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With remote work, virtual schooling, ZOOM happy hours, and so forth, one thing that we have learned over the past few months is that people desperately need people.  And as we venture back out into the world with our masks, sanitizer, and staying six feet away from each other no less, brands can begin interacting with consumers in real life again.  Sure, things will be different, but the beautiful thing about experiential marketing is that it can be executed on a small scale, just as it was in the 1990s and early 2000s when experiential was the new kid on the marketing block.

Experiential aims to create memorable impressions through in-person interactions, and contrary to what some may think, it does not require a large footprint or event to be successful. Below we will take a look at a few experiential marketing tactics that can safely bring brands and consumers together again in the age of COVID-19.

9 Face-to-Face Experiential Marketing Tactics That Brands Can Execute in the Age of COVID-19

1. Drive-In Events

Drive-in movie theaters were one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s, and they are making a major comeback. In the past few months, we have seen a revival of the drive-in movie, and musicians are also taking advantage of the concept with drive-in concerts.  So what does this mean for brands?  Simply put, it is a golden opportunity to reach consumers while they are out enjoying life.  Brands can take advantage of drive-in experiences in several ways, including: 

  • Event sponsorships
  • Deploying street team brand ambassadors to canvas the parking lot and distribute branded premium items to attendees
  • Product sampling near restrooms or concession areas

drive-in movie

2. Drive-Up & Drive-Through Brand Experiences

The idea of the drive-up and drive-through brand experience has recently been introduced and it is genius. This type of activation offers consumers a highly interactive and immersive experience that includes many of the same elements found within “normal” experiential activations, but consumers never leave their cars.  Instead, they drive through the experience where they may encounter photo ops, interactive activities via their smartphone, digital swag, and more.  

Drive-thru brand experience

Photo: BizBash via GDX Studios

3. Branded Marketing Vehicles

Mobile marketing vehicles have long been a staple in experiential marketing. From branded cargo bikes to billboard trucks to sampling trucks, there are several mobile options to consider.  Marketing vehicles can cruise the streets to simply drive brand awareness, or they can be used to sample products and/or distribute swag with minimal physical contact between brand ambassadors and consumers.

Planning brand experiences during COVID-19

4. Guerrilla Marketing

Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term guerrilla marketing in the 1980s, and it has been a popular low-cost solution for organizations of all sizes. Guerrilla focuses on the element of surprise and aims to catch consumers off guard with memorable brand moments that make a lasting impression. There are many types of low-risk guerrilla tactics that brands can execute right now, including street team activations, art installations, sidewalk art, and more

art installations guerrilla marketing

5. Mobile Exhibits

The pandemic has been especially challenging for businesses that rely heavily on trade shows to network with customers and prospects. Unlike some companies that pivoted to other marketing strategies, trade show exhibitors have been forced back to the drawing board.  A traveling, mobile exhibit like the one pictured below is an excellent alternative to traditional indoor exhibits.  The mobility allows businesses to take the exhibit directly to customers and prospects, and the open-air concept in an outdoor setting will easily allow for physical distancing and staggered entry.

6. Pop-Ups

Early on in the pandemic, non-essential retailers were forced to close up shop due to stay-at-home orders.  And while most businesses have been given the green-light to reopen, many customers are avoiding physical retail altogether.  One tried and true alternative to physical retail is the pop-up shop.  Traditionally, pop-ups have been used to provide a personalized and highly immersive shopping experience for customers, but during COVID-19, pop-ups are providing customers with a small and safe shopping environment with social distancing in mind.

Anastasia Cosmetics Pop-Up Shop at Camarillo Premium Outlets in CA (Photo: CGS Premier)

7. Campus Marketing

Many colleges have announced that students will return to campus for face-to-face learning this fall and will offer on-campus housing, and that is great news for brands that are looking to target Gen Z consumers. Typically, most college marketing programs take place outdoors on and around campus, so it aligns perfectly with physical distancing and the comfort of being in an outdoor environment.

Campus Marketing Ideas to Consider:

  • Street teams
  • Sampling tents or stations
  • Vending trucks
  • Postering, flyering, and QR campaigns

college campus marketing

8. Tailgate Experiences & Watch Parties

Even though there are fewer fans filling sports venues these days, brands can still connect with fans around event venues with sponsored tailgate experiences and watch parties.  Envision an area around venues where sports fans can safely gather to watch teams compete on jumbotrons, enjoy concessions, participate in digital activities, and experience the camaraderie of team spirit.  This type of event would help fill a huge void for fans missing the thrill of attending a game and would make a lasting impression on them.

9. In-Store Samplings

Grocery stores and liquor stores are essential retail and they have seen no shortage of customers during the pandemic.  CPG and alcohol brands can safely get products into the hands of customers with in-store sampling campaigns.  Typically, sampling campaigns use one product sampler per store and with proper safety measures, samples can be distributed easily and safely.

food and beverage sampling staff

There are so many uncertainties in the world right now, but by working together, we can safely gather together again and bring brands back to life in 2020.

Since 2002, ATN Event Staffing has provided brands and marketing agencies with top-notch brand ambassadors to create memorable and meaningful moments between brands and consumers.  As you seek to bring back face-to-face brand experiences, ATN is your one-stop resource for all of your experiential marketing staffing needs.  Contact us to learn more about how we can help you bring your brand BACK to life!

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