Experiential marketing has had a huge year, largely due to the rapid development of new technology and a millennial driven experience culture.
Related trends are evolving daily and experiential marketing has very much become an individual and personal experience, often driven by virtual reality (VR) or multi-sensory campaigns. Consumers are now demanding experiences which incorporate the brand’s story with their own, creating shareable and, arguably more importantly, relatable moments.
For us, 2016 has proved that it's not enough to use tech just for the sake of using it. It can add huge value, but if its use is not amounting to an authentic and personalised experience, it's not worth doing.
With 2017 set to be an even bigger year for the industry, the focus will be on risk taking in order to capture consumers’ attention and break through the marketing clutter. New companies are popping up every day and existing marketing agencies are creating experiential divisions as separate entities to deal with industry growth.
Experimentation with content will offer brands the chance to build meaningful connections with consumers, and the evolution of communication mediums, such as VR and AR, are both poised to have a huge impact on how brands interact with audiences. As such, our predictions for the experiential industry can be divided into key areas: evolution of content and evolution of consumer touch points.
Virtual reality is set to shake up the industry even more, as brands begin to see the benefits of providing truly immersive consumer experiences which connect online, in-store and live experiences.
2016 has highlighted that while VR in any form is a disruptive technology, the most successful examples stem from when the medium is used to enhance a story, be it a brand or consumer story. As such, while VR can offer a platform to fully immerse consumers in a different world entirely, the use of passive VR experiences at consumer touchpoints may be just as impactful. Allowing VR technologies to compliment the overall event experience rather than draw focus away from it will prove hugely powerful in a retail environment.
A recent study by Carphone Warehouse predicted that around 10% of British homes will have a virtual reality device by Christmas 2016 with VR headsets tipped to be this year’s Christmas present of choice – VR is becoming mainstream and marketers better be prepared for it!
Local and long term engagement
With the evolution of content and consumer touch points comes the ability to extend an experiential campaign much further than the end of an event. Events will form the basis of entire campaigns rather than acting as a standalone marketing effort, with memorable on site activations living on long after the event comes to a close.
Engaging with consumers post-event will become part of the experiential journey, facilitated by new technologies and developments which will ultimately repurpose and expand upon brand ideologies initially used to immerse consumers at event touch points. The growth of 360-degree videos on mediums such as Facebook and YouTube in 2016 has highlighted the demand for experiential consumer engagement online, away from live events, and is set to see a huge level of development in 2017.
Live streaming events
Similarly, the live streaming of experiences in 360-degrees is expected to advance in 2017. Following our successful 360-degree live stream of Latitude Festival in August using EE’s 4G network, the access to such experiences is expected to come to scale throughout the year. The live stream trend has been bolstered by Facebook’s live streaming function, however in order to fully immerse consumers, combining live streaming with 360-degree technologies is a sure-fire way of achieving success. By enabling consumers to engage with a live event as and when they choose, and incorporating both the physical and digital landscapes we can create a highly personalised, on-demand campaign.
The technologies not only encourage engagement from those who could not attend but also provide a mechanism for those in attendance to revisit the event, stimulating feelings and emotions that they felt at the time by offering an experience which is as immersive as possible without actually going back in time (we’ll save time travel for 2040).
Engaging the senses
Trends such as pop-ups which have taken off in the past decade are now commonplace and are at risk of becoming redundant as consumers are inundated with news of brands ‘popping up’ left right and centre. Instead, their success is much more reliant on in store use of multi-sensory stimulation and technological experience immersion.
While the visual sense is incredibly dominant in humans, experiential marketers should look to provide more enriching environments in a bid to engage consumers further and increase brand recall. Roadshows and mobile experiences are an excellent way of fulfilling the multisensory brief whilst also increasing the feeling of exclusivity. Get the creative treatment right, and success will follow.
All in all, 2017 is set to see the experiential industry flourish, with key trends from 2016 evolving and becoming much more focused. The crux of the matter is that consumers are demanding more from brand experiences and while technologies can be used to enhance these experiences, examples of successes and failures in 2016 should guide how these technologies are used.
Ultimately, brands should look to focus on human centric marketing, creating meaningful experiences which embody their key messages. Improvements in data collection have meant that consumer activations can be much more personalised, relevant and local, with experiential activations offering a new form of market research through on site data collection. Could 2017 be the year we fully integrate a brands CRM strategies into wider experiential campaigns?
Data allows us to assess real-time trends which is hugely powerful in providing the opportunity to identify demand and predict potential problems. The rise of experiential marketing across a variety of industries has demonstrated excellent staying power thus far, and the increased reliance on immersive experiences to build brand trust and loyalty is not something that will change anytime soon.
Damian Clarke, CEO and founder, Undercurrent Ltd.
Tel: 0207 183 6661