Engagement Marketing: Engaging Your Customers Head On

Theoretically, you have a good idea of how to format a marketing plan, structure your social media marketing endeavors, and get your brand on track. One important step to your business’s success is, of course, to get attention, and by design, social media doesn’t work wonders overnight. In addition, even if people see your ads and social media posts, it may get lost in a sea of other posts by family members or other companies.

The question you’re faced with, then, is this: how do you attract a plethora of customers quickly and engage them with your product or service in a reliable manner? Our answer to this question is Engagement Marketing.

Engagement Marketing (or “Experiential Marketing,” whichever you prefer), simply put, is a live marketing event “to create a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience” [1]. It’s bringing your product or service to the public to enjoy and understand more clearly, as opposed to general advertising where ads and social media merely describe the product or service. For this reason, if you have confidence in what you’re selling, then you should be confident that having people try it out is the best form of persuasion to buy it.

You likely now have a couple doubts on your mind:
  1. Setting up an event sounds expensive. Is it worth the cost?
  2. There can’t just be one way to set up experiential marketing. How should I set up an event?
We’ll take some time for the rest of this article to address both of those questions, first by explaining a bit more about the Direct Benefits of Engagement Marketing Events, some Analyses of Successful Engagement Marketing Events, and a Guide to Structuring Your Engagement Marketing Event.

For a more coherent explanation of how you can apply these concepts directly, we’ll be using an example of both product marketing and service marketing: “Tough Shrew Screws,” a company that provides high durability screws for domestic use and construction work, and “Pampered Puppy,” a dog grooming service.

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Cost vs. Reward: Is Engagement Marketing Worth It?

A recent statistical analysis has suggested that as of 2015, many companies are spending 20-25% of their budget on engagement marketing events of experiences [7]. With that in mind, how do these companies justify using engagement marketing? Well, to quote Ian Greenberg of the New York advertising firm “Show Media”: :

    “People go to these things to experience new things, and we're giving them that. They want to share it with their friends naturally when they see something cool [3].”
Experiential Learning Theory suggests that people retain information more easily when they experience or analyze something firsthand [6]. People see literally thousands of ads everyday (especially online), so this is a harder time than ever to get people to notice your company for the first time [4]. With both of these pieces of information in hand, it’s reasonable to conclude that an in-person, engaging experience with your product or service is the best way to draw in customers, and an engagement marketing event is the best available avenue through which to do so.

So now that we’ve gone over the value of this practice, how has it worked in the past? How is one supposed to structure events to sell screws and dog grooming appointments? Let’s look over some successful examples from past marketing endeavors.

Examples of Great Engagement Marketing

  1. Credit Suisse’s Gala [6]
      The event, officially entitled “Conversations with the Innovators of the World,” was a gathering for investors and potential customers to hear about the work Credit Suisse was doing. The gala was heavily advertised on social media and had numerous recordings, and because Credit Suisse’s motif is Edison’s Light Bulb, the place as decorated all over with similar bulbs. The whole event garnered interest and, despite largely being presentations and food, did tie in the brand into the atmosphere.
    Feature Image_Experiential 1
  2. Sensodyne’s Dental Sensitivity Seminar [1]
      Sensodyne set up shop in London for a free seminar where people could get free dental check ups from trained, on-site dentists, and try out Sensodyne’s toothpaste to improve their condition. They even had dentists there specifically lecturing on home-care for your teeth-- this event may not have been all that fun (as doctor’s trips never are), but it did provide some very necessary health care that all of us have trouble paying for.
    Feature Image_Experiential 2
  3. Samsung’s “Samsung Studio” [1]
      Samsung posted heavily on social media to let people know that they would be at airports with “Samsung Studios,” where they would provide people the chance to experience working with Samsung phones and playing with their Olympics 2016 app. Multiple prizes were given out, as well, and the average person spent over 8 minutes at the booth-- many came away saying they were more interested in getting a Samsung phone than ever before.
    Feature Image_Experiential 3
  4. Mountain Dew’s UK Road Trip [1]
      As a sugary soft drink, Mountain Dew needs to radiate at least a bit of fun, and nothing says fun like a road trip in a Mountain Dew Truck for brand ambassadors to travel across the U.K. and stop at gas stations and other random locations to give out free bottles of Mountain Dew to thirsty passer-bys, giving loyal fans a heads up on social media for where they were traveling to do a give-away next.
    Feature Image_Experiential 4
  5. Carlsberg’s Best Poster [6]
      The people at Danish brewer Carlsberg came up with the clever idea of putting a dispenser on this poster and keeping a few gallons of beer behind it, where brand ambassadors oversaw people consenting to release forms and enjoying some of their free beer. This engagement marketing example is a great subversion of print advertising and an even better experience for the interested consumer! Feature Image_Experiential 5
  6. 7Up and Sprite’s Soda Showers [5]
      In a moment of rare insight, Coca-Cola and Pepsi decided to (through social media advertisements) promote some new mini events that were largely user-driven-- soda showers around North America during a particularly grueling hot summer. Customers were cooled down and had their thirst quenched, all the while getting pictures with the company’s logo prominently in the background.
    Feature Image_Experiential 6

The key to the success of these events, in short, was that they focused on the experience and enjoyment of the customers, not on merely propping up the product to look good. In addition, priority was given on social media to promoting the events and rewarding people for going to them and following the companies’ various pages. Thus, the experience is rewarding for those who go, many people hear about it, and people are encouraged to show up to begin with because of the posted rewards.

A Guide to Structuring your Engagement Marketing Event

Our short Guide to hosting a successful Engagement Marketing Event is as follows:

  1. Plan for 5-8 weeks ahead of time. You’ll want to determine all of the following information and plan out location, time, and appropriacy of the event for your product in that time [7].
  2. Blend your product or service in with the experience, do NOT make it the focal point. People go to engagement marketing events to have fun, not listen to a pitch about your product. Make it enjoyable and rewarding for those who arrive [5].
  3. Use Social Media to spread the word and reward loyal customers. You want people to show up and, when you plan more events or sales, take interest in showing up again. Incentivize that! (Make sure to throw some print, radio, and TV ads if you think it’ll help!)
  4. Find the right avenue for your event. Holding an event where cold drinks are given out on a hot summer day is common sense: take your product or service to where it’ll be most appealing at the most appealing time.

So, learning from the previous events, let’s go back to our examples of Pampered Puppy and Tough Shrew Screws, which (for the sake of simplicity) we’ll assume to be operating locally out of Pittsburgh.

For Pampered Puppy, consider where people will be walking their dogs and congregating. There are several parks around the city, many of which are designated dog-walking parks-- for many dogs, their fur can get pretty warm for the summer, so getting a haircut in mid June into July would be good for them. Thus, Pampered Puppy would benefit from having multiple free grooming stations set up across multiple parks across the city (having been promoted online through social media) during that window of summer. For customers who arrive, specialists should be onsite to give recommendations for home care for people’s dogs, and a special coupon should be provided for people who post a picture of their dog on social media with the hashtag #PamperedPuppy. Customers are thus incentivized to arrive by the free grooming and given incentive to return as customers when their dogs need grooming again. Many more will now be taking notice of Pampered Puppy’s social media pages, waiting for similar events.

Tough Shrew Screws, a product that can’t necessarily be enjoyed directly, is going to have to be a bit more convoluted. As people start to undertake work on the home in late spring going into the summer, scheduling the event in April and May would be ideal. As well, the most reasonable place to buy construction supplies would be at hardware stores or home improvement stores, the most popular of which would likely be Home Depot (who would likely be easy to cross-promote with, for the right price). Thus, to showcase the strength of the screws in a fun way, having events at Home Depots around the city in April or May wherein complicated, weighty structures are held together by seemingly pressured Tough Shrew Screws: customers are free to observe the structure and do their own comparative stress tests by (very violently) testing the strength of Tough Shrew Screws against generic competitors.

Customers would be encouraged to show up via social media for giveaways for prizes of gift cards through Home Depot, and many would encouraged to promote by posting pictures of the weighty structure or posting videos of themselves smashing the inferior screwed objects with the hashtag #ToughShrewScrews. Thus, everyone gets to know how strong the screws are, get memorable experiences, you establish a healthy corporate relationship with a large retailer for your product, and everybody wins.

In both cases, we emphasize what we said before: prioritizing entertainment for customers, working through social media to promote and get customers to promote for you, and going to where the demand is high.


Engagement Marketing is more than a trend at the moment: 79% of marketers in the United States say that they’re using engagement marketing to reach customers now [7]. Now, it is necessary to use engagement marketing to stay competitive. It makes sense why they’re using it, too-- you’re far more likely to remember leaping through a ring of fire to win a free bottle of cola than you are to remember a YouTube ad of some actor doing it.

It’s not that hard to plan an event, either: you just have to take the time to plan accordingly, figure out when and where to do it, plan how to make it fun for your customers, and set up your social and traditional media to advertise it appropriately. One event does not make an entire marketing plan: you have to hold multiple events spread over time to keep your brand awareness up [3], but taking your first step and holding you first event is the most important part.

After your first event, listen to feedback your customers give you and take note of how much your product’s sales go up: if it’s negative on both ends, you know you need to restructure your events. Don’t worry, though: if you take the time to research what to do to engage people and you figure out how to incorporate your product into that, you’ll be golden. By the end of one of your engagement marketing events, your customers will feel spoiled, entertained, and loved.

In other words, any given customer at your event will feel like a pampered puppy, and chances are good their wallet will be a little bit looser for it.
Feature Image_Puppy


Contact us by email at alliaudrey@idesigncollaborative.com.

  [1] https://econsultancy.com/blog/65230-10-very-cool-examples-of-experiential-marketing/
[2] http://www.inc.com/guides/201102/new-rules-of-event-marketing.html
[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-anthony-fernandez/5-essential-tips-for-exec_b_4283226.html
[4] https://www.clickz.com/why-brands-need-to-invest-in-experiential-marketing/25786/
[5] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249971
[6] http://www.jeffbullas.com/2016/08/09/5-ways-to-rock-experiential-marketing-with-digital-campaigns/
[7] http://blog.eventfarm.com/blog/35-statistics-that-every-event-marketer-should-know
[8] https://www.shutterstock.com/search/pampered+dog