At the start of this year, no one could have imagined the drastic changes that would immediately affect all facets of life as we know it. I did not expect a global pandemic that would stop me in my tracks, induce unprecedented global challenges and shake so many industries to their core, including mine: the experiential marketing industry.
Over the past months, we have become students of the changing landscape, identifying new societal pain points and how to best evolve. I offer here four ways live experiences are shifting, which can be leveraged to drive marketing forward during the pandemic and beyond.
Hyper-focused shift.Large-scale festivals were shut down seemingly overnight and the new focus became hyper-focused, quality interactions that reward loyal customers and attract new ones. Activations like workouts or dining bubbles have also seen an uptick in popularity, bringing scalability and smart, nimble engagements together during an ever-changing environment.
Pastimes reinvented.As local governments put restrictions on gatherings, the simple pastimes that Americans loved were quickly reinvented through the lens of experiential marketing. We have seen drive-in movies, concerts and even boat-ups (watching movies from socially distanced boats) become sought-after social activities, while retail parking lot events, drive-up stands, community ice cream trucks and pop-up pamper service activations offer consumers “treat yourself” moments and provide a glimpse into what the future could look like.
Contactless technology.Technology used to be centered on innovative ways to engage with consumers; the focus has shifted to how it can allow us to attend a live experience while keeping everyone safe. There are four key categories: event arrival (think virtual queue to enter); on-site safety (thermal imaging cameras); contactless engagements (AR/VR); and data collection. While some examples (like QR codes, RFID or iBeacons) are making a huge comeback in the COVID era, newer technology like vibrating wristbands when you get too close or gesture-recognizing vending machines are smarter options for event organizers to limit contact yet make an experience memorable.
Getting back to acts of kindness. Everyone can relate to appreciating things we may have taken for granted before the pandemic. We’re seeing that thoughtful acts of kindness and humanitarian efforts are more popular than ever before, and brands should mobilize to enable these acts not only from the brand but from person to person.Whether it’s utilizing food trucks to deliver meals to essential workers, or companies thanking first responders with a surprise-and-delight engagement, simple acts of kindness build brand affinity and establish an emotional connection with consumers.The only thing we can count on in the foreseeable future is change. If we can pivot our message and solve our logistical hurdles during a global pandemic, there isn’t anything we cannot overcome to keep business moving forward.