Elevate: Creativity Proves Experiential is Here to Stay
On May 1 in New York, 200 experiential marketing professional gathered at Adweek’s Elevate: Creativity event to trade notes, share trends, and celebrate the growing space that is experiential marketing.
If there was one great takeaway from this meeting, it was this: Experiential is here to stay. But of course, there was much more than that, thanks to some of the leading experiential minds from the likes of Domino’s, HBO, Diageo, and more. Here are some of the big takeaways.
The Future of Experiential
Agency creatives, brand marketers, tech specialists alike discussed how experiential is evolving — and emotional effects were front and center.
Where experiential used to cater to audiences’ desire for exclusive, ephemeral, external moments, now audiences are looking for inspiration, connection, and meaning. They are increasingly rewarding the brands that encourage them to celebrate “those little moments.”
Where audiences used to look for brands that provided utility, made life easier, and of course sparked joy (á la Marie Kondo), today they are looking for brands that change the way they feel. In fact, 86% of consumers in the US are looking for brands to reduce their stress.
The Next Generation
While we don’t believe in defining an audience solely by its demographics, there are notable shifts among generations. So it would be wise to pay attention to Gen Z — especially as they enter their mid-20s and prime consumer age.
Unlike Millennials (who are entering their 40s), Gen Z is just fine with being marketed to. In fact, they expect it. They like shopping online and in store (proving that retail may not be dead after all). But be warned, Gen Z expects in-store experience to provide meaningful connections to the brand. (Check out how Glossier is killing it in the retail game.)
Gen Z wants to align with brands politically. They skew socially liberal, and they’re increasingly inclined to choose brands that are authentically involved in humanitarian, environmental, or charitable causes.
Oh, and Gen Z sleeps with their phones. Literally. Some 82% admitted to it. So while there are plenty of experiential marketers turning to the “unplug” trend, it’s worth remembering that young people still want to share.
Giving Back and Winning Big
This past year, we saw a lot of brands giving back to the community in creative ways. Whether it was in the name of good pizza or to shed light on the challenges of illness, these brands really hit that sweet spot between inspiring and connecting with people without losing their brand.
For the Love of Technology
It wouldn’t be experiential if brands didn’t push the envelope with digital and technological advancement. Some highlights:
- Rainforest Alliance/New Reality Co teamed up to create a VR experience like no other. The experience transforms audience into trees in the rainforest, transporting them in “incredibly moving” fashion from seedling to forest canopy to deforestation.
- Nike’s Jordan brand partnered with Shopify to pull off the first social commerce experience in AR, all designed to celebrate 30 years since MJ’s iconic free throw line dunk. And fans went wild for it.
- To show Frontier is always thinking about what’s next, Diageo created an entirely 3D printed experience, from the bar to the drinks.
- Merck launched MS: My Other Life, with the aim of helping consumers better understand life with the disease, through a virtual reality experience.
Analog Still Holds Strong
Last but not least, we learned that sensory overloads are not going anywhere. King of the Superfan Experience, with two SXSW activations still getting attention for their detail and effectiveness, HBO proved that you don’t need tech to inspire and awe. Exhibit A: The immersive theater activation in promotion of Westworld. Adidas, meanwhile, took a unique approach to product launches by introducing their new Copa…in the dark. At the launch, consumers had to feel, touch, and experience the copa before laying eyes on it.