The latest IPA Bellwether Report tells us that investment in events and experiential continues to be a priority for marketers as they explore new ways to connect with consumers. With this firmly in mind, I set forth to examine this year’s new offerings.
And it’s good news: brands are using experiential far more purposefully to engage with their audiences and executing with such realism and authenticity that I felt we had pushed fast-forward to the traditional approach to activation.
Gone were the stomach-churning simulator rides and technical gimmicks, and in came scene and context setting with a focus on human-centric experiences. For example, Sony’s kids camping scene, complete with mini movies shown by innovative, interactive short throw laser projectors, transported me immediately to an image of my own kids enjoying a Sunday afternoon movie in their garden teepee. I’ve pre-ordered the product.
Brands have realised that people don’t want to feel overwhelmed – they don’t want showboating. They want context of how and where a product or service feature can help them. They want to experience benefits first hand, in as close to real environments as possible. Reality has bitten: if the product is truly that great, why strap into a simulator that throws you upside down with 360-degree motion? That’s not how the product would be used at home.
A few interesting trends stood out for me – presenting the new-look experiential and what it means for brands and retailers.
Sony stepped away from the large crowd-pleasing experiences of old to focus on more intimate, scene-setting environments that facilitate and encourage self-discovery. A show hit: Sony’s latest 1,000x wireless noise-cancelling headphone zone located in a recycled wood plane cabin, complete with air hostess ambassador.
This more natural approach was seen throughout the show with brands keen to reach out and engage with people at a human level.
Discarding traditional corporate logic of product category stand navigation, both Bosch and Phillips purposefully looked at the world from a consumer perspective.
So, in part of the Philips stand, visitors could experience the full range of products and features that allow you to lead a healthier life. At the Bosch stand, visitors could experience and learn how to triumph with perfect cooking results in an amazingly relaxed and simple way.
The art of experiential
IFA 2017 brimmed with impressive installations such as the immersive LG walk-through tunnel. Yet, installations that won hearts and minds were those that held purpose in addition to captivating. Take Samsung’s gallery featuring some of the world’s best works of art, beautifully displayed on the latest range of frameless 4K HDR screens, complete with gallery viewing benches.
Keeping it simple
Back to basics, with a focus on sustainability, environmentally friendly experiences. Sony impressed again with a stripped back, recycled wood environment, a stark comparison to the tech heavy, busy environments of previous years.
Chatbots are quickly becoming the new norm, with a more personalised and simplified experience. Gorenje introduced shopping bot Anna who interacted with visitors in human-like conversation. Guiding people through their home-appliance search and purchase process to help them find the perfect appliance through a series of questions about personal needs and habits.
My biggest take-away? Change is relentless and, yes, AI, automation and connected ecosystems were hot topics throughout the show, yet it was clear that brands are striving to demonstrate that "being human" remains central to their product and service development.
By understanding people’s lives and behaviour to deliver the "human touch", experiential has the power to connect people to products in ways that are emotionally relevant, personal and maybe even replicable in their own environments. I predict "being human" will be a major trend at CES in January.
Andy Dougan is head of experiential and growth at Geometry Global UK