3 things to expect from experiential marketing in 2021 and beyond

Pre-pandemic, experiential marketing was enjoying something of a boom. Brand experiences and events had been growing in size and scale for around a decade, with marketing professionals cranking up their experiential budgets as a way to engage audiences looking for in-person interactions. In 2019, more than £59 billion was spent on experiential marketing across the globe to bring brands to life.

And then March 2020 arrived, and we all know what happened then…

Covid-19 caused experiential marketing to come to a dramatic, grinding halt. Large-scale sporting events, festivals and gigs were cancelled or postponed, while high streets were left deserted, causing the sector drop 15% overnight

The impact of the pandemic lasted far longer than many had imagined. By the end of 2020 and into the start of 2021, the sector has been struggling to get back on its feet.

However, over a year later, as lockdowns and restrictions are starting to lift, experiential remains a key investment for many marketers.

Perhaps it has something to do with the idea that we’re about to enter a second ‘Roaring 20s’ in which people party hard in an effort to make up for lost time. Maybe it’s down to brands recognising how important it is to bring people together to share meaningful experiences.

Or, it could simply be the sheer grit and determination of an industry faced with the challenge of transitioning from in-person events to virtual events back to in-person and hybrid events again.

Whatever the reason behind this renewed confidence, there is an unmistakable pent-up demand for live experiences. So much so, that many in the industry believe it’s going to be a year like no other.

Of course, before brands can really ramp up their experiential marketing activity, we need the green light on whether all restrictions will be lifted come 21 June. Mixed messages from the government have created uncertainty. They’re leading on “data, not dates” at the same time as promising all legal limits on social contact will be removed.

Dates aside, experiential marketing is a huge part of how brands stay relevant, consistent and authentic. As marketers roll up their sleeves and start planning experiential campaigns, here are three things we can expect from the experiential marketing space in 2021.

1. Brand experiences in strange places

Brand activations that take place in Trafalgar Square, for example, might feel a bit clichéd this year. Instead, brands will be looking for more dynamic, edgier locations to host brand experiences. They will want to create truly memorable experiences for highly targeted audiences. Think of events and activations taking place on farms, warehouses, or under motorway flyovers. Because the more unique and authentic the location, the more unforgettable the experience will be.

2. Hybrid events will stick around

When brands were forced to take their events online as a result of Covid-19, many chose to make those events free. This allowed organisations to reach much larger, wider and more diverse audiences than ever before. Looking to the future, brands will now be looking for ways this increased exposure can continue. As in-person events become possible once more, brands will need to combine virtual and physical to create hybrid events. Virtual attendees have grown accustomed to being part of the conversation. That shouldn’t stop when the pandemic stops.

3. Safety and wellbeing will become bigger priorities

For the foreseeable future, events and activations will need to focus on health and safety. Hand sanitisers, masks and Covid testing are likely to be part of interactive brand experiences going forward. But while safety is important, it shouldn’t detract from the event itself. Equally, wellbeing will also come to the fore in experiential. With reports of depression and anxiety rising sharply during the pandemic, brands are going to have to be well-positioned to resonate with consumers. By promoting wellbeing in a kind, thoughtful and authentic way, they can offer real value to attendees.

Experiential marketers are masters of human connection and are determined to transform, recreate and adapt to whatever 2021 throws at them. Yes, there may be a need for plans C, D, and E (rather than just a trusty plan B), but that can only make for bigger, better, stronger brand experiences and in-person events.

Our in-house experiential team create events that engage customers and brings brands to life. If you’re looking at how to create a stand-out event and deliver memorable experiences, get in touch with the team at Delta Group today: hello@thedeltagroup.com