Marketers expect experiential budgets to increase in 2020

Yet, 69 percent of marketers still struggle to prove ROI of events, EA's study states.

More than half (53 percent) of brand marketers expect to see an increase in their experiential budgets in the next year and a half, an average growth of 21 percent, but still a decrease 3 percent, year-over-year, according to a new study.

The research from EA, which includes insights from more than 644 professionals across Fortune 500 companies, agencies and vendors, reveals that 87 percent of brand marketers said they invested in experiential this year to effectively connect with their target audience, a 30 percent jump from 2018.

"We’re at a critical moment in the growth and usage of experiential marketing, as the industry moves from a niche marketing initiative to a strategic imperative," said Gabrielle Martinez, managing partner and co-founder of Agency EA. "Our annual study captures valuable real-time data on how experiential drives dollars, action and results for our clients."

More than eight in 10 (83 percent) of marketers say they invest in experiential to generate traffic/lead generation, the study sates, while nearly 20 percent of brand respondents said they spent more than 25 percent of their marketing budget on experience in 2019.

Despite these increases, 69 percent of marketers are reporting that they continue to struggle proving ROI of events, which is a concern for 2020.  About the same amount – 68 percent – say they struggle with driving awareness and registration to their brand events.

But the issues surrounding experiences aren’t enough to keep marketers from investing in them, particularly because they’re seeing value in face-to-face interactions with consumers in an increasingly digital world, the study states. Brands surveyed reported allocating higher budgets for experiential marketing for the third consecutive year. 

Diversity and sustainability are two hot topics going into 2020, yet the EA study shows that 52 percent of brand marketers are having a hard time getting funding for sustainability efforts.

"As an industry, we have to start including sustainability in the event budget as a line item," said Amie Milano, executive producer of Whirlpool Corporation in a statement. "When we build our budget with sustainability in mind, it empowers the team to brainstorm new ideas with less of a burden on one individual to implement."

On the diversity front, the majority of (64 percent) of marketers in the study admitted to struggling with incorporating diversity and inclusion in their events, compared to 47 percent of agency respondents. Perhaps even more surprising, 60 percent of marketers believe diversity and inclusion are important parts of an event, but they don’t consider D&A a top priority. But, one way most marketers (84 percent) think they can make events more inclusive is by having more diverse speakers.

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