Bellwether industry reaction: Live experiences are driving marketing spend

Agencies Wasserman Experience, GMR Marketing and Because discuss the findings of the latest Bellwether report, released yesterday (16 July).

The latest Bellwether report reveals event marketing spend is on the rise
The latest Bellwether report reveals event marketing spend is on the rise

Key to the Bellwether report was the fact that the event industry led the way in marketing expenditure during the second quarter of 2015.

A net balance of +7.4% of event companies recorded growth in marketing budgets over the period, with the internet coming in second with a net balance of +6.8% of companies recording growth.

Experiential - fuelling growth?

James Hunt, managing director at GMR Marketing, isn’t surprised that event marketing spend is on the rise. He told Event: "At GMR Marketing we have certainly seen a growth in our experiential business as brands are continuing to see the true value of experiential as part of a wider marketing mix. 

"The volume of people that live experiences reach versus other channels such as TV advertising has previously been a concern for some brands. However, the authenticity of live experiences really resonates with the modern consumer. By leveraging the rich and often personalised content generated at events, they are more willing to engage, share and advocate brands within their personal networks," he said. 

The rise of the active consumer

Paul Saville, joint managing director at Wasserman Experience, explained the findings highlight the value people place on real life experiences.

"Bellwether’s figures indicate an ongoing positive trend for events – the increase in spend on the channel is positive proof that experience continues to sit comfortably at the centre of any marketing communications strategy.

"Gone are the days of mere awareness raising; today, building brand advocacy with the millennial demographic, which values experience above all else is a common agenda for brand owners, and experiential hits that sweet spot," he said. 

Sharon Richey, CEO of Because, agreed that the modern consumer is increasingly more active. "The latest Bellwether report can only mean good things for our industry, and cements what we’ve been saying for many years," she explained. 

"Consumers were once happy to simply view marketing campaigns, they now want to be a part of them, and are happy to give their time and attention to talk directly to a brand. And this can only means good news for us all."

The rise of online

Saville believes it makes sense that internet budgets came in second after events in terms of marketing expenditure, and he predicts online will play an increasingly important role in events.

"Looking ahead, the agencies of the future will be those that continue to merge online and offline experiences through creative technology, to boost exposure," he said.

Hunt noted that online platforms will help drive the event marketing spend. "With the rise in social media and improved content generation strategies, brands will continue to turn to live events to shift awareness," he explained.

Future budget predictions

Richey poses two scenarios for the future: "This new ‘experience economy’ helps brands to develop an emotional affinity with consumers - building brand love through meaningful experiences, and turning them into true advocates of your products and services. With this in mind we only see event budgets heading one way.

"Increasingly, brands that don’t offer unforgettable live brand experiences lose mindshare to those that do. Through research we know that people relate far more to a story if they play an active part in it - if they experience it. Not only do they relate to it more, they talk about it more. And when you get it really right, they’ll still be talking about the experience years on. This is why event marketing budgets will continue to grow in the future," she explained.

Saville predicts budgets will increase, with a handful of sectors set to benefit in particular. "Spend will keep climbing simply because brand experiences will continue to play an increasingly important role in marketing communications strategy. For brand experience agencies, the next couple of years will be about consolidation and client education when it comes to increasing margins.

"This anticipated growth in budgets also means that sectors that were hit particularly hard by the recession – automotive, electronics, and others – are gearing back up for spend mode and those areas with sector specialism and strong points of difference should be set to capitalise," he added. 

More: Bellwether industry reaction: measurable campaigns are key to success

Bellwether: Event budgets rise +5.7%

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