What Are Experiential Activations?

If you’ve been following Exhibit Studio’s work or social media, chances are you’ve heard us throw around the word ✨experiential activations ✨. There are a few other synonymous terms that you also may have heard of: event marketing, brand activation, participation marketing, etc.  Well — what exactly is it? 

We’ve been on the block for a long time now, and understand that great displays draw crowds. Adding an element of unique interactivity and incentive for potential customers is an excellent way to not only draw people in, but make a statement that will resonate and stand out from the competition. 

If you’ve ever attended a trade show event, you know that each booth has at least one staff member who is there to answer questions, discuss their products, and sell the brand. It’s not just about displays, but also marketing. 

Experiential activations are a marketing tactic that are brand-focused and revolve around user experience by utilizing interactivity and participation. Rather than just trying to sell a product, it’s about creating an experience that is fun, memorable and unique to a brand.  Experiential marketing can be a standalone event or display, or it can be used as a tactic to meet your marketing objectives during a trade show or event. 

One example of an experiential activation that we’ve done recently is the GMC Pickup giant claw machine game at the Calgary Stampede. Sure, we could build a great display and feature GMC’s latest 2024 Denali pickup truck. But do you know what would really draw people in? Making a giant larger-than-life version of an arcade claw machine out of a truck bed! Rather than just browsing, it gets the crowd involved and excited. 

Experiential marketing also creates brand recognition: the next time someone drives past a GMC dealership, sees their commercial, or thinks of buying a new vehicle, they think of their great experience with GMC. This type of marketing has the power to harness emotions and connections that make your brand recognizable, favourable and can lead to other outcomes such as sales leads.

Experiential activations can include:

  • Games 
  • Art and visual installations
  • Displays that encourage some kind of call to action or social media sharing 
  • A custom product demonstration

Experiential activations have a specific target audience in mind, and are also immersive. When you build something or do something different that excites people, they are also more likely to post online and talk about it to friends, family or coworkers. Not only can experiential marketing have a large reach, but it can also ramp up user-generated content

A custom sound booth built for Helcim for one of their product launches

Creativity is at the core of experiential activations, which must be unique to your brand. Here’s another scenario:

During intermission at a sporting event, you want to have an interactive moment with the fans by bringing people on stage. You decide to do a teddy bear toss, where participants try to throw as many stuffed animals as they can into a container within 2 minutes. Sounds good, right? But it’s not unique enough to your brand. What item or recognizable feature can you tie into the game to create brand awareness and recognition? 

Take this custom fabrication project we did for ATCO as an example, who wanted to do a teddy bear toss during a rodeo intermission at the Calgary Stampede. The company is known for providing on-site energy solutions such as gas and electricity across Alberta. We created rolling crates that looked like ATCO mobile site office trailers. It puts a spin on the game by having a unique tie to the brand that is easily distinguishable. It’s a participant-focused idea that is entertaining and caters to their audience: The Calgary Stampede is not only a huge event, but also draws out large corporate crowds involved in the energy sector. 

Experiential marketing has huge value when done intentionally with a unique concept relating to your brand. They can be massive campaigns, or simple and effective elements that you can tie into your next event or trade show. These experiences allow you to establish an emotional connection between your target audience and brand to target your marketing objectives. 

If you’re looking for more inspiration and examples, check out some of our former projects:

WestJet Phone Booth – London’s Calling  
GMC ProShot Stampede Game
ATCO Spruce Meadows Mobile Experience
CIBC Crystal’s Banking Centre
Cadillac XT4 Mini Putt 

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