Experiential marketing—also known as engagement marketing, on-ground marketing or participation marketing—is a strategy to get attendees interacting directly with a brand, usually in an unconventional way.
Why should you adopt the concept? Because your organization is a brand. Plus, years of cookie-cutter sponsorship messaging and tired hosted-buyer dinners are making members think twice about attending events. Marketing specialist (and former reality TV star and MTV video jockey) Mandy Lauderdale has a way for planners to fix all that. She shared two case studies that prove the point.
1. Don’t be afraid to try something really out there.
At the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention & Exposition in Orlando in 2015, exhibitors from LiDestri Spirits hired Lauderdale to rethink their presence. “If you’ve ever been to an alcohol convention, [you know] exhibitors take the easy way out with ‘booth candy girls,’” Lauderdale says. “If you want to cut through the noise, you have to be more clever.”
Lauderdale took LiDestri’s tagline for Pink Limoncello (“When life gives you lemons, drink Pink”) and came up with two funny disasters women encounter: pets dying and botched weddings. “I held a cat funeral in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes connected to the convention center,” she says. The experiential marketing tactic came across like performance art and entertained attendees. “I’d wail and then pour some of the Pink Limoncello onto this little cat grave. The attendees would step out of long conference sessions and they’d be entertained.” Later, she drank out of the pink bottle while wearing a wedding dress in the hotel hallways. “Soon I had a pocketful of cards from people who wanted to hire me for their events.”
2. No budget? Scale down concepts.
For the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council conference in Atlanta last year, the owner of Belles Organics, a women-owned company, hired Lauderdale for a closing-night party the company sponsored for attendees. “I came in with a six-piece band and another singer, and we whipped together 17 songs with reworded lyrics about the challenges female business owners go through, especially moms,” says Lauderdale.
The owner liked the concept so much she wanted to take it on the road to more conventions. It was an expensive endeavor, so Lauderdale shrank it down to a single old-timey radio booth the owner dubbed Belle in a Box. “With a wireless speaker in the booth at my feet, I’d have my phone hanging from a hook and I’d cue 15-second instrumentals.” When attendees would come up to taste the drink, Lauderdale would open the curtains and sing a short song about Belles Organics’ cocktails. “If you can’t afford a big production, you can always scale the idea down and make it work,” notes Lauderdale.