2017 Conference Content Creation Marketing

Get Engaged! Transform Your Digital Presence with Experiential Marketing (#TIE2)

Catherine Scholz opens her presentation saying she has a geek degree, works at a geek university and manages a geek team—instantly likeable and full of energy. She’s worked for an experiential marketing firm planning and running interactive events for clients like Microsoft.

She takes the notion of engagement marketing to her position at Milwaukee School of Engineering. The idea here is to directly engage with brand users to deepen their loyalty, to encourage them to participate in the evolution of a brand.

Scholz says this is way more than selfies. It’s blending physical and digital. While many industries have embraced interactive marketing for decades, it’s an idea still picking up pace in higher education. But these stats from a 2015 Event Marketing survey Scholz shares will show the power of in-person experiences:

  • 98% of people who go to an event are inclined to purchase from that brand.
  • 87% of those people make a purchase
  • 70% become regular customers
  • 74% have a more positive opinion of the brand

And the good news is that higher ed is by nature experiential, as Scholz points out. Our students and faculty members are doing things that could present opportunities for interactive tie-ins, from games and photo booths to building immersive digital experiences, like drone flyover campus videos.

Scholz went on to share several examples from her institution as well as brands, including one of the most memorable recent experiential campaigns, REI’s #optoutside. REI’s powerful message of exploring the outdoors vs. shopping—and its closure of its store and online operation on Black Friday—inspired social change. More than 160 other retailers took cues from REI, and the heart of this campaign really created some emotional user-generated and official content. A memorable snippet of a video was a retail manager who said this was the first time in 27 years he could spend time with his family after Thanksgiving.

But at our institutions, Scholz says we don’t always have to look for the big events. She says, “Small things can be big when there’s enough truth and honesty behind it.”

Going along with that, she also said that having a big budget can lead to incredible things, but the reality is that we don’t always have funds. She provided some tips on ways to “hack in” to experiential marketing, getting creative to find different ways to do things.


Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Andy

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.