How Experiential Marketing Fits into a Startup Branding Strategy

Category: Ideas, Strategy

As a startup, you’re most likely conscious of revenue and how you can quickly establish a return on investment to pay off your investors. By design, you need to get to market fast, but how can you gain maximum exposure for your brand and your product?

Brand experiences can help position your startup to achieve the necessary level of growth. That’s why 80% of marketers now consider brand activation critical to success. For a new brand, embracing experiential at the onset has been shown to kickstart growth. Here’s how:

Connect with Your Target Audience and Build Brand Loyalty

We’ve seen how experiential marketing works to reengage an audience for big brands. But for startups, marketing is all about introducing a brand name and product to the public. When done successfully, memorable activations generate excitement among a population that can truly benefit from your product– and in turn, they become your biggest advocates.

Take Halo Top, for example, the LA-based, low-calorie ice cream brand. They saw a need for healthier alternatives and incorporated experiential marketing into its promotional strategy to enhance their product and build brand loyalty.  

With their expansion into the UK market, Halo Top organized a pop-up shop to launch (literally) their new flavors into the public. They provided attendees with free samples, while a 10-ft replica of their Birthday Cake pint floated overhead, suspended by 2,900 balloons.

The brand’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Doug Bouton shared with Marketing Week how an activation like this helped the company shake up the industry and establish themselves quickly among big-name competitors. “Experiential marketing is as much about loyalty as it is about awareness…We want to create experiences which are memorable and related to the brand.” 

Halo Top ice cream is known for the experiences they create and this video is just a small example of their fun offerings in their first shop in LA.

With a small budget, leaning on your audience as brand advocates can go a long way in growing your business. Creating experiences like this that capture the attention and intrigue of your audience will help you gain loyal fans who will genuinely want to share your name.

Measure the Market’s Response to Your Product

Face-to-face marketing helps you connect with your audience on a personal level and allows you to gauge their true feelings about your brand and product.

Like Halo Top, the successful startup Glossier tuned into the changing needs of their target demographic. At an increasingly fast pace, they introduced their easy-to-use skincare and makeup through influencer marketing, and then took their products to pop-ups across the states. 

Check out how Glossier converted an old firehouse in Chicago into a bright mirror-lined pop-up store, showcasing the brand’s new digs and must-haves.

With long lines wrapped around their shops, Glossier propelled their digital-first company to the physical market and connected with as many new customers as possible. This strategy has allowed the brand to remain true to its customer-centric approach, not only did they receive genuine opinions and first impressions from people testing their products, but they also gained a sense of their followers’ needs, adjusting their product development to match.

It’s a tactful approach considering that 65% of consumers say live events and product demonstrations helped them fully understand a product better than any commercial or another method could.

Stand Out From the Competition

Going beyond the digital marketing landscape, which is crowded by competitors, can help startups achieve fast growth and be seen by their target audience faster.

Pop-ups and other activations are a great way to do this– by having an on-the-go experience, brands have more room to expand their creativity and promote their product or service.

Let’s look at Lyft, the well-known ride-sharing company that now controls 35% of the market. Named the “Top Startup in the U.S.” by LinkedIn last year, Lyft latched onto the experiential marketing trend to drive ahead of their rival, Uber.

At the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas a few years ago, Lyft implemented “Weird Mode.” Passengers were picked up in cars bedazzled with disco balls and flashing lights, creating a fun and unforgettable experience from Point A to Point B.  

Another time, Lyft partnered with pop-sensation Justin Bieber to celebrate the release of his new album. Passengers and fans were in for a treat when their car rolled up to take them to their destination.


Memorable experiences like these are what sets brands apart, and that’s exactly what startups need to do to achieve fast growth. Looking to make a name for your company and product, but not sure where to start? Contact us today to start planning your next experiential event.


MC² is an award-winning brand experience solutions agency.


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