Brands are starting to recognize that corporate events must be more desirable (and ultimately more eye-catching) to attract attendees. Thus, they’re embracing unique activations, a form of experiential marketing that focuses on consumer engagement. But with brands constantly raising the bar, others must navigate all the technical ways to enhance the attendee experience.
The best unique activations earn the “unique” in their title. Your organization might decide a series of custom games tailored to specific consumers works best, or you could take a more large-scale approach and organize a drone light show, for example. Entertainment group Meow Wolf’s immersive multimedia installations even attract tourists across the country — similar to Moment Factory’s projection mapping that creates abstract night walks for guests.
The key is to give consumers a reason (and opportunity) to explore something they’ve never seen before. It’s an admittedly difficult task, considering most brands are now folding experiential marketing into their integrated campaigns. In fact, according to “EventTrack 2018” 86% of brands said they planned to increase the number of events they hosted last year, and budgets were expected to rise by nearly 6%. To stay ahead of the curve, then, you must give your event the creative boost it needs. Start with the following strategies.
- Implement a tech-forward design.Whether you’re exhibiting for customers or hosting an event for internal groups, you’re competing for attention. Distractions can range from other exhibitors to even attendees’ smartphones. Using a technology-forward design, however, can captivate your audience members’ attention by immersing them in new worlds and changing atmospheres.
- Keep the event interactive.If guests are expecting another “sit and watch” presentation, imagine how surprised (and delighted) they’ll be when they’re hit with something entirely different. That might mean a simple but well-produced video that’s played at just the right moment, but you’ll be that much more effective if you involve your audience. For instance, last year, Michigan State University deployed a 360-degree screen designed for multidisciplinary use, making every seat the best seat in the house. Audiences seek memorable experiences, and your event team dreams of integrating them, so have some fun with it.
- Encourage user-generated responses.Designing around user-generated content is a relatively new technique that can really ramp up social chatter. There are already entire businesses built around this concept. The Museum of Ice Cream, for instance, presents an “Insta-worthy” space that encourages visitors to snap a selfie, and the resulting shared media generates more ticket sales. Exemplifying this strategy in corporate settings, my company helped Walmart design a booth at the 2018 Essence Festival that included multiple activations — one of which was an LED backdrop that operated behind a plush throne. The activation ultimately generated 37.4 million impressions across channels.
- Give the event potential to “go viral.”While you want your content to go viral, doing so doesn’t have to break the bank. Back in 2006, it was reported that Blendtec launched its “Will It Blend?” video campaign with a famously small budget of $50. The concept was simple: Throw random objects into a Blendtec blender to determine whether, in fact, they would blend. The videos went viral and increased sales by more than 500% in just two years. Events provide one of the best platforms to generate social-rich media. If leveraged correctly, you can capitalize on both the content you create and the media your audience shares.
- Increase product movement for the brand.One of the best examples of viral marketing content is Bud Light’s rebranding of Crested Butte, Colorado, into “Whatever, USA.” This campaign generated more than 37,000 pieces of content — only 50 of which were actually created by Bud Light — and sliced a five-year sales decline in half. For some brands, events like this provide a direct path to purchase for customers. For others, it’s one stop in the funnel toward conversion. Either way, experiential tech increases attraction, enables faster delivery of messaging, and creates deeper brand connections that move the conversation forward.
- Be the center of attention.With so much competition for everyone’s time and attention, it’s challenging to determine where to deploy your resources. That said, events provide something no other channel can: a (relatively) captive audience. Smartphone conversations aside, events attract an audience interested enough to show up. If you want to make an impact, event immersion is one of your best bets. While this may sound daunting — especially if you’re new to the unique activations game — it’s all surprisingly accessible with the right support. So get out and try something new. The results might surprise you.
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