Experiential trends to watch in 2017

Artificial intelligence, co-created experiences, social media integration via live video and virtual reality are among the biggest experiential trends for 2017, according to experts at four UK-based brand experience agencies.

Four brand experience experts reveal their top experiential trends for 2017
Four brand experience experts reveal their top experiential trends for 2017

"2017 will be the year brands truly embrace Artificial Intelligence"

Helena Bloomer, managing director, Europe, Devries Global

I believe 2017 will be the year brands truly embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the new ‘it’ technology for experiential marketing (and marketing as a whole). AI is the capacity of a machine to simulate human intelligence, and many consumers do not realise that they are already using it every day - whether it’s Google’s search engine recommendations or Amazon Echo’s voice recognition. There may still be some fear about robots taking over the world, but if brands use them to entertain, educate or enhance performance, it can be a win-win scenario for everyone. 

Take Puma’s Beatbot for example. It’s a self-driving robot that runners programme with the time they want to beat. The robot follows the lines of the track and sets the pace next to the runner. It’s aim is to inspire Puma’s runners of all levels to push harder by giving them a real visual target to beat, not just the time on a stopwatch. It means they can train against Usain Bolt in the 100 metres. By doing so, the brand creates more personal relationships with consumers than ever before and can continue to build on those through the data it acquires.  And isn’t that the Holy Grail for marketing?

"Social media will focus even more on live video" 

Madison Byrne, marketing manager, iD

The year of 2016 was politically unpredictable, but some marketing trends emerged from which we can make forecasts for 2017. Firstly, social media will focus even more on live video. The emergence of Facebook Live and Snapchat means brands can broadcast visualised stories in real-time. Live integration will increasingly help bring experiences to the masses in real time; however brands and agencies must work harder to understand what really excites this secondary audience. Brands will also consider the risks of live sharing and the potential lack of control over content output.

The normalisation of augmented reality (AR) will also occur. Pokémon Go transformed the whole world into a playground. Soon other brands will deliver real world experiences using similar tools. Snapchat is already exploring how virtual reality can be integrated with physical experience. 

As digital becomes more prominent on the high-street - an increasing number of brands will be experimenting with new ways for consumers to test products for free. By trying products in real situations, consumers will better understand their value. Dyson led the way earlier this year by launching their first experience store on Oxford Street. If brands want to remain relevant in 2017 they will need to embrace new ways to engage consumers. 

"Experiential marketing has become an individual experience"

Damian Clarke, founder and CEO, Undercurrent

Trends are evolving daily and experiential marketing has very much become an individual experience, whether in virtual reality or 4D. Consumers are now demanding experiences that incorporate the brand’s story with their own, creating shareable and, arguably more importantly, relatable moments. Experimentation with content will offer brands the chance to build meaningful connections with consumers, and experimentation with mediums of information transfer are poised to have a huge impact on how brands interact with audiences.

With the evolution of content and consumer touch points comes the ability to extend an experiential campaign much further than the end of an event. Events will form the basis of entire campaigns rather than acting as a standalone marketing effort, with memorable on site activations living on long after the event comes to a close. 

Engaging with consumers post-event will become part of the experiential journey, facilitated by new technologies and developments that will ultimately repurpose and expand upon brand ideologies initially used to immerse consumers at event touch points. As such technologies such as virtual reality, 360 videos and live streaming are set to shake up the industry even more, as brands begin to benefit from providing truly immersive consumer experiences which connect online, in-store and live experiences.

Ultimately brands should look to focus on human-centric marketing growth, creating meaningful long-term experiences that embody selected concepts and ideas. Consumer activations can now be much more personalised, relevant and local, with experiential activations offering a new form of market research through on site data collection. This data allows us to assess real-time trends, which is hugely powerful in providing the opportunity to identify demand and predict potential long term problems. The rise of experiential marketing across a variety of industries has demonstrated excellent staying power this far, and increased reliance on immersive experiences to build brand trust and loyalty is not something that will change any time soon.

"2017 will see the blending of real and virtual experiences"

Glen Wilson, managing director, Posterscope

Throughout 2016 we have seen the rise of AR in the physical space and increasingly clients and agencies have become more interested in interactive technologies alongside heavy investment from media owners. 

The hype around Pokémon Go - this physical, real-world game powered by a traditionally one-to-one mobile app, has demonstrated consumers’ thirst for blended experiences with 75m downloads worldwide. The next challenge for marketers will be replicating this initial success into a solution that holds consumers interest in the longer run.

VR and AR will allow us to engage in new experiences and interact with alternative realities no matter where we are. We have also seen the rise of The Physical Web (alongside the Eddystone Beacons), which has the capacity to connect everyday objects (from the very small to the enormous) to the internet, giving consumers greater interaction with brands as they move through everyday life. The release of the iPhone 7 with wireless headphones, encouraging Bluetooth connectivity, will significantly influence the growth of connected devices across 2017.  The physical web will extend further than just smart phone integration and will lead to further developments in wearable technology, notifications and analytics.

This abundance of new technology, the developments in location-based gaming, and large scale tests of interactive technologies will pave the way for the commercialisation of the virtual out-of-home world in 2017. Eventually the existing lines between the real and virtual world will be completely blurred in communications planning.

More: Catering trends for 2017

Top new UK venue openings for 2017

Comment below to let us know what you think.

For your daily hit of news from the brand experience community, weekly brand and inspiration updates or your monthly trend download, register and subscribe to Event and our bulletins.