Budgets for experiential marketing rose 19 consecutive quarters to Q2 2018, and in the Q4 2018 IPA Bellwether report, it was only events that saw any rise in investment at all. This shows that brands are realising the potential of experiential to engage audiences in more meaningful and relevant ways.

So, what are the trends set to shape experiential marketing? You can read much more on the topic in Econsultancy’s Experiential Marketing Best Practice Guide, or continue below for a summary.

Investment from every sector

Experiential marketing has become common practice for large-scale technology brands like Netflix and Google; the latter holding hundreds of events in Europe alone each year.

Without a physical presence, experiential enables these brands to create real-life connections with consumers through engaging and memorable in-person experiences. Indeed, their success appears to have inspired other (and smaller) digital brands to invest in the medium. And we are seeing a wide range of industries getting involved, from consumer brands like Sephora to B2B giants like GE.

Alongside this, we are also seeing the growing recognition of skills and expertise. There has been an emergence of a new raft of job titles that are specific to experiential, as well as an increase in companies placing greater value on them.

According to Major Players, 35% of people working in experiential received a pay rise of between 5% and 10% in 2017.

Paid-for experiences

While many experiential events remain free for consumers, a growing number of brands are moving into paid-for ticketed events. Figures from Event Marketer’s EventTrack 2018 show that one third of consumers have paid an admission fee to attend a brand experience or event.

One of the main reasons for this is to allow brands with limited marketing budgets to carry out effective experiential experiences. It also creates more credibility for an event, as well as helps brands to plan around a definite number of attendees (and reduce drop-outs).

Spotify is a great example of a brand that has seen great success with ticketed events. It has previously created a series of live concerts based on its WhoWeBe playlist, featuring grime, rap and hip-hop stars like Giggs and Dizzee Rascal. With young fans keen to attend, the event (for 10,000 people) sold out three weeks in advance, with tickets selling at £35 each.

‘Stayable’ experiences

Another growing form of experiential marketing is ‘stayable’ experiences, whereby consumers are able to stay over in comfortable spaces like hotels and boutiques.

Stayable experiences are a natural fit for brands within the travel and hospitality industries. But unlike regular stays, these types of branded experiences are far more immersive, and in turn, more memorable. This is also in comparison to daytime experiences; the idea being that it’s far easier to forget a two-hour event than it is an entire day and night in a new or novel location.

So far, this area of experiential has been largely untapped, apart from a few high-profile examples. W Hotels is one brand that has invested in it, creating a luxury yurt experience for its loyalty programme members at Coachella festival. Each yurt was designed to resemble the brand’s properties in Barcelona, Bali and Hollywood, and offered guests luxuries such as a maid turndown service, personal concierge, and shuttle service. This gave consumers the chance to experience W Hotels’ core product offering, albeit in a heightened and unique environment.

As well as creating a memorable experience for its audience, the yurts also generated social noise for W Hotels, with consumers ready and willing to document and share their experience on Instagram and other social channels.

Technology and innovation

From Coca-Cola to Topshop, we’ve already seen VR and AR being deployed by brands within experiential. Other forms of technology are also coming to the forefront, too, and in various stages of the planning and execution of campaigns.

One example of this is the use of technology to create multi-sensory environments, whereby brands can capitalise on smell, sound, and touch to heighten experiences. Whiskey brand Diageo has experimented with playing the crackling sound of an open fire at the bar, for instance. Similarly, a pop-up for home fragrance brand Glade involved different rooms inspired by a particular Glade candle scent – each one designed to evoke an emotional response.

Elsewhere, it’s been suggested that 2019 could be the year that we see robotics incorporated into experiential, offering companies an innovative way of engaging with consumers (such as robots serving food and drink). Similarly, experiential agencies are at the early stages of experimenting with finger vein recognition – a biometric technique that can analyse people’s finger vein patterns in order to identify them.

Finally, mixed reality has been named as a technology to watch. This is essentially a hybrid of AR and VR, which anchors virtual objects to the real world, and maps them to the physical environment to allow users to then interact with the virtual objects.

As we make headway into 2019, and the the experiential marketing sector continues to grow, brands and agencies will need to continue to innovate in order to stand out in this increasingly crowded space.

Experiential Marketing Best Practice Guide