An Unforgettable Experience

By Lain Ehmann

If your sales staff is tired of the same old sales meetings, maybe it’s time to incorporate a little experiential marketing into your event planning. Experiential marketing involves building an entire atmosphere and experience for your attendees from the ground up, says Mark Veeder of EventQuest, a marketing firm that helps companies such as Mercedes and Karastan develop unforgettable events.

For Mercedes, EventQuest created a Mercedes-lifestyle road tour that incorporated four baby boomer hot spots: health, home, technology and fashion. The 30,000 to 35,000 guests walked through focus areas for each of these topics where they were introduced to cutting-edge products and experiences by partners ranging from Ritz-Carlton to SubZero. Their visit culminated in a multimedia presentation showcasing the Mercedes brand. Attendees then were invited to drive the Mercedes of their choice on one of three different courses. The goal was to show that Mercedes is more than a car, it’s a lifestyle, says Veeder.

While the million-dollar-plus price tag puts this complex experience beyond the realm of most companies, Veeder says experiential events can be created for much less. “Experiential marketing can be accomplished at a lot of different levels,” he says.

It’s not just a matter of picking a cool theme and running with it, says Veeder. To be truly effective, the theme must relate back directly to the company’s goals and brand. Veeder suggests starting by asking yourself questions such as: What sets our company or product apart? What is unique or different about us? What are our assets? Then develop an approach based on your answers to those questions.

The other key, says Veeder, is to pay attention to the details. For an upcoming sales meeting for high-end rug and carpet company Karastan, EventQuest pulled out all the stops to bring the theme, Make a Statement, to the company’s 600 salespeople and distributors. From the selection of the Arizona Biltmore, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to the donation of the 20,000 square feet of carpet used to cover the exhibit showroom to local charities, the message was brought home again and again in a subtle yet unavoidable manner. “For us, it’s all about the detail,” says Veeder. “It’s taking a brand message and weaving it through every little thing we do.”

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