• Erika Kelland

Experiential Marketing and Communications: Living your Brand

Experiential marketing and communications has a broad definition. It’s a way in which your consumers and/or the public engage with your product or brand to truly “experience” it. You may have seen pop-up simulators in public venues and beach-side showers dressed as Sprite fountain drinks. While these elaborate tactics can draw virality to your brand, a hefty financial investment isn’t always necessary to offer your customer an experience.

Traditional advertising, such as print, television, or radio, is intended to communicate to consumers through visual and verbal means. It is one-way communication and while the right medium and message pairing can have a powerful impact on the audience, that message is impaired by its inability to connect with consumers on a physical or environmental level—they can’t “feel” your brand. There is something that stands as a barrier—a screen, a sheet of paper. There will always be a level of understanding that the experience isn’t real, which can undermine the message and the engagement with the brand.

Back in elementary school, we learned some of our first lessons in marketing: the five senses. Traditionally, these are referred to as methods of perception and categorized as taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Through traditional advertising, you are engaging two of these five senses, leaving 60% of the senses unemployed. Hello, experiential marketing and communications! In today’s market, we can provide more to our consumers—how does your brand smell? At an event, how does your brand taste? Every element, no matter how subtle, will speak to your brand and the holistic experience of the audience.

The goal of experiential marketing and communications is to form a memorable emotional connection between the consumer and the brand so that it may generate customer loyalty and influence purchase decisions.

Like a person, a brand personality is made up of a million minute characteristics. Individually, they’re not necessarily awe-inspiring, but in conjunction with one another, they tell a full-circle story. That is how we recommend you look at your brand. Every detail, no matter the size, has an impact on your brand and the image you project. Experiential marketing is a sector in and of itself. There are experiential marketing agencies that specialize in planning and producing large-scale events and marketing activations, including trade shows booths, venue scouting, event production, guerilla marketing and more. If making a big splash is not in your budget, don’t worry: it’s not necessary.

There are many easy, practical ways to integrate a more experiential approach into your marketing or communications strategy. In order to figure out what environmental or physical tactics you might try, here are some things to think about:

  • What do you want your consumer to remember once they have interacted with your brand?

  • What are some iconic elements that represent your brand?

  • If your brand could be placed somewhere physical, where would that be?

  • Write out words that represent what you want people to feel and experience when they engage with your brand.

At your event

Every element of your event—no detail is too small:

  • venue (neighbourhood, brand reputation, rental cost)

  • day of week/time of day

  • sponsors/partners

  • decor

  • guest list

  • food

  • swag/giveaways

  • entertainment/speakers

  • dress code

At your office

  • how your office looks (internally and externally)

  • the location

  • how you dress

  • your mannerisms

  • your speech (diction, delivery)

  • your policies

In public

  • if you choose to advertise, where?

  • how will you interact with the public?

  • if you choose to sponsor/engage in community initiatives, which ones?

  • which stakeholders will you partner with?

Putting it into Practice at Twine PR

We have gathered a few of our favourite examples of experiential marketing and communications, including some of the ways we try to infuse this approach into everything we do as Twine PR!

Read about some the campaigns that have inspired us below.


Home Again Furniture Bank Housewarming

As regular volunteers with Home Again Furniture Bank, we were thrilled to be committee members for its inaugural fundraising event, soon-to-be-known as the annual Housewarming. We had a lot of fun applying a housewarming party vibe to as many elements as possible.

We knew we needed a large venue to accommodate all of the furniture auction pieces, the number of guests/tables, and other sections for raffles, cocktails, craft beer tasting and more. The CLB Armoury was the chosen one. We knew once the physical pieces were added to the space, it would offer the intimate, laid back feel we were going for and be enough of a “blank canvas” to ensure the brand and theme were really coming through. The dress was casual and informal, guests mingled to the music of Maggie Burton and Michael Collins, enjoying their complimentary welcome cocktail appropriately named the “Welcome Home”.

Live and silent auction items were beautiful pieces of handmade or upcycled furniture, home decor, housewares, and artwork, along with experiences that could be enjoyed as a family or in a home setting. We incorporated brown paper-wrapped boxes adorned with branded “this side up”, “fragile” and “handle with care” stickers into the decor as balloon holders, and display props for food, beverage, and raffles. From a dresser mirror (in all its 80s glory) hung mismatched picture frames and became our seating chart. A mock (and very cozy) living room was set up on the stage as the event focal point using new & modern, second-hand and auction pieces. House parties are known for having a laugh in a relaxed setting, making a customized performance by Keith Power and Dana Parsons the perfect entertainment. The sounds of Bill Brennan provided lovely dinner music as guests ate delicious comfort food served family-style at each table by Mallard Cottage. For dessert, a table of homemade cakes were up for auction and displayed on crates and boxes.

Even the sponsorship levels were “home-themed” - “Furnish a Home” (major); “Hire the Movers” (gold); “Make Dreaming Easier” (silver); “Set a Table" (bronze). Some of the sponsors themselves were from industries in the “home industry” - residential construction, realty, furniture sales, movers, property management, along with many other amazing organizations who are near and dear to Home Again.

Other elements present at the event included a video “thank you” message from furniture recipients and referral agencies, a slide show including a mix of Home Again photos, event sponsor logos and to recognize ongoing partners and donors, their logos were also included. Home Again’s director of development and director of operations thanked guests and supporters and shared the impact of their donations along with a heartfelt message from a furniture recipient.

Home Again is a fairly new non-profit organization with a staff of three part-time (extremely hardworking) individuals, so budgets were obviously a huge consideration, as they are for many, but by doing some of the things we described, we were able to portray the theme and the brand in a very cost-effective way.

Housewarming in photos:

Video/Interview Harvey’s Home Heating: Petro-Canada “Live By The Leaf” Video Campaign

This past year we were fortunate to help our friends at Harvey’s Home Heating apply and secure a placement in their partner’s, Petro-Canada, Live By The Leaf video campaign. With so many eligible companies nationwide to feature, Harvey’s was tasked with showcasing how their business lives “By The Leaf” and truly embodies the authentic Canadian spirit during a video interview.

Our goal? To demonstrate the Harvey’s spirit that Chris and the Harvey’s team does everyday. Showcase how a family-owned company on the eastern edge of Canada is Living By The Leaf and setting an example of the community.

This project is a great example of how you can integrate small elements of experiential communications in your daily business operations. These elements were integrated without a budget or external resources and simply leaned on the pre-existing materials at our disposal.

We wanted the Petro-Canada team to experience the Harvey’s brand, even if they were thousands of miles away. The conversation and setting would feel approachable, kind, humble, yet proud.

To accomplish this, we moved through the checklist we laid out in our article - simple things you can do in and out of the office to live your brand.

Where? The A. Harvey’s boardroom. If you’ve been fortunate to sit in this stunning space, you know it features a wall of harbour-facing windows that would have us daydreaming all meeting, for sure. Better yet, the window showcases signal hill, and the A. Harvey marine base. Harvey’s is a business that began in Newfoundland more than 150 years ago. What is a simple way to pay homage to the past while having a very modern, video conference call? Photos. The walls are lined with historic photos and demonstrate the depth of culture within the company in a very real, authentic way.

While your environment is key, nothing will be as important as the central focal point, the personnel. General Manager, Chris Forward, held the interview, and we wanted to be sure he was as on-brand as the mound of Harvey’s road salt on the pier or colourful oil delivery trucks around town.

Day-to-day you may see Chris in a beautifully tailored two-piece suit, but for this interview, we wanted him to embody the relatable, friendly persona of the fuel delivery drivers that provide Harvey’s service everyday. Chris wore a Harvey’s polo and a big Harvey’s smile, and personified every bit of their dependable brand.

Paired with key messages and thoughtful stories, the interview was a success, and you can now see Chris on the Life By The Leaf website and throughout the campaign. There is no event too small when considering experiential marketing and communications tactics, and as we learned through this interview process, no detail too small.

Watch the Harvey's Live By The Leaf video here:

Erika’s top picks:


Lululemon St. John’s

There is no better example of how a large brand can integrate seamlessly into a local market than Lululemon. While St. John’s has had Lululemon pop-ups in the past, for the first time, we were getting a real, standalone store. With such a luxury price point, Lululemon isn’t the automatic choice for our price-conscious market, but they align with Newfoundland in one major way - their unpretentious community connection.

In the few short years Lululemon has been in the Avalon Mall, they have successfully integrated themselves into the health and fitness community of the metro area. Tangible examples are seen during any major road race, with Lululemon team cheering with outrageous motivating signs, outdoor summer and winter community yoga, and in-store events.

I don’t just say this because I have a love for stretchy pants, but Lululemon gets it. They understand that they represent and sell their brand in every customer and potential customer interaction. They also recognize that they can’t truly communicate their brand values solely inside a retail space. Insert the Lululemon Ambassador Program. Internationally, Lulu nurtures and celebrates community athletes and inspirational individuals with this program. Photos of local faces line the walls of the St. John’s store and immediately create a sense of community and familiarity with this relatively new location. Outside the store, these ambassadors are able to create more authentic and engaging relationships. Essentially, the Ambassador Program acts as a living, breathing advertisement for Lululemon.


Off the Island

Misereor Social Swipe

Non-profits have the challenge of asking for donations while not being able to easily equate that monetary amount to a tangible result. With Misereor’s Social Swipe campaign, people just get it. With German ad agency Kolle-Robbe, Miseror created the world's first interactive display that was able to accept credit card donations. Can a credit card untie the bound hands of a child? It can now.

Click the link below to see this campaign in action.

Erin’s Top Picks:


Orangestore port-a-potty

With help from Upstream Marketing, the Orangestore’s deluxe port-a-potty found at major public events around St. John’s and debuted lakeside at the Regatta is pretty much as good as it gets, in my opinion. There’s nothing better than offering up an experience in something that will definitely be used at an event regardless if you make it cool or not. Having clean bathrooms is a priority for Orangestore (we thank them!) and they let us know in the very best way.

If you haven't had the luxury of trying it out yourself, see it here:

Off the Island

Salvation Army Hidden Poverty Tour

The Salvation Army is just always really smart. They are great believers in experiential marketing and I love it when it’s practiced for social good. Instead of just talking about the poverty issue that exists, they show it, making an impact and memory those who experienced it will never forget.

This one’s still a favourite - brilliant simplicity:

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