Immediate futures for Experiential Marketing 2023

Each year, we look ahead and explore what we think will resonate with audiences in the coming months, both for B2B and B2C.

However, global uncertainty around energy, politics, health and climate is making predictions about our future more difficult than ever. From supply chain uncertainty to the human cost and misery of war in Ukraine, there are many factors influencing brand and consumer behaviours and therefore, the experiences we deliver. What remains constant to marketers is the benefit of experiences which use emotional immersion and authentic expression of brand values to create value for clients. Here are some of the trends that will be influencing our creativity and strategy in 2023:

Article by Katie Streten Head of Experiential Strategy

1. Comfort and Joy

In times of relative instability, people crave control and stability, refocusing on their mental and physical wellbeing. This is reinforced by the fact that we are spending more time working from home due to the shift to hybrid working. Home has become both a place to socialise and a retreat from the world, with a resulting focus on different palettes and materials. Colours are both warm and rich, taking cues both from the idea of cosiness and from the growing influence of metaverse interactions in our leisure time. The metaverse aesthetic, or rounded, blocky elements, combined with rich colours, as seen in Lego’s Fly Away Isles playground in West Harlem, will impact on materials IRL. Finally, a social refocusing on entertaining and experiencing indulgence at home becomes more common as wallets are tightened and value is sought in new ways.

What does this mean?

Experiences will focus on creating a sense of welcome and home. This may be in the form of actual house shapes and immersive experiences that position brands in relation to our home life, or it may be more abstract. Using richly saturated palettes and touchable fabrics, expect softer lines in furniture design and warmer lighting, getting all the senses involved as a way of distinguishing your brand or product.

Who’s doing it well?

UGG – Feel House. Visitors entered through a sensory tunnel, where special audio and lighting installations allowed for zen-like mindfulness and meditation, a true escape from the outside world. A custom scent was created in partnership with New York-based Olfactory NYC. The scent referenced UGG®’s signature suede through bold notes of dry leather, apricot and salt, with a light, refreshing sea breeze. This was a nod to its origin story on the beaches of Southern California. There was also an interactive wall, where consumers could contribute to the space by sharing their feelings through art and words.

They also supported organisations that champion mental wellness and belonging for vulnerable communities.

The Facts

There were 1.8m searches for Cottagecore in the US alone during 2022 – US Interior Trends 2022 Report

Siemens recently launched their new IQ700 oven at their brand home in Wigmore Street. The whole experience was focused around stimulating and answering customers’ curiosity through the senses: from sight through to touch, sound and taste, using VR, installations, performance and digital immersion.

2. Wellness

The same uncertainties that are driving the desire to enjoy cocooning environments are also elevating the importance of wellness and health in experiences. Our shift to home working and the burnout experienced by many during the pandemic has led to a healthy appreciation for work/life boundaries that will carry over into experiential marketing. Early morning yoga sessions still have their value in an agenda, but more will be done to create wellness moments throughout an event schedule, or within an exhibition. This in turn will enable delegates to take time to enjoy a better quality experience.

Our growing understanding of the importance of plants to our wellbeing will also influence both homes and environments, and the benefits of bringing nature indoors will change our stands and experiences.

What does this mean?

Brands don’t have to be wellness- or even work-focused to consider bringing the value of meditative moments to their customers: a quiet zone, a relaxation pod, a soothing audio tour. These are all simple ways that noisy and hectic schedules can be offset with a wellness offer. Environments, sessions/schedules, venue, speakers and food can all play into the opportunity to encourage a different attitude in attendees and to help them avoid distraction. This will make the event a more effective learning experience and create a deeper brand connection, because clients or consumers feel they are getting something back. Brands who are both intentional and creative with this will be able to offer both bottom line value, brand value and a true service to consumers and attendees.

Who’s doing it well?

Salesforce has signed a multiyear booking deal with Trailblazer Ranch, a wellness retreat where they can host internal meetings, inductions and conferences.

It allows for walking spaces and there is a yoga studio on the premises. They describe it as a place for connection, collaboration and joy.

Baidu launched their first AI emotional healers, Lin Kaikai and Ye Youyou, virtual friends with whom you can have a heart-to-heart 24 hours a day. During a trial period, participants used the chat more than 50 times a day, and more than 86% of users enjoyed the subjects of conversation. With limited access to mental health facilities and intense pressures on the young to succeed, Baidu has been praised for providing a much-needed experience.

The Facts

One review of 50 studies from around the world concluded that spending just 20 minutes around indoor plants can result in more positive thoughts – WGSN

79% believe wellness is important, and 42% consider it a top priority – McKinsey Future of Wellness Survey (roughly 7,500 people across Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US)

3. Walk the talk

It is no longer acceptable to greenwash your sustainable efforts or to deliver in an inauthentic way. Almost half of Brits believe brands are guilty of greenwashing (Mindshare Reality Check 2022 report), whilst still believing that brands can be a force for good in areas such as health and wellbeing, equality and protecting green spaces. Brands have to answer to consumers who are becoming more aware of their own impact. Communicating what you are doing and the work you have left to do in an honest and straightforward way will be as important as moving to more sustainable materials, thoughtful travel and measuring your carbon footprint.

Who’s doing it well?

Waste Me Not IRL – Krave Beauty. Beauty retailers throw out 25% of returns and there is a lot of wastage in the production development process. Krave estimated their own waste amounted to $1.5m of product and decided to do something practical about it. They created a pop-up shop selling repurposed products that had failed in the development process, but were completely usable. Sustainable shelving, fun sustainable packaging, games and a local store feel created the perfect spot for passers-by and fans alike to shop and for influencers to promote.

The Facts

89% of people say it’s important to buy or rent an energy-efficient home – 2022 YouGov survey

58% of consumers across 28 countries choose a brand based on its values and beliefs – The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer (with 36,000+ respondents)

Good News Pop Up. A shop dedicated to promoting B Corps was created in Fitzrovia in March 2022. The aim was to showcase the best businesses and products that are all about sustainability and community. Products on display included Tony’s Chocolonely, Vita Coco, COOK, Dash Water, Ella’s Kitchen, Pukka tea, Sipsmith, Evian and more, with the aim of teaching people how to buy better by elevating and driving awareness of B Corps brands. It took the form of a traditional corner shop and offered a Healthy Nibbles vending machine that used social media, rather than money, to dispense free snacks and drive awareness of the key messages around B Corps.

4. Enjoyment Everywhere

The boundaries between the formal and informal remain blurred. Covid has only increased our desire for entertainment and enjoyment, even in places where we might previously have been more serious. Add to this the uncertainty around economic wellbeing and we have people open to entertainment wherever they find it, seeking to lift spirits and enjoy moments of fun in more affordable ways.

What does this mean?

While experiential has long been proven to create strong connections, it will become an even more important element in the marketing mix. For both B2B and B2C, elements of storytelling, investigation, immersion and IRL customer service will build the links that keep existing customers loyal and attract new opportunities. Think about metaphorical ways to bring products and brands to life. If the experience is appropriate, there will not be sensitivities around spend from customers.

Who’s doing it well?

Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference 2022 brought incredible speakers to inspire attendees, such as Magic Johnson, Jane Goodall and Al Gore. Located in San Francisco, it positioned content tracks as “Trails”, included the Red Hot Chili Peppers as entertainment and used a cartoon style approach to branding that injected playful attraction to a highly serious topic.

M&M’S Berlin. M&M’S believe in a world where everyone feels as if they belong, using fun as the most powerful way to encourage inclusivity and build connections with others. Rather than sticking with the established retail experience that is highly focused on traditional sales, the new M&M’S Berlin store revelled in play and experiences to create brand connections and drive sales in a different way. Walking through the doors of the new store, guests are encouraged to express their true selves in a wonderland of indulgence, via retail-tainment.

The Facts

The US consumption of metals (aluminium, nickel, copper, steel and gold) increased between 1900 and 2000, but since then it has declined, and is now 15 percent below the peak level – we have reached Peak Stuff – WARP News

After an experience, consumers are 94% more likely to remember a brand and 87% more likely to change their perception of a brand – AgencyEA 2018

What does it mean for my experiences?

These four trends are emerging in response to cultural movements driven by uncertainty and instability. And yet they provide a perennial appeal to the playfulness and creativity in all consumers. We can dial them up or down, depending on specific objectives, but employing them will enable B2B and B2C experience creators to deliver effective, enjoyable and authentic experiences that truly meet the needs of the audience.

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