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Nonprofits, PSAs, and Art Inspiring Experiential Marketing


Experiential marketing is more than just a fad of flash mobs and food trucks. Many retailers today rely on experiential marketing to keep you in the store, such as Build-A-Bear Workshop. Others use it as a means to grab your attention and build loyalty, such as the Red Bull Flugtag.

Companies looking to use experiential marketing practices should first look at how experiential marketing evolved from public service announcements and groundswell activities.

Nonprofits and safety organizations have always had to rely on scrappy ideas when there isn’t budget to do fancy marketing. In many instances, resourceful marketing is more innovative. Organizations such as use guerrilla tactics to get their point across and grab attention in novel ways. Body bags in the street will shock anyone.

In the same vein, even the formats of advertising creative push new boundaries for PSA marketing. Take the anti-abuse ad that uses a lenticular lens to display a secret message for children. While movie posters used the same functionality, the anti-abuse ad raised conversations around how to discreetly reach audiences that should be receiving different messages.

Experiential marketing is also where art and marketing collide. Christo and Jeanne-Claude, known for wrapping buildings and land in fabric, installed The Gates exhibit in New York City’s Central Park in February 2005. The installation may have been a 26-year labor of love (without any underlying messages), but it did bring a lot of attention to the city, the park, and even safety issues. When AT&T used a similar fabric-wrapping gimmick for its commercials, the art community fired back: Stop ripping off Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Should companies be inspired by the ingenuity nonprofits, public service organizations, and artists have used to differentiate their message? Yes, but that means that those nonprofit and arts organizations should also be inspired by companies that are changing the face of marketing. And experiential marketing will be key to standing out in a world of constant signals.

Photo: Screenshot from anti-abuse ad.

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