The key considerations for experiential as we head towards 2024
At Blue Square we’ve delivered over 301,500 interactions so far in 2023 – that’s more than one every minute (294,842 at the time of writing this). We reckon this enormous amount of human touch has earned us the right to throw our two (or three) pence in when it comes to what really matters for brands in the experiential space.
1. Conscious experiences
51% of Gen Z feel strongly that they only want to engage with brands that align with their values. That’s not new. But, when coupled with the fact that 87% of consumers demand brands to operate sustainably, consumers are going to question more and more the impact of brands putting on large-scale activations that use a lot of resources – and what gain that really has. Wasteful experiences will be hugely brand-damaging in 2024.
There are solutions though: delivering sustainable, inventive and planet-mindful events can set you apart. It can be tough to redefine the norm but the opportunities are endless.
Take Coldplay – they’re on the final leg of their Music of the Spheres world tour and they’ve revolutionised the way bands (and all their kit) tour the planet.
Conscious experiences aren’t just about the planet. Creating brand activations that authentically engage local communities, support innovative businesses and sustainable ways of doing things is exactly what Dunkin’ did – ahead of the curve – a few years ago.
They took their ‘America runs on Dunkin’ slogan and brought it to life with some seriously cool, sustainable experiences in local communities with their ‘Home that runs on Dunkin’ campaign. Not only did they pioneer new fuels and bring their brand values to life, but they also listed on Airbnb to give everyday Joes a chance to stay in the ‘Dunkin’ Home’ at quirky and unusual pop-up locations across the state for as little as $10 a night – a Dunkin’ experience accessible to all.
At Blue Square, we’re big believers in keeping it simple. And what’s more simple – yet effective – than optimising your retail space by giving small, independent brands that resonate with your target audience a space to shine?
West Elm in the US invites local artists and designers into their retail spaces to showcase their talents and gain exposure across their database. There’s plenty of brands doing this and it’s something we champion. We can’t recommend enough adding authentic value to your consumer’s retail visit while supporting local talent. It goes a long way.
Let’s be real. If you plough into your experiential plans for 2024 without conscious experiences (note, ones that do genuinely matter to your business) as the #1 filter for everything you do, you’re going to end up in a pickle. And quick. Brands that push the boundaries with this trend will come out on top – and grow brand love with tomorrow’s customers.
The need to be personal isn’t new. It’s something every brand is working on at a rapid pace with 71% of consumers expecting brand interactions to be personal in 2023 (according to McKinsey). But as consumers become increasingly time-poor (and demanding), brands must think about how they can deliver hyper-personal, almost concierge-like interactions, with their target consumers at scale.
ChatGPT took the world by storm. With 1 million users signed up in something silly like 24 hours, it was the fastest-growing platform to launch. Ever. It’s going to be increasingly essential then to embrace these technologies and deliver unique experiences with every engagement. At Blue Square, we use a host of proprietary AI tools to refine insight learning and deliver hyper-personalised experiences at scale.
Speaking of experience at scale, Disney is on a constant quest to create an increasingly emotional connection with its park-goers and, in March this year, unveiled its first AI-powered robots which use motion-capture data to create lifelike performances that deliver ‘emotional impact’. Emotional Intelligence is something that many critics – and early adopters – of the likes of ChatGPT have flagged as a pitfall in the potential for AI-powered solutions to “take over the world”. So, when Disney unveiled a new way to bring its beloved characters to life – and showcase their real personalities – at scale across their parks, it went down a storm with their peers at South by Southwest (SXSW).
If you’ve a spare eight minutes, you can check out their full unveiling here:
Of course, AI and VR are two common pieces of tech that we’ve deliberately not focussed on too much here because we’re of the view that too often, this tech is used for tech’s sake – but, when used to deliver a hyper-personal experience, it can be magnificent.
3. Timing is everything
OK, so the third trend that we feel has the power to unlock serious opportunities for brands in 2024 is agility leading to the ultimate timing. We talked in 2023 about an emerging need for experiential events to be commitmentless – that is, experiences that can be turned on (or off) quickly – something that came as a real learning from the pandemic. When the country got the green light, brands had to go, go, go with creating experiences. When the lights turned red again, long-range plans got binned. It created this creative, rule-breaking approach to delivering consumer experiences – quickly. And certainly re-framed our own in-house events & experience team thinking. Things don’t need to be grand or long-planned to have epic amounts of impact; it’s the human touch and connections you create that matter.
Consumers today are less and less impressed with highly curated, super polished experiences (of course there are exceptions here depending on your brand and its values). They’re more interested in super timely, personal, and relevant interactions.
We’d love to show off some brilliant examples of this in action but, in honesty, there aren’t many good examples out there right now. But to showcase the simplicity and clever impact you can have when you understand your audience and tap into an active trend, we quite like this from WeRoad, an adventure travel brand. What a way to create an on-the-ground experience and rapid engagement with your target audience.
We’re already squirrelling away at our clients’ experiential and interaction plans for 2024 whilst being in the thick of activation for Q3 and Q4 but we’re always around to chat so, if you’ve any thoughts or want to chat over your experiential vision, get in touch with us today.