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How to Use Influencers in Experiential Marketing

A gathering of individuals enjoying coffee at a festive holiday gathering.

In 2018, The New York Times declared “dangerous days for advertisers.” There is too much noise, and consumers can shut it out with ease. 

As a result, traditional marketing costs are increasing as impressions are harder to come by. Now that it’s 2020, and marketing trends are digital, traditional advertising has even more competition for consumers’ attention.

For this reason, experiential marketing tactics are on the rise. And further energizing these experiential campaigns are social media influencers. 

What is Experiential Marketing?

In short, experiential marketing is surrounding consumers with a brand-sponsored experience. Brands invite consumers into no-strings-attached, active multi-sensory experience experiential marketing events.

Sometimes the experience ties directly to the brand’s product or services. In one such example, Tinder creates interactive booths staffed by brand ambassadors at live concerts and college campuses. Ambassadors demonstrate Tinder’s latest social features, as well as tips for dating online safely.

Other times, the experience enhances the consumer’s understanding of a particular lifestyle relevant to the brand’s products or services. 

For mob film enthusiasts, Netflix turned back the clock in Little Italy to show consumers what life was like in the 1970s around the time of Jimmy Hoffa’s abduction. Netflix created this event to generate excitement over its motion picture release, The Irishman. 

influencers and experiential marketing netflix and the irishman

Image via Instagram 

Importance of Experiential Marketing in 2020

Experiential marketing breaks through the “noise” of advertising by way of a branded team-building exercise. The experiential approach nourishes relationships among consumers. Additionally, this approach raises trust between brand and consumer as the consumer recognizes the brand’s role in creating a meaningful experience for them and others.  

In an age of social media and digital immersion, experiential marketing asks consumers to engage all their senses – not just their eyes and thumbs. The brand delivers value by way of a full-body experience over clicks and mere information.

Not only do consumers enjoy the event onsite, they begin filling their own news feeds with social media-worthy experiences. But what if those posting were influencers curating engaged audiences in the thousands?

influencers and experiential marketing influencers at coachella revolve brand event

Image via Instagram

Experiential Marketing and Influencers

If you are like many of the brands catching on to the benefits of experiential and influencer marketing, you may already be aware of how these two tactics can work together.

The merging of experiential and influencer marketing is already happening, and the results are doubly effective.

The State of Experiential Marketing

Because of ongoing trends, brands are beginning to cool to the idea of traditional advertising. Late last year, Forbes pointed out that “93% of consumers claim that live events have a larger influence on them than TV ads.”

As a result, ¾ of brands surveyed indicated that they intended to increase marketing expenditures towards those mediums offering a more long-lasting consumer experience – namely experiential marketing events. Experiential marketing is the perfect mix of live-event and personalized marketing.

influencers and experiential marketing sensory wonderland

Image via Instagram

The State of Influencer Marketing

Late last year, Small Biz Genius published data to the delight of digital marketing budgets everywhere: pay-per-click advertising now produces a 2 for 1 ROI. Impressive, right?

As exciting as the impact of PPC ads is, digital marketers are shocked to learn about the effectiveness of influencer marketing by comparison. Last year, influencer programs raked in an astounding 6.5 for 1 ROI. In order words, spend $1, get $6.50 back.

Influencer marketing campaigns continue to outshine other marketing mediums as they leverage trusted referrals and thought leader endorsements for increased sales and brand awareness.

Merging the Two

It is no accident that brands employing one of the marketing tactics above seamlessly incorporate the other.

One of the industry’s best experiential marketing events occurred when Nissan hosted its “4-day Titan Adventure.”

Raising awareness for its newest Titan truck model, Nissan invited outdoor enthusiast influencers to the event. 

“Without any influencer directives or agreements, outdoor influencers and celebrities documented their experience across their social media channels” (15 Killer Influencer Marketing Campaigns That Will Inspire You in 2020).

Many more brands are learning to establish influencer relationships ahead of time and ask their influencers to play a significant role in the launch of an experiential marketing event.

How Have Influencers Been Successful in Experiential Marketing 

Should your brand merge an influencer program with a multi-sensory live event, the end result can be wildly lucrative. 

Here are three approaches you can take to merging influencer marketing with experiential marketing:

influencers and experiential marketing influencers at popup shop

Image via Instagram

Sponsored Popup Shops

An economically-viable alternative to dying retail brands, popup shops offer the hands-on experience of showroom retail but remove the ongoing operating costs that storefronts require.

Online vendors can temporarily host a popup shop event, invite their favorite influencers, and generate the kind of buzz necessary to feed online sales for the rest of the year. 

Countless brands sponsoring popup shops choose to promote their event through influencers. These influencers raise consumer awareness before, during, and after the event, offering a good ROI for hosting a popup shop event. 

influencers and experiential marketing kevita influencer giveaway

Image via Instagram

Influencer-hosted Social Contests

Influencers love to give their audience a taste of experiential marketing. One way to do so is to sponsor influencer-hosted social contests at experiential marketing events. 

For example, KeVita – a health and wellness beverage company – enlisted the help of influencers to engage health-conscious individuals with a creative contest.

Influencers posted an Instagram pic with a KeVita drink, and audience members enrolled in the giveaway by commenting with the name of their best friend and their favorite KeVita drink flavor. All participants entered a drawing for a case of their favorite KeVita drink, plus an Amazon gift card.

If your brand plans to create its own experiential marketing campaign, you might consider employing the help of influencer-hosted social contests.

Not only will this boost consumer turnout, but it will allow those unable to attend to still participate. 

influencers and experiential marketing oakley influencer hashtag contest

Image via Instagram

Hashtag-focused Engagement

A great way to build a sense of community around your brand is to introduce a unique hashtag that incentivizes customer participation.

Instead of using popup shops or sponsoring social contests, Oakley asked their influencers to answer the question, “What do you see?”

Athlete influencers wore Oakley’s PRIZM lense glasses, described what they saw, and added two hashtags: #OakleyPrizm and #OneObsession.

Some athletes saw something abstract – like success – while others saw something tangible – like sushi.”

Oakley’s hashtag-focused campaign delivered a multi-sensory experience all its own – influencer audiences were more than happy to offer their own answer to the question, followed by the campaign hashtags.

As Oakley learned, influencers understand niche audiences and are specially equipped to help you publicize your experiential marketing event. Audiences trust their influencers above branded content, and hashtag-focused campaigns can help you track engagement.

By examining the workflow of combining influencers with your popup shop event from start to finish, you can begin to understand what experiential marketing looks like.

Product Launch

While you can execute a popup shop at any time, a new product launch is an ideal time to schedule that event. 

Consider the features of your new product that you want to highlight at your event. You may want to work with a designer that can fully embody the spirit of your brand and enhance these product features in the shop’s design.

As you consider your campaign budget, look for opportunities to inspire visitors to engage all five senses.

Influencer Only Event

Like Nissan, you may want to start your influencer-experiential campaign off by making your event influencer-invite only, at first. Unlike Nissan, you do not need to invite them without employing them to reach specific marketing objectives during your “soft opening.”

It is crucial in this stage that you select your influencers carefully and collaborate on precisely what your expectations should be. When they arrive, give them the full experience and allow them the flexibility to engage their audience in a way that they know will work.

Be sure to include on your guest list individuals that have already engaged with your brand. These influencers can act as true brand ambassadors.

Before the Event: Promote

Having established your team of influencers and offered them a chance to enjoy the experience for themselves, discuss ways to promote the event for consumers. 

Create hashtags to track engagement as your influencers promote your popup shop event.

For example, if your popup shop features a new selection of wines, invite your influencers to show where and how they drink their wine, followed by #winethis. 

After establishing terms, timelines, content voice, and posts with your influencers, sit back and watch them use their creativity to generate buzz for your event.

During the Event

As you open your doors to consumers, document the event through pictures and short videos. Live stream your event and ask your influencers to publicize the link to interested audience members unable to attend.

Employ a contest at the event to stimulate further user-generated content. Invite visitors to use the official event hashtag, tag your brand, and take a picture of them using your product. The winner(s) can take home the new product or product line.

Allow customers the opportunity to buy products onsite or offer them a discount code to shop more online.

After the Event

After your popup shop influencer-experiential marketing campaign, post pictures from the event.

Showcase the most memorable moments from your popup shop event, and tag the consumers and influencers where appropriate. 

You can also reward your influencers with the highest engagement before and during the event.

Ideally, you will want to reuse content from the event, as well. But before you reuse influencer content, make sure that you have the rights to do so. 

When tracking influencer content and results, it is recommended that you use an influencer relationship management platform that will perform these tasks automatically. An influencer-experiential event has many moving parts, and using outmoded platforms like spreadsheets and standard CRMs require tedious hours of work from your already-busy marketing team.

Don’t assume that your sales and brand awareness will die once you’ve disassembled your popup shop. While you’re likely to see a notable spike in sales during and immediately after the event, diligently re-posting and tracking engagement metrics can help you continue to achieve your marketing goals long after the initial campaign is over.

In 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.

This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.

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