In this guest post, Havas Blvd’s group brand experience director Michael Ozard (main photo) says people are DESPERATE for a return to live experiences and events and, post lockdown, the category will soar like never before…
As the distribution of COVID vaccines ramps up, so too does our appetite to return to live experiences and in-person events.
Globally, we’re seeing countries opening up, travel plans being made, and music festivals being announced. As we learn to live in a world plagued by the pandemic, epidemiologists predict that we’re about to enter a second “roaring ’20s”, in which people are getting ready to make up for lost time and lost partying.
To say that the pandemic has forever changed the Brand Experience landscape is an understatement. Over the last two years, brands have had to shelve their Brand Experience plans and scramble to create virtual executions. They’re eagerly awaiting a return to pre-pandemic life.
Now, brands are plotting ways to reach consumers offline again. Digital is great, but everyone is suffering from ‘Zoom fatigue’. Brand Experiences will be a big part of how brands continue to stay relevant, meaningful, and effective.
While everyone is excited to return to live experiences as soon as possible, brands will be cautious in their approach. As soon as a few brands take the plunge, it’ll create more confidence and subsequently a domino effect that gives others the assurance to go full steam ahead with their Brand Experience plans.
Safety is the number-one priority right now and clients are in a bit of a holding pattern. For the foreseeable future, events and activations will come with more fixtures that consider health and safety. To abide by safety protocols and accommodate what is now a more cautious public, many brands will soon start small in their brand experience marketing plans. We won’t see brands return to large-scale events and activations that are designed to draw large crowds for some time. However, there will be an increased opportunity and appreciation for smaller, bespoke pop-up activations and installations. Agencies will be channelling their creativity into harnessing reach through PR and Social to help amplify the experience beyond those who attend the event.
Brands and agencies had to pivot to virtual in the past 18 months and leaned into a more content-heavy approach. It was a challenge for many. But since agencies have built up a muscle for putting on virtual events and consumers have grown somewhat accustomed to them, the digital experiences will stick around, even well after pandemic concerns subside.
Technical advancements in the virtual space have unlocked endless possibilities of the digital realm and virtual technologies. Intertwining in-person experiences with virtual ones and figuring out how those two realms overlap and complement each other in real time will be a major focus for our industry.
The most uplifting and significant reaction to COVID is the commodified concept of human connection, care and community in a time of crisis. People have endured a social healing process, where they will be drawn to experiences that strengthen connections and the feeling of being unified.
We’ll see brands pushing boundaries with new interactive technology to create stronger, more connected moments, as well as exploring with the ways in which people and technologies connect and unify for common interests, passions and purpose.
While excitement is high for the world to open back up to the public, the end of 2021 is still expected to be a relatively cautious time for brands that are accustomed to giving consumers events to attend and activations to touch.
The long-term outlook for Brand Experience is bright, maybe more than ever before, with COVID restrictions and lockdowns putting the importance of public gatherings into sharper focus.
Experiences are going to become even more important in our culture – people are going to appreciate them more. Let’s put it this way, there won’t be an event invitation that will remain unopened in 2022!
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