Where is the Experiential Marketing Heading in 2021?

By Chris Weil, Chairman & CEO at experiential advertising agency Momentum Worldwide 

In the last few years, we’ve seen a boom in the experiential marketing sector. Brand heavyweights American Express, Verizon and Walmart have created unforgettable experiences, fostering lasting connections between their customers and their brand. Yet 2020 saw everything change, with the global health crisis largely eliminating live events and upending proven marketing techniques. With brands eager to reunite with customers, experiential marketing pivoted to help forge these important relationships now and into the future.

First and foremost, it must be recognized that consumer mindsets around experiences have shifted as a result of the pandemic. Being in lockdown forced people to become more open to how they experience events. It also became clear how easily digital activities can be integrated positively in everyday life. We recently carried out global research which identified that 83% of people believe experiences are a fundamental piece of who we are as a global culture. This highlighted that interest in experiences hasn’t changed, but the means by which people enjoy them has.

Back in 2007, Momentum Worldwide introduced the concept of “Phygital.” It was a concept representing the immense possibilities for brands to engage with consumers in both the physical and digital worlds. At that point, consumers and brands had just started to explore this idea. Fast-forward to 2020, and both consumers and brands are ready to engage with blended experiences. This shift hasn’t just affected one age group in one country, it’s had an impact on everyone globally. With loved ones and communities being apart from each other, technology has enabled groups of people to come together – even those who weren’t familiar with tech before! This is no different for brands. The use of digital has accelerated and created a chance to unite with consumers once more – and on a much larger scale, too.

By listening and understanding the needs of consumers, we created Momentum VXi, a virtual experience intelligence platform. VXi has allowed us to adapt from creating in-person experiences to virtual experiences. This is a long-term change. Globally, 86% of people are interested in attending a blended experience. There is no doubt virtual has taken to the main stage. Brands have been quick to recognize this shift and evolution; it gives the power back to the consumer. Users now have a choice to opt into more experiences than ever before. And these experiences are not just passive; these digital experiences are interactive. Our research shows that is what people want – 77% of people prioritize the ability to interact with the experience as “very important” to incorporate in future experiences and events. Audiences are now not only watching, they are engaging in ways like never before.

Now that this shift has occurred, it’s ingrained into our culture and it won’t disappear when physical events restart. Physical will come back when it’s safe to do so and consumers will want to be part of those experiences, but it’s no longer an either-or. Physical and digital will interact with each other and consumers will interact as well.

The future of the industry will be reliant on the ability to create a seamless, fluid interplay between the two worlds of physical and digital to ensure connectivity, engagement, entertainment and, most importantly, reach. And the demand is there, with over a third of people willing to pay 50% of the cost of an in-person ticket for a virtual event to watch their favorite artist. We will see the emergence of truly blended experiences working in real-time and experiential marketers will need to work more like broadcast networks—no more one-offs. These new “networks” will not be broadcasted at you as you sit back in your chair, but rather, you will be leaning forward engaging in them. The technology is there, the audience is willing and the creativity is able; 2021 has the potential to keep us connected through visually rich and interactive blended experiences.