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3 Easy Ways to Practice Experiential Marketing on a Budget

experiential marketing on a budget

The rise of experiential marketing — and its proven efficacy — has given birth to a new era of experiential stunts. Take Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” exhibit, which took San Diego Comic-Con by storm in 2018. The stunt was huge and gave people the chance to live the life of a CIA agent via virtual reality.

This is illustrative of a growing trend: Marketers of all stripes are pursuing high-end, large-scale experiences in tandem with their digital marketing in an attempt to wow consumers. But though this extreme approach is tempting, marketers are mistaken if they think they need a huge budget to generate a huge buzz. In fact, experiential marketing on a budget can be just as exciting and rewarding.

It’s not surprising that the “Jack Ryan” experience made a big impact, but it didn’t succeed just because of its size and level of expense. It worked because it piqued curiosity and stimulated emotion, making it memorable and engaging. It achieved this by strategizing, gaming the psychology of its audience members to offer an experience they couldn’t help but respond to.

An experience that moves people doesn’t have to break the bank — it just needs to make people feel something.

In Praise of Smaller Events

Companies of all kinds can practice experiential marketing on a budget in conjunction with their digital campaigns. In fact, small-budget experiences have the benefit of being nimbler and more accessible. The “Jack Ryan” campaign was limited to its location, but a smaller mobile experience can appear multiple times in multiple places, drawing a larger, more diverse audience while still seeming exclusive and intimate.

The benefits of experiential marketing are still very much present during smaller events. Sure, they’re less expensive to produce, but a small event can still drive metrics and meet objectives. One of these objectives includes more engagement on social media. Live events often lead to highly shareable visuals, which is why brands such as Glossier and Pantone generate so much social hype surrounding their events. This quality is amplified in an intimate arena where people feel more inclined to interact.

This is why experiential marketing and digital are such a winning pair, no matter the depth of your wallet. As the medium evolves, there are many different types, shapes, and sizes of events emerging. Each offers up its own set of advantages, whether you’re planning an installation, pop-up experience, or no-frills stand. Each, though very different, has the potential to create powerful emotional connections with consumers.

If you can bring the “Jack Ryan” excitement to your experiential marketing on a budget, there’s no reason you can’t achieve the same kind of buzz and impact as a monolithic event.

  1. Focus on authenticity rather than scale. An experience that aims for reach (instead of meaning) will float over people’s heads rather than look them in the eyes. Focusing on authenticity, then, is the smartest strategy you can bring when it comes time to design your campaign.
    What story could you tell with your experience that’s true to your brand? Try to incorporate it into every aspect of your planning. Achieving this kind of authenticity in your experience will make your digital strategy that much more relatable, which means more engagement from your audience.
  2. Form your vision from a consumer’s perspective. Experiential campaigns can become overgrown or lost because they become out of touch: They’re designed at a distance from what consumers actually want. When you truly consider what customers want to see from your brand, it’s probably not a million-dollar experience. It’s just something interesting or meaningful.
    Thoughtfully combining past digital marketing results with your experience will give you a better idea of who your consumers are and what excites them. These are insights you can use to create wow moments for them, and they come from a real emotional connection rather than pyrotechnics.
  3. Join forces with another event. Who says you have to create a galactic-level experience all by yourself? A little piggybacking can lead to great things, and it means you don’t have to spend cash you might not have to drive traffic. Capitalizing on well-known or trending events will help you reach a bigger audience without having to pay extra for, say, promoted posts and flashy displays.
    Instead, find an event that speaks to your brand and partner so you can add your complementary message to an existing campaign. For example, you could set up an experience at the tail end of a sporting event. You’ll have full access to fans — and the energy surrounding the event — following the game itself.

Pair these in-person concepts with thoughtfully designed digital initiatives, and you’ll execute stunningly impactful experiential marketing on a budget. Remember that it’s not about glitz or money. It’s about using the resources at your disposal to make an emotional connection.

What have you tried lately in your marketing that achieved surprising results? If you want to learn more about how to revive tired marketing strategies with fresher elements, give this a read.

Steve Randazzo

Founder & President at Pro Motion Inc.
Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion, Inc., a trusted, award-winning experiential marketing agency located in St. Louis since 1995. Pro Motion helps B2B and B2C brands and agency partners cut through the clutter and drive ROI and ROE. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has led relationships with big-name clients, including The Walt Disney Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Hewlett-Packard, Duck Tape, Anheuser-Busch, Fiskars, Citgo, the NBA, Tractor Supply Company, and many top-notch agency partners. Steve has over 50 published articles and is known as a thought leader in his industry. He’s been recognized as one of 100 St. Louisans to Know to Succeed in Business and one of Fortune Small Business’ Best Bosses. His book “Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World” is out now. To keep up with Steve, follow him on TwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.
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