People are drawn to unique experiences, and today, when so much of our daily lives take place online, unique often means tangible, in-person and interactive. Focused on holistic interactions with brands, experiential marketing includes face-to-face activities that go beyond the traditional trade show or networking mixer. These occasions are creative and different, with many incorporating hands-on activities that engage multiple senses and nurture a sense of authentic connection.

According to the Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack study, 74 percent of consumers have a better opinion about a brand after an experiential marketing event and 98 percent feel more inclined to purchase after attending one. Why? Business consultant Heather Finay writes in Forbes that these types of experiences foster a sense of belonging and community. “Throughout history, humans have been connected through group experience: hunting together, building together, parenting together,” she writes. “We’ve developed a brain system wired for connection and accounting for up to 95 percent of our decision making. Marketing can make a profound impact when it says ‘yes, you belong,’ bypassing the need for ‘proof.’”

At 90octane, we’ve found some successful ways to leverage experiential marketing this year, particularly through collaborations with our longtime client Gates Corporation. Here are some things we’ve learned:

Don’t just create an atmosphere – Create engaging activities

At CONEXPO, the international construction trade show, we helped our client Gates Corporation design a booth that compelled people to participate with the brand in an interesting and meaningful way. We placed activity stations along the edges of the booth, introducing people to the brand through a skid steer that you could climb inside, a Quick-Lok™ Challenge that allowed people to experience a Gates product through a fun game, and a station where people crimped their own hydraulic hose bottle openers to take home. One activity included a computer, but it was the least popular. People were much more interested in participating in the hands-on, non-digital activities.

One of the most popular parts of the Gates booth was a graphic recorder who asked people about their greatest challenges and recorded their responses onto the mural in real time. Not only was this fun, different and interactive, it made people feel heard, valued and a part of the brand. When people can be participants, not just spectators, they feel more connected to your brand and more likely to become or remain customers.

Use live social media to drive online and in-person engagement

While at CONEXPO and other trade shows, we’ve been sure to broadcast live via social media, which is rare in the manufacturing space. Facebook live created an immediacy that drove people to our booth and brought the activities in Las Vegas to anyone anywhere who wanted to be involved. Most of our Facebook live videos had at least 5,000 views.

Generate content at in-person events

In-person events are opportunities to create content that you can use in marketing efforts moving forward. At the Gates booth at CONEXPO, for instance, we gathered material that will be used for assets over the next three years, until the next CONEXPO. We got to interview sales representatives, inventors of leading-edge Gates products and capture video footage of people experiencing the products at the booth, as well as the real-time infographic creation. Images, interviews and footage from live events bring a unique sense of authenticity to your marketing.

Experiential marketing can work in any industry, and the more digital marketing becomes, the more tangible, in-person components will be needed to keep audiences engaged.

Questions about how to use experiential marketing?

Contact us.  


Focused on holistic interactions with brands, experiential marketing includes face-to-face activities that go beyond the traditional trade show or networking mixer.

About the Author

Megan Feldman

Senior Storyteller

An award-winning author with more than a decade of journalism experience for top U.S. publications and brands, Megan uses research and storytelling to clarify brand identities, craft messaging strategies and bring client solutions to life through multiple channels.