Did you catch the prank pro football player Odell Beckham Jr. pulled earlier this year? In a collaboration between Verizon Wireless and Momentum Worldwide, Beckham posed as a “hologram” to unsuspecting virtual technology users. Only later, he revealed he was actually there by touching or hugging the individuals. The looks on their faces were priceless, filled with pure amazement and joy. As a part of Verizon’s “Better Matters” marketing campaign, the stunt reflects current event marketing trends.
The Current State of Event Marketing
Verizon’s video has all the ingredients brands are looking for in event marketing:
- Beckham embodies the brand and gives consumers the personal touch they need – much like super-charged brand ambassadors and event staff.
- The face-to-face interaction with Beckham created a memorable, positive experience. This experience helps foster brand loyalty to both Verizon and Beckham.
- The use of virtual reality headsets showcases the key role that technology is taking in event and experiential marketing.
Event marketing is more relevant to a business’s strategy than ever before, with a execution blueprint that is ever evolving. With that in mind, let’s look at this year’s event marketing trends and how they’ll affect us in 2017 and beyond.
Top 5 Event Marketing Trends of 2016
This year, event marketing reinforced what works, such as data and in-person connections. But 2016 also brought exciting new elements. Here are the five top trends of 2016.
1. Digital got larger play.
From wearables to augmented reality and beyond, marketing put technology to work this year. In September, Bud Light launched a virtual fitting room to promote the brand’s new apparel. The “fitting room” allowed consumers to stand in front of a screen and try on the merchandise with zero physical effort. During London’s Fashion Week, attendees to the Martine Jarlgaar show donned Hololens headsets to view holograms of its models. The headsets afforded them a comprehensive view of the designer’s latest creations as they walked the runway.
And the cutting-edge approach to event execution wasn’t reserved only for the for-profit sector. We also saw non-profits UNICEF and Autism Speaks use technology to illustrate the challenges of their respective communities. These technologies allowed the organizations to show donors exactly what their beneficiaries experience.
Advanced technology solutions are maximizing attendees’ experiences and the ability for organizations to communicate with them. They’re instilling the “wow” factor that makes a lasting impression. Yet, some industry professionals wonder if marketers are paying full attention as they move towards courting individuals who have “never experienced the pre-digital age.” Will your brand message and event technology be relevant to them? This question should be top of mind in 2017.
2. Data grew in need and in abundance.
We’ve always needed data to show event ROI. But its demand has expanded as events move beyond brand awareness and toward lead generation, product R&D, revenue generation and personalization (to name only a few). Fortunately, technology simplifies data collection.
Event technology platforms can capture both attendee contact info and preferences with just a few qualifying questions. Wearable technology is tracking attendee event activity to deliver various data points, including purchase details and time spent in different areas. These devices, whether lanyards or wristbands, are a staple for large events and are beginning to see widespread adoption beyond. Related devices, such as iBeacons, allow event marketers and staff to improve attendee experiences on the spot.
The issue is how to manage the deluge of data. As 2017 approaches, identifying high-impact data and how it is both collected and utilized is a key factor for companies large and small.[Tweet “Marketing technology must be relevant to consumers who have never experienced the pre-digital age.”]
3. Experiences grew in scope.
This year, Ford launched its own take of the “Escape the Room” experience – the largest of its kind – to promote its 2017 Ford Escape. Over 1,000 people signed up for the limited-space NYC event, filling all slots in less than 24 hours. Before each game began, brand ambassadors gave a tutorial on the car and its technology to help players use it to their advantage during the challenges. And this was a true example of win-win. The activation gave millennials an unforgettable, engaging experience and Ford clearly got through to them in the process. In fact, one participant writes, “We were instructed to back into a parking spot using the Escape’s enhanced active parking assist tool. The feature requires the driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel to work its magic. And magical it was.”
Ford’s creativity in experiential marketing and their ability to seamlessly integrate testing their product into the event experience is remarkable. In the services sector, we’re already hearing plans from AirBNB to expand the definition of experiential. To do so, the company is adding experiences to its service portfolio and connecting travelers with destination experts to maximize their vacations. Take into account that “nearly three out of four millennials say they would purchase an experience rather than a product.” Airbnb seems to be on the right track in taking experiential farther, now and into 2017. The company is certainly one to watch in potentially pioneering future event marketing trends.
4. Content continued to reign.
Content continues to be the main driver for customer and consumer engagement. But, to be truly effective, it can be just any content. An Adweek article discloses that, “85 percent of users surveyed find visual [user generated content] more influential than brand photos or videos.” This is why brands are integrating attendee content generation into their event marketing strategies. After all, we know “98% of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences” and “100% of these consumers will share the content.”
One way event marketers encourage content is through use of brand ambassadors. These individuals facilitate creative ways of getting consumers to take photos and share via social media, such as in the case of Bud Light. Other brands feature a custom hashtag, like Hershey’s #OneSweetCelebration campaign. Brands can then follow what their attendees are sharing and track return on engagement (ROE).
5. Event staff are more specialized.
When you consider the above event marketing trends, one can easily see the value of quality and engaging event staff. To successfully promote attendees taking action, facilitate event participation or provide product tutorials, the right talent are necessary. Talent are increasingly required to hold certifications or possess specialty skills. From actors and dancers to make-up artists and tech experts, more and more brands are utilizing specific skill-sets, or the “right” people, for their marketing events.
Using specialized brand ambassadors for events, from college campuses to high-traffic metro areas, yields results. The right individuals knew exactly how to handle the interactive elements of the MR. ROBOT activation at SXSW. Bilingual staff members were able to make meaningful connections with Asian language families during the McDonald’s Family Pavilion Festival Tour. These specialized brand ambassadors made a deep and lasting connection with consumers. In 2017 and beyond, ensuring your brand has the best event staff available is one of the best investments you can make.
Since 1999, EPS has helped companies execute a multitude of event marketing trends with our expert event staffing and execution services. Contact us to discuss how we can help you stay ahead of the competition.