What is Experiential Marketing? 15 Definitions For B2C and B2B Marketers

If you want to know what experiential marketing is, you’ve come to the right place.  We’ve gathered 15 experts’ definitions to help you to better grasp this growing marketing strategy.

And why does it matter what is experiential marketing?  Because it works.  Experiential marketing has actually been a growing strategy for years. It keeps growing because it gets companies better engaged with consumers increasingly hidden by adblockers, ad-free streaming services, and their own consumer cynicism.

The term experiential marketing has two different applications, depending if it’s being used for B2C or B2B marketing:

  1. B2C experiential marketing: consumer brands offering product samples or experiences that communicate the essence of the company’s brand, usually in highly public places, to reach end users directly.
  2. B2B experiential marketing: Companies that sell to businesses creating experiences in their trade show booths or business events to engage their prospects and buyers.

However, most of these following 15 definitions do not distinguish between B2C or B2B experiential marketing, but when they do, they lean towards B2C.

Here are the 15 definitions, and my thoughts about what matters most in each:

  1. “Experiential marketing, also called “engagement marketing,” is a marketing strategy that invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation. Using participatory, hands-on, and tangible branding material, the business can show its customers not just what the company offers, but what it stands for.” Braden Becker, HubSpot

Becker focuses on the real-life aspects of experiential marketing, and how that experience can be used to go beyond marketing a product to instead revealing a company’s brand mission.

  1. “An advertising strategy that focuses on helping consumers experience a brand, experiential marketing veers off course from traditional strategies that broadcast brand and product benefits to a wide audience. Also referred to as engagement marketing, experiential marketing may be comprised of a variety of marketing strategies geared toward immersing customers within the product by engaging them in as many ways as possible. Ultimately, companies utilizing this strategy want to help customers form memorable, emotional connections with a brand to foster customer loyalty and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).” — Molly Galetto, NGDATA

Galetto’s lengthy definition includes how experiential marketing is immersive, emotion-based, intended to connect customers to brands, and to increase loyalty.

  1. “The premise of experiential marketing is to create a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience.” David Moth, Barclaycard

Moth concisely says pretty much the same thing as Galetto, but in 1/3 the space. I love this definition, for Moth’s focus on creating a bond, immersion, and memorable experience.

  1. “Experiential marketing is a strategy that engages consumers using branded experiences. Sometimes referred to as “live marketing” or “event marketing experience,” the idea is to create a memorable impact on the consumer. One that will inspire them to share with their friends both online and off. These experiences could include an event, a part of an event, or a pop-up activation not tied to any event.” Alyssa Torres, Eventbrite

Torres focuses on memorable impact via live events, and includes the motivation to make the event shareable. She uses the term “branded experiences” to help define experiential marketing, yet what is a branded experience?

  1. “Experiential marketing is a type of marketing that directly engages or immerses a target audience in a live event. Also referred to as “live marketing,” “participation marketing” or sometimes “brand activation,” experiential marketing gets your customers involved in your brand or products and lets them experience it in real time.” Tara Johnson, Tinuiti

Johnson, who wins the prize for the most synonyms for experiential marketing in her definition, emphasizes the idea of customers experiencing a company’s brand.

  1. “Experiential is a uniquely fast and effective way to build brand awareness through one-to-one connections with consumers. It engages all five senses, sparking emotions that form lasting memories which have been shown to drive brand loyalty.” — Bryan Icenhower, IMG Live

Icenhower includes how experiential marketing engages the senses and emotions while also including multiple business benefits of experiential marketing.

  1. “Experiential marketing focuses on creating an experience for the participant, which then, in turn, evokes an emotion or reaction that is memorable for them.” Event Manager Blog

This very short definition doesn’t even seem to require a live event. It’s about the goal: using an experience so to be remembered.  As a recipe for success it’s very simple: create an experience that gets an emotional reaction.

  1. “Experiential marketing is a modern marketing strategy that engages potential customers through innovative, immersive experiences. These experiences don’t just sell products—they facilitate a customer’s identification with a brand as a whole.” — Caroline Goldstein, Fundera

For Goldstein, experiential marketing is about creating a bond with a brand as much as moving product.

  1. “Experiential marketing … is a type of marketing based on creating memorable and innovative customer experiences to create deep emotional connections between the customers and the brand.” Esther Sauri, LinkiLaw

Sauri points out how the goal of experiential marketing is to create emotional connections with customers and a brand, whereas presumably other marketing instead focuses on just transactional sales.

  1. “Experiential marketing, also called engagement marketing, is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and encourages them to participate in a brand experience.” — Kiely Kuligowski, Business News Daily

This definition is somewhat of a tautology, because part of its definition of experiential marketing is the equally hard-to-define “brand experience” that implicitly refers back to experiential marketing.

  1. “Experiential marketing focuses on helping consumers experience a brand by immersing the consumer within the product like never before.” GES (Global Experience Specialists)

GES speaks metaphorically, about immersing the consumer within the product – not just hands-on, but inside of the product.

  1. “Experiential marketing — loosely defined as messaging you can touch, feel or view in a physical space.” Shareen Pathak, Adage.com

Pathak emphasizes the tangible, real-life aspect of experiential marketing.

  1. “Experiential marketing is “a forum where a brand can ‘extend a hand’ to touch and engage the consumer.” –Michael Ventura, Sub Rosa

Ventura, similarly to Pathak, calls attention to the physical aspect of experiential marketing, but importantly makes explicit how it’s for a brand to engage with their consumers.

  1. “Experiential marketing is a strategy that provides customers and prospects with an in-person experience – it doesn’t happen online. The experiences are unique and engaging.” Kristen McCabe, G2 Crowd

McCabe hits three key points of experiential marketing: providing a personalized, engaging live experience.

  1. “Experiential marketing is a marketing technique that creates experiences between brands and consumers. Experiential campaigns use an activation (for example product sampling, immersive experiences, stunts, events, etc.) to bring brands to life and interact directly with the target audience.” — Sense (experiential marketing agency)

As an experiential agency focused more on the B2C side of experiential marketing, Sense includes in their definition the types of tactics they use for their clients.

So, do you feel like you better understand the definition of experiential marketing?

While many of these definitions repeatedly include the idea of live experiences and creating emotional bonding between brands and consumers, we felt that no single definition captured all the essential elements.  So, to give the complete picture, here is our own definition of experiential marketing:

“Experiential marketing is how companies create lasting emotional bonds between their consumers and their products or brand with live experiences that immersively engage all the senses, are personalized to each participant, plus designed to be sharable on social media, and memorable to promote long-term loyalty.”

We have clients who come to us to use our trade show games and event gamification solutions because they want to experiment with experiential marketing with their attendees, but with a proven experience that has already delivered results. Our focus is on delivering solid B2B experiential marketing solutions.

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic, keep attendees engaged longer, and capture leads with our fun interactive trade show games, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate a serious increase in excitement, crowds, and leads.

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology.