Roaring 20s of Experiential Begins Now

Woman dressed as flapper

Most areas of marketing were able to make a pandemic pivot over the past 15 months. But is, 'Experiential Marketing' moved to digital channels, simply social? Live digital experiences, with a 'locked-down' captive audience, definitely enabled an engaging substitute as brand activations took place on screens. We found people were hungry for brand experiences that served them with relevant, deeply engaging content and sense of community.  Booking an influencer or ‘creator’ was easier and they somehow seemed more accessible and inclusive in this personal-screen-environment.

We have seen most clients dramatically shift their marketing mix and spend, favoring online channels across the full-funnel. At the start of the year, many were questioning the future role of Experiential marketing. Is it gone forever, even less relevant than print for reaching an audience? It’s hard to predict the next few years, as we navigate a post-pandemic world.

What we do know, is for vaccinated countries, this Summer will kickoff the Roaring 20s of Experience. Simply reaching your audience online will not be sufficient as a greater proportion of their time will be seeking physical experiences. We already see an emerging behavior of physical indulgence as people and families make-up for ‘lost-time’. People are craving experience and the brands that are ready to serve up these unique, memorable, indelible moments will be the winners. The capstone change will be for more personalized yet collective experiences. This is NOT simply returning to your 2019 style Experiential.

It may have actually taken this disruptive force that was our global pandemic to catalyze this centuries' ‘roaring 20s. Our pandemic induced desire and demand to fully immerse ourselves in all we took for granted. It’s beginning to look like a fully sensorial trip ahead. Time to get creative! To help with the planning, we share 20 sparks to ignite the thinking. Ten reflect tried and true practice and ten reflect the disruption, birthing new ways to innovate and think about the Art & Science of Experiential marketing. 

Ten Disruptive Sparks

  1. No need for Perfection:  the more imperfect and real the content the more human it comes across and people reward you for that.
  2. Creation of Community:  even if fleeting, the feeling of belonging and bringing together a collective of like-minded individuals helps build brands on a hyper local level in a relevant way. 
  3. Buyability:  a great engagement that makes it difficult or impossible for the instant gratification that comes from purchase creates friction in the experience. 
  4. O2O:  today’s connected consumer seamlessly blend their mobile phone and screen time into their physical experiences through QR codes, AR and VR. Creating richer experiences that blend together the physical and virtual worlds is now cost of entry.
  5. Inclusive Exclusivity:  consumers want to feel both that everyone and anyone can access an experience but the more exclusive and never-been-done before, it feels, the better.
  6. No Dead-ends: a deeply engaging experience is meant to trigger immediate demand to purchase making every event – physical or virtual – a drive for brand engagement, conversion and purchase.
  7. Plan the whole Journey: pre, during and post are all equally important and are the way people want to anticipate, prepare, experience and savor an experience. Experiential is the enabler of high engagement CX and CRM.
  8. A Series v A Single:  no more one hit wonders. Just like you wouldn’t place just one TVC and expect to get noticed and have an impact, events demand a holistic, ongoing strategy that lives online and off. 
  9. Gamify It: borrowing insights from Asia, gaming plays a massive role in immersing consumers in an experience. It’s an instant way to drive entertainment and participation. 
  10. Tech-enabled: give consumers the tools to empower creativity and share with their networks by enabling UGC opportunities into everything. 

Ten Tried and True

  1. Build Memories:  touch, taste, and smell remain the best way to build emotional memory. Muted over the past 15 months, high-touch environments are even more in demand.
  2. Pre-show Spotlight: as hybrid becomes the norm, consumers have come to expect more to whet the appetite before the big show. Identifying unexpected places and moments to reach growth segment audiences will enable a more meaningful and tailored experience throughout the journey.   
  3. Values over Value:  what the brand stands for, having a POV, and giving consumers something to rally behind matters across all touch points
  4. Sustainability as table-stakes: environmental impact will be the greatest sensitivity think compostable set design, low-carbon fabrication eco-friendly and how best to rinse, repeat and re-use to stretch impact.
  5. The everyday Influencer: your guests are valuable brand ambassadors able to co-create through reviews and live-streaming. See them as creators, participants, and influencers.
  6. Commerce meets Culture: blending the physical and digital worlds in a culturally relevant way has become a standard expectation. Think hyper-local to build long term brand love and engagement.
  7. Create your own Adventure: the unprecedented desire for more content control and personalization has only intensified with maturing technology.
  8. Shareability: experiences that are inherently social and interactive lead to greater organic conversation and community creation.
  9. Tangible Takeways: physical tokens remain important recall drivers especially as sampling gains a more “influencer/hype-squad” edge.
  10. The Flywheel: Data-powered value-exchanges will enable anticipatory journeys and give meaningful 1st party data the ability to continually optimize acquisition, engagement, and retention.

- Beth Ann Kaminkow is Global CEO at VMLY&R COMMERCE