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Experiential Marketing in the COVID-19 Era: Present and Future

By Licia Wolf

Up until just a few months ago B2C brands viewed Experiential Marketing as a key component of their marketing strategy. The personal connection and direct interaction of consumers with their brands has proven to be one of the most powerful marketing tools to build both short and long-term customer loyalty.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything has changed. The moratorium on social gatherings will likely last many more months, and Experiential Marketers have had to quickly re-think their approach. Many agencies have stressed the importance of maintaining close relationships with their clients and inventing novel ways to engage customers.

How are Agencies and Brands Adapting to Coronavirus Restrictions?

Agencies have been designing creative methods to engage audiences primarily via activations on digital platforms. Some brands are also executing small, personal events that utilize proper safety protocols.

Experiential Marketing during the COVID-19 crisis is exemplified by these brands:

Jägermeister hosted a virtual brunch on Instagram Live to raise money for a restaurant relief fund. The event was a virtual cocktail-making party in which Jägermeister sent people recipes and supplies in advance so those at home could participate in making drinks with Jägermeister’s new product, Cold Brew. Not only was it a fun live cocktail hour, but the participants also supported the restaurants they patronized.

Another example comes from the footwear company Chaco. They had planned a live activation at the canceled SXSW, and instead pivoted their strategy to launching a mobile sandal repair factory in a converted school bus, complete with sewing machines and trained staff. The ReChaco Mobile Repair Factory planned to drive all around the U.S., coming to a town near you. In addition, they started a weekly series of Instagram Stories that provide tips to help de-stress during the stay-at-home era, featuring industry experts. Virtual events like these have resulted in even more people engaging because the digital platform allows access to almost anyone from anywhere.

Where Are We Headed?

For the foreseeable future, it looks like Virtual is the new Experiential. Agencies are inventing new and innovative ways to immerse audiences by creating multi-dimensional events that include interactive open Q&As, sending participants items to use in the event, gamification, giveaways, small breakout sessions, tips for improving the stay-at-home lifestyle, reducing stress, and more. Although virtual events can’t replace real human to human interaction, these events can potentially reach a larger audience, and the response has been good so far. Some brands are implementing mini installations such as creating interactions with a store window display  or an interactive kiosk in a shopping area. Such installations conform to social safety standards yet still generate high social media response. Once restrictions begin to relax, agencies will no doubt invent new ways to engage their audiences in a personal and interactive way.

For more discussion about where experiential is headed in these challenging times, join AMA-Los Angeles in a live Panel Q&A virtual event on May 28, 2020 hosted by Experiential Marketing industry experts.