:Marketing / Marketing best practices

Experiential marketing: Definition, examples & ideas

experiential marketing strategy experiential marketing strategy

Maximizing your marketing is key to growing your brand, building up a loyal audience, and succeeding with your small business, whatever that may be. But if you’re struggling to connect your brand with your target customers, you should consider leaning into experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing is a unique marketing strategy that can result in better brand awareness, improved marketing connections, and much more. Let’s take a closer look.

Experiential marketing explained

What is experiential marketing?

In a nutshell, experiential marketing – also sometimes called ground marketing, engagement marketing, or XM – is a marketing approach that focuses on providing prospective customers with hands-on experiences. It’s in the name: experiential marketing is all about real-world experiences. Think of a major marketing event that a brand launches to announce a rebranding or major new product. That’s an experiential marketing tactic.

Providing customers with hands-on experiences before buying a product is hardly anything new. An example is when auto dealers offer customers the opportunity to test drive new vehicles. This is one of the advantages of buying or trading in a car from a dealer because you can test drive as many of the models as they have in stock as you want to see what you like before making a major purchase. Or think of any instance where you were offered a free trial of a product or a service. This would also be a form of experiential marketing. You get to experience it before completely buying it.

But a major differentiating factor of experiential marketing is where it puts its focus compared to other types of marketing. With XM, the emphasis is often on connecting customers to brands or raising brand awareness rather than directly selling specific products or services.

Experiential marketing can be highly effective for a variety of reasons. By its very nature, XM elements and campaigns stick in the minds of consumers much more than traditional marketing materials. After all, target customers experience something which forges a stronger, more potent memory when they consider purchasing something from the brand.

In addition, experiential marketing’s possibilities have expanded in recent years. No longer does experiential marketing have to take place in the real world, like in a shopping center or retail storefront. Virtual communication technology, like live streaming and video conferencing software, enables experiential marketing campaigns to take place online or in virtual reality environments.

experiential marketing experiential marketing

Why is experiential marketing important?

When leveraged properly, experiential marketing can be highly beneficial for brands just like yours, whether you are trying to launch successful online courses, digital products, or something else entirely. Some of the main benefits of experiential marketing include:

  • Improved brand awareness. That can be highly important for new businesses or course creators trying to catch the eye of their target audiences. Experiences are big and noticeable almost by definition. If you market primarily via providing experiences to the general public, people will slowly start to learn your brand’s name.
  • Stronger customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is key for growing brands, especially since acquiring new customers is more expensive than keeping current ones. Therefore, your brand should focus on experiential marketing to maximize customer loyalty and keep your current purchasers/students coming back for more.
  • Boosted engagement. Engagement is vital for all successful marketing campaigns in this day and age. Since you have to compete with many different brands and their products, you must ensure that your marketing materials are engaging and interesting. Experiential marketing is engaging by definition, as it requires interaction or observation from the people who experience it.
  • Higher virality potential. These days, marketing campaigns that go viral are much more likely to result in major successes for their brands. With the right experiences and experiential marketing ideas, your content can go viral. This allows people to discover your brand more rapidly and improves the cost-effectiveness of each marketing ad.
live events live events

Examples of experiential marketing

Still not sure what experiential marketing means or how it plays out in the real world? Let’s take a look at some examples of this offline marketing strategy.

The diet food brand Lean Cuisine launched an experiential marketing campaign called #WeighThis. The company set up a series of scales throughout New York City’s Grand Central Station. The campaign invited women who observed the scales to weigh themselves. At first glance, this seems potentially offensive.

But here’s the brilliance of this experiential marketing campaign. The scales actually included small boards where women – the prospective customers of the Lean Cuisine brand – could write what accomplishments they wanted to be weighed. The campaign allowed women to measure their weight using whatever metrics they wanted, such as moral weight, job goals, etc.

In this experiential marketing campaign, none of the customers ever interacted with Lean Cuisine directly. But it still caused Lean Cuisine’s target audience to think about the brand and how its food could help them achieve their weight loss goals.

Another real-world example comes from Lululemon. This athletic clothing brand asked its employees and brand ambassadors to reflect on various LGBTQ+ topics. Then shared those responses using images and videos on the Lululemon Instagram page over the next month.

The next step involved creating an art installation near the Hudson River Park. This art installation reflected the responses collected, which allowed passersby to read and reflect on those experiences. Lululemon didn’t focus so much on selling its products as it did on connecting with its primary audience members.

Both of these examples highlight the key faucet of experiential marketing: it’s about connecting people to a brand, not necessarily selling products.

interactive experiences interactive experiences

Experiential marketing ideas for your courses

Want to get technical? Let’s break down some specific experiential marketing ideas you can use to market online courses successfully.

Practice event marketing with a seminar or talk

Event marketing is a core type of experiential marketing. You can practice this strategy by holding a seminar or talk, highlighting some of the elements included in your course. Think of this as a type of “trial” course where attendees can learn what your course is about and get a sense of who you are as a teacher.

Try guerilla marketing with a contest or giveaway

Guerrilla marketing is also highly effective. By its very nature, guerrilla marketing is surprising and unexpected. To that end, consider launching a contest or giveaway through your brand marketing channels, like your social media pages. The prize? A free course or class for the lucky winner.

Guerrilla marketing is exceptionally effective when combined with social media. That marketing channel is perfect for drumming up anticipation for a sudden marketing event, like a contest.

Hold a “pop-up” course in a traditional setting

You can also hold “pop-up” courses in traditional classroom settings. These can be unexpected and experiential but include the same information as your online courses. They’re very helpful, particularly if you teach courses on technical topics like XDR security or cybersecurity awareness.

Think of in-person classes as offering prospective online students the opportunity to experience your courses in the real world. Impressive enough, and they’ll be more willing to check out your online courses in the future.

marketing strategy brand marketing strategy brand

Wrap up

This kind of experiential marketing could be a great way to bolster your brand and maximize your marketing potential. Consider leveraging these tips when practicing experiential marketing for a course or online seminar, and you’ll see great results in no time.


What is experiential marketing?

One of the most popular types of marketing, experiential marketing is a type of marketing that offers potential customers hands-on experiences in order to generate awareness about a product or service. These experiences can be in-person, but they can also be offline, such as via virtual communication technologies.

Why is experiential marketing effective?

Experiential marketing can be effective because it naturally helps to boost brand awareness. The more the experiences are marketed to the general public, the more people will naturally start to learn about your brand. It also helps to boost customer engagement, so long as your marketing materials are interesting and engaging.

Author: Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.