When Experiential Marketing and Technology Collide, Memorable Things Happen

While scrolling through your Instagram feed, you’re bound to come across a friend or family member's post about a music festival they attended or interesting art installation they’ve seen.  That’s because an interesting change is taking place, driven by younger generations:  78% of Millennials said they’d rather spend money on experiences instead of products.  This type of spending has increased by 70% since 1985 and is showing no signs of slowing down.  To cater to new spending habits, brands are using experiential marketing opportunities as a way to connect with customers in new ways.  When technology comes into play, it can make these activations even more relevant and memorable.


A Shift in Perceptions

So how did we get here?  Why has our approach to spending changed so much?  For Millennials and their Gen Z counterparts, economic instability has influenced attitudes towards money.  For Boomers quick to argue that Millennials are just whining, the 2008 recession did leave a lasting mark on the U.S. economy – add to this wage stagnation, and younger generations are just not as well-off as their parents.  From these circumstances, the gig economy was born and changed the way we perceive ownership.  It’s no longer as important to own a covetable car or handbag, and evidence suggests our spending is now influenced by something else entirely.  A recent study revealed that 69% of Millennials believe attending events helps them stay more connected with others, and this connectedness is why younger generations are devoting more money to these experiences.


Why We Share

Our desire for connection is not the only reason we attend events.  We are also influenced by social media and a “fear of missing out”.  One study shows that 68% of respondents use social media to share what they care about, and around the same percentage has reported experiencing FOMO before.  Social media both connects us with others who share similar interests and drives our desire to get in on the fun experiences that our friends and family are having. 

Knowing this, it’s important for brands to provide experiences that people find shareable in order to tap into our need to broadcast. It’s not enough to throw up a DJ booth and some flashing lights and hope that people will want to attend.  Rather, what makes the experience worth discussing? 

Brands like Refinery29 understand that success hinges in part on our desire to share our experiences with others.  Their 29Rooms activation used partnerships with brands like Ulta and designers like Jill Solloway to create interactive installations that encouraged visitors to make and touch things in each room, as well as take plenty of photos for Instagram.  This free digital promotion from past years works – 18,000 tickets for the 2017 New York City event sold out before the partners were even announced.


How Tech Enhances the Experience

Technology allows marketers to get even more creative with how they approach experiential opportunities.  Thanks to increased accessibility to AR/VR tech, marketers can create something users interact with right on their phones.  City Social, a bar in London, created an AR cocktail menu to highlight the inspiration behind some of their signature drinks.  And who can forget Pokémon Go, which had the nation wandering around their neighborhoods in the summer of 2016 in the quest to “catch ‘em all”? 

But an interesting experience doesn’t require augmented reality to be a hit.  Brands can still create something interesting using other types of technology.  Spotify, for example, took over the New York City subway system in a massive tribute to David Bowie.  Installations about the singer’s connection to the city were found throughout, accompanied by links to Bowie’s music in the Spotify app. 

Google took another interactive approach to tech when they got residents of the Bay Area involved in deciding what charities would receive donations from the company.  Google hung interactive paper posters in public spaces where locals could learn more about the nonprofits and vote for their favorites.


The key takeaway from these activations, then, is not so much the type of technology you use – it can be flashy like AR or as simple as an app link – but more so how that technology provides the opportunity for people to connect with each other.  Who wouldn’t giggle with a friend over a virtual dancing skeleton when at a cocktail bar or chat with a fellow fan about a particular David Bowie song?  Technology, when applied creatively, can be the means to creating a lasting memory for your customers and a way to help them share it with others.