Marketers are always asking, “How do I best reach my audience?”
Today, we live in strange times as technological advances create societal shifts, sometimes altering traditional channels of communication overnight. OK, maybe it’s not quite that abrupt, but it sure feels that way. Marketing is in new, uncharted territory. The digital space is loud. Emails, ads, social media, more emails — we have to play the game, but we know it’s crowded.
That’s why I’m eyeing the experiential space. Marketing that’s fresh and immersive and in person has a hook to it that digital just can’t beat. In fact, 74% of respondents say they are more likely to purchase products promoted via branded events, and the same percentage felt more positive about brands and products after an experiential interaction.
Sure, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but if there are ways to push your marketing into the real world in an experiential way, do it. The experiential space is crawling with ideas and creativity, but here are a few trends I’m watching in 2019.
1. Immersive Environments
What better way for your audience to experience your brand than through an immersive environment? That’s a broad term, but the applications are equally broad. Go to any major event and you’ll find branded areas far beyond signs: seating, tables, exhibits, unique offerings — all branded and designed to reflect a specific brand message and ethos.
The trend itself may not be new, but the ideas we’re seeing are as fresh as ever. Even outside the event space, pop up “experiences” or installations are a major marketing move. So, how can you leverage this immersive trend?
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Get to the core of what you want your audience to think about your brand. Fun? Innovative? Edgy? Now, move laterally. The goal with immersive experiences is to set a scene and to offer a specific impression of one idea. There’s no wrong answer. We’ve seen Mike’s Hard Lemonade set up a fake beach hangout, Ariana Grande created a dream-like, perfume pop-up shop, and Sears put out giant versions of its holiday wish book in Times Square.
There’s no playbook. Creativity and novelty are key. At a time where exclusivity and virality are so powerful, immersive, physical environments remain the backdrop to the whole experiential marketing conversation.
One of the biggest challenges for an event marketer is measuring return on investment (ROI). You have a sea of people interacting with your brand and your efforts, but how do you know how many people you’ve reached? More importantly, how do you remarket to them? Interactive vending machines are modernizing the attendee-SWAG exchange, offering audiences interesting prizes and data points for brands. This technology is something my company is working on. Social vending machines incentivize social sharing, polling, sampling and beyond in exchange for a prize.
How can you leverage an interactive vending machine as the glue for your event’s social media footprint? Gate unique prizes behind a hashtag or social share interaction to ensure that your audience is participating in and sharing the event. Have some fun with it — especially the prizes. I’ve seen big brands give away Ray-Bans, cellphones and even mini bottles of champagne. People love getting prizes and being surprised by them.
The versatility and accessibility of vending machines make them a force to be reckoned with in the experiential marketing space.
3. Virtual Reality
Tired of hearing about virtual reality (VR)? Well, you should get used to it. VR is here to stay. It’s a powerful complement or even supplement for that coveted immersive environment. We’ve still only scratched the surface of virtual reality.
With VR, you can take attendees to a far-off land, put them on a rollercoaster, let them remodel a house on the fly — the sky’s the limit. Part of the appeal of events is their ability to collect and transport attendees out of their normal life and into a curated, collective experience. VR is quickly offering that ability.
Want to make an impression on your audience? VR may be your ticket. The applications for VR aren’t obvious for every brand, but the novelty of the technology is still strong enough that just getting to use it is exciting for your audience. Record a short, VR scene in your office or of your product in action. People will “ooh” and “ahh” as they experience your virtual environment. It tells your audience: We’re innovative, we’re future-focused and we like to have fun, too.
4. AI & Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence or machine learning can feel like a far-off, inaccessible strategy, but more and more tools are being launched that put the power of artificial intelligence (AI) into everyone’s hands.
One of the strongest cases I’ve heard for the use of AI in the event space is in the recruitment of new attendees or new consumers via social media and digital advertising. Machine-learning digital advertising adjusts and optimizes your efforts to reach new audiences and helps show the most effective messages to the audiences you already have. Good digital advertising strategy involves constant adjustment. New tools are letting AI do the brunt of the work for you.
Whether before or during an event, machine learning can help target, reach and evolve your marketing efforts to pull more people to your event or your brand. The future driven by AI is looming, but there are already applications you and I can use.