For any of us connected with the experience or events industry, we’ve been through a very tricky time recently.
And whilst the green shoots are starting to appear as people go back to some form of ‘normal’, we are seriously going to have to change the way that we create experiences for our audiences. Especially if we are going to continue to deliver the amazing experiences that consumers have come to both crave, and expect…
As an agency that specialises in creating truly motivating experiences for FMCG brands, we know just how vital experience marketing can be. And not just for brands, but for the consumers they lovingly serve too.
During this free webinar we will not only help you to understand how you can continue to deliver rich, inspiring experiences, but also we’ll cover how to do so safely and responsibly when the ‘new normal’ begins to kick in.
As a brand experience agency specialising in giving brands and consumers just that; amazing experiences, we know how vital experience marketing can be not just for brands, but for the consumers that you serve too.
At least in the immediate future we are going to have to change the way we look at creating these experiences for audiences. Especially if we are going to continue delivering events and experiences that are truly engaging, given all the new restrictions that we’re contending with ‘post-covid’.
So we’re writing this today to help brand owners understand not only how we can continue to deliver those rich inspiring experiences that our audience do crave, but how we do it safely and responsibly too when the ‘new normal’ begins to kick in.
What we hope experiences post-Covid do NOT look like
OK so before we look at what might happen to events and experiences post-covid, let’s take a look at what we hope doesn’t happen. Because as we all know one of the main joys of pubs, bars, restaurants and the on-trade in general is just that. It’s the joy that we get from being with family, friends and colleagues, to spend some much needed downtime together.
And we really don’t want to lose that. Take the fun and enjoyment away from these experiences, and we’re really not going to have a reason to get out and about to do them, so we need to ensure we keep these experiences enjoyable and make sure that they stay something that we all crave as consumers crave too. After all, this doesn’t look too fun, right? 👇
And whilst some designers are undoubtedly doing their best to make the most of this perceived opportunity, I hope we could all agree this really looks more like something out of The Jetsons and it doesn’t quite cut it. If this was the new normal, it would grow very quickly, and it certainly isn’t going to replicate the joy that we’re used to experiencing when we go out for dinner or drinks, that’s for sure.
The impact of Covid on the hospitality industry, events and experiences
So that’s what we had doesn’t happen but let’s take a look at what has been confirmed so far. And in terms of cancelled events, it’s really quite the list. From the Olympics to Glastonbury to the European Championships, these are all usually huge opportunities for brands to sponsor, to activate, to partner with, and to make the most of from a marketing perspective. And that’s even more apparent for Brands in the FMCG and drinks industries.
But it’s important to remember that it’s not just these huge events that have been affected, as brand owners you’ll only be too aware that this also includes things like food festivals, local gigs or street-food pop-ups, all of which cause a big gap in our marketing plans and our calendars for 2020.
And because of this, there really is no shying away from the fact it’s been a tough few months for the hospitality industry. Taking the UK’s 47,000 pubs for example, alongside every other business in the hospitality sector, all of which were shut between the 20th of March and 4th of July 2020; which was hugely unprecedented.
And although this has now passed, it doesn’t mean we can simply start up and ‘get back to normal’. This quote from Chris Witty, the CMO for the UK, backed this up when he said “I would be surprised and delighted if we weren’t in this situation through the winter and into the spring”. An alarming, but expected statement from such a senior government official.
So how will events and experiences look in 2020 and 2021?
Well as brand owners, this statement made one thing clear, that we need to continue to plan with social distancing in mind. It simply has to play a role in the brand’s event planning for both this summer, and into 2021 too.
Yet putting the recent doom and gloom to one side, at Quantum we truly and firmly believe the situation we find ourselves in now is an opportunity, and as an events and brand experience agency, we actually feel like it’s more than that. It’s a huge one.
Yes there may be less big events to take part in the summer of 2020 and beyond, but consider the fact that that also means there are less big events to compete with. And less noise to cut through.
So below you’ll see some ideas for maximising this opportunity, we’ll explain why running your own branded experiences and events, although yes although a smaller scale, in fact generate richer levels of engagement. Levels that simply can’t be achieved by attending or partnering with larger national events.
But first, why are brand experiences and events important in the first place?
Well, given all of the above, it would be easy to think “why not just put our marketing budgets into something else?” But quite simply, smaller events create real value for your brands.
For example from a consumer perspective, you never want or value something more than when it’s taken away from you, it’s the basic law of supply and demand, and you tend to find the desire is directly proportional to scarcity. So we know that consumers are really craving these experiences.
As for brands, in the world that we now live in, the experience a brand creates really is the only way it can differentiate itself, the only way we can really communicate that all important ‘who we are’ and ‘why we matter’ in a meaningful way.
These two facts combined with the current climate, means the experiences that brands create have never been more valuable, both to the brands and their consumers. Therefore whilst the volume of people that you could reach in the ‘new normal’ may be lower, if we do things in the right way, it can actually lead to a far deeper and richer engagement.
And let’s face it, after enduring ‘lock down’ this year, it’s not like we have a job to convince consumers to take part in our activations anymore, they are craving them, they just need permission and know how to do it safely.
So the reality is that for brands to win, we simply have to find innovative ways to plug that gap and the consumers that we reached by doing this will thank us for it. This will be paid back in share of mind, and share of market.
- Although events might be smaller, engagement becomes far richer, so smaller numbers don’t really equate to less value.
- It’s a great opportunity to create true brand advocates and generate that all important love for brands that we all strive towards.
- The truth is that other brands will be, and are already doing this, so don’t get left behind.
But what makes a great experience in the first place?
To create experiences that change behaviour we drill this down to two fundamental building blocks. Firstly it’s about stimulating the senses, letting people know that something’s going on. It’s what they see, feel, touch, taste and smell – all of those elements that stimulate the senses. And how well we stimulate those senses, will determine how meaningful and how memorable those experiences will be.
Secondly we need to give any experience an emotional framework. At our hearts, we are social animals, so in order for us to attribute meaning to an experience, we’ve got to put it into some form of social context. We need to have a level of interaction, a reference point, a way to share with others, and that basically shapes how successful our experiences will be.
Brand event and brand experience examples
Before we get into some amazing brand experience examples, consider the below when thinking about your own brand events and experiences.
- Rethink the role of your event strategy.
- Start thinking about hosting your own branded events, in your own space.
- Think about how outdoors could play a big role in your experiential plan.
- Always think phygital. This should be the lens that we approach all event activations moving forwards.
- Use content to really drive extra value in the experiential activities we’re doing.
Rethink the role of your event strategy.
The first thing to talk about, and it’s a big ask, is it’s time to rethink the role of your event strategy in its entirety. Now it’s no longer about scale and physical reach, it’s much more about smaller events, fewer people, but delivered beautifully. And by doing this, we can achieve amazing brand connections and engagement.
It’s likely that consumers will be attending less events throughout 2021, which means that they will get much greater value from each one. so we have an amazing chance to engage with consumers in a way that we never have before.
The big challenge here is to stop thinking about ‘cost per contact’, and start thinking about ‘cost per relevant contact’. Which is really well illustrated here:
When we activate at large events (with hundreds of thousands of people), you have to wonder, how many people our brand is actually able to talk to? Especially when there are loads of other competing brands for the same attention…
That results in our brand having a really small voice and an enormous amount of wastage. Yet at smaller events, suddenly our presence becomes much more significant, and we’re able to make our investment work really hard for us. With a smaller crowd, we have a much louder voice, and a significantly reduced amount of wastage.
And a really good example of this is Luna cinema. These guys are a really established network of pop-up cinema events that have 175 events happening regionally across the UK. And although each event only attracts around 500 to 2000 people, with less noise and competition, all of a sudden we’re able to talk to consumers in a much richer and engaging way.
This is another really great example you might have seen in the news, on the 15th of June 2020 the government said that drive-in cinemas could continue, and The Drive In are now promoting a UK wide tour of retro themed drive in cinema experiences that’s really safe and for people to attend.
By being the one or two brand responses at an event like this, we get a really loud voice in making relationships with consumers.
Start thinking about hosting your own branded events in your own space.
The big question to ask here is why do we activate with big event partners in the first place? Well we’re not disputing the role they play, they do an important job in helping brands reach relevant consumers, big audiences, guaranteed football and there’s always going to be a role for that but. But if we’re saying that smaller events will become king, couldn’t we as brand owners do that ourselves with greater effect?
Here’s one example showing just that, that we did for our friends over at Atopia, a low-alcohol spirit that we launched at a pop up in Shoreditch back in January to combat ‘Blue Monday’ – the most depressing day of the year.
At this event we spoke to about 2,000 guests in Shoreditch’s awesome venue Benk + Bo. The point was that everybody that came along could choose what level of interaction they had with us. Some came in to have a complimentary drink of Atopia, others engaged in a laughing yoga session, and some actually sat down and enjoyed some mindful comedy with us. But the point is that in this scenario, Atopia was very much at the heart of the experience.
Another example was a campaign we ran for The Balvenie. It was called ‘share to open’ and was in the heart of King’s Cross station, where we invited consumers to come and take a seat at our bar and enjoy a dram of Balvenie Double-wood Whisky. Over the course of that day we sampled around 900 consumers, which doesn’t sound like a lot of people, but each of those consumers came and sat at our bar and spent 6-8 minutes talking to our brand ambassadors, learning about the product, and enjoying a sample in the process.
What’s richer? 100,000 people seeing your logo, or nearly 1,000 people directly engaging with and learning about your brand?
Think about how outdoors could play a big role in your experiential plan.
The third thing is to say, could outdoors be the new indoors? Everything we’re seeing and hearing is suggesting that, certainly in the immediate and the medium term, this will be the case. An outdoor space is the most ‘Covid safe’, so it’s likely that if and when government intervention comes back into play, outdoors is probably the safest place for us to be.
Brands have been doing this for a while, this is Coppa Club in London, with their famous igloo bars quite proudly on the Thames. There’s lots of innovative ways of delivering outdoor brand experiences whilst also incorporating some elements of protection from the rain, so is absolutely worth considering.
Another example is some work we’ve been doing with William Grant and Sons in owning outdoor spaces with key customer venues. Traditionally we might think about how we could own inside spaces, where dwell time is more consistent, but there’s a real good job to be done in owning out outdoor spaces and driving visibility and experience in those areas.
You may also recognise this from the headlines recently, a pub in your own backyard, and who wouldn’t have liked this during the Covid lockdown?! It certainly got us thinking that there are loads of opportunities for brands to develop experiential and events campaigns, digitally by offering competitions for consumers to win outdoor brand experiences and events in their own garden.
By integrating it with some viral activity, you could apply some digital PR and social amplification to really push this concept much further too.
Always think phygital. This should be the lens that we approach all event activations moving forwards.
The fourth item is all about phygital, which we ran a webinar on last month. If you’re not aware though, Phygital is the combination of physical and digital experiences, to create really memorable experiences and meaningful connections.
This is really well exampled here for Kopparberg, a really exciting brand that aligns itself very closely to music and festivals. Naturally, given that all the festival activations Kopparberg were partnering with this year have been cancelled, the big challenge was how do we leverage this association with music, through different channels?
To do just that we developed an on pack promotion that invites consumers to win their own festival experience, in their garden! The winner will receive an amazing festival experience in their own home, plus a famous DJ to come and play to them and a select few of their friends, or those in the same household.
To push it further and to integrate that kind of phygital lens however, we also decided to give every single entrant to the competition an opportunity to watch the DJ set on Zoom. Each entrant will be given an access code where they can watch a live stream of the DJ set taking place.
Not only does this amplify the reach in delivering that competition prize, but it’s also using phygital tactics to create really meaningful connections with Kopparberg’s target audience.
Use content to really drive extra value in the experiential activities we’re doing.
And lastly – it’s remembering that content is still king! Using content in a way to really amplify activity beyond the smaller crowds that they might be able to engage with, is absolutely key.
An example of how to do this well is with the launch of a new product that we helped our friends at Kopparberg with. By running a digital competition, where consumers could apply to receive a hand delivered case of their new ‘Hard Seltzer’, we armed a branded Kopparberg land rover defender with cased of product, amazing tunes, and our passionate brand ambassadors, who would hand deliver the product to our competition winners.
By doing this, we only actually sampled to around 300 people (in Manchester, Leeds and London), but we were able to get an awful lot of reach, and an amazing amount of branded content in the process.
These kind of Instagram posts illustrate the richness of the content we were able to get, both through our own social feeds, but also through earned content that we were able to get with some of our influences, partners and consumers as a result of the sampling campaign.
How to make your brand experiences and events stand out
Following that, we just wanted to highlight some of the important roles brands can play as we look to the future. And to start, it’s all about creating awareness of the great experiences or events that we’re running. And there are tons of great, quick and easy ways to do this.
For example, why not create a geo-targeted social teaser campaign so that your ads are relevant to every venue around the country? Or consider countdown ads as part of your PPC strategy so that customers can literally countdown the days to your next event or experience.
Another great and very relevant example given the amazing weather we’ve had is considering using weather generated ads on the glorious summer days and weekends to make sure that you get the right ads showing to the right people, at exactly the right time; when the weather’s good, and when they head into the shops and they’re ready to spend.
Secondly it’s all about creating anticipation. And to do this, why not consider digital sampling or digital giveaways. If there was ever a time to incentivise customers to try your products, it’s now. And with social and digital advertising being cheaper than ever right now due to the competition for space, it’s a really good time to be trialling advertising in digital in general.
And thirdly, it’s all about doing things a little bit different. With all the best will in the world you won’t be the only brand team thinking how you can stand out in the new normal, so you need to be prepared, be on the front foot, and importantly have your brand activations ready to go so that you can turn them on instantly and overnight.
If you suggest an event, an activation, experience or promotion, make sure that it is watertight, make sure it’s well thought through, ready to go, and it can be implemented quickly as well.
OK so just to summarise, hopefully it’s clear that with the right approach, we can still deliver amazing experiences that our audiences crave. Yes Covid has changed the landscape, but in many ways, that opens up these new routes and new opportunities to create more meaningful, richer, more memorable experiences too.
We really hope there are some nice insights and ideas there for you. If you’d like to speak to any of the team about how you can deliver these amazing experiences for your customers however, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch! We’d love to chat.