Welcome to 2019: Raising the bar in brand experiences

Showstopping brand experiences are getting people out more and consumers wants lots of them.

Welcome to 2019: Raising the bar in brand experiences

Google’s "Curiosity rooms" by Amplify, Converse’s "One Star hotel" by XYZ and Hotel and Carlsberg’s "Off-the-grid pub" by Hyperactive and Fold7 were just some of the most impressive activations of 2018. They delivered a creative experience like no other, making sure consumers were fully immersed in the brand ethos.

This will, of course, continue throughout 2019. However, it also shows just how much brands and agencies are raising their game – securing their place in the brand experience market by pulling out stand-alone, showstopping work that doesn’t necessarily need to be supported by a traditional TV ad.

The market is getting hotter and, most importantly, consumers want more, which means that the competition is increasing. Adland has cottoned on to the potential of branded experiences and has the contacts and creative prowess to come up with some compelling activations. Adam & Eve/DDB’s award-winning "Project 84" for Campaign Against Living Miserably comes immediately to mind.

The battle doesn’t stop there. With the number of live experiences rising, consumers are inundated with events at which they could spend their free time, and with so much going on at once, brands and agencies will have an even harder task attracting their target audiences.

No longer will a quick pop-up with a few sample-sized freebies or pretty backdrops for that Instagram shot suffice. Google’s aforementioned "Curiosity rooms" and Hearst Live’s "Elle Weekender" offered a glimpse into the kind of events that consumers expect: high-quality talks and workshops conducted by people and brands that they care about, and from which they can take away lessons. But that’s not to say that people don’t want be surprised by fun and weird elements. These are the essentials to bring in an audience who will stick around for longer and spend their hard-earned cash on something they feel is good value.

London may appear to be the centre of the universe for some, but as brands bid to increase their reach, Manchester has become the city of choice to create more experiences. Last year Pernod Ricard set up dedicated events space The Loft there, while Stylist took components of its live event to the city.

This is just the start. Brands will need to ensure those outside the big smoke are catered to, whether that be by aligning the live experience with online content – and getting that balance right – or taking some brilliant creative work outside the capital.

The brand experience market is entering a time when competition for pitches will also be even stronger. Moreover, once agencies have bagged a brief, they’ll need to make sure they bring in the footfall and make that content work harder post-event for the ultimate live activation.

It won’t be an easy ride in 2019, but it will sure as hell be a fight worth having if you want to be a somebody in the world of brand experiences.

Big, shared and immersive

Damian Ferrar

Innovation director and global head of Genuine X, Jack Morton Worldwide

Brand experiences are changing. Content, technology and data are redefining experiences and transforming people’s relationships with, and expectations of, brands.

But, we are in the midst of a digital plateau, where there is real excitement about key emerging technologies – AI, AR, VR and XR – but a lack of evidence as to how they are being used to solve real brand problems. This is driven by the lack of understanding of how emerging tech can be harnessed to tell good stories, and the prevalence of technology providing novelty rather than value.

Brands and agencies will need to get beyond this plateau in 2019, when audiences will demand that brands deliver experiences that are more immersive, responsive, curated and connected.

Immersive experiences are all about recasting the physical and virtual environment to create brave new worlds. We all know that people are wired for stories. Stories captivate our attention in a loud and saturated world.

In 2019 the immersive economy is set to boom, so we can expect to see more immersive, multisensory experiences powered by hyper-reality and 5G used to enhance our storytelling and help transport us to extraordinary new worlds.

Responsive experiences anticipate user needs through experiences that sense, measure and react. Forget the fixed, static environments of years gone by, this year we’ll be seeing "smarter" spaces and natural interfaces driven by zero user interface which invite interaction and adapt to user needs.

Curated experiences responsibly harness data to create hyper-personalised, ultra-relevant interactions. According to IBM, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day – and 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years. This wealth of data means we’ll see more curated experiences that offer a real value exchange in 2019, but no doubt with some continuing challenges over data ethics and privacy.

Connected is all about creating compelling, consistent and continuous experiences across all brand touchpoints. This is increasingly important, because data, content and technology mean that consumers can dive deeper than ever into your brand, shaping your brand story.

People turn off if a brand’s behaviour isn’t consistent with its promises, and their expectations are rising, meaning we can expect to see more brands attempt to achieve consistency in 2019 – those that do so boast a 200% higher net promoter score and a 25% increase in customer loyalty

We want to be distracted

Jessica Hargreaves

Managing director, PrettyGreen; chair, IPM Experiential Council

The world of experiences will continue to deliver excitement and innovation from everything AR, VR, in fact, anything-tech "R"…

Here is a top six.

1 AR vs VR

Most phones now have AR capability and it’s a simple way to build shareable content into experiences. This year will bring VR 2.0, with the launch of Santa Cruz Oculus. It will be the game-changer.

2 Artificial intelligence

We’ll continue to see brands and agencies pushing the boundaries but it will move from a gimmick to becoming a far more fundamental part of the event experience.

3 Live stream

We’ll only ever reach a small number at an event, so live-streaming will continue to become the norm, not the exception.

4 Go co-create

Gone are the days of passive experiences where you turn up, enjoy and leave. Instead, we will start to see personal, tailored experiences that allow the audience to decide how the event plays out.

5 Immerse yourself

We don’t want to sit on the sidelines and be entertained. We want to be distracted from the real world, and that means immersive experiences where brands sweep you away.

6 Experiential effectiveness

The IPM’s ROI model has gathered momentum, following the delivery of a successful first-stage report. This is the start of the next five years of data that will prove the commercial success of the experiential channel.