The world has changed a lot in the past few months. We’ve all had to learn new terms and concepts: isolation, antibodies, shelter in place, social distancing, and more. Our home lives have had to adjust — some of us are working while coordinating school-at-home for children. Some of us are adjusting to holding meetings over video conferences. Others are finding themselves “paused”, as we wait to see when the world can open back up again.
When things begin to open back up, what will that world look like? What will that mean for companies who host events, attend conferences, or prefer an experiential approach to marketing? What comes next for experiential marketing?
How Will Experiential Marketing Change in the Near Future?
- Fewer large events
The entire industry felt things turn upside down when SXSW, one of the largest events in the country, was canceled in March. Sports leagues are discussing the possibility of playing games without audiences. Even the biggest event of the year, the 2020 Summer Olympics, has been postponed! Large events such as SXSW, San Diego Comic Con, music festivals, and industry trade shows are mainstays for marketers. Pop-ups and brand experiences planned around these large events will have to adjust in the short term, and while it is very unlikely that big events are gone for good, we believe brands need to choose to think smaller for the foreseeable future.
Even as states ease restrictions, stages of re-opening may still include limits on gatherings of 8, 10, 50, 100 people, and so on. Throughout the rest of 2020, brands who choose not to pivot to digital-only experiences will have to consider ideal audience size. Luckily, customer engagement through experiential marketing doesn’t require large crowds. In fact, with emotional connection and person-to-person conversations being the hallmarks of great experiential marketing, brands and agencies that already excel at these smaller campaigns may find themselves to be the best prepared to resume face-to-face events.
- Heading outdoors
By now, we’re all familiar with the recommendation to maintain a 6 foot distance from anyone not in your immediate household. Even before stay-at-home orders were issued, venues in some jurisdictions began to shut down due to difficulty maintaining social distancing in cramped spaces. As people feel ready to attend events again, they may still feel safest maintaining a distance from others. It is easy to picture the feeling of discomfort a family may feel entering a crowded museum, and the dedicated concert-goer may not feel safe enough to attend events and participate in the mosh pit at their local venues. Luckily, it is easier to spread out safely in the great outdoors and after being stuck inside, nothing feels better than taking a walk on a trail or heading to a local park. In fact, some local bands and artists are still performing neighborhood concerts that others can enjoy from their homes or apartment balconies. After a period of feeling cooped up in our homes while simultaneously some of us are spending more time outdoors than we usually do, outdoor events may feel like the most appealing way to dip our toes back into large crowds.
For smaller scale outdoor events to be successful, brands will need to focus more than ever on adjusting to the regulations of each local city or community. This kind of micro-focusing will provide more success than attempts to attract the largest audience or go viral, especially since large events will be more difficult to pull off. To successfully pivot, brands will need to focus on a specific audience, venue, and experience that is tailored to a particular group of consumers. In the long run, creating devoted brand fanatics is more lucrative than attracting new customers.
- Primary Goal: Making guests feel safe.
Large, historic events tend to change behavior of a generation — the common example being frugality of individuals who grew up during the Great Depression. After this pandemic, attention to hygiene and safety will likely remain a priority for consumers. When planning experiences, brands should design environments that allow for adequate spacing, and provide access to items such as hand sanitizer or wipes. Touch less pay technology (such as tapping a card or scanning a cell phone) is likely to remain popular. Guests will also likely feel more comfortable with marketers doing product demonstrations and manning any electronics, rather than trying out the products themselves knowing others have touched the screens or products. And, if there is product sampling involved, pre-packaged samples in a self-serve environment will be a requirement too. Look for lots more information on how to produce a successful public event from us in the weeks to come.
What other changes do you anticipate in the field of experiential marketing in the coming months?
From the Pro Motion team — we’re thinking of you all. Take care of yourselves!
Can’t wait for our next post? Learn More About Steve Randazzo’s Best Selling book, Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!