Ever since the start of the pandemic, marketers have been finding their way around social distancing measures and sanitary guidelines. Those of us in the experiential industry quickly flipped the script, turning instead to building virtual experiences and coming up with creative solutions to connect people online—many of which will prevail for years to come. Now, as we daydream about the big comeback of physical events in Brazil, we’re rethinking our strategies to develop new, powerful ideas that build on these learnings.
Compared to other regions in the northern side of the world, Covid-19 vaccines are rolling out a bit slower in South America. Therefore, Brazilian brands may not deem it necessary to start thinking about in-person events yet. But sooner or later, the distancing rules established by the pandemic will be lifted completely—and by the time that happens, brands will have to be fully prepared to retake the physical scene, or fall behind their competition.
As Partner and Business Director at Media.Monks, I work hand in hand with our global virtual events and experiential team. I’ve seen how excited some brands are to give consumers onsite experiences, but I’m also aware of the countless benefits that virtualization has brought to our industry. There’s no way of knowing exactly how the upcoming months will play out, but one thing is certain: as we move forward, marketers will have to bring the best of both worlds to provide real value to their consumers.
The Rise of Hybrid Experiences
When I look back at what we’ve accomplished since the start of last year, I can barely wrap my head around it. Together with my experiential team, we’ve developed online museums, virtual carnivals, hosted the World Press Freedom Conference and more. Each of these experiences were conceived at a time when virtualization was the only option; now, just think of the myriads of options we’ll have at hand once we add physical elements to the equation.
The right combination of in-person value and online amplification can be more cost-effective than just another broadcast or purely offline installation.
Take hybrid experiences, for example, a model that’s blurring the lines between the possible and impossible with experiences that haven’t been thought of before. By definition, hybrid experiences involve an in-person experience augmented with virtual elements. How these come together depends on your goals as a marketer: it’s all about leveraging the benefits of both online and offline experiences and adapting it to your requirements. The digital element can be as small as a digital exchange of contact information with attendees, or as big as a robust virtual platform broadcasting an in-person conference to remote audiences.
Naturally, different setups will have different costs, but with a more flexible range of possibilities, brands don’t need the largest budget in the market to deliver compelling experiences. The right combination of in-person value and online amplification can be more cost-effective than just another broadcast or purely offline installation.
One Small Step for Marketers, One Giant Leap for Sustainability
It goes without saying that social distancing taught us a lot about how to both keep production going and engage with audiences remotely. Virtualization allowed us to bring people together in unexpected ways, tearing down the physical barriers to meet faraway audiences. That desire to fuel online amplification while safeguarding consumers’ ability to interact with a brand is what gave way to the development and release of LiveXP—our internal tool that connects audiences and performers by enabling true two-way communication.
Tools like LiveXP allow brands to give virtual events a deeper level of interactivity, and have paved the way for digital events of the highest caliber. BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is a great example of this: for its 2020 edition, one of New York City’s longest-running outdoor performing arts festivals became a digital destination where everyone around the globe could meet from home. The purely digital experience extended the local event beyond a single location—and when in-person concerts return, one can imagine the value in connecting people from afar will remain. I strongly believe these types of experiences are not going anywhere.
LiveXP offered audiences and performers the ability to connect and engage with each other in a new way during the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Live Everywhere festival.
We can go hybrid on the production front, too. In the last year and a half, we’ve built up a muscle for getting the show on the road with fewer people on site and less need for traveling. Not only is this cost-effective; it also supports our commitment to sustainability, as travel is one of the biggest contributors to an event’s carbon footprint. Think about it: what’s the use of flying an entire team across the country when you can easily keep production going remotely? This will be a permanent change of mindset, not just a response to the pandemic.
Leaving the Door Open for Creativity
As we move toward hybrid experiences, sanitation guidelines will continue to play a bigger role. Commitment to safety will go beyond producing remotely; brands will have to make sure they’re doing everything they can to keep people safe in front of and behind the scenes, going as far as hiring a Covid-19 compliance officer.
The implementation of sanitary guidelines can be intimidating for some, but don’t shy away from them. Think about how they can give way to creative opportunities and innovation. Only a few weeks ago, Pepsi inaugurated a permanent exhibition at a theme park in Pennsylvania that uses gesture-based technology. This experience, made in collaboration with Jam3, wouldn’t have ended up being as unique without the need for touchless interactivity.
Nowadays, both brands and audiences want to be more efficient with their time and resources, which is a key reason why hybrid experiences will take the main stage in upcoming years. With hybrid platforms, brands can virtually deliver more content with less physical or monetary constraints, while simultaneously combining the thrill and excitement of onsite action. Or they can leverage virtual platforms to include more diverse audiences through greater accessibility.
Hybrid experiences are more than another option to add to the marketing mix. They’re the natural response to how consumers are interacting and engaging with the world around them, and a way for brands to meet them where they are. There’s a new, expanded universe of opportunities before us to connect with consumers, and technology is on our side to deliver those innovative experiences that will remain engraved on their memories—whether they experience it physically, virtually or both.
This article was originally published in Portuguese by Fast Company Brazil.
Make our digital heart beat faster
Get our newsletter with inspiration on the latest trends, projects and much more.