How to Captivate Your Audience with an Experiential Activation


A well-executed experiential marketing activation is an opportunity for brands to engage a targeted audience. Activations also facilitate an interactive experience, usually with the aim of teaching participants something new about the brand. It’s not easy to captivate an audience as distraction is always within an arm’s reach. Keep that in mind as you set out to craft an activation; you’re competing for attention and just because you’re offering an experience doesn’t mean your audience will stop.



Be like Henry Jones Junior and choose your location(s) wisely.


Foot traffic is a universally used metric by properties; however, you should clarify: is that traffic a mere count of passersby or a specific demographic? Define the audience demographic - the foot traffic does matter if your target market is not included. In that case, the location's foot traffic would consequently be overvalued.


Travel Nevada at PIER 39

Tandem worked with Nevada Board of Tourism and its agency to place a mobile activation at the popular PIER 39. The activation largely consisted of a stage with four virtual reality headsets. Individuals were able to take a two-minute tour of lovely Nevada landscapes. Two minutes may seem like a short amount of time. But because humans have been passed by goldfish in terms of attention span, two minutes is actually a big ask for a guest’s time. That factor necessitated Travel Nevada consider the ideal location carefully.



PIER 39 has several available activation spaces that we looked at when placing Travel Nevada. The largest crowd is found in the Entrance Plaza, which has an audience of 30,000+ on the weekend. However, walking past the entrance to the PIER doesn’t guarantee an engaged visitor. That guest may be rushing down the Embarcadero to another attraction, or even to the streetcar to catch a ride back to their hotel. Therefore not all Entrance Plaza guests may not have the time or inclination to sit down for two minutes and take a look at Nevada.

Going into the PIER, there are other available activation spaces with more qualified guests. The audience walking down the PIER has unequivocally stated PIER 39 is an important attraction. Those guests are willing to experience what it has to offer. Spending two minutes on a VR experience was a positive addition to that experience. By targeting this captive audience, the activation saw a much more engaged visitor willing to try the experience.


Onsite and Online Engagement

A clever experiential marketing activation can be even more successful when accompanied by a social media campaign or added activity. Travel Nevada had a branded hashtag #DFMI (Don’t Fence Me In) using the tour’s tagline that featured on the activation itself and the brand’s social media channels. The hashtag was also shared for use by associated properties, agencies and participants. This approach is especially useful for multi-day activations. Potential guests are then able to follow the hashtag and plan to incorporate the activation in their schedule for the following day.

Travel Nevada utilized their branded hashtag to allow online visitors to interact with the activation. (Or, even better, have the opportunity to show up for Day 2 of the activation). Social media has the ability to increase your activation’s reach exponentially as the reach extends beyond the physical location. It is the ultimate element to captivate an audience: can visitors post on social media? Do you have a unique backdrop able to draw attention? How can you utilize FOMO (fear of missing out) as part of your strategy? What about your brand will draw in your target audience? How can you make those the core elements of your experiential marketing activation?



Incorporate additional ways to connect long-term; social media contests and integration is especially relevant when engaging over a longer period of time.


Captivating activations include multiple elements; find as many relevant ways to engage your audience as you can. How can you allow your audience to immerse themselves in an experience? Travel Nevada used VR; PIER 39 is full of sights, sounds and crazy antics. By sitting consumers down, and giving them an uninterrupted two minutes to unplug from San Francisco, the brand was able to engage more than one sense. The activation had an element to continue exposure, giving guests a chance to win a trip to Nevada. That element also allowed the brand a list of fully qualified leads: these were people willing to learn more about Nevada while at PIER 39.



Success comes from experience. Experience will come from both planners and strategists. You'll find things that will work, and things that won't. Don't let that stop you from finding something to offer visitors a chance to experience something new with each activation.