In search of the next big influencer for experiential, Event’s first in-depth Brand Experience Report 2014 revealed a future centred around digital.
An ‘active’ audience
One of the most important trends in the experience-marketing world is the change in audiences from passive observers to active participants. No longer content to sit in the audience being spoken to, audiences today want to have a voice in the proceedings. Kim Myhre, senior vice president of FreemanXP, explains: "As experience marketers, it is our job to provide ways that consumers can actively engage with the experience, the content and other event attendees. This has created tremendous opportunities for experience marketing designers to rethink event formats; how content is presented, packaged and consumed; new learning models; and how audiences are engaged."
While Sally Gill, business development manager of Vision Nine, predicts pop-ups, cross-brand experiential collaborations and partnerships and immersive experiences in brand-owned spaces will continue to rise, the biggest trends lie with digital. She says: "With worldwide mobile penetration of 93%, a key trend is ‘mobile first’. We increasingly see the need to start with mobile and ‘scale up’. Millennials are the ‘mobile-first’ generation and optimised, geo-targeted and real-time social content will definitely become the norm. Whilst the ‘content is king’ line has been knocking around for a while, it remains true that social content will continue to be a central directive for marketers whose need for engaging visuals and authentic stories is paramount."
She adds: "With the aggressive growth of Google+, and continued market fragmentation, we’ll be keeping our eye on how social audiences continue to splinter in 2015."
Nick Adams, managing director of Sense, believes that the line between live experience and social media will become even more blurred and suggests that there will be a move away from tactical campaigns to more creative strategy work. "The debate about what is a brand experience and what isn't will become even more blurred moving forward. You see brands now who are doing a one-day or a five-minute stunt in a public place just to then create a social campaign off the back of that. That’s 99% a social media campaign versus a live one."
The live and digital experience will continue to merge as virtual reality technology develops, too. Matt Margetson, creative director at Smyle, says: "Samsung has launched virtual reality headset Gear VR and Oculus Rift will go on sale in 2015, too, so soon you will be able to see what it looks like on the stage for your favourite band when in reality you are sitting in your front room. It’s a hybrid of a live and digital experience."
Stuart Bradbury, managing director of Avantgarde London, agrees that social and live media experiences will become more integrated, but also that performance measurement tools will become more sophisticated. "Social and face to face is becoming very much knitted together and there are better tools being developed to measure the return on investment," says Bradbury.
Technology in the back seat
While the future of experiential centres around digital, there is an awareness that technology must also take a back seat. Natasha Davidson, account director at RPMC, concludes: "There will be a definite move from technology being at the centre of the experience to technology being a facilitator that allows brands to create connections with the target audience.
"Technology has given us some amazing opportunities but it can lead to a real lack of genuine relationship building. We will see technology still have its role but be more complimentary, sitting in the background, helping the process of engagement but not being the engagement."
Event's Brand Experience Report 2014
Event's first Brand Experience Report 2014, in association with Vivid Interface, provides an in-depth analysis into the world of experiential, with analysis on the pitch process, budgets, lead times, payment terms, recruitment and event associations.
To download Event's table of experiential agencies click here.
Reports published so far are:
Brand Experience Report 2014: Six brands on experiential
Brand Experience Report 2014: Experiential's place in the marketing mix
Brand Experience Report 2014: The rise of PR stunts
Brand Experience Report 2014: Five technology and social media trends
Brand Experience Report 2014: The pitch process
The full report will be available to download this month.