COVID-19 and experiential marketing

COVID-19 and Experiential Marketing

So far, 2020 has not been the harmonious and productive start to the decade we were all hoping for. The sudden outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), which truly became a national crisis in the US during the week of March 9th, has caused a rapid chain reaction that’s led to what is basically a full hiatus from the norm as we’ve known it. From the suspension of professional sports seasons, to the closing of non-essential businesses nationwide, to cancellations of conferences and tradeshows, what does this mean for brands when it comes to COVID-19 and experiential marketing?

We’re here to offer some insight if your planned experiential activations, events, stunts, etc. have been put on hold due to COVID-19.

Don’t lose sight of your objectives and messaging

Seems simple, but at the end of the day, this was the driving force behind your original brand experience and will likely continue to be whether or not your postponing your event, cancelling your event or just altering your it. Although you may pivot in various ways from a deployment standpoint, it’s important to make sure everyone within your organization and/or COVID-19 and experiential marketing team is aligned on what the objectives and overall message are at all times while navigating these changes.

If you haven’t already, compile and prioritize all of these objectives. From audience engagement, to building brand awareness or exposure, to earned media coverage, to lead gen, or new product sampling, this list is going is the foundation on which your “new” experience should be built. Ask yourself the question, how will I evolve my experiential marketing plan to meet my business objectives?

Deciding whether to go virtual and/or digital

OK, so we realize that actual brand-to-consumer, person-to-person interactions reign supreme. But, if your event is time-sensitive and needs to deploy sooner than later, then going virtual could be an effective alternative. After all, it’s 2020-

Depending on how far out from the event you are, more or less can be done given your time frame. If you were two or three weeks out, you’ll probably operate more on a tactical standpoint to ensure you’re able to execute the virtual event on-time, make sure key people, such as influencers or keynotes, are still available, and most importantly, get the word out to your target audience to ensure you still get a worthwhile turnout.-didn’t we all think we’d be sending messages using holograms by now anyway?

If you’re looking at a month and a half or more, then you’ll probably have a little more time to breathe and employ more strategy with your modified experience, making it as immersive and engaging as possible given the circumstances.

If complete postponement to a “TBD” date or cancellation is a viable option, then you may not have to worry about going virtual. However, timing on when everything will go back to normal isn’t crystal clear yet, so for some brands, this is the route they must go.

Either way, be sure you’re consulting that collection of objectives we discussed earlier.

Checking some boxes for virtual experiences 

So, you’ve decided not to postpone or cancel the live event and go digital. Here are some boxes you should check as you proceed with planning:

  • Re-define your audience: If you’re taking your event from real life to online, it’s not a bad idea to revisit and possibly redefine your audience. If you were launching a pop-up or having a footprint at a specific show or high-traffic event, your audience was probably limited by some sort of geographic parameters. If you’re going virtual, those parameters aren’t nearly as restrictive, and you can market your online event to regions and groups of people you may not have thought would/could possibly attend.
  • Develop the online consumer journey: If you’re anything like us, you’ve gone through a long and thorough strategic process to come up with the perfect consumer journey for your experiential activation. By pivoting to online/virtual, we recommend doing the same. It all varies from brand to brand, but your new journey could a condensed version of the original or a completely new one. Either way, if you aren’t fully aligned with what your audience is going to experience, then you may want to take a step back and flesh it out.
  • Platforms selection and/or creation:¬† Does a platform exist that will allow you to achieve what you want to achieve, or do you need to develop one? Be sure that the appropriate measures have been taken to determine which online, digital or virtual platforms (such as Cisco or Zoom) will be the best, and do your homework to ensure that there are enough time and resources on your side to launch your virtual experience in the way you’ve envisioned it.

Consider content capture and generation benefits

A huge benefit to experiential marketing is the ability to capture a ton of content while the event is happening, whether it’s captured by the brand putting on the experience or user-generated. In fact, live experiences can generate a ton of brand awareness beyond the event that’s often difficult to plan for. This becomes a truly valuable component to a live event vs a virtual alternative.

The opportunity for content capture and sharing certainly dwindles when you pivot to online or virtual events, so this is something that can’t be overlooked by your team. Again, this is something that should be considered on a case-by-case basis since virtual isn’t always the best fit for brands to consider as an alternative.

If you’re struggling with navigating COVID-19 and experiential marketing, then you’re not alone. There’s a ton of factors to consider, and one blog post is not going to answer all your questions, but that’s what we’re here for.

Give us a call, we’d love to help you work through your challenges.