coronavirus and customers

What if Coronavirus Puts the Brakes on Experiential Marketing

How will coronavirus affect customer engagement? How will enterprises deal with what could be a completely upended customer landscape?

Editor’s Note:  As of today, Coronavirus is now part of our collective narrative.  It’s here.  From where I sit in New York City, people seem to be taking the threat in stride.  The initial wave of panic seems to have settled into a functional wariness – maybe even a little optimism that this disease can be contained sometime soon.  But the business community has been largely silent.  It’s more difficult to gauge the levels of anxiety behind the corporate curtains and understand how enterprises are planning to deal with what could be a completely upended customer landscape.  How will coronavirus affect customer engagement? Over the coming days and weeks we will try and track brand response and will do our best to bring you an objective view.

Coronavirus is threatening to dramatically alter the way people experience things in 2020. Liveclicker’s Gretchen Scheiman looks at this timely issue and provides some ideas for how brands may create new plans, or alter those that they’ve already invested in.

Alibaba has promised to make this the most digital Olympics ever. That promise will be tested to its limits this year with the threat of Coronavirus. As events around the world get cancelled or postponed, brands need to think about how to bring all of the important elements of experiential marketing online.

By Gretchen Scheiman

Winterberry Group finds that advertising and marketing spending in 2020 will increase by $390 billion, or 7% over 2019. The study says that 57% of the spend will be dedicated to offline channels, primarily linear TV, direct mail and experiential marketing.

People value real life experiences, this has been proven. With a reduction in travel, cancelled concerts, conferences and celebrations, those investments may shift back to digital channels.

Experimenting with experiences

Already, brands are thinking about how to drive online value from in person experiences.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has a job opening for an Experiential Marketing Manager. The description notes that the right person for the role “finds connections between event campaigns and overall marketing strategy to amplify the impact of our live experiences.”

However, these same experiential marketers may find that they have a new element to their job description – creating exclusively online experiences that make people feel as connected as in-person experiences.

There are successful companies that have developed fantastic online experiences. Take massive online multiplayer games like Fortnite, or educational platforms like Kahn Academy.

What these companies do so well can and should be replicated by brands as they look to create online experiences – deliver unique value, give people a voice, and allow people to interact on their own terms.

The Uber Elevate Summit – which included a chance to experience the first flying car in a virtual reality chamber developed by Bell Helicopter – did a great job creating an online-only experience.

Uber Elevate Chief of Staff Arianna Churchill, is building the product and the marketing plan at the same time, and the two are actually one and the same, which means that the millions of people who see ideas for the concept online are able to provide real time feedback.

Because the product has never existed before, she noted in an interview that, “everything we create as marketing collateral is actually what we’re using to develop the product.”

This approach allows people to experience the concept as it matures in real time, creating a sense of discovery and ownership as people get into the idea on the ground floor, even if they live a thousand miles away.

There are some examples of driving multichannel engagement out there already that may need to be changed if people are limited from coming together.

McDonalds, which has Happy Meal Play Zones in many restaurants, encourages parents to visit to take the family time online with downloadable coloring pages, activities and interactive games. It’s possible to take this venue further, connecting families, and offering more valuable content.

Email can be a great way to create a more direct line of communication with people around an event or experience.

Single Malt Scotch Whiskey uses personalized invitations with location data for local tastings of top shelf whiskey, ensuring that they only invite people within driving distance.

But, they’re sure to share tasting notes and photos from the event for people who weren’t able to make it. If an event is cancelled, would the brand be able to create a “virtual” tasting? It could be done!

Making experiential personal

Experiential marketing can be subtle and discreet or headline-making.

Either way, the real value is in bringing experiences to life online for deeper engagement with people who took part in an experience as well as bringing the best of that experience to many other people. And they expect personalization across channels, too.

This will only be amplified if more people decide to experience more things from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

The goal in experiential marketing should be to incorporate experiences into the wider marketing plan through smart investments in data and insights, personalization and content. That won’t change in 2020.

Gretchen Scheiman is Sr. Director of Marketing for Liveclicker, an advanced personalization platform that helps brands create timely, relevant, engaging moments that inspire action. She has over 15 years of experience in marketing management, building and leading high-performing teams on the client and agency sides. Gretchen specializes in methodical marketing funnel optimization and bringing an analytical perspective to how organizations can best use their resources and talent. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared in ClickZ. Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash.

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