Experiential marketing is sometimes called engagement marketing or XM. The brand or advertiser is inviting an audience to interact with their product or solution in a real-world situation. Through hands-on participation or sampling of the product or service, the brand or business is showing prospective customers what the company offers and how it’s different from competitors.

From product sampling and pop-up stores to virtual events and trade shows, the marketer is connecting with consumers through a dynamic experience. The goal of experiential marketing is to capture audiences’ attention, create word-of-mouth excitement, and generate sales.

A recent Causeway Solutions survey of U.S. Adults 18+ provides insights on the popularity of experiential marketing. Key findings from the study include:

  • Younger people are more likely to engage in experiential marketing in general. 

48% of the population said they bought a product or service after sampling it. Here is a snapshot of key demographics who say they bought a product or service after sampling:

  • 55% of adults 25-34
  • 59% of adults 35-44
  • 39% of adults 55+
  • 59% of adults with $75-100K income

12% of survey participants say they’ve tried VR (virtual reality) or AR (augmented reality) technology. VR and AR usage is even higher for these groups:

  • 17% of Men
  • 22% of adults 18-24
  • 23% of adults 25-34
  • However, older adults are less likely to try, with only 5% of adults 55+

18% of the population said they have bought a product or service in the past 12 months based on an influencer recommendation. That percentage changes significantly when you look at younger adults: 

  • 38% of adults 18-24
  • 31% of adults 25-34 

When asked about attending a virtual event over the last 12 months:

  • 18% of the general population say they’ve attended.
  • 24% of those with income over $100K have attended a virtual event.

*Source: Causeway Solutions, December 2023

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Profile of early adopters

Many marketers will specifically target “early adopters,” those people who embrace innovative products, the latest technologies, and new services. These consumers typically try and buy the hottest gadgets before everyone else. Brands love to market to early adopters because they purchase quickly, then promote the new products through word of mouth.

We are defining early adopters as U.S. adults who used VR or AR gadgets in the last 12 months. 

By profiling this group, we see how early adopters differ from the average adult. First, they are slightly more optimistic about the economy:

  • 8% rate the economy with 5 stars compared to the general population’s 2%. 

Also, Early adopters say they are more likely to make big purchases in the next month: 

Early Adopters

General Population

15% say they will buy a car


24% a large appliance


20% a long-distance vacation


45% technology


Early adopters are more likely to say, “Yes, always” when asked if they pay attention to ads:

Early Adopters

General Population

24% on social media


22% on web browsers


24% on traditional TV


21% on streaming TV


Early adopters are more likely to take part in experiential marketing:

Early Adopters

General Population

74% Sampling


28% Pop-up store


40% Virtual event


42% Influencer recommendation


20% Trade show


*Source: Causeway Solutions, December 2023

By incorporating insights from the early adopter profile, you can level up your marketing strategies to attract this all-important population. Experiential marketing tactics will entice them to explore new gadgets and solutions, moving forward on the buyer’s journey.

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Q: What is an early adopter in marketing?

A: Early adopters are the first group of people to try a new product or technology when it is introduced to the market. They tend to be more tech-savvy, optimistic about the economy, and willing to take risks on innovative products compared to the general population.

Brands love to target early adopters in their marketing because they not only purchase new products quickly, but also generate word-of-mouth excitement about them. Early adopters have distinctly different media consumption and shopping habits - they pay more attention to digital ads, are much more likely to sample products, attend virtual events, and make big-ticket purchases. Ultimately, if brands can win over early adopters, these influential consumers can propel mainstream success.

Q: Why target early adopters with marketing?

A: Early adopters have an outsized influence that can make or break new products, despite being a small portion of the total market. Our research shows this tech-savvy group has distinct attitudes and behaviors that make them vitally important for marketers:

First, they actively embrace innovations, so they purchase the latest gadgets right away without hesitation. Their early sales help tech companies recoup R&D investments more quickly.

Second, as first-hand users, early adopters serve as product evangelists. They generate organic word-of-mouth endorsements about new technologies within their social circles. Our data shows early adopters are more responsive to digital ads and experiential marketing, so brands can ignite their advocacy through targeted outreach.

Finally, by sharing feedback with manufacturers, early adopters shape final product development and positioning for mainstream buyers. Their input guides vital improvements that maximize appeal to larger audiences over time.

In summary, early adopter populations act as influential launch accelerators. By seeding this vanguard group’s interest first, brands can earn credibility for novel products to successfully cross the chasm into widespread adoption.

Q: What is an example of an early adopter marketing strategy?

A: One effective approach for targeting tech-savvy early adopters is to host hands-on product demonstrations at virtual events. Our research indicates that 40% of early adopters have attended a virtual event in the past year, compared to only 18% of the general population.

Virtual events allow brands to showcase innovative products and cutting-edge features to these influential consumers. For example, a virtual reality gaming company could preview their latest headsets and controllers during a digital conference. Through immersive demos, early adopters could experience the technology firsthand from the comfort of their homes.

With their appetite for what’s new and advanced, the early adopter audience is primed to spread positive word-of-mouth both on social media and in their personal networks after exploring a product demo. Their organic excitement and endorsements help drive mainstream adoption. By zeroing in on virtual events as an early adopter marketing channel, brands can capture attention and drive conversions with this vital consumer group.

Got great insights on how to appeal to early adopters? Need advice on the types of experiential marketing that will get audiences engaged? Join the conversation with a global network of marketing leaders on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.

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