So what will happen, when will Experiential Marketing return?
The quick answer is that Experiential Marketing exists right now in the form of “Good Will Marketing” and distastes relief. Along with marketing trailers being used as mobile command centers, labs, and hospitals, there are tours out there servicing hospital workers, first responders, and other essential industries. There should probably be more. The risk a hospital worker faces in the hospital pales in comparison to the risk of grabbing a free cup of coffee or snack. (please note this is not without hurdle, tour staff and execution needs additional training and protocols to not be part of the problem.)
Perhaps as stay at home orders are lifted but social distancing guidelines remain the next phase of experiential could simply be the “Marketing of Joy.” Custom assets and glass boxes that can move around cities without physical interaction with one goal, make people smile. Remember the glass walled box truck driving around Chicago in February with a beach scene inside complete with some young bathing suite clad models to promote a new tequila? Something like that aimed to make people smile. These could even be made interactive but we will leave the ideas to the agencies.
As social distancing guidelines ease this summer or fall the next logical step is hyper local marketing. This got very popular around 2010 when there was a rush to execute at local farmers markets and local street festivals. These community events will have smaller crowds and not require tours to travel interstate. Footprints and assets will be small. They may event be largely informational at first.
During this time small B2b tours may begin to resume. B2b programs will have an advantage over consumer based events due to effective guest size. A cost effective B2b tour with a medium sized trailer can have a meeting participant size of under 10 people whereas a consumer tour requires visitors in the hundreds or thousands to be cost effective.
So the answer to when will experiential marketing return is that it never left. It has scaled back and awaits creativity and the opportunity to do what it does best, connect with people, serve people, and in tough times, help people. While large scale events may not be an option in 2020 there will be opportunities this summer. There may be additional restrictions in the fall but along with creativity Experiential Marketing’s other great attribute is flexibility. Success in this industry is and has always been achieved by companies that are creative and flexible.