Experiential Marketing: More Than Just a Photo-Op

experiential marketing photo-ops

The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is not purely a sentimental notion, it’s an understatement: our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text, allowing visual content to make a powerful, immediate connection. Thanks to this advantage, images have a unique ability to influence behavior and drive sales. This summer, for example, thousands of selfie-seeking travelers were inspired to visit Grand Canyon National Park by images of the park’s scenic vistas posted on social media. Experiential marketing photo-ops tap into this same notion, combining a deeply impactful human experience with the broad reach of image sharing.

When done right, a live experience can be arresting and awe-inducing, and its impact is exponentially extended when captured and shared by any influencers in attendance. That said, it’s important to offer a meaningful experience — not just a photo-op.

“A single image can make a massive difference in how likely a tweet or Facebook post is to be shared,” writes Mary C. Long in an Adweek article exploring the intricate dance between experiential marketing efforts and social media. Indeed, the right image can help achieve the Holy Grail of virality and give a brand an earned media lift in social channels, especially when accompanied with a carefully crafted hashtag. But a solid experiential marketing campaign needs to be more than just a photo-op, or else it risks contributing to an emerging sense of photo-fatigue, which is rapidly becoming the elephant in the Instagram feed for experiential marketing pros.

Dan Ortiz, writing for The Drum, suggests doing away with “Insta-baiting selfie honey-pots” and focusing instead on cultivating authentic experiences that invite people to relax and become “truly authentic and vulnerable.” He imagines a Museum of Ice Cream-esque experience minus the stressful conveyor belt pace.

“Think of it as The Museum of Ice Cream meets a hip boutique hotel. I believe that if we offer spaces that are comfortable and hotel-like we can erase the usual self-inflicted pressure created by experiential pop-ups — the gnawing feeling that I have to capture as many pictures as possible from the best possible angles before moving on to the next room of the experience and the next room and so forth,” says Ortiz.

Simply put, don’t get trolled by the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen.” Effective experiential marketing should build a remarkable experience first — your audience will find the photo-ops.

Here are two recent activations that offered an engaging experience and plenty of share-worthy pics.

Ride the Wild Llama

A mechanical bull dressed up as a Fortnite loot llama was the centerpiece of Epic Games’ booth at GDC, but the fun didn’t end there. In addition to llama rides, the booth offered plenty of comfortable gaming stations and free refreshments. Developers were invited to explore the offerings at their own pace, trying out Unreal Engine games and fortifying themselves with beer and snacks before attempting to tame the llama.

Beyond Good and Evil

To promote its new fantasy series, Amazon Prime created a surreal and action-packed paradise in the middle of SXSW. Visitors to the Good Omens Garden of Earthly Delights were greeted by a demon and an angel and required to choose a path; the demon’s path led to a Hellhound puppy adoption pen, Frito pies, a hair salon, and a Snapchat-partnered photo-op with demon wings, while the angel’s path led to a bookstore from the show, a sushi station, a nail salon, and a Snapchat photo-op with angel wings. A huge tree in the middle of the space dispensed beer and wine (as well as apples with prophecies inside, naturally). Bikers, classical musicians, and costumed characters rounded out the experience. With all this going on in the Garden, the Snapchat photo-ops were hardly the only opportunities for unique and outrageous photos.

In both of these examples of experiential marketing photo-ops, guests enjoyed exploring a rich, engaging, multipart experience with plenty of quirky moments to document — and went home with some pretty fun pics to share.

Photo: A live event in Paris for Aprinnova under the lights of the Eiffel Tower, with beauty industry influencers in attendance. Read more about this unique after-hours event.

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