Top 12 Experiential Marketing Trends Predicted for 2020
Updated: Apr 8
We love this piece written by by Louie Andre (Head Writer: FinancesOnline) where the top 12 experiential trends for 2020 are unpacked – and we agree with them all!
Brands are like people. They have stories, histories, “personalities,” and (customer) relationships. These relationships are based on experiences that a consumer has with a brand. Thus, experts emphasize that companies should make all touchpoints conducive to building a profitable relationship with their target audience. One way to do this is by organizing events. So, it is important to study experiential marketing trends in both B2B and B2C industries.
Also, as we entered the digital age, marketers blended virtual and in-person experiences. The rise of the best event management software has helped them run smoother high-impact events. Thus, we’ve witnessed highly-engaging event promotions and highly-creative stunts in the last decade.
In this article, we’ll be discussing how marketers blend art, digital technologies, product placement, and psychology in creating these unique experiences. This way, it is easier for you to develop your own experiential marketing campaigns.
Thanks to digital technology, the experiential marketing future is looking bright. However, experiential marketing is not just all bells and whistles. At its very heart, it attempts to endear a brand to its customers, to sear a positive experience into their psyche (including emotions), and to develop a lasting, profitable relationship.
Moreover, it is through live in-person events that people get to understand products and offerings better. According to research, 65% of customers state that demos and live events help them understand products better than any other method. Furthermore, studies show that 85% of consumers are more likely to purchase products after participating in brand-curated experiences and events.
Even marketers find this type of strategy to be more successful than others. As you can see below, the majority of B2B firms (75%) find experiential marketing to be more successful than other tactics in the industry.
With these facts, it is hard to argue against the positive effects of experiential marketing done right. However, you have to do it well to reap the rewards.
Experiential marketing is focused on providing sensory, emotional, cognitive, and rational values to consumers. Simply put, experiential marketing crates synergies that improve loyalty. Also, it generates audience participation in both offline, online, and mixed settings. Herewith the trends driving experiential marketing today.
1. Art Installations
One of the best ways to catch and sustain attention is through art installations. Experiential marketers know this. Also, many do it really, really well. One highly successful art installation was created by the people behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. If you’ve watched the film (or trailers), you’d remember that a science experiment resulted in the raining of food (or something like that). Thus, people in the cartoons would see all types of food fall from the sky.
What did the experiential marketing campaign do to promote the film? They created big art installations of food sculptures that looked like they fell from the sky. You’d find an ice cream sculpture that seemed like it scoop-first cone-up fell to the sidewalk. Also, there’s an installation of a big burger that they laid down on a flight of stairs. Surely, these grab people’s attention. Of course, there were signs made to let people know what all of it was about and for.
Many people love art installations. They like to take photos, and they share it on social media. Thus, having a well-designed art installation can give you social media mileage. It gets you conversations and engagement. And, many are doing it. This relatively old trend is still going strong.
Brand-related art installations can help increase social media traffic and engagement. Make sure that customers can share their experiences with your installations.
You can collaborate with local artists or ad agencies to help you create a visually stunning experiential art installation.
Brands don’t need their installations to be expensive at all. Also, they can range from temporary storefront designs to full-fledged street art installations.
2. Pop-Ups and Transformation
Like art installations, brands have been using pop-ups and transformation. One good example is a Sprite-themed shower on the beach. What’s great about this is that it also serves a need like washing off the seawater after swimming. Thus, it helped customers to associate the brand with the satisfaction of a need that is not even usually satisfied by the brand itself.
Furthermore, big brands have ventured into full-on transformations. For example, Simpsons and 20th Century Fox partnered up with 7-Eleven and transformed real store locations into the famous Kwik-E-Mart. It has real functioning equipment and sells you food from the seminal show. Customers get to experience walking in Apu Nahasapeemapetilon’s place and enjoy Lard Lad Donuts and Buzz Cola.
These types of promotional stunts provide customers with a unique and shareable experience. Thus, this generates conversations, traffic, engagement, and even sales when done right.
These types of transformations are quite expensive. However, there may be ways to do this on lesser scales.
Brands can employ pop-up shops and services that actually satisfy a need. In this way, they can associate their brand with positivity in the minds of target customers.
Companies can partner-up with each other in creating transformations. This helps spread the risk and gets them bigger budgets.
Pop-ups and transformations need not be too expensive. Creativity and resourcefulness can get you a long way. Also, make these experiences unique and shareable as well.
3. Live Spectator Events
Live events are a staple in experiential marketing. This can be done by a single brand. Also, it can range from a simple book signing session to a full-fledge live concert. To wit, one of the best examples for this is the famous Vans Warped Tour by Kevin Lyman, which lasted from 1995 to 2019. In this music festival, brands get their own stages and get to connect with a younger demographic through music. A predominantly punk rock festival, it made big-name bands like Pennywise and NOFX staple for years. They served as the come-ons for fans. Brands ate this up and attached themselves to the tour. Companies like Apple, Samsung, and others have even sponsored the live event.
Moreover, many brands have launched at the music festival as well.
You can also leverage this type of marketing technique to your advantage. Create a spectacle that is appreciated by your target audience and allow them to associate your company with a positive value. The beauty of these events is that they don’t have to be directly connected with your brand. You can be a tech company and put up a CrossFit challenge. Also, you can share the risk and budget by partnering up with other brands.
Live Events as Vital Marketing Tools, 2018
believe that live events provide great opportunities to form in-person connections
of over-performing businesses are set to increase their live event budgets
of marketers believe event marketing is the most effective marketing channel
Source: Endless Events
Live events are a staple in experiential marketing. Marketers can associate their brand in a positive way in customers’ minds by offering unique, shareable, and enjoyable experiences.
Marketers use different types of live events, from simple book signing sessions to music festivals.
The beauty of live events as a marketing tool is that you don’t need your events to be 100% aligned with your brand. The only thing you worry about is putting up something your target audience will find value in. Thus, they can associate your brand with something they value.
4. AR and VR
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies make things pretty immersive. Gamers use them, and even designers now put them under their employment. These technologies make it easier for people to imagine possibilities and try them safely in simulated environments. Companies use them for training as well. Moreover, they are popular with experiential marketers.
These relatively new technologies offer us a new way of experiencing the world. Thus, they are a perfect vehicle for companies to leverage for making unique, shareable, and meaningful experiences. For instance, IKEA recently took the AR route by creating an application called IKEA Place. It was named so as the app helps you to place IKEA products in your space virtually. This allows customers to make design and purchase decisions using their phones. Also, it is pretty fun. You can draw inspiration from this and maybe incorporate it into your events and campaigns.
Moreover, you can even connect it to your cloud-based e-commerce platform to easily convert prospects.
Additionally, a brand that had a successful use of VR is Kentucky Fried Chicken. The fast-food chain released a VR game called “The Hard Way.” It is a virtual escape room created to train users to make their world-famous fried chicken. It celebrates its employee training program and lets customers experience e-learning of KFC’s system. The game is very immersive, and it manages to wow fans. Again, it provides a unique and shareable experience.
Companies can leverage AR and VR to create unique shareable experiences.
AR and VR technologies can be used purely online or on-premise (a mixed experience).
Brands may find ways to connect AR and VR to their eCommerce platform. In this way, they can convert experiences into sales.
5. Virtual Experiential Marketing
Virtual experiential marketing (VEM) has five elements: sense, interaction, pleasure, flow, and community relationship. Furthermore, all of these are used cohesively to create unique pleasurable experiences that translate into deeper brand loyalty and evangelism. Virtual experiential marketers use the internet to create visual and auditory tools to mediate between company and customer. These tools range from simple content to AR/VR experiences.
Moreover, they use the proven 7Cs framework of:
Marketers must create strategies for each of these aspects. Thus, VEM can only be accomplished by using different digital tools to create an emotionally-charged cognitive attachment to brands in customers. Moreover, it is pretty much digital marketing with a UX design deployment framework. Marketers design pleasurable experiences that are unique and shareable enough for customers to promote their products and brands as well.
Furthermore, there is no one recipe for this. Some companies enhance their digital experiences by simply providing readable content. Others augment this with short videos, infographics, e-books, manuals, and other types of media.
Moreover, other firms go all-out with a host of tools ranging from CRM suites to web-based live chat platforms. Thus, only you would know what your company truly needs to create better virtual experiences for its customers. Also, don’t forget to connect these experiences with tangible in-person offline experience as well.
Virtual experiential marketing (VEM) uses the internet and digital tools to create audio and visual experiences that endear a brand to its prospects and customers.
Marketers engaging in VEM use the 7Cs framework. They create strategies and plans to create unique pleasurable experiences in every aspect of the framework.
VEM is essentially a user-centric digital marketing effort to help induce positive valuations of your brand in customers. Thus, many use human-centric UX design principles to get the job done.
In today’s business landscape, brands are expected to have their advocacies and create social good. This is especially true, on average, with Millennials and Gen Zers. Thus, this is likely going to put more pressure on marketers in the future. However, experiential marketing has had its share of advocacy-based events.
Don’t forget, experiential marketing isn’t about putting products or services out there. It is about creating valuable experiences that customers can associate with your brand. Thus, since many prospects and customers value advocacies, you should consider playing up to this preference.
However, you should note that consumers smell fake easily. Therefore, keep whatever you advocate for real. To wit, it should be an actual cause that you care about. For large enterprises out there, they can start with their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.
Remember the Vans Warped Tour? The music festival featured a bunch of advocacies and causes. Thus, the festival itself and the brands that helped put up the events have garnered positive reputation boosts. Also, another great example is Kilroy, a travel service company. To promote their company and their advocacy against global warming, they set up a public installation of a big block of ice melting away with a sign that reads “Antarctica.” This, with its dramatic effect, helped raise awareness of the issue. Also, it was made known to the public that Kilroy provides personalized trips to Antarctica. So, people are implored to visit before it was too late.
Additionally, you can promote your causes using different techniques like an art installation, AR, or even live events, among others.
Today’s consumers are very cause-oriented. They demand that companies they do business with produce social good.
What’s great with advocacies is that brands can associate themselves positively with good causes in the minds of their target audience.
There are many ways to promote your brand’s advocacies. You can use live events, installations, pop-ups, and even digital tools such as AR and VR.
7. Conventions and Seminars
When companies put up their very own seminars and events, they position themselves to be thought leaders in their industries. Most of all, they also get to network with high-value prospects, partners, and experts. In these types of events, target audiences are usually already “captured” in some ways. Thus, you’d have more chances of elaborating more about your brand, company, and offerings. Moreover, event marketers will be able to gather important data in such events, even leads.
The nice thing about this type of event is that it offers tremendous value for target audiences. Also, this makes more sense for B2B businesses that offer consultation or SaaS. One awesome example of such events was organized by FacebookIQ. FacebookIQ allowed audiences to learn from experts and step inside pop-ups and installations to learn about ongoing consumer trends. Basically, it made online resources available at a live experience level. Thus, many marketers were able to learn and get contacts.
Additionally, you can even conduct seminars and workshops online. Yes, webinars. One great way for schools to promote themselves is to offer online courses for free.
Conventions and seminars can help position your company as a thought leader in the industry or your niche. This is perfect for B2B businesses offering consultancy services and SaaS.
This event marketing technique allows marketers to network, generate leads, and foster strategic relationships.
Also, don’t forget to include people that cannot come to the event physically. Thus, you need to make such experiences available digitally through webinars, free classes, and other related media (e.g., speech transcripts, quiz, certification, etc.).
8. Video Content
How can video marketing be experiential marketing? Well, there are many ways. Also, to count as experiential marketing, your video content should allow audiences to participate and/or provide a unique experience. One example of such an experiential video campaign was Gatorade’s Replay Campaign. The premise is that there were local sports rivalry games that did not get a convincing resolution in the past. Thanks to Gatorade, high school sports teams get the chance to relive and put an end to rivalries in a friendly (and highly publicized) manner. This series spans different sports, from basketball to football and hockey.
The campaign didn’t just stop at making a documentary. The Gatorade team helped thirty-somethings get back into playing shape and held their events with fanfare reminiscent of the past. Communities came alive because of these old rivalries revived. Moreover, they get celebrity coaches. Some are even hall-of-fame-level sports personalities. The games were even televised. As such, this was a very successful series for Gatorade and deserves to be in the experiential marketing hall of fame (if there ever will be one).
Of course, there are many other ways that you can do this. It takes a ton of creativity and new ideas to squeeze out something fresh. One video experience that sets the standard even higher is The Wolf by HP. The series is shot in a very movie-like manner as the lead, Christian Slater, takes audiences into ways systems can be hacked. It promotes HP security products and services in a not sales-y way. It “ran” for three seasons.
For video content to be considered as experiential marketing, it needs to have audience participation or simply offer a unique shareable experience.
It is also best if your video content is tied-up with other techniques such as in-person events.
There are different ways to concoct a video-type experience. However, it is sometimes hard to generate new ideas. Thus, you should consider partnering up with agencies.
9. Digital Games and Applications
Most people would agree that having useful interactive digital touchpoints can enhance user experience. Also, these can be purely digital touchpoints or mixed ones. Immersive VEM tools for marketers are games and applications. Games are very immersive for various reasons. In our neurobiology, adrenaline is secreted when we are met with challenges. Also, dopamine gets secreted when we anticipate rewards. Moreover, these reactions set a precedent or basis for why we get stimulated when we play games. We are there to get our favorite doses of chemicals when we engage with well-designed games.
Marketers can take advantage of pure VEM digital experience like using mini-games on browsers. For instance, the progressive rock band The Mars Volta commissioned a video game that was created in anticipation of the release of their then-new album, The Bedlam in Goliath. It was an escape game based on a true story that’s available on your browser. Gimmick on not, it made loyal fans more loyal. Thanks to the immersive experience, it has become a marketing masterclass.
Also, marketers have been using educational apps that are gamified to a degree. Consider the case of the United Nations Mine Action Service or UNMAS. They created Sweeper, an app that you can use in one of their pop-up exhibits to promote their work. People walk around with their phones and with headphones on. And, when they get close to a beacon, they’d hear an explosion simulating that they sent off an IED or a landmine. Then, useful information about the mines and advocacy will pop up on their phones. It’s a totally immersive experience that consumer brands or even B2B brands can try and replicate.
Video games provide us with positive stimulation because of a mix of chemicals they induce our bodies to produce. These doses of chemicals work as reward signals when we get challenged, or we start to anticipate rewards.
Mini-browser games can enhance the user experience with brands. This is an excellent venue to elaborate more on offerings, your history, or your new campaign. Moreover, you can even partner up with a game developer to create a game for your company.
Special applications can be made to augment in-person experience in live events.
10. Food Experiences
For food and beverage brands, this is a no brainer. However, for other brands (even a tourism board), this is a twist. It is not that far off though to have some cook, baker, or culinary artist to translate your brand personality into food. Also, you can just enhance any pop-up, transformation, seminar, or whatnot with food.
Food, they say, has the power to bring people together. This is maybe most true when food is free. One creative way that companies approach this is by customizing center pieces like cakes. Remember Cake Boss, the television show?
Companies small and large flock to Carlo’s Bake Shop to commission branded cakes for their events. These beautiful cakes (and tasty ones) get wows from event participants. They help create a unique shareable experience for everyone.
Also, take into account how Google promoted its Google Home mini smart home speakers. The company toured cities with a pop-up food shop with donuts and smart speakers. Sure, smart speakers are not highly associable with donuts. However, food attracts consumers to them. Then, customers can play with speakers, get donuts, and even take home said smart speakers.
So, the next time you put up an event, consider having food experiences to enhance participants’ experiences. Many companies employ this tactic, and it pays off.
Food experiences enhance your events like pop-ups, product activation, seminars, and others.
You can go big with the brand-related food centerpiece route to create a unique shareable experience. Also, you can go with just free food as a come-on.
Also, you can take the food truck route like Google. However, this tactic seems to work well for B2C products. Maybe, there are ways to make it work for B2B offerings like having a food truck at some seminar or convention complete with promo gimmicks.
Challenges are the rage these days. You got the bottle-flipping challenge, cinnamon challenge, and other mundane or crazier things out there. You may not care much about it yourself, but consumers do. That’s what matters. Also, challenges are ubiquitous in many event marketing efforts. These and other kinds of gimmicks get participants engaged.
Workshops and conventions have gimmicks sometimes. Organizers give out prizes for the most random things like “wearing a suspender.” However, many experiential marketers prefer challenges over giveaways. Participants work for their prizes. Thus, rewards feel better when they are harder to get. Also, many times, challenges promote advocacies as well.
Challenges create a unique shareable experience for the people involved.
Creating a challenge is where you get creative. Spicy food challenges seem to be a hit. Weight-loss challenges can be fun. There are just many ideas that you can play around with including a hack-a-thon. Also, challenges are not too expensive to put up. They can be set up just on social media as well. Thus, expect more consumer-facing companies to employ this tactic for their experiential marketing efforts.
Challenges are the rage these days. There are scary ones on the internet. However, you can find tamer and even constructive ones to leverage for your brand.
Rewards gained from challenges can feel better over giveaways. Moreover, challenges are shareable. Thus, you can get more user-generated mileage.
Internet challenges or offline promotional ones can be inexpensive. Creativity and resourcefulness are key.
12. Social Media Contests
Like challenges, social media contests have been trending for a while. They have been alive since brands entered social networks. Also, they are not going anywhere soon. So, you should take advantage of this trend. All you have to do is get creative with your contests. (Take, for example, branded Facebook contests). There are also these two examples that you can draw from.
Eggo’s social media contest was called The Great Eggo Waffle Off! They asked fans to create and submit Eggo recipes. Then, they ask other fans to vote for their favorite to find the winner. They put up a cash prize of $5000 for the grand winner, $2,500 for the two-runners up, and a year’s supply of Eggo waffles for weekly winners. What’s beautiful about this setup is that Eggo doesn’t put up much. For fans to make, submit, and try recipes, they have to purchase Eggo products. Thus, the campaign makes sales as they go.
Dove’s social media contest took advantage of the same thing: user-generated content. The highly-successful campaign asked users to share why a friend represents “real beauty.” They fill in their friend’s name and two things that make them beautiful. Winners got to be the next faces of Dove. The campaign veered away from the usual doctored pictures and ideals of unattainable beauty. They pushed for the advocacy to change social perceptions of what should be deemed beautiful. The Real Beauty Should Be Shared campaign was a home run. Now, it is part of Dove’s brand personality.
Social media challenges have been trending for a long time. They are likely to stay for a while as well.
Brands can take advantage of user-generated content. They don’t need to put up materials or equipment as initial investments to run these campaigns.
Done right, these campaigns don’t just increase traffic and engagement. They can also increase sales during the campaign period.
The Shape of Experiential Marketing to Come
Technology has changed the way we experience things. Thus, experiential marketers have to keep track of technologies to do their jobs. In the future, we can expect blended event environments having AR and VR in the mix. Also, we can expect marketers to adopt back-end technologies that help them increase productivity and make organizing experiential campaigns easier.
Also, experts expect businesses to demand more analytics and business intelligence features in their back-end tools. Maybe, these will be parts of their technology stacks that would include project management platforms, among others.
However, offline live events are never going to go out of style. Digital tech will only augment these in ways to make them more unique and shareable. Thus, when you create your events, you should keep in mind that you should mix both offline and online interactions to expand your reach and touchpoints. Also, many marketers are adopting a human-centric approach to designing brand experiences.
The Six-Step Process for Effective Experiential Branding Strategy
Customer Experience Audit – Measure the current experience of the brand. Ask yourself (1) if your proposition is clear, (2) if the people behave in ways that deliver the brand’s promise, (3) if the processes create value, (4) if the products are differentiated and valuable to target customers.
Creating Brand Platforms – Have your brand portfolio work together to portray brand personality visually and verbally. Many of your touchpoints already count. However, you must improve them to get them to deliver your brand’s promise.
Customer Experience Design – Create clarity around brand positioning and values. Thus, you can design experiences that are consistently aligned with your target customers’ values as well.
Communicating the Brand Internally – Communicate your designed experience to your internal people. In this way, your organization will have a shared vision.
Communicating the Brand Externally – In this step, you have to communicate your brand externally by not just visual and auditory cues. You have to let your customers have unique and shareable experiences.
Continuing Management, Audits, and Redefinition – Lastly, you have to make sure management efforts are coordinated with those in the field. Also, there should be regular audits and measurements to keep you abreast of your customer experience and how you can improve them.