Experiential and Digital Marketing; Like PB & J

August 24, 2018 by Melissa Melonson

When I think of pairing Experiential Marketing and Digital Marketing, I think of Peanut Butter and Jelly, or better yet, I think about the relationship I have with my business partner and Lumi co-founder, Cara Stellato. I am the dreamer…always coming out with outrageous ideas, pushing the envelope, talking about making our users “feel butterflies” and “testing emotional triggers.” Cara, on the other hand, is technical, rational and always asking me for the numbers and evidence that can back up my “gut instincts.” Needless to say, this is what makes us such great partners.

Experiential and Digital Marketing complement and amplify each other, and together they break boundaries they wouldn’t be able to on their own. So as a marketer, how can you master the power of this winning pair?


As a marketer, I have attended many a brand event, but let’s get one thing straight – holding a party with an open bar, some sexy decor and brand signage do not mean you are hitting the mark on Experiential Marketing. The only brand events that I (or anyone else) remember, and still talk about to this day, are the ones that allowed me to experience something emotionally fueled. If you can make a consumer feel true terror, awe, adrenaline, inspiration, delight through a brand experience – they will forever be a part of your brand story and will feel an emotional attachment to you. And that is the magic of experiential.

Here are two companies that got it right…


Google thought they were slick by giving away free cupcakes to people who tried out their new photo app – until Zappos ambushed their efforts by one-upping them. Things I love about this campaign: It was super bold ambushing Google, the quirky experience matches up to their brand 100%, and let’s be real – this was pretty low budget but super impactful (win/win).

Kudos Zappos.


Image Courtesy of Coca-Cola

Sometimes the best way to connect with your audience is to fulfill a need, like offering an ice cold coke to hot beachgoers. BUT why not take it a step further and genuinely make someone want your product so desperately that they hammer away at an iceblock and use their own body heats to melt a huge ice cube? This is what Coca-Cola did. What I love this: not only did it fill a need, but it brought coke-lovers together in a shared attempt to retrieve the prize (imagine the bond you feel to this brand community after rubbing your body on an ice cube for an hour with complete strangers!).

Image Courtesy of Mike’s Hard Lemonade


We now have the tools to understand our customers in the here and now. Using social listening tools can give you an excellent idea of what is trending and relevant to your audiences in real time. This might help you to find quick-win opportunities in key markets. Just refer back to that Zappos video above…they literally used a large white box and exchanged their goods for cupcakes – and it delighted the hell out of their target customer. Lesson being, keep tabs on your audiences and what is happening to them, so if there is something timely and relevant to your brand you can jump on it quickly.

Social listening tools and predictive analytics tools can also help you to keep an eye out for early trends to ensure that any significant effort you are planning will be relevant when you actually go to activate. Still unsure? Use quick digital campaigns to test your theories with your audiences and gauge their reaction before turning it into a costly experiential campaign.


Image Courtesy of Casper


Through digital, we can now start conversations and create a buzz well in advance of any offline experience, measure sentiment towards the event in real time, and ultimately keep the conversation and experience going well after they have left a brand experience. Need some examples?

Build anticipation online in advance of an event. Start rumors about a ‘Secret’ event experience that is coming up, or challenge online users to complete a scavenger hunt or puzzle to gain access.

Promote sharing during an event. Make sure you heavily promote a hashtag associated with the event, before and during attendance. Also, provide lots of share-worthy moments so attendees will want to share. Having a Facebook page will also allow people to ‘check-in.’ And don’t forget to use live streaming on social platforms, so you are reaching more than the people physically on site.

Continue the conversation. Make sure you capture participants emails before or during the event in exchange for some sort of incentive. This way you can continue to communicate different information, such as letting people know that photos or videos from the experience are online, wrapping up a story that was a known theme of the experience, or asking for imagery from attendees to create a customer-centric video, etc.

So use all of the tools available to you. Be bold and creative with your concepts and focus on human emotions – but back up your gut instincts with research and analytics. I promise this well-rounded approach will work – just look at Cara and me! 😉