First published by, and on behalf of the team at SpaceandPeople 23.4.2020
We have been talking to a number of key agency owners in the last few weeks and have taken the opportunity to reflect on their views on the future of live brand experiences.
As anyone who has set up a business knows, tenacity and a can-do attitude are critical to success. However, in these strange times, creative minds will be pushed to innovate in order to accommodate a media which looks to customer engagement for its results.
Many Within The Experiential Sector Have Already Adapted
There is no doubt that the events industry in all its forms is one of the sectors that has been badly affected by the current pandemic. Many agencies have utilised their resources to contribute positively to the current crisis; whether that be redeploying staff to provide goods and support to frontline staff or via leasing trucks to distribute supplies. Others have turned to creating online events targeting specific customer groups and then using brands as quasi sponsors.
Our agency partners were universal in their belief that there were challenges ahead in terms of returning to normal activations. However, they were cautiously optimistic overall about the return of the business in the medium-term, given our nation’s appetite for engagement and interaction, which we have had limited exposure to in recent weeks.
Creativity Will Be Required
There were several themes that emerged from our conversations. In the short-term at least, agencies expect that they will need to work creatively to overcome the challenges that social distancing and stringent health and hygiene policies will present. There is a general understanding that for the next few months, they will have to come up with completely novel approaches to creating activations that connect with consumers without physical engagement. Amongst the many creative solutions suggested were activities which “surprise and delight” from a distance and do not require physical interaction. Also, that “experiences” could vary from stunt-style activities to pop-up events or demonstrations. These will most likely be on a smaller scale than before, at least initially, so as not to encourage mass gatherings, but should be visually appealing enough to be widely shared on social media after the event. Technology will certainly play a part in this new world – with solutions being offered including multi-sensory activations and immersive individual experiences.
The issue of product sampling presents the industry with specific challenges, particularly in relation to health and hygiene. Many agencies do not believe, however, that this is an insurmountable problem. Ideas such as allowing consumers to help themselves to products from a display and attaching a wipe to the product, or using a similar 2 metre social distancing set-up currently employed in supermarkets are all under consideration. With a number of product launches being delayed as a result of the pandemic, it is viewed as necessary and important to come up with workable solutions to this dilemma in the coming months.
Demand For Outdoor Spaces Over Summer
Over the summer months, it was generally agreed that most experiential activities will be run outdoors as these locations are thought to be where people will feel most comfortable, and where the risk of infection will be deemed lower. Many agencies believe that the bounce back from isolation will be intense and that we will all be craving some entertainment.
A New Kind Of Normal
There is a general view that Q3 and Q4 could see a resurgence in activity of a more traditional type and that, by this time, the country will be back to some sort of normal, even if it is the post-Covid-19 normal. Agencies believe that there will be a greater appetite for activity at this stage.
The ramifications of the outbreak and people’s longer-lasting reaction to it will take time to emerge. Will sanitising become the new norm? Will some social distancing measures be kept in place? Only time will tell but, from our discussions, there is a definite air of optimism that a work-around can be found and that the experiential industry, famous for its creativity, will be swiftly able to adapt