How Digital is Transforming Experiential Marketing

Alex Hultgren

26 June 2019

When I was running digital media at Ford, I used to get in spirited debates with my traditional media colleagues about the future of marketing.  I predicted that all marketing would soon be digital – without exception.  Now, most of this banter was just to drive the TV team crazy, but I knew there was a single differentiator that would fuel digital’s rise to dominance:  data.

analytics-colored-pencils-coloured-pencils-185576Digital data has simply changed the game for marketers on three fronts:  targeting, performance and insights.  And this is true for not just advertising, but for all marketing – especially experiential.  Specifically:

Targeting & PerformanceJohn Wanamaker famously proclaimed: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.” How many times have you created an amazing brand experience or an event, only to have either horrible attendance or completely the wrong crowd show up?  Think back to when OOH, direct mail, and phone calls were the most effective way to get the word out about a brand event.  Did the right people see the billboard?  Did the mail get delivered to the correct addresses – and was it even opened?  Even if a customer promised to attend an event on the phone, did they actually show? 

Digital changed everything.  Leading up to an event, we now have invitation email open rates, clicks to registration pages, forms completed counts and digital check-ins at events.  Working with the right mobile partners utilizing location data, we can even track if someone ended up at a store where they could buy your product in the 1-5 days following the event (personal info is stripped out, but it’s possible to get a count directionally).  And post-event, you can also feed surveys to attendees to see if the experience improved their opinion of the brand or moved them one step closer to purchase.

Service Blueprint

Insights – Although data privacy always will (and should) be an important issue – and data breaches and bad actors in the ad space haven’t helped – we still know more about our customers’ wants and needs than at any time in the history of marketing.  But are we putting that data to use across every customer touchpoint with the brand for a consistent experience?  Specifically, are you sharing first party data across teams and across agencies?  Or does your marketing data sit in one silo, your sales data in another silo, your account customer data in a third silo – and never the three shall meet?  An experiential marketing agency like STAR can deliver an amazing experience built on key customer insights for prospects, leads or loyal customers – but only if they have access to the relevant data. 

Can digital co-exist with experiential?  The truth is they aren’t competitors, they are partners.  If used correctly, digital data has the ability to make every marketing event more insightful, better attended and with a clearer understanding of which parts of the experience drove the most engagement with the target customer. 



Alex Hultgren is CEO of Customers 1st Marketing and fractional CMO of Quantum Storey, the world's first VR Book company.

You can contact him at or by messenger pigeon sent to 45°01'02.5"N, 93°28'52.9"W.


Alex Hultgren

Alex Hultgren is CEO of Customers 1st Marketing and fractional CMO of Quantum Storey, the world's first VR Book company.


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