memorable moment was while interacting with your brand, they would never say something like, “That time I swiped my credit card on the counter” or “Clicking on the checkout button for my online order was so memorable”. It’s never the transaction that stays in the customer’s mind, but an experience before or after a purchase, such as participating in an event campaign or winning sweepstakes. Experiential marketing is all about creating an impact in your customer’s minds that will stay with them far longer than any advertisement.positively recommend the brand to other

The Significance of Experiences in Marketing

From the beginning, children’s memories are shaped by experiences rather than simply being told information. Similarly, later in life as adults, customers will remember brands that they had an experience with, whether it was positive or negative. According to Forbes magazine, 50% of customers that had a positive brand experience reported that they would share their experience on social media. The notion of actively focusing on experiences is important in marketing. For example, a single positive experience with a brand may improve customer loyalty and their willingness to positively recommend the brand to others.

An image showing how LUSH does experiential marketing.
This bathroom-like setting is part of the interior of LUSH, the UK-born cosmetic retailer. The aromatic scent hits you the moment you enter the store (or even beforehand), and you can see, feel, or try the products in action before buying them — in this case, by washing your hands.

What Is the Experiential Marketing Definition?

The experiential marketing definition means a marketing strategy that engages customers and creates moments that will be remembered. It allows brands to differentiate themselves in a competitive market by providing their customers with unique experiences in which they are set up to feel a certain way while they shop. Experiential marketing is not limited to solely making a purchase, it extends beyond that. Moreover, the brand experience does not end once customers leave the store or log out from the website. It’s also made up of the times when the customer uses the product or reads marketing emails that remind the client of their experience and promote loyalty.

This type of marketing is experienced differently by each customer and the emotions that arise throughout the brand experience vary by person. Creating an emotional response raises the chances that the customer will want to return to the brand in the future. The importance of experiential marketing is on the rise, and companies are beginning to focus on personifying their brand. Creating an image and personality for customers to relate to is now a popular strategy to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty towards the brand. Generating good branding is a difficult task if you wish to do it faster than the natural growth period. However there are branding services available that we can follow and learn from.

An image showing how Bergzeit does experiential marketing.
Mountaineering product retailer Bergzeit has a loyalty program that features rewards for their customers who run certain distances. This allows customers to really experience the brand and develop an emotional connection.

How is Experiential Marketing Different From Traditional Marketing Strategies?

Traditionally, marketers have focused on advertising the functional aspects of their products and services to target the intellectual side of customers. On the other hand, experiential marketing’s meaning goes beyond targeting just the intellect and attempts to engage all the senses of customers. This creates an immersive and memorable experience that the customer is able to reflect on, and remember how they felt in the moment of engaging with the product.

This type of marketing targets customers on a more personal level than marketers previously have focused on. Another reason customer experience has taken on a larger role in marketing is because of the mass amounts of information that is now available through the internet. Brands can now be experienced with the click of a button which makes it even more important to differentiate themselves in order to stay at the forefront of their customers’ minds.

An image showing how Lululemon does experiential marketing.
During pride month, Lululemon used experiential marketing to create a captivating experience for their customers. Lululemon created an art installation with reflections from their employees in the LGBTQ+ community and hosted yoga classes nearby which raised money for The Trevor Project.

How to Make Your Brand More Memorable

In accordance with the Peak-End Rule, a brand that elicits an emotional response will help customers make a memory based on the emotional peak of that experience. Bernd H. Schmitt, who coined the phrase ‘experiential marketing’, conducted a study where he used a 12-item scale that had 15 brand personality items that the participants were asked to measure their satisfaction levels.

As the experimenters predicted, experience and brand personality affect both satisfaction and loyalty. Using experiential marketing has been proven to make brands more memorable and to increase future customer loyalty. The emotions that occur during an experience with a brand are much more likely to be engraved in the customer’s memory than pieces of information about the products and services.

An image showing how Dior does experiential marketing.
Dior celebrated the release of a new perfume by creating an immersive experience in which customers could come to the pop-up shop during New York Fashion Week. The space became a place for like-minded people to go and experience the brand while in a creative and memorable environment.

The Power of Customer Experiences

In an interview with Antavo’s Co-founder, Zsuzsa Kecsmar, Bernd Schmitt describes his thought process about the power of experiential marketing. According to him, customer experience is a powerful tool that companies can use to develop relationships with customers. Additionally, it is beneficial for brands to have unified touchpoints. Meaning that each time the customer comes into contact with the brand there needs to be consistency in the way the customer is approached and treated before, during, and after the transaction. Positive experiences between the brand and the customer are crucial in order to stay in customers’ minds after the buying process.

Schmitt’s focus on experiential marketing places customer experience as the focus when creating marketing campaigns. 

Let’s see how three of the most well-known brands leverage experiential marketing.

1. How Apple Has Improved Since Adopting Experiential Marketing Strategies

As the effectiveness of experiential marketing became more apparent, Apple decided to adopt these strategies by focusing on integrated customer experiences. The aim was to take their product, which was already effective, and elevate it into a real and interactive experience to boost customer loyalty.

An image showing how Apple does experiential marketing.
The appealing design of Apple store’s creates a customer experience that is both unique to Apple, and consistent across all Apple store locations. The big glass windows invite customers in where they are greeted by an employee and directed to the correct station for their needs.

From Customers to Advertisers

One of the benefits that Apple has observed since beginning its experiential marketing strategies is that its customers have begun to advocate for the brand throughout their daily life simply because they believe in it. This fosters even more brand loyalty and trust with their shoppers. Customers who are stimulated by the experience of shopping at Apple are more likely to return to the brand in the future.They have an emotional attachment to their Apple products. Furthermore, they enjoy the experience of being welcomed into the aesthetically pleasing store which compels the customer to want to come back in the future.

An image showing the genius bar Apple created to improve the shopping process.
In order to show how much Apple values the customer experience, they created the genius bar to further improve the efficiency of the shopping process.
Icon for the "Why it works" section of Antavo's article.

Why it works:

  • Apple’s focus on in-store experiences makes customers want to check out the retail location, which helps sales while also providing a more intense and memorable experience.
  • The aesthetic of each Apple store is consistent across all locations which helps customers feel confident that each time they visit the store it will meet their expectations.
  • Customers are able to build trust with Apple’s products quickly since they offer such reliable resources that are displayed clearly from the start of the customer’s experience with the brand.

2. Coca Cola’s Use Of Experiential Marketing

Coca Cola realized the power of experiential marketing and launched a campaign in which they began to swap out the Coca Cola’s brand name on the bottle with the customers’ name. This initiative of personalizing Coca Cola bottles further emphasized that the brand values their customers and shows that the name of customers is important to them. This campaign generated excitement and further proved that improving and personalizing customer experience is an effective way to boost your brands success. This allowed people around the world to #ShareaCoke with someone and engage in a meaningful experience with the brand.

Coca Cola's The #ShareaCoke campaig
The #ShareaCoke campaign allowed friends and family to be excited about purchasing a personalized bottle with the name on it of someone important to them which creates a positive experience with the brand.

The ‘Real Magic’ of The Customer Experience

Another way that Coca Cola has worked to make meaningful experiences for their customers is their ‘Real Magic’ campaign. This campaign launched in 2021 during Christmas time celebrates the magic of human connections. It plays on the emotions surrounding the holiday season and promotes the idea to their customers to focus on their relationships in order to experience the ‘real magic’ during the holiday season and beyond.

Coca Cola’s depiction of an entire community coming together to help the little boy feel the magic of Christmas offers valuable lessons to their customers and promotes the importance of the real-life experience of their customers. 
Icon for the "Why it works" section of Antavo's article.

Why it works:

  • Coca Cola is able to build trust with their customers by putting emphasis on valued experiences between their customers. This focus on building up community bonds fosters trust that causes customers to associate positive emotions with the brand.
  • Customers become excited when they are able to have a personalized and emotional experience which Coca Cola offers them throughout their various campaigns.
  • The marketing strategies Coca Cola uses are effective because they go beyond selling just a beverage, they are selling a beverage by associating it with happiness, community, and thoughtful exchanges between customers.

3. How Nike Stands Out With the Help of Experiential Marketing

In a market full of competing brands, Nike uses experiential marketing strategies to advertise their products in a unique way. Some examples of this are featured on the Nike Experiences page of their website. Nike goes beyond selling just athletic clothing and shoes, they aim to create a community that promotes a healthy lifestyle by athletic events. The Nike store in New York City, for example, is home to a basketball court, treadmills in front of a jumbotron, soccer trial area, touchscreen walls, and dedicated coaches on standby to help customers through their shopping experience.

An image showing how Nike does experiential marketing.
Nike’s store in New York City allows customers to test out their product in the store. Customers are able to experience running on the treadmill in the Nike sneakers which creates a memorable experience that will help Nike stand out even more. 

How Does Nike Maintain Customer Loyalty?

Nike combines an effective online rewards program that provides benefits for athletic and healthy lifestyle behaviors while also creating an experience in the store. Nike recently announced its new plan of “Consumer Direct Acceleration.” This new strategy involves a shift away from partnering with other brands and instead towards direct selling to consumers which they do by providing experiences directly to customers digitally and in person.

Icon for the "Why it works" section of Antavo's article.

Why it works:

  • The brand is focusing on being able to engage with their customers in a more interactive way and to reinforce the idea that Nike is the best option in sports apparel.
  • Thanks to their experiential marketing efforts the brand is able to increase their brand recommendations and spontaneous brand mentions significantly.
  • Nike goes out of their way to create unforgettable experiences that don’t get lost in the tsunami of marketing messages thrown at customers.

What Are the Next Steps to Use Experiential Marketing to Increase Loyalty?

Here are some examples how to do experiential marketing right.

  • Personalized communication: When a customer receives personalized advertisements from a brand they are more likely to feel valued and want to purchase more from the brand in the future.
  • Social retail: People are flooded with information throughout the day so it is important for brands to promote their product through different social media platforms in addition to traditional advertising methods.
  • Experiential rewards in marketing: It is important to motivate your customers with rewards to work towards so they feel motivated and appreciated for using the product.
  • Create a valuable experience: Effective valuable experiences allow the customer to leave the store or website having learned something new about themselves or the brand’s values that encourage future loyalty.
  • Evoke an emotional response: If you want your brand to be remembered it is crucial to understand your audience and elicit some kind of emotional response to foster an attachment between the customer and your brand that will last.

Enhance Your Customer Loyalty Using Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing allows customers to make valuable and memorable experiences with a brand which increases the likelihood of their future loyalty. This strategy encourages customers to foster lasting relationships with brands with more opportunities to become involved. Overall, experiential marketing is a strategic way to increase customer loyalty and brand advocacy.

Would you like to learn more about the effects of experiential marketing and experiential rewards on building customer loyalty? Our loyalty experts here at Antavo can help you with this. Send us an RFP or book a demo today and our team can help develop a plan.

And don’t forget to download Antavo’s Customer Loyalty Report, an in-depth report that showcases current and future industry trends to help you navigate the world of next-gen loyalty programs.

A banner recommending to download Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2024.
Headshot of Zsuzsa Kecsmar, Co-founder, CMO and Head of Partnerships at Antavo

Zsuzsa Kecsmar

Zsuzsa is the Chief Strategy Officer & Co-founder of Antavo. She has experienced Antavo grow from a startup into a scaleup. Listed by Forbes as one of Europe’s top 100 female founders in tech, Zsuzsa is a former journalist recognized by the European Commission.

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