TOP Talk

Forging an Emotional Connection with Experiential Marketing

Posted January 17, 2018 By Kathy Wilson

Topics: Social Media, Influencer Marketing, Content


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Communication practitioners have had to learn to swim outside our usual lanes over the past several years. That’s thanks both to a more competitive marketplace and a changing landscape that makes securing strong earned media coverage more challenging.

To amplify our clients’ campaigns so they’re as successful as possible, our industry is developing media strategies that incorporate other creative marketing elements. One of these is leveraging experiential marketing to bring key marketing messages literally to life for consumers.

As the authors of The Experience Economy point out, companies must provide consumers with memorable events and engagements that allow a brand to stand out from its competitors. Tier One believes this kind of experience helps consumers forge a critical emotional connection with a brand that not only keeps them coming back, but converts them into coveted word-of-mouth “brand ambassadors” with family and friends. This is where experiential marketing shines.

Wikipedia defines experiential marketing (also known under other monikers including “engagement marketing”) as a strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages consumers to participate in the evolution of a brand. These experiential strategies are also proven to be particularly effective with the hard-to-influence millennial buyer, a key demographic for many of Tier One’s clients. Here are a couple of examples to get your experiential wheels turning:

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Tier One recently partnered with Inspira Marketing to develop an experiential marketing campaign for our client Ally and its “Hardest Working Dollar” campaign.

Following the spring 2017 launch of Ally Invest, which offers low-cost, online investing alongside great savings rates, Ally introduced its Hardest Working Dollar campaign. This multi-faceted marketing campaign (including PR, advertising, digital, out-of-home, social) gave consumers an opportunity to turn $1 into $100, $5,000 or even $10,000 and to get them thinking: could their hard-earned dollars be working even harder for them?

An anonymous “dollar dropper” put 7,500 real U.S. $1 bills into circulation in 15 cities to underscore Ally’s commitment to be “home of the hardest working dollar.” The bills were spent at cash-friendly establishments like convenience stores, coffee shops and gas stations.

The Tier One and Ally PR teams were tasked with driving earned media awareness of the campaign and getting consumers to check their $1 bills at allyhardestworkingdollar.com to see if theirs was one of the winning dollars. To differentiate the campaign and attract the public’s attention, we developed a creative experiential marketing program that literally brought the “Georges” to life.

A smart media strategy, including a series of fun and visual events that brought a team of costumed George Washingtons into five cities to honor hardest working consumers, first responders and charities, helped the PR team generate more than 5,200 media hits that drove 179.6 million impressions, including a flagship national feature story that ran in the print and online editions of USA Today. The Hardest Working Dollar campaign was among Ally’s most successful marketing campaigns to date, driving nearly 60% of consumers to say they’re more likely to think of Ally after viewing the campaign. 

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Another example of a company that understands the power of experiential marketing is our client Riddle & Bloom, a company that helps brands create meaningful relationships with millennial and Gen Z consumers. In partnership with its client Nestle Coffee-mate, Riddle & Bloom executed a multi-faceted experiential campaign on Ohio State University’s (OSU) campus during finals week.  

Complete with a 20-foot coffee mug café centered on the campus’ South Oval, the experience offered students the chance to enjoy a respite from the grind of studying for exams and congregate with peers while re-fueling with a fresh “cup o’ joe” and choice of Coffee-mate flavoring. The Café was fully equipped with portable heaters, smartphone charging stations, massage chairs, games, music, and emoji props and selfie sticks for photo opportunities, while it also served as basecamp for the social media-based delivery service. Students could text or Tweet out coffee requests @Coffee-mate, which was then delivered across campus to dorms, the library, etc., via motor-powered scooters. 

Tier One’s corresponding media relations campaign capitalized on the visual nature of the experiential program to secure national and regional media attention and drive buzz and excitement around the program, positioning Coffee-mate and Riddle & Bloom as experts on reaching and influencing the college Millennial market -- especially with the up and coming Gen Z audience.

So next time you’re brainstorming your PR campaign’s difference-maker, consider whether an experiential marketing strategy will give it the boost you need to drive enviable results for your client or brand.

Kathy Wilson

About Kathy Wilson

Identifying and showcasing the unique and authentic elements of a company’s story – those “aha!” storylines that set a great company apart from the merely good ones. Then developing a strategy that leverages a variety of storytelling channels, whether it’s traditional media, social campaigns or visuals, to bring that company’s value proposition to life. 20+ year PR veteran.