by Christina R. Green

I’ve worked with many businesses in creating content for their website. When I do, one of the questions I ask is what makes them different from their competition. Almost always they answer their customer service and their willingness to stand behind their product or service. Perfect. Except…

Every business thinks they have these things. And even if they do, this does not make them unique in the marketplace. They need something else.

Service and standing behind their product or service are exactly what everyone wants in a business. Most people patronize a company believing that they have these things. Good service and quality are expectations. We don’t go to a restaurant hoping or expecting we’ll have bad service. We don’t buy something in the hopes that we’ll have to replace it in a couple of weeks.

We expect service and quality out of businesses, even at a low price point.  That means you don’t want to use them as differentiators unless there’s something you do that is so over the top it is unheard of, like a “triple your money-back guarantee.” But it’s difficult to offer that kind of guarantee and stay in business.

You need a gimmick to begin to differentiate your business.

Most people don’t like to use that word anymore. It reeks of inauthenticity and lacks the transparency that modern-day marketers pride themselves on.

But if you dig deeper into what a lot of companies are doing when they offer experiences you’ll see these are just modern-day gimmicks with a twist. And they’re exactly what you need.

What Is Experiential Marketing or Experience Marketing?

Experiential marketing is the idea of using branded experiences to have a memorable impact on your customers. It can be something that is built into your business like waiters who sing opera while serving meals or something you do as a one-off like a company-sponsored flash mob dancing in the subway.

It may seem frivolous but experiences make an impression in a way that commercials and ads don’t anymore.

Why You Need to Provide a(n) Gimmick…Experience

  1. People value experiences. Studies have shown Gen Y is spending more money on experiences than items. Offer your audience a memorable experience and your branding will remain closer to top of mind.
  2. There’s a lot of noise out there. As I mentioned earlier, businesses are competing on the same level. They’re going after the same audience with the same value proposition. You will never stand out in the market this way. Offering an experience can help set you apart.
  3. People share experiences. Social media is making storytellers out of everyone. People are now sharing when they go to restaurants, when they take trips, and even when they see a rainbow or sunset. We are sharing every part of our lives, or at least the good parts. Because of this, we have a constant need for content and things to share. If you provide a meaningful experience, they will talk about it.
  4. Customers own your brand. In the age of Mad Men, they used to be able to control what people saw and thought about their products, services, or business. That is no longer the case. Customers own your brand now thanks to review sites and social media. Your brand is no longer so much what you are saying about it as what people feel and share about your company. Providing an experience can help you frame your brand in a beneficial light.
  5. It is likely to improve sales. Experiences improve sales for two reasons in addition to what was mentioned above. They bring more people in and the novelty entices people to try it. For instance, think about Carvana, the vending machine for cars. The actual sale of the car is probably similar to thousands of no-haggle pricing operations. But how you actually receive the car is quite different. Upon purchasing your car, you’re given a large coin that you then put into what appears to be a vending machine. A lift goes up to the car that is sitting in the glass tower and brings it down to you below. The experience is fascinating to watch and people are drawn to share with their friends and family about their new car purchase. When was the last time you talked about the purchase and not about the car? Carvana gets people talking about the experience surrounding the car acquisition, something that sets them aside from their competition.

Making a Gimmick More Palatable to Today’s Audiences

Okay, some modern-day marketers don’t really like the term “gimmick.” Marketers have cultivated a softer side, one that no longer believes in misleading the customer. But whether you call it a “gimmick” or an “experience”, the point is you’re trying to get the attention of your audience by providing them with something memorable. But to do so for today’s audience there’s one thing you need to do.

You need to make sure the experience you’re providing is one that entertains, educates, inspires, or solves a problem for them. If your experience does one of those things, it will be a lot better received and no one will consider it a selfish marketing gimmick or ploy.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and provide them with something meaningful for their lives. It doesn’t have to be meaningful in a universal way. You don’t need to shoot for the Nobel Prize, but you do need for your customers to see it as beneficial to them personally.

If you can isolate what is meaningful to them you can provide a memorable experience on even a small budget. But if you misunderstand your target audience and their needs, even a big-budget experience will fall short.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.