By now the bright lights of Las Vegas will just about have stopped flickering from all of the electricity sapped by this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and attendees will be back at their desks, excited minds buzzing with the potential of everything from drones to wireless charging.
But from the wealth of new tech that has been on show, what’s going to influence how we plan and activate experiences for our clients? As brand marketers, we’re not too fussed about the thickness of a laptop or whether you can make the world’s largest TV screen. What we’re looking for are the technologies that will change how consumers interact with the world and how brands that we work with can make the most of them to tell their story.
Here are just a few of the innovations that we think could change and enhance experiential events over the course of the next 12 months.
Branded video. Currently the staple method of regular and entertaining interaction with people who like your brand. But the same questions remain - "how long will this take to make and how much will it cost me?" Our client Sony Mobile has a solution for this. They were at CES to show off the first 360 video shot on a Sony Xperia smartphone, which we co-created with them just before Christmas. This is proof that you don’t need an advanced camera with a five-figure price tag to create engaging content, just a bit of courage to point, shoot and let the world see what you’ve made.
360 video allows the viewer to move around in 360-degrees, rather than being tied to a fixed shot. Instead of showcasing an upcoming event or experience with a standard promo video tour, why not let the viewer explore the event space on their own terms? Something we’re going to be working on later this year.
Virtual becomes a reality
There’s much talk of virtual reality and once again it had a big presence at CES, with the first pre-ordered Oculus Rift devices set to arrive in homes in the next couple of months. While VR first came to the fore with a big gaming focus, there are now endless possible applications across industries from retail and travel to sports and entertainment.
Last year, FC Porto was the first football club to broadcast a match in virtual reality, Alton Towers has this week announced the world’s first virtual reality rollercoaster (due this year), and there are companies streaming concerts in VR. These events tend to be one-offs and feel like test runs, but the virtual space could be about to change on a mass scale.
vTime is the first virtual reality social network where friends and family will be able to gather in virtual spaces no matter where they are in the world; all you need is a mobile and a headset.
Naturally, users are going to want to keep brands at arm’s length in these spaces at first, but what if branded environments could lead to offline rewards and redemptions in the real world?
This is a concept Universal Music is already exploring via its recently announced partnership with iHeartRadio, with plans afoot to stream four live concerts this year to those lucky soon-to-be Oculus Rift headset owners. For brands, there will be huge opportunities for prominent sponsorship of these virtual events – not to mention the inevitable ad breaks. In what will be such a personal experience, it’s all about the added value a brand can bring, rather than ‘we’re here because we can be/can afford it’.
Get strapped in
The wearables market has rolled along for the last couple of years, with mixed success. We all remember those brave souls who were first to venture out into public with Google Glass strapped to their face; but wearable tech has already come a long way. Watches, wristbands and even bras can now contain a wealth of technology that offers additional functionality as well as a steady stream of consumer data for marketers to use.
Brands should consider how wearable tech can benefit the consumer experience – whether that’s a more useful wristband for festival-goers or better contextual data capture that can be used to enhance and personalise an event. Coin, the mobile payment software is a brand that caught our eye at CES. They’ve partnered with Mastercard to implement their payment functionality into fitness trackers. Gradually, those ever so slightly clunky wrist wearables are becoming a one stop shop for personal health, finances and much more.
2016 will no doubt be another exciting year for brands with a few new technological toys to play with. While it’s easy to get bogged down in gimmicks that fail to genuinely add anything for the end consumer – and there are plenty of those – marketers can use technology to augment experiential campaigns in ways we could only have dreamed about just a few years ago.
Those brands that can strike a balance between exciting, tech-driven experiences and adding real value to consumers’ lives will win out.
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