FIVE Experiential Marketing Trends to Expect in 2022

marketing trends
February 24, 2022 0 Comments

One of the best things about experiential marketing is the opportunity for brands to engage directly with their target audience — consumers get to hear, touch, listen, taste, smell or experience a brand’s product or service in a memorable, surprisingly delightful way. The COVID-19 pandemic ground most in-person interactions to a screeching halt in 2020. In 2021, we saw a slow return to some in-person engagements but nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. Many brands pivoted to virtual or hybrid events (a blend of virtual and in-person) when in-person events weren’t feasible. Now, as 2021 fades in the background, new coronavirus variants have prolonged the pandemic far longer than most of us expected. However, creativity is driving innovation. Here are five experiential trends to watch for in 2022.

1) Hybrid Events Will Continue

If there can be such a thing as a silver lining to a pandemic, it forced event planners and marketers to get even more creative than they already were. We’ve seen spectacular innovation and advances in video production, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) technologies. Hybrid events allow brands to reach a broader audience, both geographically and attendees unable to attend live events due to budget, health or other challenges.

Given the success and often attractive ROIs of hybrid events, we’ll likely see these increase in number and scope. In fact, according to a 2021 Agency EA study, 59% of B2B marketers and 60% of B2C marketers plan to keep virtual digital components such as live polling, on-demand content and sponsorships/exhibitor offerings for hybrid events.

2) Influencer Marketing Will Remain Strong

We’ve talked about the growth and power of influencer marketing, which has its roots in celebrity endorsements. However, today’s consumers are warier and less trusting of big-name, out-of-reach celebrities whose lives rarely resemble their own. Instead, consumers (especially Gen Z and Millennials) look to the personalities they follow on social media for inspiration. Known as influencers, these individuals use social media to share their experiences using a brand or service.

Often influencers’ followers share common interests such as health and beauty, fitness, video gaming, cooking or other hobbies. As a result, consumers feel a connection to them and that the brands their followers support are trustworthy. Brands that have effectively partnered with influencers (by either sharing content, freebies or paying them) typically see impressive ROIs. As a result, we can expect influencer marketing to increase in 2022.

3) Consumers Will Pay More Attention to Sustainability, Transparency & Values

Similar to consumers becoming less trusting of celebrity endorsements, they are also becoming more distrustful of brands that don’t “walk the walk.” Many consumers are demanding transparency from brands that claim to support social and environmental issues. Companies risk losing market share if they can’t authentically demonstrate their support for or opposition to issues consumers care about (such as racial, gender and LGBTQ equality, climate change, unfair labor practices, etc.).

Consumers are also delving into company backgrounds to learn about their manufacturing processes or their stance on social issues. In addition, consumers want to see companies adopt more sustainable practices such as using recycled materials, offsetting carbon emissions, incorporating more organic ingredients and reducing water usage and waste. Many recent surveys such as this GreenPrint one show that 75% of Millennials and 64% of Gen Z are willing to pay more for an environmentally sustainable product  Lastly, as brands begin planning in-person experiential marketing events, many will seek venues that can offer better eco-friendly practices and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications.

4) Interactive Tech & the Metaverse Concept Will Attract More Attention

If you read the book or saw the movie Ready Player One, you have some idea of what many big-tech visionaries envision for the future — a 3D VR/AR immersive world where consumers will spend increasingly more time. Some of the most popular video games offer users opportunities to interact in real-time with others, but the “metaverse” will offer much more.

Firms such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Epic Games are investing billions of dollars into creating this virtual world where consumers will do more than seek entertainment. After creating avatars that demonstrate their personalities, users will don high-tech headsets (and possibly other wearable hardware) and interact with others much as they do IRL. They may work, shop, dine, exercise, travel, attend school and do many other activities that they do IRL. These types of immersive experiences are well-suited for experiential marketing events, allowing consumers to engage with brands in mind-blowing, memorable ways.

5) Safety and Flexibility Will Remain Front & Center

Consumers want to know brands are taking actions to keep them safe before many feel comfortable attending in-person events where social distancing is nearly impossible. The COVID-19 vaccine controversy rages on, so brands also must decide their stance on requiring event attendees to be vaccinated and the necessity of other precautions.

Flexibility will be essential since many large in-person events take several months or longer to plan, and situations quickly change. As a result, event planners will need contingency plans such as reducing the number of attendees or switching to outdoors-only or hybrid events. Many brands will opt for smaller, more flexible activities such as mobile popups or vehicle tours.

The Takeaway: Pent-Up Demand Will Increase Attendance

Consumers are eager to return to in-person events, so the pent-up demand may result in excellent turnout for brands that can plan appealing, exciting, meaningful experiential marketing events. Now is the time to start planning how to reconnect with target audiences and attract new customers.

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