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Brands Merge Experiential and Digital Marketing

Brands are increasingly turning to using both experiential and digital marketing to build customer loyalty and promote their products.

In some instances, the combination of both forms of marketing can be powerful. Data gathered from experiential events can enhance digital marketing and digital marketing can help promote experiential events. Neither form of marketing, of course, is new, but experiential promotions are taking on new life as brands seek to differentiate themselves at a time when consumers get a daily barrage of emails and social media platforms are loaded with promotional content. At the same time, digital marketing is increasingly helping to promote experiential events.

As its name implies, experiential marketing involves providing experiences that can build brand loyalty by offering enjoyable experiences for consumers. In some cases, experiential events or functions can generate intense interest or participation by consumers or existing customers.

The Taco Bell Hotel and Resort is an example. It involves Taco Bell taking over the 70 room V Palm Springs hotel in Palm Springs, California, for a weekend in August, reports CNN. The hotel will be decorated with Taco Bell icons with hotel room blankets and wall artwork featuring Taco Bell images. Even the swimming pool will have a Taco Bell theme. It will include inflated rafts that look like giant Taco Bell sauce packages. Room service and poolside cafes will feature Taco Bell menu items.

The event also illustrates the power of digital marketing for promoting special functions. Taco Bell promoted the hotel through its social media accounts and, when it opened its website for taking reservations, all 70 rooms were booked within two minutes.

In a MarTech Advisor column, Steve Randazzo, founder and president of Pro Motion, Inc., explains that consumers fluctuate between extreme levels of engagement, such as binge-watching Netflix, and startlingly low engagement, such as flicking through images and videos on Instagram. Due to the extremely large range of entertainment options, consumers skip over options that don’t provoke strong emotions.

He cites a Tractor Supply Co. pop-up event as an example of how experiential marketing can boost engagement. The event featured a stuffed animal version of a life-size moose. Event participants had their pictures taken while sitting on the moose. They then received printed versions of the photos and digital versions for sending to friends. Randazzo maintains that some participants even said they would feature the pictures on their holiday cards.

The travel industry is also embracing combining experiential events and digital marketing. The Mt. Hood Territory in Oregon isn’t decking out hotels with brand logos or offering photo opportunities, but it’s offering free gifts and chances to win a free weekend trip to the region, reports Yahoo! Finance.

The campaign involves placing vending machines in shopping malls in Arizona. The theme encourages residents of the state, which is famous for hot summers, to escape the heat by visiting the Mt. Hood region. Consumers go to the Mt. Hood Territory website at and then register to receive a password. The password is then used with the vending machines to receive free gifts that include descriptions about how the items are related to the Mt. Hood region. When individuals visit the website, they are asked to subscribe to a digital newsletter that the organization publishes. The campaign therefore is raising awareness of the Mt. Hood Territory and expanding the organization’s digital marketing program.

North of Oregon, Canadian automotive companies are embracing experiential marketing as a strategy for building brand loyalty, creating positive online buzz and collecting information for digital campaigns, reports Automotive News Canada. Experiential marketing has grown substantially in the past 15 years because individuals increasingly value experiences while brands are increasing their budgets to develop the promotional channel, says Jonah Midanik, founder and CEO of Limelight Platform, which provides experiential-marketing technical support to automakers and other companies.

He maintains that consumers are more likely to provide personal information, such as email addresses, to participate in events, including esports that can include online car racing. Those email addresses can then be used by automotive companies to distribute personalized content.

The value of esports as part of experiential marketing hasn’t been lost on Pfaff Automotive Partners, which represents various well-known automotive brands. The company teamed up with WorldGaming and Cineplex Inc. to run a major online e-racing tournament that involved 3,500 contestants at the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto, says Laurance Yap, Pfaff Automotive’s creative director. Gamers set lap times online or in person to qualify for the top 16 Grand Final extravaganza, which took place on the show’s last day. Yap maintains the contest was an example of consumers interacting with brands in a very deep way.

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