Tips for Experiential Marketing Post COVID

It seemed that COVID-19 was dying down, but the Delta variant moved in, and thoughts moved to avoid the spread again. Some people are putting on masks to go out into public. Others are avoiding public settings altogether. The latest Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds that 64% of Americans support required masks in public areas and 63% report wearing masks when they leave their homes.

This survey also found that as Delta’s grip increases, it’s starting to impact how many people go out to eat or visit friends and family. Three out of four people are concerned about the Delta variant, 52% feel that returning to pre-COVID habits is risky, and 46% are socially distancing. Your experiential marketing plans need to take this into consideration.

Come Up With New Experiences

You have to think of new ways for consumers to experience your products or services. If your brand has always relied on free samples, it may no longer be as appealing. Come up with new ideas. That may mean bringing in new marketing experts for input or reaching out to others who know your brand well. It never hurts to reach out to consumers on social media and ask what they think.

A New England coffee company was giving out a free bag of coffee to one shopper each week. The same people kept winning the free bag, so it wasn’t drawing the company any new buyers. Instead of continuing down this path, they came up with a new marketing approach. Every purchase or online review of the coffee led to comp points. Shoppers could cash in those points for discounts on purchases. The coffee company gained new consumers without losing the fans they already had.

Consider Free Events

The nation is still reeling from the financial losses in 2020. People lost their jobs as businesses shut down. Some were put on indefinite hiatuses and had to rely on unemployment to pay their mortgages or rent, utilities, etc. As schools shifted to online learning, parents were forced to stop working or work from home and stay home with their kids.

If you’ve always charged for your in-person events, consider dropping the entry fee. You’ll allow more people to attend if it’s free. That helps you reach more people than ever before. While it may cost more to host a free event, the additional consumers you stand to gain are well worth it.

You may feel it’s impossible to host a free event. You can make up the difference by offering VIP tiers. You have the free attendees, but you could allow VIPs to pay to enter the event an hour or two before others. You still make money, but the free entry option draws more people to your experiential marketing event.

Head Outside

Social distancing is easier to manage if you host your event outside. Carefully measure the space you’re using to decide how to seat families or attendees while still keeping everyone spaced six feet apart. The fresh air reduces the risk of spreading the virus, and people still get to join together while getting to know your brand.

Epcot’s 2020 Food and Wine Festival changed gears to allow for social distancing by limiting the number of attendees and lowering the number of kiosks set up during the event. Adding more space between vendors and requiring masks made it easier to still hold the event without risking attendees’ safety.

Be Flexible

You have to be flexible when coming up with your plan. You might think you have a brilliant marketing plan, but it doesn’t seem to hit all of the marks for everyone in your target audience. Be ready to stop, rethink your goals, and embrace new ideas. You have to remember that the one-size-fits-all approach rarely works.

As ride-sharing services started taking on, Ford noticed that consumers were less interested in small cars. Sales were tanking, and the ads weren’t drawing interest.

The company realized they were spending money marketing the cars that were no longer selling. So, they revamped and looked at the numbers. After noticing SUV sales were increasing, they decided to stop working on cars and focus their manufacturing and marketing on SUVs and trucks. In 2021, they drew a lot of attention by marketing their new electric and hybrid Ford trucks instead. They were flexible and changed what they’d been doing for decades in order to meet consumer’s changing interests.

Get Your Audience to Participate

Active participation captures attention. You want an experiential marketing campaign that is about more than your target audience watching or listening. Your audience needs to be engaged and actively participate. Take Netflix’s promotion for Over the Moon. People could sit at home and watch a trailer, sure. But, Netflix came up with a better plan.

They created a week-long virtual program for children that tapped into people’s passions to create. Through art, games, music, science, sing-alongs, and storytelling, kids had the chance to actively engage while also getting to learn more from the actors and producers. Printables allowed kids to keep staying involved away from the family computer, too.

Think about the best ways to get the audience to participate and talk about their experience. Word of mouth is a great marketing tool, so you want to do something that gets people to share their experiences online.

Carefully Listen to Your Target Audience’s Wishes

One study found that almost 20% of men who attended a virtual event in 2020 felt that it helped them make better social connections than they could do in real life. It’s allowed consumers and businesses to engage in new, exciting ways. Half of those surveyed said they’d love to attend other virtual marketing events.

While you’re considering their wishes, analyze the information you have on your target audience. How old are they? Are they likely to be vaccinated or not? Would those who are vaccinated want to be around those who are not and vice versa? If you’re not sure how to approach it, go onto social media and ask. Just be prepared for any disrespectful input and have a team ready to remove inflammatory posts that don’t add to the discussion.

You have to think of your target audience. Are people likely to risk their safety and turn around and blame your event? Even if you take precautions such as requiring proof of vaccination, are you sure that the vaccination cards you’re shown are legitimate? Some people are purchasing fake cards online. If you worry about the risks at all, a virtual event is the best way to go.

Remember That Virtual Marketing Campaigns Are Successful

Business owners didn’t always believe that a virtual marketing event would be successful. Yet, they learned otherwise. While in-person events still have benefits, don’t rule out a virtual event if you believe your target audience would benefit. If anything, holding a big in-person event that leads to outbreaks of COVID could be more damaging to your brand’s reputation.

Plan a successful experiential marketing event with the help of Factory 360. Our Follow the Vine campaign was a 2020 EX Award Gold Winner for Best Multi-Market Event (Consumer). Let us help you plan and host a successful experiential marketing campaign that meets your budget and goals.