Blog: The year ahead in experiential - part one

Goggle-free VR and the Internet of Things is set to shape the future of experiential, says Michael Brown, managing director of MKTG.

The Internet of Things (IOT) will shape the future of experiential marketing
The Internet of Things (IOT) will shape the future of experiential marketing

It’s the new year (again). The triggering of article 50 will loom large throughout 2017 and, on 10 January, a certain Donald Trump will be officially sworn in as the most powerful man in the world. Many will be tempted to remain snug under the duvet until 2018.

However, let’s assume you have not found the call of your alarm clock too shrill this week and that you are of an optimistic disposition. You are now chirpily heading to work, fired up for the year ahead, and you’re desperate to know the top five things that will get the experiential saucepan boiling over this year.

Turning up the heat on tech

With the lights going up on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas right now, I couldn’t really start an article like this without covering the technological innovations we may be able to put to good use in the near future.

VR continues to tantalise some in the live space, others may yawn at its mention here. Regardless of your position, it’s industrial, educational and entertainment potential is not lost on anyone. Yet, while the tech remains married to a headset, the user is forced into a uniquely solo and non-inclusive experience - the antithesis of experiential marketing. Let’s face it; it’s not a great look either! If only it were goggles-free.

Now it is. There are nearly 200 companies innovating in this space globally, and a French tech firm called Scale-1 Portal is exhibiting at CES with a product for the B2B market that only requires a pair of 3D glasses - rather more fetching than a headset. There are also UK companies (Blue Room and Crucial-FX) developing glasses-free VR products set inside immersive screen-based room environments, meaning that every surface – walls, floors, ceilings – are linked screens. Such tech could lead to some exciting live activations that are more inclusive for large-scale group experiences while being faster and less fiddly to deploy in live environments. 

As this technology evolves further into the future we may see exciting developments for Out of Home, with advertising media in the built environment becoming ever more immersive, and less restricted by the need to advertise on a screen; technically any surface could be utilised to trigger immersive content.

User interfaces go from simmering to searing hot

User interfaces are a pretty chunky news item right now and should become ever chunkier in 2017. A multitude of start-ups are looking at the ways in which people can control and personalise the world around them. Most are exhibiting at CES. In particular, voice and gesture commands controlling Artificial Intelligence devices are making giant strides: Amazon’s Alexa should spring immediately to mind. There is a bit of a bun fight between lots of IP holders with complimentary products (ranging from audio speakers to toasters) that interface with Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and other emerging variations of this technology. We folks in the experiential business should be getting seriously involved.

Change the ingredients: It’s about experience not experiential

Many of these IOT (Internet of Things) developments could easily be used to break into the traditional weak points of a brand experience and improve upon it. I mentioned in my digital optimisation blog from last year how we should rethink experiential and look at it from an entirely different vantage point; as a complimentary alternative to immersive, linear experiences for large groups of people; the staple diet of all who work in our world. Sure, we can do that until the cows give us enough milk to make the butter for our bread.

We could also diversify as a medium that uses IOT to massively enhance and own the wider brand experience in the broadest sense of the phrase. IOT technology can be poised and ever ready to strike in short, sharp bursts in places where it is most relevant, closer to the point of purchase. In 2017 and beyond, agencies should be developing their own IP to do just this sort of activity. Why couldn’t an experiential practitioner with a retail client, for example, go to them with a product idea like a smart mirror for shop floor changing rooms for instance?

As I mentioned in my digital optimisation blog, when you try something on in front of a smart mirror, you can use it to order another size up or another colour and have the items delivered to the changing room. This also eliminates queuing to pay; you can buy the item through the mirror using facial recognition functionality linked to your credit card deets. Your new trousers can be mailed to your home address allowing you to walk out free of carrier bags, undoubtedly improving the whole shopping experience with knock-on effects for brand loyalty and trust. Ideas like the smart mirror are in development now, but with some creative flair or a bit of commercial nous we can conjure our own ideas to improve our client’s total brand experience offering in 2017.

Next week the second part of Michael's blog will explore Smart Cities, authenticity and the quest for experiential to become ever more measurable and more targeted than ever before.

Comment below to let us know what you think.

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