Audience raises hands at concert

In the age of the experience economy, it’s become more important than ever to tell your story through action.  A 2014 Eventbrite survey found that since 1987, the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending has increased 70%.  An experiential approach to promotion provides brands with an opportunity for creative storytelling and immersive marketing, all while allowing customers to get out and experience a brand’s personality and values for themselves.  It’s a win-win situation – participants walk away with an event to talk about, share, and reflect on (and a nascent association of a good experience with a brand), while the organizations behind each event gain customers and visibility.

But what does it mean to do experiential marketing?  Who’s on the cutting edge, and how did they get there?  Here, we explore 5 top trends in the industry.  Whether you’re new to these tactics or old-hat at experiential marketing, read on to find out how your events shape up against competitors:   

Local Events Are the Place to Be

Economies and customers have long been fans of local events, whether that’s a sale at the nearest mom-and-pop store or a pop-up event from a big brand that takes place in the closest town. With the roll-out of Google’s Pigeon update in 2014, the internet is also taking notice.  Want to increase your SERP rankings?  Local events are a great way to make that happen.  With Google’s hyperlocal algorithm focus, events pages with neighborhood-specific keywords and citations stand a better chance of making it to the top of the search results.  Why?  Your customers want you to be where they already are…and Google is now willing to listen.  Rolling out experiential marketing in your local community is a great way to build goodwill and SERP prowess at the same time.

Real-Life Experiences Take the Cake

Much of experiential marketing to this point has been about creating a content experience for customers to revel in and the brand to use in future marketing.  Take the Red Bull Stratos Jump, where the aforementioned energy drink partnered with daredevil Felix Baumgartner to break a 52-year old record for highest parachute jump, all while streaming live to over 8 million fans across the world.  The stunt was a marketing success, and certainly an “event” in and of itself, but not one that customers could participate in outside of their browsers.  That’s all changing – more and more, brands are working in tandem with their clients and prospective clients to create events that place the customer at the center of the action.  Experiential marketing is getting back to its roots, connecting customers offline with brand activity in a brick-and-mortar setting.  

Online and Offline Work Together

Just because events are taking place offline, however, doesn’t mean that there’s not a place for online activity in these events.  Brands and organizations are increasingly turning to online marketing – via social, marketing automation, calendar software, and the like – to get the message out about their real-life opportunities.  In 2016, there’s no getting around the fact that audiences are already online; it’s time to meet them where they are, and online marketing of offline events is a tactic that smart brands are already employing.  

Event Apps Make for a Seamless Experience

Your customers aren’t just online, however – they’re also increasingly present on their smartphones.  When talking about meeting customers where they already are, the launch of an event-specific mobile app just makes natural sense.  Gone are the days of multi-page printed event programs; attendees want to be able to pull out their phones, check the schedules and speaker lists, and move on with their day.  With the right UX, apps also provide the opportunity for pre- and post-event networking for visitors…and pre- and post-event marketing for brands!  Make your event a holistic digital experience by marketing online and creating an event-specific app to help attendees navigate with ease.

Virtual Reality Takes the Digital and Makes it Real

With the launch of augmented reality games like Pokemon Go and Ingress, the general public is becoming accustomed to the lines blurring between “virtual” and “reality.”  Brands, too, are taking notice.  Already, The New York Times and non-profit Pencils of Promise are incorporating virtual reality headsets into the real-life events, letting digital reality get the message across in a way that simple prose marketing cannot.  As experiential marketing grows and matures, look for other brands to do the same.  If you can speak to your client base on social, engage with them in real life at an event, and then share your mission virtually by dropping them right in the middle of it via virtual reality, you’ll hit the marketing trifecta and customers will be likely to remember your brand long after an event has ended.

How are you tackling experiential marketing for your organization? Do these trends ring true? Let us know in the comments and find out more about how Localist can help you increase attendance and awareness of your own events by starting a free trial today.