Experiential Marketing versus PR Stunts: What’s the difference?

Marketing is, by its very nature, very guilty of “rebranding” old ideas and selling them as new ones.

So it seems that, while online media is creating new ways to reach and sell to consumers every day, traditional marketing and advertising is ever more desperate to reinvent and rejuvenate its techniques to keep up.

In recent years this has given rise to Experiential Marketing – these are usually real world events, exhibits or installations which are linked to a product or service brand and increase awareness of it through creative, novel or attention grabbing means.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

But is Experiential Marketing just the new buzz term to describe the traditional PR stunt? Well actually, in this case, probably not – but the only easy way to describe the difference between the two is by providing examples – so here goes:

Red Bull Stratos Jump

PR Stunt - Red Bull Stratos SkydiveThe whole world knew about it when Felix Baumgartner took Red Bull’s specially constructed Stratos balloon into the upper reaches of our atmosphere to conduct the highest skydive in the history of… jumping off things…

The truth is that Red Bull are the masters of this type of publicity, adopting the unique approach of not just sponsoring events but of owning them outright.

Rather than paying for a few decals on a Williams F1 car, they create their own highly successful F1 cars and team, rather than sponsoring an air show, they created the death defying Red Bull air race. Surprisingly these approaches are not only FAR more effective than conventional sponsorship, they are actually cheaper and can generate their own revenue streams. However, while Red Bull’s marketing is unique and highly effective, it is not Experiential marketing – at no point are the audience introduced to the product or experience itself, just something exciting and attention-grabbing with their name and branding attached. So it is fair to say that Red Bull’s efforts, for all their innovation, still stick closely to the traditional Publicity Stunt model.


Lyles Golden Syrup Porridge Dispensers:

Experiential Marketing - Lyles Smiles DispenserThis was a very clever installation set up in main train stations around the UK which dispensed golden syrup flavoured porridge to hungry commuters. However, it would only do so if the commuter smiled into the units facial recognition camera – thus capitalising on the “Smile it’s Tate and Lyle” slogan and adding a unique quirk to the traditional free sample concept.

Although this quirk, the location and the eye-catching unit itself, were attention grabbing enough to be considered publicity stunts, the fact that the user has to actively engage with the unit, gets to directly try out the product itself and physically participates in recreating the company’s slogan, this is, in every sense of the term, experiential marketing.

We’ll continue this article next week with the Game of Thrones Dragon Skeleton and Ikea’s The Big Sleep…

Oliver Connor

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