What 2017 Means for Experiential Marketing

Posted by Samantha Stallard on January 4, 2017
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Experiential campaigns used to be a race among brands to see who could fill the largest arena and give away the most free samples - it was quantity over quality and the results reflected their imperfect goals. 2017 will bring positive changes to the experiential marketing industry, with a newfound focus on the individual experience rather than mass appeal. Check out the following four trends that are going to be everywhere this year:

1. AR, VR, and HoloLens

Augmented reality (AR) technology enhances the physical environment you see by overlaying virtual elements, such as information or images over it, either through displays such as Google Glass or through the camera view on your smartphone. Designing and implementing valuable AR apps requires:

  • A better idea of how consumers would use such technology
  • More collaboration among computer scientists, designers, and marketers
  • A strategy for integrating the applications into the existing consumer journey

Virtual reality (VR) marketing creates a narrative that drives results, engaging and raising awareness with:

  • Immersion: Users are immersed in the content - fewer distractions and more attention on the message
  • Impact: The intensity of a VR experience generates strong emotions in its users
  • Memories: Our brains remember events linked to locations, VR has a longer trace in memory
  • Novelty: Early adopters can benefit from favorable media exposure

Microsoft HoloLens, is a pair of mixed reality smartglasses developed and manufactured by Microsoft. Applications available at launch include:

  • Holograms: A catalogue of a variety of 3D objects that you can place and scale around you; ranging from tigers and cats to space shuttles and planets
  • HoloStudio: A full-scale 3D modeling application
  • Skype: Skype users can dial on HoloLens and communicate with each other
  • HoloTour: An audiovisual three-dimensional virtual tourism application
Brands ahead of the game:

Lockheed Martin's Field Trip to Mars: McCann's Lockheed Martin campaign transformed an ordinary yellow school bus into a "bus to Mars" in a first-ever group virtual reality experience as part of the aeronautical company's "Generation Beyond" educational program to prepare America's students for deep space exploration.

Visual effect company Framestore built approximately 200 square miles of virtual Martian terrain to create a "1:1 relationship" between Earth and Mars that allowed the riders to truly feel they are traversing the Red Planet, without the need for a headset or glasses. The campaign was a major award-winner at the 2016 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and was awarded Adweek's Project Isaac Awards' highest honor, the Gravity Award.

In addition, the campaign won two awards in the Project Isaac Marketing & Advertising categories for Creative Invention and Event/Experience Invention.

Pepsi Max's Bus Shelter Augmented Reality: As part of its ‘Unbelievable’ campaign, the drinks brand installed a London bus stop on New Oxford Street with digital technology and a camera facing the street behind the shelter, giving the illusion that the digital display was a glass window panel. The different effects were then played on top of this image, causing passers by to stop, stare and take pictures

The augmented reality stunt soon became a hit with shocked and stunned passers by, who were given an opportunity to experience and interact with the world around them in a novel and entertaining way. Pepsi generated 5 million YouTube views in just two weeks from a single YouTube upload.

2. Owned activations

Experiential marketing can go from an expense line item to a revenue line item by charging consumers for the experience and, brands that produce their own events, can generate revenue and offset marketing costs. Owned activations will require a different kind of event expertise that's melded with a brand’s marketing strategy.

As your event's sole owner, you can supplement your experiential marketing budgets as an insurance policy as the event is developed (and grows) over multiple years. Plus, if there is a revenue shortfall in the first one or two years, there is a budget to make ends meet until the event becomes profitable. Once the event is established, it becomes its own profit center, achieving the brands exact marketing goals while making money.

“It is time for brands to take the plunge and produce their own events that can generate revenue and offset marketing costs. Of course, this is easier said than done, as it requires a different kind of event (as a business) expertise that has to be melded with a brand’s marketing strategy. While this may sound like a risky and scary proposition, think about the alternative that exists today." - Eric Murphy, Pop2Life CEO & Founder

Brands ahead of the game:

Comedy Central's Comedy Central Festival: Comedy Central is teaming up with Superfly, the promotion company behind Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, to launch its first comedy festival. The three-day event will be held in San Francisco — the same city where Outside Lands takes place — and promises to appeal to comedy fans of all stripes with a wide-ranging lineup of standup, sketch, and musical acts on hand.

“This is a totally fan-driven event for the comedy super fans,” said Comedy Central president, Kent Alterman


Photo courtesy: Comedy Central

Bon Appetit's Vegas Uncork’d: Annual culinary and wine event in Las Vegas. The concept was developed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, their advertising agency R&R Partners and Las Vegas resort partners who originally considered a number of magazine partners such as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Gourmet - Bon Appetit was selected as the magazine partner after a review with each magazine. Signature events over the years have included a poolside Grand Tasting - presenting nearly 60 restaurants and more than 100 wines; an intimate interview of Wolfgang Puck by Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild; an after-hours blackjack tournament; and Masters' Series dinners

“It’s the dining event of the year and has been deemed many times, the best of its kind anywhere in America. With 10 years of growing success, it keeps on getting bigger and better.” - Robin Leach, reporter

3. Going live

More brands are creating and sharing stories out of their experiences and events on Facebook Live as well as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. "Homeless media” is the future of content publishing because it doesn’t require a homepage or an application and syndicates content through social media channels that your audience is already on.

When Facebook Live was unveiled in April 2016, the platform quickly launched ahead of the competition, leveraging its social graph to notify users when their friends are watching a live stream. Viewers can send notifications to friends to watch the experience with them, making streaming more shareable. Live videos are similar to watching live TV where the influencers are the actors. Marketers have the opportunity to impart their messaging via native sponsorship of influencers’ channels through event promotion such as hashtag, photo, and video sharing on location, offering a great way to join the conversation beyond the footprint of the event.

"TV shows come on at certain times so people get in the habit of watching them. You can do the same with Facebook Live.” - Laura Vanderkam, author

Brands ahead of the game:

Gatorade's Super Bowl Snapchat Lens: During the Super Bowl, PepsiCo-owned Gatorade released a genius Super Bowl Snapchat lens that let anyone give themselves a Gatorade bath. Professional tennis player Serena Williams starred in an ad which shows her getting virtually "dumped on" by a cooler of orange Gatorade, thanks to the lens. The company tweeted out a GIF of the Snapchat to get the momentum going. By the end of the day, the sponsored lens had reportedly been viewed over 100 million times.

Comedy Central's @midnight Live at SXSWDuring the Interactive portion of this year’s SXSW, Comedy Central engineered a fun experiment in live programming. The late-night series, in which host Chris Hardwick and a rotating panel of comedians use social media as the inspiration for their jokes, broadcast a full episode exclusively on live-streaming app Periscope.

The Periscope version of @midnight featured Doug Benson, Chris Cubas, and Arden Myrin as its panelists and a handful of SXSW-related riffs during its broadcast. In the segment that most creatively made use of the Twitter-owned live-streaming platform, the show’s audience got a chance to participate in the game “Hashtag Wars,” which appears in every single TV episode of @midnight. The official, #AtMidnightLive hashtag reached 60,000 social users and had more than 70,000 impressions.


Benefit Cosmetics' Tipsy Tricks with Benefit: For Benefit, Facebook Live is just another platform where it can showcase its quirky, feel-good personality. The cosmetics brand has been running a weekly live stream every Thursday called “Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!” where a guest and a host choose a beauty topic and dish out advice while sipping wine and fielding viewer questions live. The first two streams had 42,000 and 59,000 live viewers respectively, with an average of 2,000 people watching them at any given time

4. Social share-ability 

These brand experiences give equal weight to IRL participants and the social shelf life of their content. Social media propels experiential marketing beyond the present by hyping attendees in the days and weeks leading up to the activation and allowing them to relive the good times once they've passed.

Smart brands are combining the power of social media posting with real world experiences to launch their branded events in front of new audiences. Even smarter brands know which platforms to post on and which aren't so experiential-friendly. The most successful, social sharing experiences activate with photo and video opportunities in mind. Then, when event attendees post live photos from these activations, the brand is able to track those pieces of content with embedded branding (custom hashtags, photos opps, product offers for social shares)

"We live in an increasingly digital world, so people want to have memorable experiences, but they also want to be able to share them with their digital friends." - Piera Gelardi, Co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Refinery29.

Brands ahead of the game:

Netflix's Gilmore Girls Pop-Ups: (Official hashtags: #LukesDiner #Gilmoreversary) Netflix’s recent takeover of 200 local cafés to promote the revival of Gilmore Girls got a major branding boost from Snapchat. On Oct. 5, Netflix recreated the fictional café Luke's from Gilmore Girls, serving up free coffee to promote the four-part series.

Snapcodes—Snapchat's version of a QR code—were printed on 10,000 cups that were distributed at all of the pop-up cafes. People opened the Snapchat app and took a picture of the decal. Then Snapchat prompted them to apply the sponsored filter to their photos for one hour. Netflix's branded filter was viewed 880,000 times. Snapchat said the one-day marketing stunt reached more than 500,000 people.


Photo courtesy: Netflix on Instagram

Revolve Clothing's Coachella’s Desert House: (Official hashtag: #RevolveFestival) The retail company aimed to expand brand awareness and drive product sales by creating brand-sponsored content with multiple social media stars across social channels. By hosting the Desert House party and inviting influencers like Bella Thorne, Aimee Song, and Danielle Berstein to attend and document their night on social media, Revolve established a pervasive social media presence at CoachellaRevolve’s campaign received 1.6+ million likes, 12,000+ comments, and reached more than 30 million users.


Explore P2L's Comic-Con Activations


Photo courtesy: Pexels 

Topics: experiential marketing, stunts, go beyond, technology

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