There are numerous examples of marketing campaigns that seem, at first glance, to have precious little to do with the brand itself. These range from a gorilla playing the drums to advertise chocolate bars, to covering a train staircase with working piano keys to encourage passersby to walk, rather than use the escalator.

What A Feeling

After interacting with these campaigns, what remains? It’s undoubtedly a feeling of shared experience and connection, and this is the kind of advertising that brands should strive for. In a world where consumers are red hot with identifying ads that don’t serve a purpose or work solely to promote the brand itself, we should be looking into how we can harness experiential campaigns as a key marketing tactic.

Creating feelings

VW’s brilliant piano staircase was linked to the ‘fun theory’ – the idea being that people are more likely to change their behaviour if you make the change a fun thing to do. At the heart of this campaign was VW’s shift to using increasingly eco-friendly vehicles, so it had a purposeful message behind it that was also undoubtedly going to resonate with audiences. In a similar vein, we think back to Ikea’s vertical flatpack climbing wall from 2014 – another experiential campaign in which people could share memories and interaction whilst interacting with a brand.

Brands that invest resources into giving their consumers a powerful engaging experience, as opposed to spending money on a digital ad that will be scrolled past within 3 seconds, are the ones who will be successful.

The emotion evoked by the Cadbury’s gorilla, on the other hand, which has been voted the most popular UK advert ever, could probably best be described as bafflement and, most vitally, a simple inability to stop watching. In both cases (and many others) the courage to deliver such unusual ideas was built on the foundation of the brand knowing exactly what they represent, to themselves and to customers – whether it be Cadbury’s ability to make tasty chocolate, or VW’s engineer efficient, reliable vehicles.  

Campaigns of this kind illustrate the emphasis which needs to be placed on shaping the conception of your brand through experiences rather than ‘marketing’. Customers, whether your business is B2B or B2C, are bombarded with digital marketing messages every hour of the day, and experiential marketing offers a way to cut through this noise and forge meaningful connections. 

If the experiences in question are designed to speak directly to your customers and to address the concerns they are addressing in their own lives, then they will do more than any other kind of marketing to reinforce brand values and a sense of authenticity.     

Another famous experiential campaign we hark back to illustrates the potential of this kind of marketing; Lean Cuisine ‘Weigh This’ campaign took place in New York in 2016. The brand based themselves in Grand Central Station and asked passing women to ‘weigh in’ with how they’d prefer to be measured, and this encouraged their female audience to list how they wished to be valued, rather than with the crude metric of their weight. By focusing on this rather than the product itself, Lean Cuisine managed to establish a connection with their customers in a way that formed a genuine partnership between brand and consumer.  

Experiential marketing helps to create a community by forging shared moments that blur or erase the line between customer and brand, something which is particularly valuable for digital brands which lack the traditional focus of a physical space in which to connect to customers. Experiential marketing for a brand of this kind can create a temporary space in which customers and brands can come together.