Your Passport To Go Places With Experiential Marketing

Bucket lists, surprising travel trends and mouth-watering prize incentives are just the ticket for marketers designing their next big brand promotion. Find out more here…

All nighters in Ibiza? Snowmobiling in Lapland? Blue Lagooning in Iceland? Cycling in Amsterdam? Tiger spotting in Rajasthan? Or simply beach, book, flop?

Whatever floats your boat, one thing you can bet that consumers want in 2018 is an amazing experience.

As the ‘2018 Sodexo UK Exploring Travel’ survey reveals, “the time is ripe for brands to put experiential incentives to work” to engage consumers and bring about promotional activities that are authentic, cost-effective and irresistible to consumers.

Everybody knows just how popular the experiential marketing trend is these days.

A quick scan of latest brand promotional campaigns reveals all sorts of fun initiatives, from eyebrow raising activity tie-ins to immersive pop-ups and interactive store ideas.

Fact is, the smart marketing money is focusing on smaller, targeted campaigns to maximise reach and impact on their audience. And when it comes to travel promotions, these make for rich pickings for savvy marketers seeking their next brand opportunity.

So, how can marketers roll out an on-brand travel experience that’s on trend and on target?


The hot travel news is consumers are booking leisure breaks based on their opportunity to have a new experience, rather than just a destination alone. And we don’t just mean the obvious like a trip up the Eiffel Tower either.

People are seeking out multi-sensory add-ons to their travel experiences. They want to take what looks like a normal, well-travelled road and turn it into something bigger and better than the average destination break.

Consumers want bespoke travel in their lives.

As Sodexo’s research tells us, “93% of Destination Marketing Officers consider experiences ‘important’ or ‘vital’ to consumer decisions (British Tourism and Travel Show).” In addition, our research revealed that “exploring new places” is the nation’s main reason for taking a holiday.

What’s more, Brits are taking more holidays. They just tend to be shorter than ever before, with the two-week break being less favoured. People want to pack more in, in less time, and as a result, they are going away more times a year. For marketers keen to tap into latest travel trends, the mini break packs a mega return on investment.


City breaks are also in big demand, with over half the population having taken one in 2017 according to ABTA. These micro-breaks hold endless possibilities for brands looking to create small, impactful experiential campaigns. Ooh là là as they say across the Channel. 

It’s not all brie and baguettes or pizzas in piazzas though.

Domestic tourism is also on the rise, meaning the UK city break has big pulling power. In fact, “92% of consumers see an ‘all expenses paid’ UK city break as an “appealing” or “extremely appealing” promotional prize.”

People are “keen to discover new areas of the UK” according to ABTA, with cities St David’s, Wells, Durham and Chester all featuring in the top ten cities list as cited in the 2017 Telegraph Travel Awards. 

For marketing managers, a city break that incorporates an on-brand experience such as music, theatre, luxury dining or tickets to a film premier, is going to be a winner. Amy Nield, Head of Prize, says, “it’s these types of experiences that bring a new dimension to the overall prize and drive engagement.”

In fact, Sodexo’s research shows that 43% of all consumers would choose an experience over material goods, while one Eventbrite study revealed that 65% of UK millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences.

So, you know what you need to do, don’t you? That’s right, it’s time to invest in the experiential marketing trend.


Don’t just take our word for it either. Brands are being urged to tap into more senses when delivering experiences as reported by Campaign Magazine.

Charles Spence, Professor of Experiential Psychology at Oxford University, explained that experiential marketing can be more important than traditional ads.

Speaking to delegates at Advertising Week Europe in London, he said: "Those who can tap into one or two more senses and think carefully about how the senses coordinate, if you get that right then you have the potential to deliver a more powerful experience."

Yet you also need to factor in your competitors because this isn’t a new story. Many brands are making waves in experiential marketing circles. Spence warns of “sensory overload” and says, “when everyone is doing it, then how do you stand out?”

Jessica Reznick, Managing Director at experiential agency We’re Magnetic, says brands should use the environment they are using to express a personality.

She says, "It’s really important – as marketers and brands are trying to figure out how to do experiential – that they don’t just take every single practice and throw it into an experience so that they do start to look the same but that they take the time to consider, ‘how should my brand show up in an authentic way? What senses should I use to immerse my audience?’”

These are questions we’d all like answers to.


The growth of the ‘experience economy’ is unmistakable, and perhaps one of the strongest areas for marketers to attract customers is by dialling into sporting events. Yet this is also an area which is often a saturated market. Not to mention the aspects of sponsorship and liability which brands may have concerns about.

That said, Chris Baldwin, Sodexo’s UK Director of Consumer Promotions and Loyalty says, “The nature of an international tournament lends itself to promotions that offer experiential prizes. Sport is all about the moment, the emotion and the experience — it has the power to inspire consumers in a way that is unrepeatable”.

When you tie-in marketing promotions around overseas sporting events, you can theme prize incentives around live match screenings or training sessions with an athlete.

Actual ticket giveaways will be limited to official sponsors usually, but the feel-good vibe that emanates from sporting events will definitely create noise through the right brand activity.

Your consumer reach will ultimately come down to impressive creative thinking and execution. As Sodexo’s research says, “It’s about doing something different, creating a promotion that reaches the right audience, at the right time, and stops them in their tracks.”

If you look beyond the obvious, and think about all the different types of sporting events out there – think home-grown ones as well – such as Wimbledon tennis, the Isle of Man TT or the FA Women’s Cup – there are all sorts of branding opportunities to explore.

Rock experiential activity alongside a well-loved sporting event, and you’ll ace your promotional campaign potential.


Consider current demand for the wellness trend and you’ll only find greater business success stories. Whether that’s including a health and fitness package at England Rugby’s training base, Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa or a special event at London 2012’s state-of-the-art swimming pool in Stratford, the choices are endless.

As Sodexo’s report says, just because there may not be an obvious link to the brand, marketers shouldn’t immediately write-off the wellness category in terms of incentives.

For example, BMW’s latest sports model is targeting adventurous crowds, touring climbing and bouldering centres across the UK in 2018.

Away from the wellness trend but staying with automotive, Seat turned Westfield London into a Barcelona piazza, focusing on its Spanish heritage. Point is, there are different hooks which can be used as ways in to promotions.

Wellbeing is a universal pursuit and wellness experiences are diverse. As the trend enters the mainstream, it seems everyone wants a piece of the action – even the laziest amongst us.


Just because your product doesn’t scream travel or its associated trends, it doesn’t mean you can’t still turn up in the experiential brand promotion space.

Advertising chocolate? Perhaps it’s a spa day you need rather than a Tough Mudder challenge. Or maybe it’s time to turn the expected on its head? The likes of youthful chocolate brand Aero could do well to send chocolate lovers forth with an immersive Bubble Run experience for example.

Brand promotions that make you look twice are the ones that are going to lead to greater traction and consumer engagement. Take your marketing ideas further, push the envelope and your audience will respond.

Seize the day – go on, we dare you. Leap into the world of experiential travel promotions today and you’ll soon see how the rewards take off. Either way, it’ll promise to be an unforgettable experience…

Click me

Want to know more about how we can help you create a fabulous experiential travel campaign? Then get in touch with our friendly promotions team today!