Experiential Marketing Brings Live Events to Life


It’s not just that consumers are harder to reach than in the past, although they are.

Today’s consumer pays a premium to avoid commercials while streaming content, uses ad blocking software when online, and gathers a majority of their news online and through social media.

But it’s not just that.

It’s that “experiences” have taken over as our primary social motivator. For example, a recent article looked at the woeful state of retirement planning for most Americans. It stated that one-quarter of millennials and nearly half of Gen Xers have no retirement savings account. Obviously, for some people there are financial reasons for this, but it is also possible that societal reasons also play a role.

It is well established that the majority of millennials (78 percent) say they would rather spend money on a desired event or experience instead of buying something tangible. This is backed up by the fact that 55 percent of millennials are spending more on live experiences and events than ever before. In fact, 82 percent of millennials participated in several live experiences in the past year, ranging from concerts, festivals, parties, performing arts, and sporting events – and the majority of them (72 percent) would like to increase their spending on experiences.

It is possible that consumers are experiencing instead of saving because the future seems so nebulous now – that consumers are all looking over their shoulders for the next 2008, which makes a concert, or show, or experience now much more valuable than a 401k.

While the reasoning may be speculation, the fact is that the best way (often the only way) to reach today’s consumers is through an activation. Brands have to go where the consumers are because passively waiting for them to come to you is no longer effective.

“Live events have always been an important part of our strategy because, for us, it’s a way to really engage consumers in a very unique and interactive way,” Gail Conroy, Senior Director-LG Home Appliances Marketing, was quoted in an Event Marketer article. “It’s a way for people to be able to engage with our products within their different passion points. When people are experiencing our brand in a scenario where they’re enjoying themselves and doing something they love, it creates a great brand association.”

By providing consumers with experiences, brands are forging a deeper connection with them. The vast majority of consumers are not opposed to brands (the label is “consumers,” after all). People simply want to meet these brands on their terms as opposed to terms defined by the brands.

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That is what experiential marketing and live activations deliver. It engages with consumers as opposed to selling at them and meets them where they are: concerts, events, trade shows, sporting events, and more. It immerses consumers in ways that activate their senses and helps them experience a brand in new and unexpected ways. Experiential not only builds connections, it creates memories. This is how experiential marketing helps to build brand loyalty.

“Experiences really allow consumers to interact with a brand in a very personal and memorable way,” said Meredith Suffron, Director of Marketing at Werther’s Original. “It also can, from a business-building perspective, drive mass awareness around not only the experience but also the online coverage and the media coverage we were able to get and drive really strong brand affinity because of this experience that they’ve had.”

Another benefit of experiential activations is that they are made to be shared on social media – in fact, most come with predetermined photo ops. The shareable nature of these events benefits both the participant and the brand. A consumer is able to post pics across his or her social media platform of choice, and the brand reaps the free publicity.

Experiential Examples

Experiential marketing and live events go hand in hand. Perhaps the best example of this can be found every year at SXSW. This annual music/film/whatever festival attracts brands that attempt to outdo one another with their activations.

2014 – 3D Printed Oreos

Making use of an emerging technology (3D printing had been around for decades, but it had only recently achieved mainstream awareness), Oreo managed to turn a universally beloved item into a personal experience.

Using a modified 3D printer that included 16 nozzles – four for wafers and 12 for different flavored creams – Oreo gave attendees the chance to create a personal cookie. While the wafer options were fairly traditional – chocolate, vanilla, or one of each – the fillings were where these cookies could veer wildly from the traditional Oreo. Some of the 12 options included banana, orange, mint, lime, and birthday cake.


Photo Credit: Brit + Co

Participants selected their flavors based on topics and hashtags that were trending on Twitter. For example, the #SXSW cookie was a swirl of orange and white cream sandwiched between a chocolate and vanilla wafer. Attendees could watch as their creation came together, including the intricate swirls of the filling, through the printers many windows.

The initial attraction of this installation was the combination of high tech and old-school comfort (yes, these cookies are all produced by machinery, but that happens behind the scenes). With this 3D printer, attendees could watch their creation come to life and walk away with a unique Oreo that was all their own.

2016 – The Budweiser Beer Garage

Budweiser will always have dedicated fans. However, the brand has been losing ground as the craft beer movement ramped up across the nation.

So, at the 2016 SXSW, the brand wanted to remind attendees why its slogan is “the king of beers.”

The Budweiser Beer Garage was held in a large, hanger-like space that featured photo opportunities, video walls, and a self-serve draft beer area that was not monitored by bouncers but by technology. A card had to be swiped or a QR code scanned to prove the visitor was of age before the tap would function.

The highlight of the activation was a 4D virtual tour of Budweiser’s brewing plant. Visitors utilized virtual reality to “walk” through the brewery. While many activations would stop there, the Budweiser Beer Garage made the experience more immersive by blowing ice-cold air when visitors neared the refrigerator, cranking up the heat as the tour hit the boiler room, and holding a jar of hops under attendees’ noses when exploring the hops room.


Photo Credit: Ironwood Hall

2017 – The Gatorade Combine

Utilizing technology by Xbox Kinect and Sparta Science, Gatorade created an activation that challenged the athletic prowess of its attendees. The Gatorade Combine put attendees through the paces with flexibility challenges, reflex tests, and jump stations.

The tech analyzed a person’s movements and provided them with incredibly accurate results and a wealth of data they could use to improve their workout routines, giving attendees an entertaining experience and a valuable takeaway.

2019 – ADP and Wired’s “Breaking Barriers”

Tackling the issues of workplace inequality, HR technology company ADP and Wired teamed up to provide attendees an opportunity to overcome barriers – literally. After donning protective clothing (goggles, helmets, etc.), visitors could choose which issue they wanted to break through: the glass ceiling, outdated technology, wage inequality, or work-life balance.

Next, they were given a sledgehammer and sent into the “break room” where they could take out their frustration on real-world representations of these issues: glass panes, outdated desktop computers, piggy banks, and clocks labeled “work.”

Interested in creating the perfect engagement for your crowd? For ideas and thoughts about incorporating experiential marketing in your live events, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.