Experiential Marketing Trends for 2018

People who stay on top of marketing trends know that experiential had a huge year in 2017, and projects to grow even bigger in 2018. As the calendar turns and our focus shifts to what’s ahead, I wanted to share my thoughts on a few things to look out for in our space in the coming year.

Cultural events will continue to rise

A lot of people equate experiential events with music and sporting events, but we’ve started to see a lot of traction in creating cultural experiences that revolve more around art, culinary events, and social good. These types of activations can bring in people with a wider mix of interests, and with younger generations famously interested in spending money on experiences, they will only become more and more popular with brands wanting to stay relevant.

The Year of VR

How many times have you seen someone say that when forecasting trends in the technology space? The truth is, VR can be a great tool for experiential marketers, and as costs continue to come down on the technology associated with it, you will see more and more brands testing out its usefulness. That said, VR is not a one-size-fits-all solution for activations. One of the great uses for experiential as a concept is the ability to create a sense of community in a shared space. VR, by its nature, is a very singular experience. Just because you can now afford to do it, doesn’t mean you should be doing it.

Chasing impressions

Measuring the success of experiential is an ever-evolving debate, and it’s something we all need to work to get better at. That said, one pitfall I’ve started to notice is brands chasing impressions with their experiences. Impressions for the sake of impressions doesn’t create anything of actual value. I’d rather build an event that directly impacts and connects with one thousand people than one that generates a million impressions but immediately disappears from the collective conscious.  Scale is important for sure, but don’t get distracted by the temptation to follow large numbers all the time.

Integration of Artificial Intelligence

AI continues to become more and more a part of people’s daily lives, as devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home have made the technology more familiar to the average consumer. Experiential can (and already does) benefit from this, as marketers can create really interesting interactive spaces that provide a wide variety of different experiences in a confined space. Customization is key, and AI can do a lot to make an event unique to each visitor. 

Not as easy as it looks

As the industry grows and gathers a larger and larger share of marketing budgets, we should see an influx of traditional advertising and other marketing agencies offering their own experiential services. My tip – it isn’t as easy as it looks.  The meshing of creative ideation and production capabilities is a constant push and pull, and figuring out how to bring an idea to life within a certain time frame and on budget is a skill that takes time and experience to develop.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a new business pitch to something that I immediately knew couldn’t be pulled off, not within the stated budget, or both. Unfortunately, the brands are the ones that end up with the short end of the stick with an event that’s over budget or not what they bought in the room.

Bryan Icenhower is the President of IMG LIVE. Follow him on Twitter @BryanIcenhower