Experiential Marketing for the Holidays

During the holiday season, competition is fierce for brands and retailers as they fight for the attention of consumers during the biggest spending time of the year. Companies have gotten creative by finding interactive ways to engage consumers, developing effective experiences that keep them happy (and, quite possibly, there for longer).

FAO Schwarz, an iconic mainstay of NYC for more than 150 years, couldn’t withstand the blows from etail giants like Amazon in recent years and closed its famous flagship store in 2015. However, it returned with newfound energy in a new location, near the 30 Rock building, for holiday 2018. The rebirth placed a focus on marrying nostalgia to innovation and interaction. Visitors are encouraged to learn and play, exploring iconic toys (like the infamous giant floor keyboard featured in 1988’s Big) and posing with very photo-friendly setups (like a Swarovski-encrusted toy car). Of course, everything experiential is also readily shoppable.

Suffolk County garden center Bayport Flower Houses generally hosts a holiday event before Christmas, where children are invited to take pictures with Santa Claus and sip cookies and cocoa. It’s a way to brighten spirits, but also a clever marketing tactic to draw visitors in and encourage them to take their time while shopping.

Just as stores bring a focus on the experience during the holidays, often so do restaurants and bars.

Rolf’s German Restaurant in NYC’s Gramercy Park has become a true tourist destination, thanks to beyond festive Christmas décor that fills every inch of the space during the holiday season. Holiday pop-ups are transforming bars and restaurants around NYC into their own winter wonderlands, with seasonal décor and menus.

While the experiential element is a large part of the draw, in the age of Instagram, spaces designed with seasonal cheer in mind get even more life as photo-worthy backdrops. They’re surely planned that way on purpose.

Rachael Doukas