The Psychology Of Experiential Marketing [10 Theories]

10 Nov


Psychology forms the basis of all consumer behaviour, after all you can’t make decisions based on value, style, comfort, or for that matter anything without the use of your brain. As such, we’ve gathered 10 psychological theories which will have a direct effect on consumer behaviour in the context of experiential marketing, with exactly this goal in mind.


Psychology In Experiential Marketing




1.)  Experiential learning


We begin with the theory most closely linked to experiential marketing… experiential learning. A theory from David Kolb, who states that:

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).

In addition to this, Kolb argues that the predicate of effective learning is having a concrete experience. As Life is full of experiences we can learn from, whether at home,  at work or out and about, there are countless opportunities for us to ‘kick-start’ the learning cycle (

By utilizing experiential marketing your brand is essentially becoming active in initiating this learning cycle, therefore it is important to take the time to create a truly memorable experience which will mould a positive impression of your brand in the minds of consumers.


2.) Reciprocity


“We feel obliged to give back to people who have given to us.”


According to a study by Cialdini, when waiters bring a check to their patrons without a mint, the diners will tip according to their perceptions of the service given. With one mint, the tip jumps up 3.3%. Two mints? The tip jumps “through the roof” to roughly 20%.

The implication for experiential marketers here is to always be conscious that you are providing more value to your consumers than they are to you at your event, experiential marketing is not sales, the true value for the marketer comes later in the chain, in the form of feedback, social evangelism and eventually sales, but on terms which the consumer believes to be self-imposed.


3.) Framing effect


“We react to a situation differently depending on whether we perceive the situation to be a loss or a gain.”


In experiential terms, it is important to be explicit about what consumers stand to gain from engaging with your experience, if they perceive it to be a loss of their time rather than an extraction of value, you will have a hard time convincing them to stop.


4.) Conformity and Social Influence/ Social Proof


WE have grouped these two together because we believe they are so very similar. Social proof is the theory that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust. Whilst conformity and social influence is the idea that “we change how we behave to be more like others.”

In order to exploit these phenomena, aim to augment your experiential campaign with the support of industry influencers, testimonials of satisfied customers and even event tech, for example a tweet wall, which shows relevant social engagements about the campaign. All of these methods will make consumers feel as though they are joining a wider social sphere by engaging with your experience.




5.) Buffer Effect of Social Support


The feeling of stress is diminished when supported by others. The psychology of having people whom you trust and can approach to talk things through with, rationalising them, is often enough comfort to make stressful situations more bearable.

Whilst you know that your experiences aren’t stressful (I hope), your consumers may find the idea daunting, particularly if you want them to part with their coveted contact details! Avoid this apprehension by hiring the right event staff for the role, brand ambassadors should be from a relevant demographic to the target audience, as well as knowledgeable, well briefed and courteous, to ensure they set consumers at ease.


6.) Propinquity Effect


“The more we meet and interact with people, the more likely we are to become friends with them.”


In marketing no channel has as good an opportunity to deliver a deep, engaging interaction as experiential marketing. The more a consumer is able to interact and experience the brand, the deeper connection between the two will be.


7.) The Foot in the door theory


The foot-in-the-door concept is all about increasing compliance rates and influencing consumers into making a purchasing decision. Essentially, consumers will be more likely to commit to purchasing your product if they are “eased” into it through smaller commitments beforehand.

In terms of incorporating this into experiential strategy, by offering a small reward such as a trial version of your product or service at your installation, for little or no recompense, you increase the likelihood of future purchases.

“Make the commitment very simple, easy and small to begin with and it will make the customer more compliant in the future.”






8.) Context


Context is the idea that where we are has a tangible effect on decisions we make, for example:

“56% of actual voters voted for a pro-school budget when voting in a school vs. 53% otherwise. While that effect may not seem huge, it’s statistically significant and was reproduced in a lab environment (64% of people voted for a fake pro-school budget when shown pictures of a school vs. 56% who voted for it otherwise).”

(Zach Hamed)

Therefore, being exposed to a brand within a context specific to that brand will naturally attune a consumer to the brand, increasing the likelihood of engagement. This is, therefore, an innate advantage of experiential marketing over traditional marketing channels, as well as scientific justification for spending that little bit more to make your installations truly immersive.





9.) The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon


“The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.”


Essentially this theory explains why, when you encounter something new, you feel like you’re seeing it everywhere. For experiential marketers, to take advantage of this theory, they must ensure that their campaigns are supported both during and after with social content distribution and targeted direct marketing, ingraining the brand’s “omnipresence” in consumers’ minds.


10.) Colour psychology


Finally, we come to the psychology of colour:

Satyendra Singh’s review of color psychology in relation to marketing found that people make up their minds about a product within 90 seconds and 62%-90% of that decision is based on color alone.”


This theory links closely to the Von Restorff effect which means that something stands out, it’s given the most attention and remembered.

Whilst there is no definitive ‘best colour’ to attract consumers, the takeaway for experiential marketers is that consumers will make a decision, whether or not to engage, very quickly when passing your installation. Taking your market research that little bit further and discovering which colours your demographics prefer could be the key factor which makes or breaks the campaign.

We hope you found this guide useful and will go on to leverage these theories to your advantage in future.


If you’re looking to run an experiential campaign and need staff or assistance, contact us today, we’d love to help!