Experiential marketing had a banner year in 2019. According to an event marketing report from Bizzabo, 50 percent of companies surveyed were spending nearly a quarter of their marketing budgets on events, representing a 39 percent increase year-over-year. And that’s to say nothing of the killer creative. Brands are upping the ante with global scavenger hunts, themed experiences and sustainably-focused events. Indeed, connecting with audiences through multiple touchpoints at events is one of the best ways for consumers to touch, see and feel your brand—while taking home lasting memories of the experience to boot. Take a look at Event Marketer’s curated list of the top 10 experiential stories of the year, from the likes of HBO, Taco Bell, Absolut and Google.
1. Gen Z. Marketers remain curious about Gen Z. Topping the list of 2019 stories is a report on what Gen Z audiences are looking for from brands and how marketers should be engaging them. Proving to possess their own set of values that differ from Millennials’, this crop of digital natives are so over Instagram filters and museums. They also appreciate inclusivity, are open to co-creating content with brands and prefer Tik-Tok as a social platform.
2. TV Tie-ins. With 2019 being the culmination of “Game of Thrones’” eighth and final season, several brands capitalized on the hype with GOT-themed activations, from Mtn Dew’s scavenger hunt to AT&T’s augmented-reality experience to HBO’s own national blood drive inviting consumers to “Bleed for the Throne.”
3. Zero Waste. Marketers have increased their efforts to reduce waste at events, particularly created from food and beverage, with renewed vigor. Brands like Bacardi and Salesforce are reducing waste, composting and employing various sustainable practices.
4. Wellness Pop-ups. The wellness trend in experiential continues, with fitness-focused activations spotted at both B2C and B2B events. Guided group meditations, branded fitness festivals and wellness-inspired experiences popped up across the country.
5. Obstacle Courses. The experiential landscape is embracing play as a way to engage with attendees, particularly younger generations. Take wireless provider Visible’s “Phonetopia” pop-up, which invited consumers to step into different phone zones featuring a ropes course, a jungle gym and a slide.
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6. Neighborhood Takeovers. To promote and build buzz for its new organized crime film “The Irishman,” Netflix staged a takeover of New York City’s Little Italy with secret passwords, free food and beverages, and branded props integrated into local establishments.
7. Sober-Curious Experiences. While alcohol consumption continues to be a priority for attendees at many events, there’s a new crop of booze-free brand activations for those consumers seeking a more balanced lifestyle.
8. LGBTQ Activations. Absolut has incorporated sustainability into its mission. So, to celebrate its dedication to “people, planet and product,” it built a sustainable activation at Coachella this year with a nod toward the LGBTQ community—just in time for the 50th anniversary of Pride.
9. Influencer Retreats. Taco Bell has been engaging its superfans with activations for years. Most recently, fans and influencers got a special treat with a Taco Bell Hotel & Resort experience in Palms Springs, CA. The three-day event featured group activities, food drops, performances and, of course, ubiquitous Taco Bell branding.
10. High-Tech, High-Touch. At last year’s CES, Google broke through the clutter by creating a playground worthy of Disney World. Through a detailed narrative, interactive technology and animatronic characters, “The Ride” illustrated how Google Assistant can help manage consumers’ busy lives—and how marketers can make a big splash in a crowded marketplace.