Opinion

What does 2016 hold for brand experiences? 5 trends for the coming year

Paul Saville, co-managing director of Wasserman Experience predicts that 2016 will be a year when brand experiences become even more immersive, focused on the influencer-set and socially responsible. It's the perfect way to truly engage millennial consumers, he says.

2015 was another big year for brand experiences. The industry saw impressive growth, as revealed in the IPA’s Bellwether reports, where events ranked second only to internet spend in Q2 and Q3.

Millennials, the likely target of most marketing briefs in 2016, continued to value experiences over anything else. In 2015, it was ideas delivered with the most creative of technology that meant we were able to give these consumers the unforgettable moments they just had to share.

In 2016, we expect to see a number of trends all designed to further entice, entertain and engage Generation Y.

Quality over quantity

A trend towards brands investing more in higher quality experiences that speak to fewer but more influential people. Experiences that organically become their own online influencer strategies. We will probably see a decline in forced sharing, such as the photo booth, in favour of exclusive experiences for participants to share and talk about themselves, for example Johnnie Walker’s ‘Symphony in Blue’.

Deeper immersion

In 2015 we saw an increase in multi-sensory experiences. In 2016, immersive experiences will go a step deeper, think multi-sensory 2.0 where physical sensations are fused with creative technology to create the ultimate mind-blowing VR experiences. Even content filmed at events will be taken to the next immersive level with 360 degree video thanks to consumer camera products becoming readily available and Facebook and YouTube launching 360 video players.

Experiences that organically become their own online influencer strategies

To back this up, Oculus, Sony, HTC and MergeVR plan to release consumer headsets in time for the New Year, while analysts predict the proliferation of VR at home will be huge, with 12.2 million headset sales expected next year alone. This expansion of VR will mean that huge swathes of consumers will be able to enjoy a brand experience virtually, before, during and after the main event.

Second Screens

While brands continue to build brilliant physical experiences, they have yet to fully tap into the power of engaging consumers through their mobiles during live events. Using a second screen at home is rapidly becoming the norm, but at sporting and music events it still has a long way to go. Consumers are happily using their mobile phones to share opinions and content on social media, but there is definitely more of an opportunity for brands to further facilitate mobile fan interaction during their live experiences too.

Take Formula E’s Fan Boost, which allows fans to vote for their favourite driver to receive an extra speed boost during the race. With many major cities and venues improving their connectivity through improved Wi-Fi and with a device in every fan’s pocket, consumers are moving away from a spectator-only position towards being truly active participants.

Socially responsible

Social issues have become a major focus for many over the past year, with obesity, gender and sexuality being debated more than ever before. This is something that brands will need to be increasingly sensitive towards when planning experiences.

You only have to look to Coca Cola this year and its famous Christmas truck to see how ignoring social issues can turn a good campaign bad

You only have to look to Coca Cola this year and its famous Christmas truck to see how ignoring social issues can turn a good campaign bad. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Coca Cola ‘Holiday’s Are Coming’ ad airing in the UK, the soft drinks giant decided to bring the truck to life to deliver samples of its product throughout the UK. However, Coca Cola failed to consider the social implications and current conversations around sugar and obesity, particularly in children. This led to Leicester MP Keith Vaz urging the campaign not to visit the city, as well as asking the city's population to boycott the truck.

Measuring advocacy

With the growing influence of experiences, especially via word of mouth and social media, the success of physical engagement can no longer be measured in terms of direct interactions and linked uplifts in sales. Brands in 2016 will need to consider other effective ways of measuring success, so we anticipate a move towards looking more at advocacy by focussing on metrics such as Net Promoter Score and its positive shift thanks to experiences.