If you want to make a lasting impression on your virtual event attendees, then you need to move beyond a basic branded online event and create something more immersive.
An experiential event focuses on the attendee and is part of an experiential marketing campaign. It goes above and beyond what it means to create a positive digital experience to convey a message and create an immersive experience for the attendees.
Experiential marketing can be powerful as it puts the viewer into the experience of the messaging or the brand that created it. Some of the most powerful event marketing campaigns have stemmed from experiential promotion.
Campaigns like GE’s Healthymagination campaign, Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThiscampaign, and Google’s Build a Better Bay Area campaign not only generated massive revenue, but they also advocated for improved health and quality of life and were largely successful in promoting these values.
While your virtual event does not need to change the world, it can have a lasting impact when using tactics guided by virtual experiential marketing.
Experiential virtual events are consumer-centric
The most important thing to remember when setting up an “experiential” virtual event is that it focuses on the consumer, or in this case, the attendee.
A consumer-centric event campaign considers the consumer’s point of view at every point in the event production process. This takes the spotlight off of the brand, the event, and its presenters, and asks the consumer to think, to feel, to reflect, to stop, to get the chills, to get lost in the moment.
These sorts of asks are a little different from what virtual events typically ask of the event team and the audience.
Most virtual events focus on the presenter, the exhibitors, available sessions, and networking opportunities to create engagement in the virtual chat or to direct attendees to answer poll questions.
While all of these elements will still be useful during an experiential event, they are instead function to inform the audience that they have value and they can contribute (perhaps in an alternative way) to the event content
An experiential virtual event might ask the crowd to reflect on something, or it might turn that on its face and force them to picture something or to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Decide on the campaign goal
With every marketing campaign, you need to establish a clear goal or directive. For experiential marketing, this is even more important because, without a goal, you won’t be successful in delivering an authentic message. The audience will notice that this is lacking and will feel jaded by the event, even walking away from the event with a negative perception of your event brand.
Here is some guidance when deciding on a goal:
- The goal of an experiential event should be to stir up some kind of emotion. GE’s Healthyimagination campaign, for example, was to promote global solutions for healthcare problems.
The event was set up like a movie set with three different healthcare environments as ‘sets’. From a rural African clinic to an urban clinic and emergency room, the event asked doctors to share personal stories that illustrated how GE’s healthcare technology might play an important role in each setting.
Not only did this demonstrate the value of the GE product, but it also created an emotionally and visually visceral image that transported attendees to a specific place and culture.
- The goal must make sense to a wide number of people. This is particularly important when considering experiential marketing for virtual events as virtual events can potentially reach a global audience.
If the goal only makes sense to a small niche, how will this message advance your agenda and grow your brand?.
- What is the event strategy for the goal? If the goal of your campaign is to raise awareness for breast cancer, then what does that awareness look like? Does it look like a dollar value donated to a charity? Does it encourage more women from more areas of the globe to get mammograms more often and at a younger age? Think carefully about how you want people to act on the information you are providing.
As with any campaign, the goal should work within your overall marketing strategy to reach your target audience across many different channels.
To the casual viewer, your goal may look similar to a theme except on a broader, more significant scale. Therefore the goal should be promoted through content marketing, on the event webpage, on social media (including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook), at the brand’s corporate events, and any other avenue that makes sense for the event promotion.
The biggest difference between an event theme and an experience is the scale. Event themes will be smaller and sometimes sillier. Experiential marketers will focus on how the goal is applied at every touchpoint of the event marketing strategy.
Drive the event brand with the goal front and center
Virtual event platforms allow brands to personalize all parts of the virtual experience so that the brand’s icon and messaging are front and center. When doing this with an experiential event, the event planners will want to make sure that the goal of the event goes along with this messaging. That way the event brand or the sponsors’ brand (whichever you aim to highlight) and the goal of the experience, will bleed over into the prospective attendee’s psyche.
When done right, attendees will be able to recollect your goal and think of it nearly synonymously with the event or brand that was promoted alongside it. This could change the long-term perception of that brand.
For example, if an attendee came across the Lean Cuisine art exhibit, they might be influenced so much that they stop and think about it every time someone talks about weighing their food, measuring out their macros, and watching what they eat. While this can have both positive and triggering effects, that viewer will have a certain association with Lean Cuisine because of that message.
This type of marketing strategy can cause waves in the marketing industry as well as the event industry. After all, GE’s campaign allowed the company to exceed 140% of its sales goals at their Wide Bore Launch, generate media exposure from the Associated Press and CNN, and win a Business Marketing Association Tower Award.
These are the types of things that move away from basic engagement marketing and get the digital event noticed.
Dial-in the sponsors
Maybe your brand is big enough that you don’t need sponsors to support the event. That’s great, but it is still a good idea to get sponsors involved as a way of providing surprise-and-delights!
No matter how you engage with sponsors, know that they can be used to add to visual displays. Ask them to do something special, like showcase a famous live streamer or video game player if that is what your audience wants to see. Or, you can allow them to use the opportunity to unveil a fancy bit of technology that was being kept secret.
Some people also use partner B2B companies as a way of promoting the brand experience. If you can, send out a packet to prospective attendees with a cardboard VR iPhone attachment, and provide attendees with a virtual booth in virtual reality! Or, roll out an event-specific app that can put your prospective attendees into an augmented reality experience.
Regardless, make sure that you are investing your time with a sponsor that makes sense for your company, brand, and messaging. Once this is dialed-in, you can use them for event promotion on social media and gain audience numbers before the event.
Focus on the small stuff
Being limited from running a physical event forces an event marketer to get creative when it comes to event and brand promotion. From running a hybrid event to a Simulated live event, you do what it takes to get your event noticed.
No matter what type of experience you are trying to offer, you cannot stray too far from what has become expected from a high-quality virtual event. This means that you need to rely on technology for basic tasks, such as ticketing, registration, and lead generation.
Without integrating a virtual event platform, the event may be incongruous, taking attendees out of the immersive experience.
By neglecting to use a virtual event software like Accelevents, your virtual attendees might notice the glitches or feel disconnected from the content and messaging. Instead, keep it controlled with sophisticated software that can handle a lot of your basic tasks, like live streaming and chat, effortlessly.
Experiential marketing for virtual events
If you want to run a successful virtual event, consider experiential marketing for your upcoming event, trade show, or hybrid event. An experiential event is a powerful form of digital marketing that can create a lasting impression on attendees and the brand’s image.