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The Coronavirus outbreak has affected every business and industry. However, companies reliant on experience marketing during the pandemic have been especially badly hit. Worldwide event cancellations and gatherings have dramatically impacted the future of experiential marketing and the wider marketing industry as a whole has had to adapt to a new culture and social distancing. The pandemic has forced marketers to alter how they provide responsible campaigns as the next normal for experiential marketing is being quickly ushered in. Many might view this as the end to in-person live experiences, but this is a chance for a great evolution of experiential marketing in the COVID-19 era.

Companies are well aware that once things return to a level of normalcy, they have a clear responsibility to avoid exposing customers to high-risk situations in which the virus can easily spread once again. This means that crowded spaces, mass gatherings in enclosed areas, and communal equipment that is shared need to be avoided when offering experience marketing during the pandemic as well as after. Humans need interactions and no matter how hard you try, nothing will beat a physical experience. This is why regarding experiential marketing in the COVID-19 era shouldn’t try to recreate these real-life events, instead companies need to adapt their practices to offer safe, enjoyable experiences across all channels.

The experiential sector has been permanently altered during the pandemic, but the future of experiential marketing is an incredibly exciting time for those who are willing to adapt and embrace creativity in all forms. So what does the next normal for experiential marketing look like?

Experiential Marketing’s Increase Due to COVID-19

One the great lasting benefits of experiential marketing is its versatility. It is limited solely by the scope of your own creativity. It’s format free, can be executed in a number of different ways and can be applied across all channels and platforms. When marketers look at it this way, this form of marketing is a COVID-proof approach. Brands can deliver disruption from anywhere and it can occur at any time. This flexibility is one of the reasons why experiential marketing during the pandemic has seen growth, albeit in a mostly digital way.

Virtual Reality

It has the ability to connect emotionally with an audience through forms of active participation to forge strong, lasting bonds between an audience and a brand. Experiential marketing can help to educate, empower and inspire your audience, once this has been achieved you will be able to raise awareness, drive sales and build a loyal customer base who are likely to return repeatedly.

Key Factors Behind Successful Experiential Marketing

With this in mind there are several factors that all businesses need to consider when it comes to implementing a successful experiential marketing campaign. These include:

Community Building: Customers have now come to expect brands to be everywhere all the time. The brands that are currently thriving right now in light of the pandemic have done so by connecting digitally with their audience. They have taken the time to craft caring, thoughtful messaging across their channels with the goal of building a stronger, more united community. Despite all the physical restrictions in place, by understanding and serving a need, brands can utilise experiential marketing to unite an audience. Through being purposeful and understanding, companies can still attract an audience despite physical limitations.

Encourage Confidence: Physical contact is now a rare asset meaning that experiential strategies need to be redesigned to fit this new reality. Moments of connection are wanted more than ever but to achieve this you have to build a level of trust and confidence from your audience. Not only will this set you up for success in the immediacy, but when done right, it will help support the first wave of in-person shared experiences when they become viable.

Be Creative: The conditions for creativity are ideal. There is now a freedom to experiment and innovate like never before where physical experience and digital interactions can blend seamlessly to create unique concepts. The experiential marketing environment is now an open space in which to play. Audience senses are keen and their desire for new, shared experiences is at an all-time high so rise to the occasion and take the chance to innovate.

Live Events and At Home Performances

Over the past few months we’ve seen many brands all across the world look to utilise in-home performances or digital live events as a means to engage and entertain their audience. Some of the most interesting include:

Mulberry: Last year Mulberry’s ‘My Local’ campaign was a great success. The fashion brand took over pubs and bars with live music and events across the country. Lockdown made a repeat strategy impossible so instead of scrapping it, they redeployed it. Mulberry took their physical idea and turned it into a digital one. With live performances and events set to continue running, only through online platforms this time, Mulberry have turned a successful piece of physical marketing into a successful digital one.

Secret London: Lockdowns and social distancing could very well have seen the end of Secret London and number of similar companies. Due to their heavy reliance on outdoor centric content and events, promoting in-person experiences was the core of their brand identity. To combat this, they pivoted to digital experiential marketing. They adjusted the focus away from events and onto digital engagement. From creating your own escape room, to online disco bingo, and even promoting virtual cooking classes, they are looking to stay true to their brand principles while still encouraging increased engagement and audience connection.

Voma: VOMA will be the world’s first virtual museum. Here, there is the intelligent transformation of a physical museum to a fully immersive digital experience that you enjoy in a safe environment. It is available to anyone, anywhere, as we are likely to see more and more galleries, museums and exhibitions take a similar approach to experiential marketing during the pandemic.

Hopin: This is the first all-in-one live online events platform. It makes it possible for attendees to join and interact with people from anywhere in the world. We have seen many organisations utilise this platform such as the WHO and Global Citizen who launched a virtual concert series called ‘Solidarity Sessions: Together at Home’ which featured artists around the world. It enabled them to engage directly with their audience through Instagram and promote unity amidst quarantine protocols. Even when things get back to normal, it is likely that this will still see wide industry usage for experiential marketing.

What Can Be Expected From Brands Moving Forward?

Looking to the future, the live event space will be permanently changed. As virtual events and meetings have become the new normal, it is hard to imagine things returning to the way they were. Instead, it is likely that there will be a larger focus on remote event attendance and increased use of virtual/live-streamed events. While there will still be a lot of conferences, there will also likely be a large increase in the virtualisation of these conferences too. As well as this, brands ensuring they partner with influencers who can further help to spread their message an already engaged audience will also become a more prevalent feature.

Final Thoughts

This is a time to engage with your audiences in new digital ways. By embracing the next normal for experiential marketing, you will be able to create memorable, interactive and inclusive brand experiences that would previously have seemed impossible. Social media platforms, influencer marketing, virtual events, and interactive ideas are all now available as we usher the future of experiential marketing that can truly engage with an audience in exciting new ways.

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