Experiential Marketing Summit

Slide from Adobe’s Keynote presentation.

Today – the final day of this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit – had two very obvious keywords: Design and Transformation.

Both of the keynotes today, given by Colleen Bisconti of IBM and Alex Amado of Adobe, used the word transformation throughout their speeches. Bisconti shared how IBM transforms everything, including their fundamental approach to marketing, and Amado reminded us that it’s not about the destination, but about the journey.

So what is the experiential marketing industry transforming into? According to EventMarketer, who hosted this summit, there are 12 micro trends to watch out for:

1. User-triggered experiences
2. Time and place relevancy
3. Playable engagements, gamification
4. Next generation of immersive VR
5. Unlocking experiences either as rewards or as part of a journey
6. Mass guerrilla activations at scale in multiple markets
7. Events planned for content creation
8. Social vital sign
9. Festivalization, especially for B2B activations
10. Marketing to Gen Z
11. Safety and ensuring the industry develops crisis protocols
12. Experience swaps/trading one experience for another

Bisconti shared that it’s no longer about giving one experience to 20,000 event attendees, but rather about giving 20,000 personalized experiences at one event. We have transformed from showing an experience to allowing consumers to get involved in the experience…to today, allowing them to experience it and experience it their way.

“Breakthrough experiences can happen in any public space,” Bisconti explained. We no longer need to invite attendees to us – we can go right to the audience.

Amado discussed how Adobe has transformed from broadcasting their brand messages at events to putting their audience first. But for Adobe, “Design is at the heart of every great experience.”

Amado mesmerized the roomful of nearly 2,000 EMS attendees with spellbinding images within his presentation, which enveloped us via the gargantuan display screens in front of us. (I was frantically snapping pictures to send to my art director back in our office. Adobe knows beautiful!)

Amado’s visceral imagery and advice about making sure the experience design is easy to understand and compelling wasn’t the only time I heard about design today.

I attended a general session presented by Second Story that sorta, okay really, blew my mind. They shared their responsive environment techniques, which included: touch sensors, audio sensors, RFID, projection, ultrahaptics, photoreactive prisms, pneumatics and robotics.

(I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw up off the floor.)

When you combine these elements in meaningful ways, you can design brand landscapes and “build stories you can step inside of.” I have since visited Second Story’s website, and have grown more enthralled with their capabilities – and copywriting!

Another hot topic at this year’s EMS is that brand experiences should be specially designed – which represents more transformation – into content generating factories. Not just content opportunities, but well-planned and orchestrated content makers.

“An experience needs to be more than just what consumers walk through,” explained Jil Eisnor of Mosaic.

How can the experience generate content that becomes part of the larger campaign? For example, content from an experiential activation could be used in traditional media buys (TV, print, OOH), as well as in public relations, social media and influencer content. When you design the experience to fulfill your content needs, your event’s ROI increases.

One of the most interesting sessions I attended today was The Invisible Gorilla by author and professor Dan Simons. It taught us how to design a brand experience that considers what people will notice and recall. And more importantly, designing it knowing that people will only see what they expect to see and could miss important pieces of the story the brand is trying to tell.

I am still trying to absorb all the information from the past three days. (There’s so much!) But when I walked out of McCormick Place tonight, I knew one thing: experiential marketing is the most exciting, effective and emotion-provoking marketing discipline. And I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!

As Bisconti (echoed by many other of the presenters) so eloquently put it, experiential marketing is about delivering “exceptional, personal and immersive” experiences. We, as an industry, are passionate about great experiences and are driven by that passion.