How to Use Influencers in Experiential Marketing

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Consumers go hungry and brands starve when marketers serve stale campaigns in the creator economy. To stay fresh, brands need a dynamic strategy that satiates consumers with an experience they won’t soon forget. 

Experiential marketing immerses consumers in your brand and product. The most successful campaigns pique all five senses, leaving behind a memorable experience ripe with valuable earned media and user-generated content (UGC).

In this blog, we’ll explore all the benefits of experiential marketing, experiential marketing with influencers, how to integrate your content creators for an unforgettable experience, and examples of brands who got it right.

What is experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing provides consumers with an interactive experience that helps them better understand your brand, products, and what you stand for as a company. 

Traditional marketing regards consumers as passive receivers of a brand’s message. But effective experiential marketing involves consumers in a memorable encounter that helps build a deeper connection with your brand and encourages them to share that positive experience with others.

What are the benefits of experiential marketing?

Experience products in a new light.

Experiential marketing enables consumers to experience products from every angle. This is especially beneficial for DTC and ecommerce brands that live solely online. 

When planning an event, try to think of a way to appeal to each of the consumer’s senses:

  • Sight – Create a fun and vibrant atmosphere—the more “Instagrammable,” the better. 
  • Touch – Let consumers hold and try your product for themselves. If that isn’t possible, at least have something to pass out that your attendees can leave with. 
  • Smell – This is especially important for food brands. If possible, whip some product up fresh so attendees can smell your creative process. 
  • Taste – Even if you aren’t a food or beverage brand, having some type of tasty treat will create a more memorable experience at your event.  
  • Sound – If your product requires sound, make sure your guests get the optimal experience. If not, consider having some live music or at least a solid playlist to set the mood.   

Share your brand story.

Experiential marketing is the perfect way to tell consumers what you’re all about. What made you start the company? What are your values? What is your passion? Do whatever it takes to give consumers a peek behind the curtain and help them see you as an innovator and your brand as a movement.

“If you don’t have the right story and you don’t have the right values … if you don’t have any of that stuff, what are you going to communicate?”

— Josh Roush, Movetic CEO, from the GRIN Gets Real podcast

Generate solid leads.

Find ways to collect as many names and email addresses as possible leading up to your event. Once you compile a list of contacts who have expressed interest, you’ll have a solid list of prospects to retarget with ads after your event. 

And don’t forget to keep collecting contact information during your event. Think of it as a networking opportunity. You never know who you might meet or who might already be a huge fan of your brand. 

Collect earned media and UGC.

There will be plenty of chances to collect UGC if your event is a hit. But remember, you don’t just want to invite the “average” customer to your event. You’ll also want to consider reaching out to local news outlets and bloggers to let them know the what, where, when, and why. The more chances for people to create content around your event, the better!

A great excuse to throw a party!

Making sure everyone has a good time is the most important thing to consider when planning your event. Make sure to plan thoroughly, but it shouldn’t be a stressful process. Look at it as a great opportunity to bring like-minded individuals together for a good time. 

man watching fireworks after brand uses experiential marketing with influencers

What is the role of influencers in experiential marketing?

Influencers already know exactly what kind of experience their followers are looking for. And incorporating these creators into your experiential marketing strategy gives you an event planner, host, and salesperson all wrapped into one.

In many cases, those who attend your event are coming for the influencer more so than your brand or product release. And that’s OK! Brands who have planned for their event effectively should have no problem sitting back and letting their influencers be the center of attention. 

If you’ve educated your influencers on your brand and product leading up to the event, your creators will be able to educate and pitch it to their fans in their own way (just like they do on social media). 

How to create an experiential marketing campaign with content creators

Step 1: Set your goals. 

The first step of any influencer marketing campaign is developing a set of clear and attainable goals to dictate what “success” looks like at the end of your event. No matter the mission, setting specific goals creates purpose and streamlines the focus of your campaign. 

Some common objectives for experiential marketing events include:

  • Introduce a new product line.
  • Increase sales on specific products. 
  • Raise brand sentiment. 
  • Respond to a current event. 
  • Increase brand awareness for the company or product line. 
  • Create UGC.
  • Increase web traffic. 

Once you set your objectives, you’ll be able to establish a budget and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Step 2: Plan your event.

What kind of event do you plan to create? Will it be in person? Live-streamed? An online contest?

Once you decide, make sure everyone involved knows their role to ensure the event goes off without a hitch. That includes your employees, influencers, or anyone else who might have a hand in planning or executing the event. 

After you’ve delegated responsibilities to your team and influencers, start brainstorming hashtags, giveaways, or anything else that can help you promote the event.

Keep in mind, you should start planning at least a couple of months ahead of time so there are no surprises on the big day. 

Step 3: Collaborate with your current influencers. 

Start engaging your influencers in the planning process immediately, so they know you expect them to be key players throughout the process. 

Remember, your influencers know better than anyone how to craft meaningful experiences for their audience. Use that to your advantage and allow them to add creativity to the planning process and get their fans excited for the event. 

You might also consider selecting brand ambassadors from among your current team of influencers. Be sure to spell out each creator’s role in individual campaign briefs. 

Every creator should know:

  • Their role in the event.
  • The number and content of their posts before, during, and after the event.
  • The compensation structure.
  • The general spirit of the event and how they should reflect that spirit in their posts.
  • Their referral links and discount codes (if applicable).

Step 4: Recruit new influencers for the event. 

As you plan your event, you may realize you need additional influencers to help reach new audiences or who have experience executing the type of event you want to hold. 

Ask yourself the following questions before reaching out to new prospects:

  • Does this influencer align with my mission and values?
  • Do they consistently engage with their audience?
  • What will they add to my campaign?
  • Will they mesh well with my current influencers?
  • Are they easy to work with?

Ensure your prospects meet all of your criteria before inviting them onto the campaign. If an influencer is not the right fit for your specific goals, they could throw a wrench into the entire event-planning process. 

Step 5: Have a ‘soft opening’ (influencers only).

Before you open your event to the public, invite your influencers to attend a soft opening. Allow them to interact with products and participate in the activities you’ve planned for your customers.

Ideally, you should agree beforehand with all your influencers on how they should use their social media posts to interact with their audience during the soft opening event. You can use your influencers to generate buzz and initiate UGC even before your customers arrive on the scene.

After your soft opening, debrief your influencers and allow them to offer feedback on the event. They may be able to provide a few tweaks to enhance your experiential marketing campaign for consumers.

Step 6: Launch the experiential marketing event.

At this point, you should be able to watch your plans unfold while you monitor results. Ensure that you have personnel assigned to track social media traffic (check-ins, hashtags, tags, etc.). 

Casually check in with all your brand ambassadors to see if they need supplies or have questions. 

Even though your influencers are actively posting, you and your team members can still take pictures and videos of their own. In fact, publishing content from your owned media channels is a must. 

As customers win a contest, give them a shoutout on social media. You can also do the same for your influencers as they reach certain milestones.

Step 7: Repurpose content from the event. 

When establishing campaign agreements with your influencers, you should ensure that you have the rights to their posts. Doing so will allow you to repurpose content for ongoing social media and PPC marketing.

Not only is influencer-generated content more authentic, but it also costs you less than if you hired a design team to build ads for you. Additionally, you can extend the life of your influencer and experiential marketing by repurposing content from the live event.

5 experiential marketing with influencers examples from brands that got it right

1. The IKEA sleepover

In 2011, IKEA UK hosted a sleepover at its store in Essex for an event designed to educate people on how to get a good night’s sleep. Hosted by reality television star Sam Faiers, more than 100 contest winners attended the sleepover, complete with hot cocoa and a bedtime story. The event generated plenty of earned media opportunities for IKEA and spawned similar events worldwide.  

2. Netflix’s Little Italy takeover

Netflix completely remade a historic NYC neighborhood to help promote the release of The Irishman in 2019. The makeover included actors dressed as “wise guys” from the 1970s, phone booths that played clips from the film, and newspaper clippings featuring the infamous Jimmy Hoffa. 

3. The Tinder Swipe-off

An opportunity to win a concert from Cardi B on their college campus led to a 10% increase in Tinder activity during a 2019 experiential marketing campaign. Tinder has since created interactive booths staffed by brand ambassadors at live concerts and college campuses to demonstrate the app’s latest features and give tips for safely dating online.  

4. Sprite’s pop-up shower

Sprite gave Rio de Janeiro beachgoers a chance to experience life under the soda fountain during a pop-up event in 2012. The brand built a larger-than-life soda fountain complete with fully functional nozzles ready to douse anyone brave enough to stand underneath. The unique event attracted hordes of people and put Sprite at the center of everyone’s favorite story of the day. 

5. KFC x Jack Harlow

KFC signed Grammy-winning rapper Jack Harlow to a year-long partnership in 2021. The partnership kicked off with a food truck outside a Harlow concert in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Hip-hop and KFC fans can now order Harlow’s signature meals through the KFC app or in certain in-store locations around the country. 

Conclusion: Engage consumers and create social media-worthy experiences

At the end of the day, your customers want to be able to see a compelling story behind your products and services. Influencer marketing works because influencers know how to deliver this kind of storytelling. By offering your influencers an experiential marketing campaign event, you equip them to publicize an adventure that only your brand can provide to their audience.

Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101

Updated: June 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

Influencers most commonly use social media marketing to promote products to like-minded individuals. But brands can combine social media marketing with experiential marketing for a dynamic strategy that connects with consumers on a deeper level. 

The best way to connect with influencers in marketing is to send an email or DM to those who align with your mission and values and invite them to collaborate. Use these templates when you’ve identified the right influencers and are ready to reach out.  

Experiential marketing creates an experience for consumers to help them better get to know your brand, products, core values, and mission. The best experiential marketing campaigns stimulate all five senses and generate UGC and earned media. 

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Written by Quinn Schwartz

Quinn studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and now lives in Portland, Oregon. He’s particularly interested in storytelling in digital marketing and cost-effective creator strategies for smaller brands. When he’s not writing, you can find him at a concert, dog park, or debating whether or not to go on a run.

© Grin Technologies Inc. 2024. All rights reserved.

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