What's the difference between events and experiential?

Pop -up Shops


Claire Hutchings explores the rise of pop-up shops and why brands need to look to experiential marketing to connect with their consumers on a more emotional level.

There has always been a big cross over between the events and experiential, which I think still exists. The rise of pop-ups has certainly muddied the water! It seems that every brand with a budget wants a pop-up bar or shop now. They’re in vogue and allow brands to get as creative as they want while often being able to actually sell their wares rather than just sampling. I can understand from a brands perspective why that sounds attractive - you get an instant reflection of an ROI and happy consumers.

However, there are too many pop-ups that seem to be jumping on the bandwagon and are essentially just glorified ‘events’. But what’s really the difference between the two? What can an experiential agency give you that an events or PR agency cannot?

I suppose I’d say that any experiential activity (in its purest form) is an event, but not every event is experiential. And the same can be said for the humble pop-up.

For any event or pop-up to be truly experiential it needs to be able to tick a few boxes:

  1. Affect consumers emotions
  2. Bring the brand to life
  3. Be interactive

Affect Consumers Emotions

The best way to affect consumer behaviour is to tap into their emotions. A passive experience will not be remembered or get them to purchase. Whether it be happiness, surprise or shock all experiential activities should seek to create positive emotions for consumers. This can be done in a number of ways from manipulating the smell at your event, playing live music, or just shipping in the cutest pug dogs ever! Whatever you do, you need to think of your consumers as emotional beings rather than rational ones. The majority of the time we buy with our hearts rather than our heads; so ditch the price promotions and key brand messages, focus on building an emotional connection instead. This can be done by a combination of the next two points…

Bring the Brand to Life

Whatever event you decide to produce, in order to make it experiential you need to think about how you can embody your brands personality and USP’s. I don’t think it is good enough to just set up a bar in a park to be able to call it experiential. Instead think about ways in which you can dust off the brand guidelines which no doubt state that your energy drink is young, vibrant and extreme. If that’s the case then you need create an event that is all of those things too.

Be Interactive

By including an interactive element to your event you can engage consumers in a deeper way. They will spend longer interacting with your brand and will be more likely to feel a connection to you and therefore spread your messages within their own communities. This could take the form of a game, photo mechanism, competition, activity or a piece of technology -anything that will allow consumers to roll their sleeves up, get involved and feel part of your brand. The more engaging the experience the more people they will tell whether that’s in person or online the principle is the same.


While I love all the pop-ups that summer slings our way – there seems to be a big difference between the ones that have had a really creative concept to bring a brand to life. But to hit the sweet spot – you need to couple the concept with spot on production and the very best staff to engage with consumers. The whole package needs to be in place in order to deliver a successful experiential event.

This summer I would urge brands not to be lazy with their consumer events / pop-ups / experiential (or whatever they want to call it!) activity. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon – put your consumers first and create something immersive and interactive that is of value to them. This will not only keep your consumers happy but also deliver the results you’re after.


So what do you think - Do you buy into the difference between experiential and events? How would you make your event more experiential? Leave us a comment below and let us know what your thoughts!



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