Experiential campaign enlightenment for startups

For any business, marketing is essential. For start-ups, many prioritize digital, as the nature of the platforms offers a democratization of access to an audience. Digital marketing can put an emerging brand on the same playing field as larger brands. It is essential for expanding a company’s brand awareness and driving sales, however there is a Catch 22.

Digital is crowded, so often start-ups experience frustration in figuring out ways to be seen in a way that is relevant, eye-catching, and economical. Enter experiential campaigns.

Why experiential campaigns can take startups to the next level

While many businesses rely on content marketing, retargeting and traditional online ad or email campaigns, those generally only take a company so far. To expedite brand awareness, emerging brands need to go a step further to be memorable. Experiential marketing provides startups and emerging brands with the opportunity to speak directly to consumers, one-on-one. These events give the company a physical presence, which inspires 98% of consumers to be more inclined to purchase from the brand. In fact, 80% of marketers now consider brand activation critical to success. For a new brand, embracing experiential at the onset has been shown to kickstart growth.

Yet, many startup brands believe that without access to a large budget, experiential is out of reach. That could not be farther from the truth.

Even if your resources are limited, you will benefit from an in-person approach. With decades of experience, our activation gurus have studied experiential so much that it has become an ethos. Here we put together 5 key tenets of the brand experience mantra that will help emerging brands execute experiential campaigns that are effective, engaging, and easy on the budget.

Tenet 1: The wise brand need not exist in all places, just the right ones

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not essential (or sometimes productive) to be everywhere – it’s being in the right places that counts. When choosing a location, go where your target audience is, or where you have the best opportunities for product distribution. Strategize based on scale; your brand activation may get lost amongst the big guns at Coachella, but a smaller niche festival could be a better opportunity for you to build relationships with a more targeted audience.

Another great trick is developing a workplace marketing strategy as another method to reach captive audiences. Morsel Snacks brings emerging CPG brands into office environments, where coworkers sample products and receive exclusive discounts. Morsel incorporates ongoing engagement campaigns and gathers feedback from participating companies to help startups improve their products and win new customers.

Targeted experiential campaigns are the best ways to engage with consumers.

Tenet 2:  Harness the power of human connection

Brand ambassadors, those who represent your brand at an event, have tremendous sway when it comes to impacting consumer decisions. In the case of brand activation, people are one of your biggest assets. Brand ambassadors must genuinely care about the brand, understand consumer pain points and speak directly to them. They should be enthusiastic, genuine, and have experience in experiential.

Every brand representative must be well-trained, both on brand messaging and consumer relations. A warm body behind a table with a script won’t cut it. By investing in people that personify the brand and demonstrate its values, startups can best communicate their value proposition by using experiential campaigns to show, not just tell.

Tenet 3: Experiential campaigns have everlasting life through amplification

When a small brand invests any amount into a marketing strategy, they need to get the most bang out of their buck. When it comes to experiential campaigns, you must ensure your activation is not one-and-done. The key to continuing a relationship with attendees and reaching a larger audience beyond the event footprint is to incorporate an amplification element. Amplification “is the concept of taking a positive action such as a purchase or positive review and then sharing it far and wide across networks.” The positive actions that take place during experiential can be used to win customers that didn’t even attend the event and keep in touch with those that did.

Amplification elements can include on-site branded apps, photo ops, video testimonial booths, social media contests, and more. By aligning your brand activation with an activity that naturally pushes the experiential interaction online, your event can become a content-creating, word-of-mouth advertising goldmine.


Tenet 4. Seek partnerships to reach experiential marketing enlightenment

Establishing corporate partnerships will add strategic benefits to experiential campaigns. Consider all stakeholders at your disposal, including retail partners, distribution partners, non-competitive/complementary businesses, charitable organizations and more.

A few examples: first, commence brands can identify retail partners to expand their reach and capitalize on their existing consumer base. These experiential activations can take place in-store or in partnership at other locations. Or, startups can collaborate with other popular brands to execute mutually-beneficial campaigns. Dating app Tinder is notorious for this type of marketing approach, famously at South By Southwest, where the app matched male participants with Ava, a girl who turned out to be the robot from film Ex Machina. For emerging brands on a budget, not only does this tactic get attention, but both creative resources and campaign costs are split between the participating brands, resulting in a killer program at a discount.

Tenet 5: Relevance and localization are the keys to the kingdom

Marketing campaigns are often designed on a broad scale, so for startups new to experiential, it’s important to understand the need for localization. Not all messaging will resonate across state lines, or even city to city. For each target, consider local attitudes and experiences to tweak your approach. You will need to ensure that the following resonate per market:

  • Brand ambassador profile
  • Messaging/tone
  • Consumer lifestyle nuances (i.e. “where they play”)
  • Local city / consumer points of pride (e.g. Texas BBQ, healthy eating/living in CA, etc.)
  • Retail landscape

As you execute more activations, continue to learn from past events and hone your approach in each market accordingly. Ensure you are always gathering and analyzing attendee data, then adjust your strategy based on offer redemptions, participation rates, consumer feedback and more.

Conclusion: final words of wisdom

Every startup has different challenges and goals, but using experiential marketing to create authentic, meaningful, and memorable moments with your audience is achievable regardless of your budget. Follow the tenets above to ensure your brand reaches enlightenment when embarking on the experiential journey. Namaste.