With the end of 2016 fast approaching, much of the industry will be giving some thought to the experiential trends that will gather momentum or even lose salience throughout 2017. There’s no denying that the rapid development of new technology means the experiential marketing field is constantly in flux. From roadshows to photobooths, pop ups to mobile truck activations, coupons to QR codes, AR to VR, experiential trends come and go, moving with the times in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve. You need only look back at the past five years to see the ebb and flow of experiential trends year on year.
In 2012 experiential marketing was emerging as a key component in the traditional marketing mix, meaning that brands were increasingly using savvy technology to get up close and personal with their audience and provide them with an innovative experience. At the beginning of the year, brand ambassadors using iPads were still considered somewhat of a big deal but by 2013 iPad use was routine. RFID cards or wristbands started to be used by brands looking to develop deeper engagement with their audiences and QR codes on posters or printed literature became commonplace. The omnipresence of social media meant that social network check-ins became essential to brands looking to use social networking to link their profiles and activity with a new product or service. And of course AR was starting to push the barriers of innovation, blurring the line between what was real and what was computer-generated – giving brands the opportunity to create highly innovative, more engaging experiential campaigns. In short, experiential marketing had become a legitimate component in 360 degree marketing – no longer simply event sponsorship and sampling, more an explosion of content with consumers being able to be a part of it.
Roll on five years and what’s changed? The traditional “roadshow” has been pushed aside to make way for more mobile, flexible activations. There’s no longer a need to host a conventional event at a specific venue at a specific time. Marketers are able to start meeting people where they are and bring the excitement of their experiential campaign to them. Mobile trucks and buses continue to be used by brands looking for more of a guerrilla-style experiential activity – and with technologies like virtual and augmented reality, it’s possible to make these types of campaigns more immersive than ever. More and more people are using live streaming as a way to further enhance and complement their experiential activity and while it shouldn’t act as a substitute for attending events in-person, it does offer a great opportunity to convince people that they want to attend your events in the future.
Experiential marketing will no doubt continue to be in flux throughout 2017, with further developments in technology enabling deeper, more immersive and more targeted interactions with consumers. But trends and technologies aside, the benefits of experiential activity remain the same. At its most basic, experiential activity allows brands to raise awareness of a product or service and to subsequently drive sales by handing out samples and a link to purchase. Moving up a gear, experiential enables the creation of memorable experiences for consumers and the chance to really interact with a brand’s product or service, not just with one or two of their senses but with all five. It can be a tangible way to build and deepen customer relationships, to generate positive word of mouth and true brand ambassadors. So with the tools and technology available to us continuing to develop year on year, and with the overriding benefits of experiential remaining unchanged, it’s important that we try to avoid reinventing the wheel and focus instead on realigning it to resonate with wider cultural trends. We always recommend going back to basics and working hard to get the story right, so that it truly resonates with a target audience. The story should come first, the technology and delivery method second. Only then will the story be shared, told and told again, making a brand or business one that’s talked about long after the experiential activity is over.
Trends are just that. Trends. They come and go. Sometimes it makes sense just to get back to basics, focus on what works and let the rest follow.