Much has been written and researched about the shift from consumption of products to consumption of experiences. Since 1987, Harris group found that the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events increased 70%, compared to total U.S. consumer spending. And this is especially true among that largest and most coveted demographic segment, the Millennials. A study conducted by PWC found 52% of Millennials are spending on experiences versus 39% among older shoppers. Another study conducted by Harris concludes 72% of Millennials plan to increase their spending on purchases that can provide them and their friends with a lasting impression and an opportunity to connect.

As Allen Adamson recently wrote in Forbes, “Experiential branding has always been a part of the marketing toolbox, a promotional activity meant to encourage interaction with and immersion in a brand. Done right, it helps people connect with a brand on a much more personal level than mass media allows, and generates a deeper feeling of emotional engagement, leaving a positive and lasting impression. Done really right, it gets people to share their experience, tell their version of the brand story, extending reach and awareness of the brand to a broader audience free of charge. With social media as the sharing method of choice these days, having an experiential branding initiative go viral is a marketer’s Holy Grail.”

Clearly, this is a big opportunity for marketers. But it is much easier to create an experience around some products and services (e.g., travel, hospitality) than it is for others. However, some out of the box thinking delivered stellar branded experiences for these companies:

  • Potty Palooza: Charmin created a lot of buzz with its branded experience for … toilet paper?! That’s right, toilet paper. Recognizing the horrible bathroom experience delivered at many concerts and other outside events (read: porta-potties), Charmin outfitted large trucks to become mobile bathrooms, complete with heating or air conditioning, running water, real flushing toilets, and of course, stocked with Charmin and other personal hygiene products. Potty Palooza was so successful, Charmin opened a version in New York City. As reported in The New York Times, the 20-stall fully-equipped restroom had “a seating lounge, with its own photo-op: A six-foot stuffed Charmin bear, just waiting to have its picture taken with a visitor.”
  • Stew Leonard’s: Many retailers are struggling to create a memorable shopping experience, but Stew Leonard’s has been delivering a brand experience since its founding in 1969. This chain of grocery stores in Connecticut and New York has won all sorts of awards and accolades for its exceptional customer service, but it has also achieved a wonderful and unique brand experience above and beyond the product brands on its shelves. In fact, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! deemed it “The World’s Largest Dairy” and The New York Times called Stew Leonard’s the “Disneyland of Dairy Stores.” Stew Leonard’s stores are not set up like traditional grocery stores: Customers walk through a path of aisles and are greeted by different employees dressed up in costumes. There are also animatronic cows, roosters, and other characters that perform songs and dance.
  • The Museum of Feelings: There is a new, pop-up museum in New York City that delivers an experience sponsored by Glade, purveyor of products designed to improve the scents in your home and car. Its website claims the museum is “an interactive experience built to showcase the beautiful connection between scent and emotion. Visitors will be taken on a sensory journey through the Museum, where Glade® fragrances act as the muse to inspire visitors to explore their emotions.” The museum features multiple selfie opportunities to make your visit easy to share on social media.

So, again per Allen Adamson in Forbes, “The top three rules for creating successful experiential branding are: 1) Do something extraordinary. 2) Ensure it is linked to what your brand stands for in the mind of the consumer, that the experience could never be mistaken for having to do with some other brand. 3) Make sure your initiative hits the sweet spot relative to your target audience.” And, taking a lesson specifically from Glade, make your experience sharable, so that consumers spread the word about the experience and build credibility for you through social media. You may have to think creatively, but if it can work for toilet paper, it can work for you!