Engage Consumers with Live Events: They Will Pay More for Your Brand


“A most unusual gin” sprang to life in 1998 (although it was not available for purchase until 2000). Hendrick’s Gin immediately separated itself from the competition by garnishing G&Ts made with the libation of cucumber as opposed to the more traditional lime (the spirit uses cucumber and rose petals in the distillation process). The brand’s high price point was also different than most of its competition.

The brand immediately stood out due to its fun and slightly off approach to marketing featuring Monty Python-esque cartoons of Victorian-era people engaging with a number of oddities. Its marketing campaign also included several live events featuring hot air balloons, “Cucumber Curiositariums” (showcasing oddly shaped and extremely large cucumbers), and several activations on June 14, a.k.a. “World Cucumber Day.” Even though it is costly, Hendrick’s consistently ranks as one of the top ten best selling gins.


The brand’s latest experiential offerings were known as “Portals to the Peculiar.” The first to launch, “Lesley’s Launderette” (named for the brand’s master distiller, Lesley Gracie), featured what, at first, appeared to be a typical laundromat found in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London. After walking around the store, participants were encouraged to crawl into and then through a washing machine where they entered a surreal world, featuring fluffy clouds, people in Victorian clothing, flamingos in top hats, and fountains of gin (so, heaven, I guess). Also featured were miniature hot air balloons that ferried gin from the sky (yup, heaven).

The brand created two other “portal” experiences. The second was the “Hendrick’s Bank” in London Bridge, where guests entered the experience through an A.T.M. (Automated Transport to the Marvelous). The third offering was the “Not-so-normal-Newsstand” in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the entrance to the newsstand was actually an elevator that descended to the surreal experience.

“Hendrick’s became famous for amazing experiential activity and driving growth through word of mouth. It’s something that we felt that we maybe lost a little bit in the past couple of years, so, we went to (the creative agency) Space with the challenge of, how do we get our experiential mojo back?” James Taylor, the Senior Brand Manager for Hendrick’s Gin in the U.K., said in a Campaign article.

Hendrick’s has selected the perfect moment to jump back into experiential activations. Recent research from the accounting firm PWC found that consumers are willing to pay more if they receive an engaging experience regardless of industry. For example, consumers will spend as much as:

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Do not make the mistake of confusing “customer experience” for “customer service,” which is only part of the equation. Customer experience is the entire journey that a consumer has with a brand. Take the “Portals to the Peculiar” example. These activations complement the brand’s web presence and traditional marketing, all of which feature people in Victorian dresses surrounded by and engaging with complete wackiness. Would the “Portals to the Peculiar” activations have worked without those other touchpoints? Probably (they’re basically Meow Wolf with gin, which sounds awesome), but it is a significantly richer experience because the entire customer experience was synchronized and handled with care.

A study from Cornell found that people find experiences to be more psychologically rewarding than material purchases. The study found that the thrill of buying an item wears off pretty quickly. However, the entire journey of an experience is rewarding. People anticipate the buildup to the event, enjoy the event itself, and cherish the memories it helped create. The study examined people waiting in line and found that those waiting for an experience were better behaved and happier than those waiting to purchase a material good. The findings were that, because an experience is something that’s enjoyed communally, the wait is also perceived as a communal event as opposed to a purchase, which is something that people do just for themselves and makes the people in line their competition.

The findings in the Cornell study are also the driving principle behind the theory of “The Experience Economy.” Detailed in a Harvard Business Review article by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, this theory views “experiences” as distinct economic offerings, along with services, goods, and commodities. According to the article, “Commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable,” which makes “The Experience Economy” theory a natural economic progression.

“Today, organizations are disproportionally rewarded when they deliver a great experience, and they’re punished when they don’t. Not only does the market demand better experiences, but experiences have also become the new growth engine. In fact, experience management is the only sustainable competitive advantage in the experience economy,” Kelly Waldher, Executive Vice President at Qualtrics, said at the 2019 Brandweek summit (the complete video of his talk is available at AdWeek).

The fact that 71.5 percent of the people in the U.S. (and 45 percent worldwide) walk around with a supercomputer in their possession means that it is extremely easy for consumers to bargain hunt for better prices. Every brand associate is familiar with the scenario where they spend a significant amount of time explaining the features of a product or service to a consumer, only to have that person step away, spend a few minutes on their phone, and then leave without making a purchase.


However, if that conversation occurred at an experiential activation, a pop-up shop at a concert, or even in a semi-private area where the consumer was made to feel special, there is a significantly higher possibility of that sale closing. The PWC study found that the majority of consumers will not spend more money on a new or premium product unless their experience expectations are met first.

Live experiences help brands make a connection with their customers. It’s the type of connection that can build true brand loyalty because it helps consumers gain a complete understanding of a brand’s products and services. The ultimate goal of marketing is to encourage consumers to complete a purchase. To do so, they must first understand what you are selling.

With a live activation, consumers engage with your product, often in new and memorable ways. Returning to the Hendrick’s example, as visitors walked amongst the top-hatted birds and streams of gin, they also saw cucumbers and roses spread throughout the activation. Every visitor was shrewdly being made aware of what makes Hendrick’s unique. So, in addition to sampling the product, they were also being educated about it.

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Live events are also extremely memorable. Our memories are inexorably tied to our emotions. Maya Angelou, one of our best contemporary writers, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That’s because emotions highlight specific aspects of an event to make them more memorable. So, if you can elicit a positive emotion in someone through a live event, they are going to remember the event, your brand, and the positive connotation they have between the two.  

As Waldher said in his Brandweek lecture, “If you’re not competing on experience, you’re actually in a race to the bottom.” For help creating an experiential campaign that will captivate consumers and boost your brand, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.

Disclaimer: We’re fans of all the innovative and interesting venues, events and activations that occur across the world, and we like to keep our readers informed as well. This post features a project that was not ours. We applaud their work, and do not wish to appear to take credit.