Surrounded by pizza museums, themed mini-golf, and interactive paintings, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we'd awoken to some kind of cartoon nightmare.
But no, this is the experience economy in 2020.
Experiential activations are both physical (for the people that visit them in real life) and virtual (they spread far and wide, on social media, and in industry and consumer press). To achieve this dovetail, live activations must deliver a great experience through craft and storytelling and have an innovative, headline-grabbing idea at the heart.
Experiential activations are both physical and virtual
As ever, technology will always play a part in what we see, but at the heart of experiential will always be the ‘experience’.
These five trends learn from the 2019 D&AD winners and match up with the direction we see at MCH Global in our consultancy work.
Consumers' appetite for convenience and immediacy continues to grow. Getting people to travel to pop-ups and activations is harder than ever. So we’ll see an increased use of inner-city locations, disused retail units, and pop-ups within surprising spaces – just like we saw with 2019’s 'David Bowie Is Here' for Spotify:
What’s more, the barriers between audiences and performers are collapsing too. Learning from Secret Cinema, Giant Spoon and Meow Wolf, actors will interact on a 1-1 level with visitors, as staged performances are replaced by interactive storytelling.
The barriers between audiences and performers are collapsing
While technology might be separating us from the real, the effect is for us to value the visceral, tangible and physical aspects of proximity even more.
Regardless of where they take place, customer interactions should create a seamless and consistent journey. So experiential campaigns will become less one-off, and more integrated into a 360-degree experience.
Learning from the way digital brands operate, brands will think more about ‘customer experience’. They’ll create connected experiential campaigns, from invitation to the main act and follow-ups. The rise of the role of the ‘Chief Experience Officer’ [CXO] exemplifies this type of holistic thinking.
Customer interactions should create a seamless and consistent journey
There’s plenty of room for craft here, but it must work across a variety of platforms, and maintain consistency.
Campaigns that make the world a better place are now firmly embedded in our culture. Whether it’s partnering with a good cause, encouraging a positive change in consumer behaviour, or establishing a new brand purpose, we’re only going to see more.
But the next phase in this trend is accountability – the need for companies to look inwards, and ensure their own practices are in-line with their marketing strategy, and public expectations.
Campaigns that make the world a better place are now firmly embedded in our culture
Led by the brilliant Project 84, 2019 saw a lot of campaigns for mental health, animal rights, and sexual equality, but environmentalism slipped down the agenda. In 2020, as the climate emergency continues to affect lives around the world, I hope to see campaigns for the environment, and a more sustainable approach to delivering experiences too.
It’s no longer enough to campaign for a better world, we need to be creating one with everything we do.
The Experience Economy continues to grow, and audiences lapping up events like the Ice-Cream Museum, Museum of Pizza, or Refinery 29’s ’29 Rooms’. And so brands are responding with their own ‘museum’ experiences. As well as Spotify's David Bowie museum, IKEA snuck their furniture into The Museum of Romanticism, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi brought its exhibition out onto the country’s main highway (above).
Driven by social sharing, and personal content creation, in 2020 we’ll definitely see more brands creating their own museum and gallery-like experiences. First up will be the FUJIFILM 'House of Photography' in London.
The Experience Economy continues to grow and audiences are lapping it up
The best of these will tell brand stories through visually stunning, interactive and informative content. With consumers now savvy to these installations, we’re going to see a leap in the quality, as brands try and match the runaway success of pop-up museums.
Experiential is a great sector for applying new technologies. When audiences witness a new technology for the first time, it ‘wows’. Journalists, awards juries and stakeholders love it too.
Recent years have seen huge steps forward in technologies such as machine learning, prosthetics, drones, VR and MR. The next phase will see combinations of these technologies: we’ll begin to see mash-ups, like facial recognition drones, holographic mixed reality, or proximity-based wearables. I don’t know what these things are yet, but that’s the point.
Experiential will be the petri dish for many of these, as it allows technology to be applied in a spectacular way, yet in a controlled setting. As ever, tech should be used only to enhance – to help demonstrate a product, tell a brand story or create emotion in visitors. Look to 2019’s D&AD Black Pencil-winning Project Revoice, which combined voice tech and machine learning to a really powerful effect.
Tech should be used only to enhance
So there you have it - five ways that experiences will build on the success of 2019 in the year ahead. For more such trends, take a look at this report by MCH Global. Or get in touch with me if you have any questions.
Luc Benyon is a Zurich-based writer who gets excited by poster design. He's old enough to own a table but young enough to not eat at it.