Why Experiential Marketing Reigns Supreme in a Hybrid Event Driven World

June 2, 2021
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Hybrid events are the way to go, but they still bring a unique challenge to planners: How do we ensure both in-person and virtual guests get the same, amazing event experience they signed up for?

That’s where experiential marketing comes in. The focus shifts from what you want to tell your audience, to crafting true experiences for attendees that interest, engage, and inspire them.

With experiential marketing events, you’re focused on creating interactive messages that live in every part of your event — which will naturally boost attendance and ROI.

Discover the advantages to using experiential marketing for hybrid events, plus seven exciting examples to help you imagine all your own possibilities.

Still getting a handle on experiential marketing? Check out The What, How, When, and Why of Experiential Marketing

what is experiential marketing?

What Is Experiential Marketing and Why Is It Important in 2021?

Experiential marketing uses the power of experiences to help people create a personal, long-lasting relationship with your brand. It’s not about saying something, it’s about showing it and engaging with it.

When virtual events took over in 2020, it became more important than ever to bring in-person experiences to people through a screen. Event planners grappled with how to engage their audience’s senses and entertain them without the usual methods at their disposal.

The good news is, experiential marketing events were never just about actual in-person activities. It’s possible to engage with your audience in multiple ways, including:

Now, as events return to in-person, we can create an exciting mix of experiences for a hybrid audience.

5 Advantages to Using Experiential Marketing for Hybrid Events

Event planners might be eager to create in-person events again, but there is no denying the power of virtual. 

That’s why hybrid events, with the help of experiential marketing, will rule in 2021 and beyond — they blend a variety of experiences into one big event, allowing greater opportunities for sharing, connecting, and exploring through your stellar content, all while collecting valuable audience insights.

#1) Stronger Audience Participation and Engagement

You can find unique ways to engage both in-person and virtual guests, then combine or swap experiences. 

Livestream key speakers using a platform that allows virtual guests to engage, react, or ask questions. Host exclusive Q&As or breakout sessions post-livestream to give virtual guests the opportunity to engage.

Think outside the box to find multiple modes of interaction. Consider these ideas:

  • Pan to in-person guests during the live stream, especially during Q&As
  • Stream virtual guests and speakers on a screen for in-person attendees 
  • Allow in-person and virtual guests to discuss and network after key moments
  • Provide photo ops for in-person guests and encourage virtual guests to snap photos wherever they are, then encourage sharing via an event hashtag
  • Stream live entertainment and combine gaming opportunities for all guests

#2) Larger Platform for Sharing your Brand’s Story and Message

Your brand has a unique story. In your efforts to create amazing experiences for your audience, don’t forget your ultimate goals and message. By plugging experiential marketing ideas into hybrid events, you can create interesting opportunities to display who you are.

In your experiential marketing plan, consider what you’re trying to tell people about your brand, and show people how what you have to offer fits with their own goals.

#3) Creates Longer-Lasting Impact 

Hybrid events allow you to have a far wider reach than just in-person. Your experiences can impact a global audience, with greater content sharing and stronger connections.

As a result, your experiential marketing efforts allow your event to live beyond itself. If your livestreams are recorded, you have the ability to share this content and much more, including photos, graphics, poll results, and more.

Your audience can become your brand ambassadors, using social media to share their own experiences with their followers. Creating social sharing experiences at your hybrid event allows in-person and virtual guests to each share their unique perspectives and takeaways.

#4) Opportunity for Personalized Experiences

What can you customize for your attendees? Creating experiences tailored to them leaves a strong impression, whether it’s related to a product, vendor, or entertainment at your event.

You also can create personalized experiences through mail or email in the form of packages, gifts, or vouchers. What types of swag are you offering? How will it be different for in-person and virtual attendees?

Sending swag packages to virtual attendees is an exciting way to involve them in the experience. Encourage photo sharing of guests using your swag at their virtual location.

#5) Allows for More Data Collection

Supported by a robust hybrid event platform, you can collect tons of valuable data on attendees. Experiential events are all about audience engagement and participation, so the opportunities are rich for collecting insights.

Some examples include:

  • Surveys and polls posted before, during, and after the event
  • High-level analytics on KPIs such as most active users, popular sessions, and downloads
  • Details on how attendees use and engage with the event platform

This data will help you deeply understand your audience and also get their opinions, which will help you to continuously improve your content and events for ultimate customer satisfaction.

Unsure how to match your goals to relevant data? Check out these 12 Event Metrics to Measure Your Success.

experiential marketing examples for hybrid events

7 Experiential Marketing Examples That Elevate Hybrid Events

Hybrid experiences have been around for a while — although they might have looked a little different in the past. As a result, we fortunately have plenty of examples of how people can respond just as strongly to virtual experiences as in-person.

Use these examples as inspiration for ways you can boost your hybrid events by including experiential marketing elements.

#1) A Hybrid Wine Tasting

hybrid wine tasting, experiential marketing event
Source: AWMB / Anjela Kotsoeva

In April, Austrian Wine held its first-ever hybrid wine tasting event. Each guest selected wines, then received a box of samples before the event. During the tasting, winemakers were available for virtual discussions and networking via an online platform.

More than 200 one-on-one meetings took place, and more than 1,300 chat messages were sent during the event. 

The wine-tasting experience, combined with the virtual one-on-one communication with the experts, no doubt left a unique and lasting impression on guests.

#2) Apple: No Stranger to Hybrid Events

Apple Hybrid Event using experiential marketing
Source: Taggbox

It wouldn’t make sense to leave Apple off of the list. They’ve been doing hybrid experiential marketing events for years in order to expand their reach and sell more products. 

Apple live streams its latest and greatest products, with speakers and high-quality production. Both virtual and in-person guests get to connect and enjoy with Apple’s CEO and an up-close and personal look at its products.

Want Apple-level production quality? Check out How to Get Broadcast Quality Virtual Event Production.

#3) Junction’s Hybrid Hackathon

Junction’s Hybrid Hackathon, experiential marketing example
Source: Wikipedia

Junction is normally a 48-hour international hackathon based in Finland. In 2019, about 1,500 people from all over the world attended. Due to the pandemic, Junction adapted to create a hybrid event. The team developed 11 global hubs where participants could attend locally, or guests could attend virtually. 

The goal was to create collaboration, connection, and engagement among attendees, no matter where they tuned in. They fulfilled this goal by using a single platform that connected with their own app, complete with multiple live-streams, one-on-one mentoring, and virtual booths.

#4) The Ultimate Icebreaker

JetBlue, experiential marketing
Source: EventMarketer

JetBlue started offering direct flights from New York to Palm Springs. To promote this, ice molds containing exciting prizes were dropped in two New York locations during winter. The instructions were to bust open the ice for the prizes, but you could only use whatever items you had on hand.

So, what’s the hybrid part? Those who couldn’t be there to get the prizes in person could post on social media how they’d spend their time in Palm Springs, using special branded hashtags, for the chance to win prizes.

#5) WEC Grapevine: A Smashing Success

WEC Grapevine, hybrid and experiential marketing event
Source: Meeting Professional International

If you’re planning a hybrid event, take a page from WEC Grapevine’s book. The event, hosted by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), had a 93% satisfaction rate from attendees.

A five-day, in-person conference was accompanied by a digital experience for virtual guests. Break-out sessions, midday broadcasts, and Zumba workouts boosted the virtual side, with 23 concurrent sessions. Out of 1,739 attendees, 1,131 were virtual.

#6) Bringing an Intimate Concert to Facebook

John Mayer livestream, hybrid event
Source: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Bud Light

In 2017, John Mayer was doing on purpose what many artists had to do out of necessity in 2020 — live-streaming an intimate concert. As part of the Bud Light Dive Bar tour, Mayer played with a full band to a small crowd of 300 people.

The concert was streamed live on Facebook, where viewers could tune in at home. Today, recordings and clips of the steam exist for sharing and re-watching purposes. 

Don’t underestimate the long lasting power of social media for streaming video and connecting with an audience. 

#7) Consider Two Separate Experiences

Yellow Conference, hybrid event
Source: Yellow Co.

These examples are meant to inspire, but don’t let them limit you. While the Yellow Conference embraced a hybrid approach in 2020, they did it in their own way. This meant hosting two separate events: a limited in-person experience and a wider reaching virtual experience.

If you take this approach, you can truly customize the experiences to fit each group.

Make the Most of Your 2021 Hybrid Events With Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing will boost your hybrid events, helping you create spaces filled with fun, engaging, and memorable experiences — in person and online.

To pull off the best hybrid event, you need the right tools. SpotMe’s hybrid event platform was created to build amazing customer relationships, with sophisticated engagement tools, analytics, and web and mobile capabilities.

Try SpotMe today for free, and see how this robust platform will support your most innovative experiential goals.

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