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Host an experiential event to [insert desired outcome here]!

April 23, 2024

Experiential events have become the gold standard in marketing and event planning. If you haven’t organized one before, it may seem like an impossible and daunting feat. At its core, though, the concept of an experiential event is simple. Rather than guests attending as observers, an experiential event gives them a chance to be participants. What they get to do, what they experience (hence the name) is up to you. There are innumerable ways to incorporate experiences into any event and there’s no question that it’s worth the effort.
Attendees will identify with and remember an experiential event, and can learn so much more from doing than from just seeing or hearing. It seems pretty obvious that experience is a component that adds value to any event, so the question just becomes: How? How do you incorporate experience in a way that makes sense, is unique, memorable, and is manageable from a financial and logistical standpoint? Let’s get into it.

We’ve seen experiential events become popular in a variety of ways. The advantage for brand activations and product launches is clear: when customers and stakeholders can touch, feel, or taste a product, they’re much more likely to remember it and build excitement in their community. Having heard there is a new brand of energy bar is not interesting; being invited to try one while meeting a well known athlete or running an obstacle course is definitely interesting. But even less obvious formats can benefit from experiential components. At an innovation summit or collaboration event, participant’s involvement will increase along with the numbers of ways they’ve invited to learn. Paper and pen is fine; an LED idea wall anyone can add to in real time is even better. Even if your event is straightforwardly designed to train or educate, experience has a place. We all remember the teachers who made school fun, who got us out of our chairs and even out of the classroom to give us a new way of learning. We don’t lose that love for something different once we grow up. People crave something new, something they haven’t seen before.

Are you convinced that experiential events is where it’s at? Great! Getting started can still be overwhelming though. To get the creative process going, let’s take a look at some unique experiential events from the past few years, and how their successes can inform yours.

Photo by Adam Groffman, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED,

Event: Refinery 29: 29Rooms

What was great: The lifestyle brand created 29 physical rooms for attendees to walk through. They worked with brand partners to create each room, and every year they’re interactive in a different way. One event had unique ways for participants to create art with what they found in the rooms.
The takeaway: Keep people moving and actively participating. Utilize the power of partnerships to expand your creative reach and bring in fresh ideas.

Event: M&M Flavor Rooms

What was great: M&M created a pop-up in New York to determine its newest flavor. The immersive rooms were themed down to fragrances and décor. There were even M&M themed cocktails.
The takeaway: Never miss an opportunity to engage senses other than sight and sound.
Learn more here:

Photo by Warren R.M. Stuart, CC BY 2.0 DEED,

Event: Vans: House of Vans

What was great: The popular shoe line created pop-ups where it knew it had fans- skate parks. Promoting their new shoe line while giving skaters a place to hang out and listen to music in their favorite skating location was a great fit.
The takeaway: Know your target audience and be willing to go where they are.

Photo by Whelsko, CC BY 2.0 DEED,

Event: Fortnite Concert

What was great: Fortnite used 2020’s necessitated shift to an online world to create a one-of-a-kind experience. Rapper Travis Scott used his avatar to perform a virtual concert called “Astronomical” that was attended live by 12 million people and has been viewed over 200 million times on YouTube.
The takeaway: Virtual events have the potential to be just as powerful as those that are in person, and their reach can be far greater.

Event: KIND’s Secret Farmer’s Market

What was great: KIND turned one of their snack bars’ vending machines into a hidden doorway to a secret farmer’s market. The fresh food that participants encountered promoted KIND’s commitment to distributing healthy foods and was all available- for free. Social media promotions brought thousands of people to the experience.

The takeaway: People love a surprise. They also really love secret doors and hidden spaces. Giveaways don’t always have to be the product you’re selling.

Learn more here:

Photo by: Mark Lopez, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED,

Event: Chicago Children’s Museum- New Art Studio

What was great: In 2022, the museum opened an art studio that is immersive and ever-evolving. The scenery pulls young artists in, and ample art supplies and activities give them an opportunity to respond to what they’ve seen. The space incorporates the work children produce into its displays and design.
The takeaway: Let participants leave their mark on an event or location so they can feel connected to it.

Event: Iowa Finance Authority: 2022 HousingIowa Conference

What was great: A housing conference was turned into a Main Street parade where “Housing Leads the Way”. The theme brought new energy to the event as well as its website, materials, and promotions.
The takeaway: Any event can be innovative with the right reimagining. A great theme can change the game.
Learn more here:

Event: NBCUniversal Quantum Leap Reboot Launch

What was great: To promote the reboot of a popular show with a time travel theme, people were invited to drive through the “Quantum Leap Accelerator” straight into a scene from the past. Best of all, they were given a pass to fill their tanks at a gas station with 1980s-costing 91 cents per gallon gas.
The takeaway: Nostalgia is powerful and fun- especially when people get the chance to buy something at good-old-days prices.
Learn more here:

Event: Espolon Cristalino Launch Party

What was great: To launch a new tequila, Espolon took guests to stunning Mexican caves- in New York. Projection mapping transported everyone to tropical wonderlands without stepping foot outside of the city.
The takeaway: Technology is your friend. Projection mapping can literally immerse your guests anywhere you want them to be.
Learn more here:

Event: Delta Airlines Parallel Reality Experience

What was great: Delta created a glimpse of what’s possible for travelers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Partnering with design and tech companies, they presented customers with an eye-catching entrance to an experience that used kiosks and scanners to present them with a streamlined, personalized way to view their travel information.
The takeaway: Every part of an experience, even check in, is an opportunity to do something exciting and new.
Learn more here:

Event: Liquid IV Fuel Your Play Event

What was great: For its first national brand campaign, Liquid IV went on the road and created a play station complete with games and a camper van serving its products at an Atlanta market, while also dropping off samples throughout the city.
The takeaway: Expanding your brand can be done in a fun way by introducing your products to a new market in a casual setting.

Event: TikTok Summer Party

What was great: When employees returned to in-office work, TikTok hosted a huge party to welcome them back. Everything from the snacks to the photo ops were branded, and the company provided a skincare bar, games, and a 360 photo booth for employees to enjoy.

The takeaway: Sometimes employees or stakeholders deserve a treat, and it can be more memorable and exciting than a pen set or a catered lunch.

Event: Cap’n Crunch Cap’n’s Commute

What was great: Cap’n Crunch turned a New York City ferry into a cereal-themed vessel with prizes, games, and (of course) snacks, and thereby turned passengers’ commute into a delicious experience.

The takeaway: Instead of bringing people to your event, you can take the event to them. Also- don’t be afraid of multiple apostrophes in a title. If it worked for the Cap’n it can work for you.

Learn more here:

Event: March of Dimes Imagines

What was great: March of Dimes wanted to remind the world of its mission and refresh its brand. A huge dome was filled with whimsical design, imagery, and activities that engaged attendees while educating them on MoD’s mission to ensure healthy starts for all infants.
The takeaway: Nonprofits can benefit from the excitement and buzz surrounding experiential events just as much as for-profit brands.
Learn more here:

Event: Cheetos at SXSW

What was great: Everyone knows that to eat Cheetos is to have orange dust-covered fingers. Rather than consider it a drawback, Cheetos leans in. The company created a Hands-Free House at the iconic South By Southwest music festival to show how tech has evolved to create a variety of hands free experiences, leaving us free to use our fingers to grab their tasty snack.
The takeaway: Use what’s unique about your company or brand to give people a great memory- even if it’s well outside of the box you normally operate in.

It may seem like these events have little to nothing in common, and it’s true that they illustrate the wide-open range of options that exist within experiential event planning. But all of them were successful because they took the same things into consideration:
–       Understand your audience.

Good event planners know who will be attending, what motivates them, and what has to happen for them to consider their time at the event worthwhile.
–       Set clear objectives.

What is the goal of the experience? Will people learn more about something? Become personally invested? Or just have a great time?
–       Prioritize engagement and interaction.

It can be easy to fall into the rhythm of planning for efficiency- achieving as much as possible as quicky as possible. However, that is often in direct conflict with allowing the time required for people to connect with what’s happening and each other. Don’t be afraid to spend some time to let people have the experience you want them to have.
–       Innovate and think creatively.

Many of the events listed involved locations or activities well outside of their normal scope. A video game hosting a concert, a cereal brand running a ferry, a snack company building a tech house- these ideas worked because they were unexpected.
–       Use technology to enhance the attendee experience.

It’s virtually unheard of to attend an event now without there being a tech component. The most successful experiential events, though, are constantly looking for ways to incorporate the newest and most exciting technology in ways that participants haven’t seen before.

It’s clear that experiential events are working consistently as a way to engage attendees and create a memorable experience. Hopefully these examples show there’s no one right way to be successful in this arena, and there’s always room for something new. Let these examples jump start your thought process and start planning!