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Pros and Cons of Experiential vs Digital Marketing

What's the difference between experiential marketing campaigns and more traditional digital marketing campaigns? VisualFizz can help break it down.

How is Experiential Marketing Different Than Digital Marketing?
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Is Experiential Different Than Digital?

At VisualFizz, you’ll often hear us talk about “Experiential” marketing as it relates to Digital Marketing. We know that slightly confused, quizzical look that creeps on your face as you have the thought “ok cool but what’s the difference between digital marketing and experiential marketing?”. Don’t worry, we can explain.

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Experiential Marketing and Digital Marketing certainly are related, and their metaphoric Venn diagrams overlap quite a bit. Experiential marketing is not, however, synonymous with digital, and the two strategies are unique in many ways. While nearly all businesses can profit positively from some sort of branding and/or digital marketing strategy, not all businesses are ready to dive head first into a full-blown experiential campaign.

By understanding the benefits and potential negatives that experiential marketing campaigns can cause, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can apply these concepts to your business.


The Pros Of Experiential Marketing

By understanding the benefits and potential negatives that experiential marketing campaigns can cause, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can apply these concepts to your business. Here are a few benefits to get you started:

Benefit of Experiential Marketing #1: Consumers Connect Sentiment With Your Brand Through Real Experiences

Unlike traditional marketing methods, experiential marketing allows consumers to directly interact with and experience a brand. Rather than simply watching a commercial or an online ad, direct interaction with a brand allows audiences to better put a “face to the name”, often referred to as ‘Brand Recognition”.

By creating an experience that plays on multiple human senses, experiential marketing envelopes consumers in the campaign itself. Depending on the product or service, consumers might use their tactile sense of touch to feel the quality or a product.

Brands can engage multiple senses at once to reinforce this envelopment by pairing their crafted experiences with visual or/and auditory stimuli, such as the setting of the event and/or music being played.


The takeaway: help your audience to feel positive emotions and make positive memories, so that your consumers will associate those positive feelings with your brand, now and in the future.


Benefit of Experiential Marketing #2: Brands Get Direct Interaction with Their Audiences

From the brand perspective, you gain the invaluable opportunity to personally interact with consumers and potential clients. This is a powerful chance to give the audience a genuine, “behind the scenes” look at what your company is all about.

Communicate the brand’s goals and values so that consumers can better understand and even relate to them. Now more than ever, the consumer market rewards brands that the public can feel connected with rather than feeling bombarded by outdated and interruptive marketing methods.


The takeaway: brands who create a dialogue with the customers make better connections.


Benefit of Experiential Marketing #3: Brands Can Run Cost-Effective, Targeted Campaigns 

While complete experiential marketing campaigns can look costly on an invoice, the true value of making emotional connections with your audience is found in the return on your experiential investment.

Digital marketing and Experiential marketing are similar in that they can be used to target a large, broad demographic or a small, niche one. They differ, however, in the targeting methods used to identify what counts as a ‘qualified’ consumer. Experiential marketing is often far more ROI-positive than digital marketing, due to its ability to identify and target an audience that has already expressed an interest in the brand or the product/service. This pre-existing, emotionally-backed interest that connects your audience members translates to higher conversion rates and a more valuable lifetime customer value.

Additionally, a great experiential event is a wealth of media for future social media campaigns and marketing. It’s a smart idea to hire at least one photographer for your event, capturing the fun and emotions that your audiences are feeling. 


The takeaway: A great, positive experiential campaign can supplement digital and not break the bank. 


Benefit of Experiential Marketing #4: Eliminate “Ad Blindness” and Gain Influencers

In a study by ORC International and Mirriad, 76% of surveyed adults reported blocking ads online and skipping traditional TV ads. As previously mentioned, traditional marketing techniques are becoming less and less effective, which leads to a continually decreasing ROI. This is what is known as ‘ad blindness’ – when a consumer (consciously or subconsciously) completely tunes out an ad’s message to the point where they do not recall it in anyway.

Experiential marketing completely sidesteps the dilemma of ad blindness by collecting an interested audience and using the interactive and experience-based approach over less-effective, more disruptive methods. The key word here is ‘interested’; the chances of consumers being annoyed or even angry at a brand are much less when consumers don’t feel disrupted or invaded.


The takeaway: Today’s social environment drives consumers to share their experiences online, and consumers want to tell their inner circles and trusted connections about positive experiences. ‘Word of mouth’ referrals, reviews, and recommendations are much more valuable than even the most targeted ad campaigns.
Make your audience happy on a deeply emotional level, and you’ll be rewarded with an audience that cannot stop raving about your brand on their social and in their personal relationships.


Benefit of Experiential Marketing #5: Learn About Your Audience on a Deeper Level

Through experiential marketing and with an effective means for measuring event success, brands are able to learn about their target audience in ways that traditional marketing simply can’t. By learning and connecting with consumers emotionally, brands are able to further target and optimize future experiential and marketing campaigns for an ever-improving ROI.

This valuable, informational data about a target audience does not only support further experiential marketing. All types of marketing strategies can be supplemented by the learnings discovered through experiential. Data-driven campaigns lead by experienced marketers have a much higher chance of exceeding ROI goals. As consumers’ preferences continue to evolve and shift with the advancements of technology, so too must the way brands communicate with consumers. Access to and an understanding of emotionally charged consumer data gives companies the ability to connect with customers like never before.


The takeaway: There’s a lot to be learned about your audience. Take the time to get to know them on emotional levels, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded with deeper insights that you can use in other marketing campaigns. 


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The Cons Of Experiential Marketing

You know how this works – no ‘pros’ list would be complete without a ‘cons’ list, and no marketing tactic is guaranteed to be effective. It’s important to understand the areas where an Experiential Campaign can fall short, so that you can effectively apply these learnings to their ongoing experiential campaigns.

Risk of Experiential Marketing #1: Brands Risk Failing to Meet Expectations 

“You can’t please everybody.” – Life

But really. And not living up to the hype that’s been built up sucks for brands as much as it sucks for individuals.

There are a number of reasons why your audience might be unsatisfied with their branded experience. The most common pitfall, as it is so many times in this thing we call life, is expectations.

Is it possible that based on your promotion of your branded experience, your audience might have expected a different setup or event altogether? Did you promote your brand/your event in such a way that would mislead your audience into expecting something you did not deliver on?

This happens often, and the same ‘brand annoyance’ we’ll call it, is present. We previously discussed how invasive ads can actually have an extremely negative effect; if a commercial leaves a viewer feeling like their time has been wasted, that negative emotion will not become associated with the brand tied to the ad.

Likewise, if your audience feels as though you’ve wasted their time at a brand activation or experiential event, they will associate that annoyed, negative emotion with your brand.

Secondly but just as commonly, an audience of consumers could fully support a brand, its mission, and what is stands for, but could end up being dissatisfied with their experience simply because the brand is inexperienced and put together an experiential event without really giving it the strategic planning and emotional analysis that’s necessary for a successful event. We get it, everything has a learning curve, and brands often do a better job on their 3rd or 4th activation than they did on their first, but “just winging it” often leads to wasted marketing spend and lasting, negative brand impressions that you may never have a chance to correct.


Takeaway: Market your event with reasonable expectations about what you’ll be able to do with your budget, timeframe, and support. Don’t overpromise and under perform. 


Risk of Experiential Marketing #2: Experiential’s Direct ROI is Difficult to Measure

Due to their nature and the variables that can factor into them, experiential marketing campaigns are innately difficult to measure. While this type of marketing strategy is great for reaching a targeted audience and exposing them to your brand, actually measuring this inflow of audience data and user information in a quantifiable way can get pretty tricky. Since attitudes towards brands are so driven by emotions, measuring these emotions and how they relate to an overall ROI is especially difficult.

Limited data visibility and measurable ROI only gives brands a part of the full picture. That’s not to say there aren’t methods with which you can improve your audience data collection – even a standard Google Analytics integration can give you some visibility and data you need to make fairly informed decisions. Using accurate data to make informed decisions, rather than going with your ‘gut feeling’ or half-formed idea, just makes good business sense. However, most brands cannot afford to engage in the expert-level data collection that is necessary for the accuracy and precision that marketers and businesses can feel confident in. Marketers and businesses absolutely need to learn about their audiences and consumers, but must do so in a way that doesn’t cause their ROI to plummet if their budget is less than $50 million a year.

The Takeaway: Don’t limit your focus to only a direct, 1:1 ROI. Experiential events support longterm branding power and keep your brand in front of new, fresh customers. Just as with digital or any other type of marketing, not all will be successful, but all will be insightful. 

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