Experiences Are Moving From Social To Emotional Currency

By Elena Klau, Global Chief Strategy & Analytics Officer, Momentum Worldwide

As we look at the world with fresh eyes and deeper understanding, human truths remain the same—we want to escape every day, feel part of a community, be part of something meaningful and learn something new. Experiences can deliver these if we keep our sights on the emotional currency and aim for happiness, wonder and wellbeing.

Last March the hottest ticket in town moved from being in movies, stadiums and theatres to laptops, houses and apartments overnight. The social currency of the 2000s—snapping that perfect selfie to upload on Instagram or bagging the tickets to the “you had to be there” event—lost its value. As various restrictions were enforced, the social element of experiences was disrupted. Yet people who crave human interaction, being the creative and clever things they are, found a way. Experiences migrated online as staying connected with people, passions and pastimes became paramount.

A quick recap

Pre-Covid times, the experience economy was booming. 57% of people were spending more money on experiences rather than “things,” with an average year-on-year increase in discretionary spending of 2–3% since 2010. In 2019 live music revenue alone resulted in $11 billion,the importance people place on experiences. To keep existing fans and attract new ones, the music industry quickly adapted. The power of technology, creative thinking and innovation pushed experiences to new places, meeting changing consumer mindsets and needs. American Express put on one-of-a-kind, intimate performances with GRAMMY Award-winning artists like Alicia Keys for the brand’s virtual version of UNSTAGED to engage with fans on a new level.

The exchange of currency

Fast-forward to now, and it’s clear consumers are becoming disconnected from digital-only events and the return to life is happening in a big way. A new currency is emerging from shifting consumer needs. The realization of what people value and desire has been cemented by the pandemic. And so, we move from social to emotional currency. A currency based on the need for happiness, wellbeing, community and escapism. Consumers place more importance on the pay-off of attending an experience post-pandemic. After a year of social distancing, they’ll be curating the experiences they attend by what:

  • Provides joy/happiness (69%)
  • Helps obtain mental wellbeing (64%)
  • Leaves them with lasting memories (62%)
  • Reconnects them with family and friends (57%)

The “swag and swagger” of experiences is less important. It’s not a necessity to make them feel like a VIP (21%), provide something to brag about to others (20%), or give them something for the ‘gram (12%). It’s simple enough to be present and “there.” Consumers say that if there’s one thing they learned about themselves it’s that they appreciate things much more than they did a year ago (92%). They want to share experiences—online and in-person. And this is now more possible than ever!

The future of experiences

Technology has opened up experiences globally, and it’s estimated we’ve seen an acceleration of 5–10 years in digital over the past 12 months. That’s a giant leap, resulting in an opportunity to unlock the potential for blended experiences, where digital and physical interplay. It’s no longer an either-or. It’s both. People are ready for physical events, with our recent research indicating 48% of consumers say they’d return to live experiences within a month or sooner once they are vaccinated. But we’ve also had a glimpse of the true potential and power of virtual and online. We know what consumers want now more than ever, so the learnings must be applied to open events to all and broaden our reach.

Blended experiences provide opportunities for normally unusual connections to be formed to attract new audiences. Verizon recognized this opportunity for enhanced connection, so we helped them create an entirely new level in Fortnite creative mode for Superbowl LV. We partnered with some of the best gaming builders in the world, and the collaboration pushed the boundaries of blending physical and digital to create something unique for the Fortnite community. The design took its inspiration from existing NFL stadiums, teams and players, and merged that with a design language that was authentically Fortnite. The result was an everlasting experience that attracted over 40 million users during its launch during Super Bowl week and is still live today to inspire and engage.

The opportunity to take risks and engage with new channels and platforms to reach that wider audience is now. We’ll see innovative live experiences flooding the market, trying to win over consumers who have higher expectations than ever before. If you remain focused on the idea and not the technology to create and deliver the best-blended experience, consumers will be happy and engaged in the moment you create.

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