Experiential Marketing Activations: How to ensure your success.

Imagine lifting a 2,000 kg truck in the air using a high-pressure water hose and a moving target.  

Trucks aren’t your thing?

You’re inquisitive and notice an authentic London Phone booth in downtown Calgary; you can’t contain your curiosity and choose to step in and answer the phone.

It’s mid-COVID, and you are looking to engage with your Spruce Meadows super fans?

These are all examples of real experiential marketing activations. Experiences have been a long-accepted means for connecting with an audience, capturing a customer’s attention, captivating consumers emotionally, and creating life-long memories. When describing the interactions between a brand and a consumer, creative agencies and brand marketers may use experiential activation, experiential marketing, event marketing, event management, brand activations, or XM. There can be many overlaps between the words and core functions they serve, making it confusing.

To help add some clarity, in this article, we’ll look at:

  • The definitions of brand activation marketing, event management and marketing, and experiential marketing.
  • The benefits of experiential marketing.
  • Four components of a successful experiential marketing activation (with compelling local examples)

Traditional activations are usually consumer-facing and essentially promotional, branded experiences. They are used to move consumers to action and generate product awareness.

Used for product and brand launches, team building, trade shows, conferences, or sports events.

Entirely focused on creating an interactive, meaningful experience for your customer with your brand and your product by engaging all five senses to form lasting memories. It encompasses not only the event but the time leading up to and including the activation. Experiential marketing activations are intended to surprise and delight rather than directly push a product.

Mix and match a few of the definitions, and you can envision the possibilities available to your brand to drive awareness. Our absolute favourite is experiential. We have worked with our agency and brand partners to design and fabricate inspiring and successful experiential activations such as GMC’s ProShotWestJet’s Midway GameCadillacs XT4 Launch, WestJet London Phone Booth, and ATCO’s Mobile Trailer.

Regardless of the terminology, events and experiences are long known to be vital in creating trust, loyalty, impressions, and interest. Whatever form your activity takes, experiences help shape our identities and connect us to and expand our communities. These facts have not been lost on brands or marketers. Authentic interactions between your brand and your customer are always more memorable when your brand provides an experience rather than a desirable thing.  

You’ve decided that you want to create an experience for your audience and have started brainstorming ideas; here are four key components to ensure successful activation.

Your ideas are coming together, and they are solid. Do they encourage engagement and interaction? A successful activation needs to position a brand or product in a way that shares a story. These interactions need to provide a way for the consumer to connect meaningfully, not just transactionally. For example, one of The Calgary Stampede’s partners, GMC, worked with their agency to dream up a concept for a supersized midway game called ProShot. We completed 3D renderings and shop drawings for the agency to present to the end client to visualize the completed activation. Once installed on the Stampede grounds, contestants competed by spraying water cannons at moving targets to lift full-sized pickup trucks 10 feet in the air. The goal was to tell the story of the “Professional Grade” and “Precision” of the GMC truck.

The GMC ProShot installation was a massive success with over 100,000 interactions between GMC’s staff and visitors and over 5000 people who played the game. It was a huge hit and drew in the crowds. It provided a unique and powerful way for consumers to explore the GMC brand, engaging the senses with the sights, sounds, smells, and activity of the Calgary Stampede midway.


A skillfully executed activation can earn valuable media attention and boost your brand’s message. The consumer will like, share, retweet, and comment on a positive experience creating a buzz about your brand. A great example is our collaboration with WestJet; we were happy to work with their team and build a gigantic present with more wonders inside for one of the WestJet 12 Flights of Christmas. WestJet is famous for their viral videos such as their Christmas Miracles and April Fools Pranks; they make you laugh and cry and spark-free publicity and social media discussion. WestJet utilized social media’s live streaming service to share the experience live around the world.  It was brilliant, engaging, and had over 1 million viewers worldwide, wondering what lucky flight was next.


Leveraging another brand’s equity for a positive association can benefit both brands. During this time of COVID-19 restrictions and the temporary closure of Spruce Meadows, ATCO Group, a significant partner, devised a unique way to bring the wonder of this world-class show jumping facility to Calgarians. ATCO Group asked Calgarians to nominate families to enjoy a Spruce Meadows Experience. Five lucky families enjoyed the sights, smells, and tastes of Spruce Meadows right in their yards; they even brought a horse! The goal was to present a positive experience during this time of uncertainty in the world, and not only were they successful, but they did it safely. Check out the video.

Incredible experiential marketing activations are changing the way that consumers interact with brands. If you’re looking for a great team to bring your activation to life, we know how to support our partners with great design, fabrication, installation, and event day expertise. Get in touch with the Exhibit Studio team to find out about our capabilities and services.

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