Experiential: This Ole House is Falling Down?
LinkedIn, a bubbling font of snake oil at the best of times, is awash with articles competitively trying to read the runes and steady the nerves of an industry steamrollered by Covid 19.
Mea culpa, this article is no different. But while it’s something of a fool’s game to issue bullish predictions in these (wait for it, here it comes) “unprecedented times” — as an industry we pride ourselves on contingency planning, so it’s useful and commercially desirable to think about what comes next.
Because the Coronavirus is not just an elephant in a room – it’s an elephant that has smashed through the house, bulldozed the walls, trampled the carpets, and left a pachyderm-sized deposit on the garden path. To the casual onlooker, the foundations of this ole house are one hair’s breadth from collapse.
Look a little closer though, and not everything is destroyed. Like plants growing on a building site, the signs of recovery are already there.
In the front room: the gaming console. Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert – a ten-minute psychedelic stadium gig – had gamers mashing their controllers to joyfully emote 12 million people coming together in one virtually crafted world. You can’t pretend it was everyone’s cup of tea (I spent my time confused as to why I was being repeatedly flung towards a giant rapper’s crutch) but the target audience lapped it up in the kind of numbers that make TV advertisers rub their hands together.
For a decade experiential marketers have been pondering on how to layer digital engagement onto real-life experiences, now we must turn 180 degrees – what simple things could brands do in the real world to make “every day” digital experiences more memorable?
Entry-level begins with Joe Wicks’s Fancy Dress Fridays or a webinar’s curated Spotify playlist and cocktail menu – to mass Home Watch parties with theming, props and gamified content. Pride can’t wind its way through physical streets this year? No problem, virtual reality parades will allow those unable to take part to experience the small, localised live events that are allowed to go ahead and still feel part of a community celebration. There’s much so much that can be done to creatively fuse the tangible benefits of live experience to digital content – because quarantine fatigue and Zoom-Out are very real.
In the kitchen: a gleaming new bit of domestic kit (a coffee machine, a food processor, a new vacuum) bought as a cheer-up or to make an enforced stay at home more pleasurable. In the study or bedroom, a new laptop or printer to make working from home work better. These purchasing decisions are made online with little guidance beyond gingerly navigating consumer reviews that by the law of averages tend to cancel each other out. There’s a real and urgent opportunity to transfer the customer experience skills of field and retail ambassadors online though product demo, compliance and merchandising.
Automated AI chatbots and a customer service operative miles from home won’t cut it in a world that’s cut adrift – consider real “local” ambassadors with retail-level smarts at the end of a digital lens guiding the journey to basket. Kenwood Delonghi offer bookable, personalised masterclasses on their products broadcast from a kitchen studio that do far more for promoting purchase and brand advocacy than an instruction manual or flat YouTube “How To.”
And then through the letterbox in the front door – could we be seeing a return to the kind of creative direct mail sampling that becomes an experience in its own right? Unable to activate their experiential Magnum pop-ups this spring, the ice cream brand has partnered with Deliveroo to send “Make My Magnum” kits for customers to literally play with their food. Direct home delivery has kept commerce moving through Covid, the smart experience designers and brands will look for ways to bring physical sampling onto doormats in surprising and memorable ways, rather than products pressed indiscriminately into hands on a station concourse.
So don’t despair – you don’t need to knock down the ruins of this ole house.
This is a remake and re-model job.
- Localised, hygienic community-level events and pop-up stores amplified and connected digitally to increase an audience
- Digital events and content made more memorable by physical overlays
- Live and human-centric online demo
- Direct-to-home sensorial sampling