Consumers Are In Control, The New World Of Experiential Marketing

September 18, 2020

By: Alison Delzell, SVP, Experience

Experiential marketing has been hit hard with both large- and small-scale events being canceled or postponed with no clear end in sight. The way brands respond to the pandemic will have long-term effects on their consumer relationships, with 61 percent of consumers stating that a brand’s response will significantly impact their likelihood to buy from the brand in the future.

Brand experience succeeds by bringing the brand to life in a multisensory environment and igniting the consumers’ senses to form an ongoing relationship. But what does Experience look like when brands and consumers have to step back? How can we help prepare ourselves as society changes the way it functions on a daily basis? 

We should expect shifts in behavior, and our environments must adapt accordingly. The arrival of body temperature reading bracelets within the next year? Highly likely. Thermal scanning devices at every mall, stadium, and public place in the next year? This has already started. 

Our world has changed forever, and how brands respond now will be telling for years to come.  

One change comes out of this pandemic that most brands aren’t thinking about yet, and it’s simple: The brand is no longer in control—the consumer is. What was once uncomplicated, to have the public interact with your brand, is now going to be a challenge. The product that used to entice consumers into your footprint is not going to work anymore by itself. Your consumers are distracted. They are going to be more worried about things like: “Is there enough space in here for me to feel safe?” “Are there sanitizing stations?” “Can I get out of this space quickly if needed?”

So how should brands approach their consumers now? Humans are not solitary by nature. Life is meant to be shared, so we know consumers will always want to be entertained and have experiences that fill their hearts, minds, souls, and of course, their social feeds.

With this in mind, brands should start with a few things at the front of their minds as they think about going live: 

  1. Be authentic.
  2. Put the consumers first.
  3. Create an emotional connection with safety at the forefront.

Authenticity is key. Consumers know when you’re not being true to your values or are trying to be something you’re not. Instead, stick close to what you do and what you’re good at—like Amazon setting up a storefront, “Common Threads,” for up-and-coming fashion designers. Or Coors Light creating their “clone machine,” which enables a 30-second loop of you for your Zoom call, giving you time to run to the fridge for a cold one.

Putting consumers first will always lead to a successful relationship, and then ultimately, to sales. Knowing your consumer and doing a deep dive into who they are and what they want is imperative before an event.

However, connecting emotionally is what is truly paramount. Making them laugh or cry or get goosebumps will create a connection that will sear the brand into their hearts and minds. Get back out there and show consumers you support them. Brands that do this first out of the gates with safety at the forefront will be the ones most remembered.

Be ready, CMO’s. Between now and the return of physical activations, use everything in your armory to start getting attention and sharing your values such as social, influencer programs, gaming, and music. If you don’t have it, get it. Also, acknowledge that despite drive and determination, even small activations take time to produce. 

Additional staff, signage, masks, stanchions, and barriers are now mandatories for our industry, so introducing a layer of additional health and safety takes extra development time and budgets, which will affect your bottom line. We expect events are going to cost marketers at least 5-10 percent more for every occasion. This is the best way to use your money right now—reminding consumers that they are in control and that you care about them.

Humanize your brands, because consumers are gearing up and want to interact again!