Difference between brand experience and experiential marketing

December 12, 2019 - Posted by Aesthetic

One is significant to your overall marketing strategy, and the other is an element of your strategy that can build brand awareness and influence your audience.

Let’s take a closer look.

Experiential marketing 101

There’s something magical about being immersed in an event, from singing along with the crowd at a concert to sampling delicious offerings at a food festival. It’s the people, sights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells that combine to create unforgettable experiences.

Experiential marketing is about giving your audience a personalised, meaningful interaction with your brand in a live environment. It helps people get to know your brand better – and ultimately influences their decision-making process.

In fact, 74% of consumers say that engaging with branded event marketing experiences makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted, and 77% have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalised service or experience.

What about brand experience?

Similar to experiential marketing, brand experience seeks to activate your audience’s senses and emotions while connecting with their values, creating long-term memory and behavioural patterns.

Rather than being one part of a strategy (like experiential marketing, digital, or out-of-home marketing) brand experience is the overarching strategy. It involves the seamless integration of all the touchpoints your consumers have with your brand. This strategic approach is designed to shape the way your audience experiences your brand – from customer service to digital channels, products and services, and more.

Experiential marketing is just one aspect of the many touchpoints you might utilise in an integrated strategy. And it pays off – integrative, multi-channel campaigns outperform dual-channel campaigns by 300%.

Leave the stunts to Hollywood

While PR stunts and one-off promotions are one element of experiential marketing, the most effective campaigns are grounded in insight, which makes the message resonate with the audience. Impressions are great, but you may begin to move into ‘vanity metric’ territory if people aren’t really connecting. It’s about creating a memorable event within a long-term strategy that’s authentic to your goals, mission and values – and those of your customers.

Great experiential marketing is something that encourages people to participate in (and often contribute to). It’s an engaging communication strategy that helps your audience relate to your brand message and values, and can feel more authentic than one dimensional communication. It could be complimentary classes or workshops, pop-up retail shops, art installations, live performances, conferences, and more.

This type of marketing encourages user-generated content (UGC), which should be considered when it comes to brand experience strategy. A massive 92% of online users trust UGC more than traditional advertising, and 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos. When it comes to your bottom line and converting experiences into sales, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.

Downward facing dog

In July 2019 Lululemon opened its newest and largest store – a whopping 20,000 square foot Chicago location with two floors of retail space, three studios, and a restaurant.

After a series of false advertising, product quality, and founder controversies, Lululemon senior leaders realised they needed to turn the brand around. Today, Lululemon has cleverly repositioned itself as an ongoing wellbeing hub based on its philosophy of leading a healthy, mindful lifestyle. By investing in the health and wellbeing of their consumers with experiences like free yoga classes, the brand has attracted a global audience who believe in and engage with the Lululemon philosophy.

Lululemon has been able to expand its offering as fans continue to come back, again and again, to sweat and have fun. Lululemon ran more than 4,000 events in 2018, including half-marathons and fitness retreats.

CEO Calvin McDonald now views the retailer more as an experiential brand than a lifestyle one. Of the events they run, Calvin said: “We know that consumers want to participate in communities with people who share their passion.”

This brand experience strategy has worked so well for them that Jeff Sward of Merchandising Metrics says “Lululemon has brand worshippers…as [they] expand into the broader health and wellness businesses, these folks are going to not just follow but participate enthusiastically.”

Lululemon Lincoln Park experiential store

Donuts: is there anything they can’t do?

To promote the new Google Home Mini with ‘the size of a donut, the powers of a superhero’ slogan, Google launched pop-up donut stores across the US, Canada, and the UK.

Inside each donut store, visitors could ask the Google Home Mini a question. They received a reply from the device, as well as a small box either containing a Google Home Mini or a delicious donut. The experience also included sprinkles booths where attendees could get covered in sprinkles (confetti), just like a donut.

The experience involved activating all of their audience’s senses – the smell and taste of donuts, and the colourful visuals of the conveyor belts. Google included examples of the types of questions you could ask the Home Mini on a donut-shop style menu. This encouraged trial by building excitement and anticipation in a playful scenario: you either won a donut to eat or a new tech toy to play with.

There were multiple benefits to promoting the Google Home Mini in this way; it reinforced the new Pixel phone; it allowed product trial in a creative environment; and it generated awareness through a fun, shareable experience.

Google Home Mini Donut Shop

Dream a little dream

At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Pinterest created a playful and colourful experiential activation. Stylish attendees visited Dreamland – a colourful, playful space that engaged all five senses in a non-traditional way.

Upon arrival, attendees sipped a palate cleanser and proceeded to explore different sights, smells, and sounds, stamping a card along the way with their preferences. Once they had completed all of the activities, bartenders matched their choices to a bespoke cocktail designed to inspire and delight.

This experiential marketing event was authentically representative of the Pinterest brand and its audience. The Cannes location aligned to creating a premium experience and the personality matching activity was a fun, interactive way for their audience to participate. It both started conversations to do with personality types and the various cocktails offered while demonstrating how Pinterest is an immersive platform that supports its users from discovery through to inspiration.

Pinterest at Cannes Lions 2019

Experiential within brand experience

To recap, experiential marketing is just one part of a great campaign. When experiential is included in a well-defined and integrated brand experience strategy, it creates ongoing, memorable moments for your audiences, reinforcing brand positioning and allowing people to feel your ATL campaign.

At Aesthetic, we’ve been delivering experiential marketing, events and activations for over a decade. Our award-winning team is excited to work with your business to understand your needs, then defining and delivering the strategies and events that will help meet your objectives.


Figuring out the right experiential marketing campaign can be a daunting task. We can help you integrate experiential within your brand experience strategy to deliver meaningful and memorable experiences that will help build brand awareness, sentiment, and loyalty.

Let’s talk.


Follow our Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn for our latest projects, research and content.