No one who works in experiential marketing is going to tell you they had a great 2020, there’s no hiding from the fact it was the most difficult and challenging year we’ve ever faced and to still be standing at the end of it was a massive achievement.
As we sit here a few months into 2021 with the end of the covid induced restrictions in sight we can now reflect on the previous year and think about what’s changed forever. As an industry we have learned so much about adapting to the challenges that were presented and I believe we’re much stronger, and we’ve even got a whole new potential audience to engage with our campaigns. With the absence of experiences taking place in the real world our adoption of technology was accelerated, the options we had weren’t new, we were using them already but were finding our feet, now we didn’t have that option, it was time to embrace or go extinct.
Here at The Park we’ve always put a massive emphasis on the secondary audience, we know that to drive tangible business and brand outcomes for our clients we need reach, we’ve always planned our campaigns with the secondary audience firmly in our thoughts from the ideation stage but previously this was mainly thinking about the PR, social and content strategy, now we have the ‘through screen’ audience too.
Thanks to lockdown people are now used to getting their entertainment and socialising pretty much entirely through their TVs, phones and laptops and this is here to stay. While we can’t wait for a return to sweaty gigs, bustling pubs and packed sports stadiums people now have more options, although it’s not quite like being there the ease of ‘attending’ events from the comfort of home is appealing for a number of reasons. Not everyone feels the need to be present.
In terms of what that means for our industry it’s opened up a new audience as we start planning physical experiences once more, those people that are interested in what we’re creating, but not so passionate that they must attend in person. As mentioned earlier technology allows us to reach these people in a variety of ways but we still need to think carefully about the experience we’re devising. It’s not enough just to put up a link to a livestream to the real-world event, we’re still competing fiercely for people’s time and attention therefore creativity is crucial, we need to offer them something that’s as brilliant and memorable as attending.
In terms of things to consider in order to drive success:
1. Bringing a physical element to the digital experience. Is it possible to enhance the digital experience by incorporating something physical? Things to consider are bespoke catering, materials or merchandise that will enhance their environment or even surprising people with a doorstep visit from someone from the physical experience.
2. Ease of use. Hardly anyone has a VR headset and no one wants to have to download a huge piece of complicated software for a one-off experience. Keep it simple. Plan the online experience as you would a real world one. You wouldn’t book a venue without enough toilets so don’t use an online platform that can’t handle the necessary traffic.
3. Incorporate a social element. We’re social creatures, if we’re doing something amazing with other people we want to be able to communicate with each other, even though the through screen audience may be in thousands of different locations think about how you can bring them together to share the experience.
4. Be creative. As mentioned we’re still competing for people’s precious time and need to give them a mind-blowing experience, push boundaries, do something unique and memorable that they will talk about. Don’t just livestream a real world event, that’ll just piss people off.
5. Plan the journey. Just as we carefully plan real world experiences think about the digital journey that people will undertake. What are the touchpoints we can accentuate and how do we make it seamless and fluid.
When we get it right we’ll have something pretty powerful to offer our clients, unique experiences that drive deep engagement with the attendees, create fame through earned media and now potentially experienced by a mass audience through their screens. We often talk about those that go and those that know, we now have a new audience, those we show.