Does anyone know what experiential marketing is?

It seems that experiential marketing as an industry is constantly in a state of existential crisis. Not so much “who are we?” but more from a “what are we and where do we fit in the much maligned bigger picture marketing (and realistically business) world?”. 


This is never more clear than when the old debate of what exactly is experiential marketing rears its ugly head to force us to think bigger picture about what we do and then lavish grandiose definitions on what we do. Yawn. It’s life Jim but not as we know it. 

And then I stumbled along a thread by Max Lenderman from GMR (if you don’t know Max he’s an industry stalwart and a real pioneer in the experiential world) on LinkedIn where he just straight up dived back into the rabbit hole and threw down a ‘define experiential marketing’ challenge. Oh no. Here we go. Here comes the textbook response from the industry but I’m happy to say I was really surprised that there was a shift towards real world and ‘understandable-by non-marketer’ responses.

Max got the ball rolling with this typically intelligent and well thought out effort…

Ok. It’s a little wordy and from reading Max’s book previously I know he is a very concise writer (and probably has a great editor!) but it’s right on track and a great start. Kudos for saying people instead of target or consumers.


Then the flood gates open. We start to see the addition of ‘relationships’, ‘interaction’ and ‘word of mouth’ and ‘brand loyalty’. Oh no. We are going down the usual spiral. No one is wrong by any means but we have fallen into a marketing thesaurus. We are sinking into wordy definitions that don’t truly give a snappy meaning to what we do.

Then the excellent Sam Ewen of Interference fame and now doing his thing at Fake Love (New York Times) came to the party with this effort…


"Experiential marketing is a mutual value exchange between brand and consumer in the real world, based on a set of strategic goals."

I really like where Sam went here. It’s snappy and conveys the sense of connection between brands and people and crucially bring in the commercial/strategic sense of purpose to the definition. From my experience it’s not always “in the real world” but hey that’s up for debate I guess.

Look, we won’t all agree on one definition but it feels like we are getting somewhere now. The entire thread was perfectly finished with an attempt from the Bayern Munich Content Manager, Scott Sandalow, who went with…


Brands meeting people. Done.

Very efficient Scott. Much like when Bayern were thrashing Arsenal 5-1 every year although nice to see Arsenal get a win in LA this week against them even if it was a friendly. It’s a little too concise for my liking but it’s good. It’s certainly memorable and in a world of sound bites maybe it’s the track we need to take.

Right so I guess I better have a crack at this myself by taking in all the efforts I like and seeing if I can distil down into a sentence. I’m happy to put it out there and am ready for the constructive feedback and even the unconstructive feedback too. It’s online. What else would you expect.


Experiential marketing is a way for brands to achieve strategic goals by connecting with people through actionable personal engagement.


What is your definition?


Gavin Coffey