1 September 2020

The blurred lines of ‘experiential marketing’

By Hannah Jones


If you were to google the definition of ‘experiential marketing’ or ‘brand experience’, you’d be confronted with pages of websites offering slightly different definitions. Why? Because when it comes to experiential marketing/ brand experience/engagement marketing/live marketing/marketing experience (you get the gist), there are no rules to define exactly what it should be.

With so much grey area, it’s inevitable that there would be some confusion around what constitutes a brand experience and what doesn’t. For example, whilst nearly every ‘Top 10 Brand Experiences’ list includes the famous Red Bull Stratos sky dive, many argue that this is in fact a stunt and not a brand experience as only Felix Baumgartner got to actually experience it first-hand. However, if thousands of people watched the jump live, is that not then an experience for those people too, all be it in a digital format? Do brand experiences always have to be physical?

I would argue that they don’t. In fact, online brand experiences have never been more relevant. As life is starting to resume in the ‘new normal’ way, live experiences are still largely off the agenda for the time being, so it’s crucial that brands don’t lose the connection with their customers at this time.

Web and social channels have played a vital part in amplifying experiential activations for many years, but it has now become a platform to host them. Whether it’s a virtual fashion show or a live cook-along, experiential marketers are having to push the boundaries and bring brand experiences into people’s homes (and onto their phones).

The popularity of platforms such as Zoom and Teams and the ease of live streaming to an audience via social media and YouTube means that whilst we can’t reach out and touch a product, we can still interact with it in different ways.

I am in no doubt that live brand activations will return – physical interaction with a product or brand is truly unique, BUT I don’t think that online events are going anywhere. Eventbrite reported in July 2020 that ‘online events remain consistently attended and, according to our surveys, attendees plan to continue attending online events even after restrictions have been lifted.’*

It’s another platform which can (and should) sit hand in hand with physical activity as we move into the future.

*Source: Eventbrite blog - The Attendee Experience: How People Are Attending Events Online. July 2020

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