Blended experiences are the branding medium of the future

Blending: brand experiences will be a mixture of virtual and in-person (Image credit: Andrea Niosi)
Blending: brand experiences will be a mixture of virtual and in-person (Image credit: Andrea Niosi)

Consumers are embracing a world of hybrid digital and physical experiences — and brands are getting on board.

As physical spaces remain restricted or closed, digital doors are opening — and brand experiences are adapting.

While the idea of a hybrid digital and physical world was popularised more than a decade ago, consumers were not ready to embrace it back then. Now, for the first time, not only are people open to a hybrid lifestyle, but the technology is there to support it.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual experiences have come to the forefront. Microsoft, for example, created a "virtual commute" that allowed consumers tethered to their computers at home to set a reminder to step away from their desk. That useful nudge to take a break filled a void in people's increasingly sedentary lives.

But people's desire for in-person experiences hasn't gone away, despite these virtual attempts. Eighty-two percent of people believe experiences are an important part of culture, according to proprietary research by Momentum.

Based on the current climate, we adapted our approach to experiential for our clients by blending virtual into in-person experiences. We recognised that in a hybrid world, content is no longer passive. Audiences are not just watching, but engaging. That means the number of individual experiences can be infinite.

With American Express, for example, we created "Amex Campus", an online hub for small businesses to gather help and insights from business experts during the pandemic.

The virtual offering has personalised content, live Q&As, bespoke presentations and networking opportunities — which people can access from the comfort of home. It was an experience that blended interactivity with virtual delivery, and it expanded the overall audience American Express was able to reach.

People have become more open to digital events as in-person gatherings remain restricted. No need for a VR headset; just a computer and your imagination can both entertain and engross you. Now that people have begun adopting virtual experiences, they won't simply disappear when physical events come back.

While in-person events have always been the best way for brands to connect with people, they're costly and limited in reach. Supported by virtual, live experiences can scale much farther. They can also meet a consumer need: globally, 86% of people interested in attending blended experiences, according to Momentum research.

In this new hybrid world, brands have an opportunity to create experiences people want, while moving from renting someone else's audience to owning their own. As the physical and digital continue to merge, so will a truly blended model. Brands must program always-on content as this hybrid lifestyle remains the norm.

Chris Weil is chief executive at Momentum Worldwide

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