Technology Should Enhance an Experience
...Not Substitute for One
After reading this sentence, take a walk around your house or apartment and survey the technology and devices you have.
Are you back? Great!
Think about everything you saw—laptop, cell phone, TV, security camera/system, voice assistant device like an Amazon Echo, smart thermostat, etc. Now think about how many of those devices you use on a daily basis in order to make your life easier and more enjoyable. Are there any you don’t use or aren’t even hooked up? Are they all really necessary or did you buy them because someone told you how much fun it is to say “Alexa, play The Beatles” rather than pressing a few buttons?
As each day passes, we become more technologically savvy, but also more reliant on that same tech. And just because a certain technology or device is available doesn’t mean it’s necessarily practical for you nor will it enhance your life.
Technology Role In Experiential Marketing
The same can be said about tech within experiential marketing. While technology can certainly enhance an experience like a pop-up, mobile truck or on-site activation, it shouldn’t be a substitute for an experience. It’s a line that can easily be crossed if you lose track of what you are actually trying to achieve.
As experiential marketers, our No. 1 priority is to connect brands with consumers in meaningful and impactful ways. Understanding our clients’ specific goals is key to success, because once the goal is determined, road mapping how to best achieve the goal becomes clearer. It’s then that we can look at what tactics and technology should be used to best engage your audience before, during and after an activation.
Technology can be utilized to assist during each of those three stages in order to elongate an experience while keeping your goal front of mind. The idea is to leverage technology to further achieve that goal, not distract from it.
Start early. Build excitement and get to know your audience prior to your activation. Let them know you are coming and allow them to get involved from the start.
Whether you need to gather information or drop easter eggs and teasers, technology can really help at the front end of any activation. It works wonders when you’re dealing with geographically diverse audiences—bringing the community together with technology through micro-sites, emails, apps and social media. As long as the integration is fun and has value to the audience, it will be welcomed.
Ahead of the NBA 2K19 launch, we drove guests to a microsite that collected information such as zip code, favorite NBA team, player number and area code.
At the launch event, this information was tied to radio-frequency identification (RFID) enabled credentials that customized the launch experience for each guest.
The customization allowed each guest to engage with the brand on a one-on-one level that included different touch points such as welcome screens at check-in, tailored gift bags with team jerseys, and personalized game covers for NBA 2K19.
Not only were guests able to further engage, the tech integration also helped establish more of a personal connection and one-of-a-kind interaction to the game’s launch.
Now it’s go-time and people are lined up and eager to participate. Clearly, you’ve done your job engaging ahead of time, driving interest and attendance, so what lies ahead? How does the journey continue appropriately?
Integrating technology like AR/VR, RFIDs, QR codes and Instagram/Snapchat filters can turn your real-life experience into a more immersive mixed-reality one. But there is a fine line. Throwing every technological piece into an activation is not only expensive, but it can also dilute and confuse the overall experience, leaving guests to wonder what the hell they were participating in. In many cases, less can be more.
Think of it like you would with fashion—you wouldn’t wear all your designer clothes, jewelry and accessories just because you could, right? In the end, it probably wouldn’t leave the best impression.
Like fashion, it’s important to be selective with what pieces of technology you incorporate into your activation, so visitors are left with the right experience. Our advice to many brands we work with, is to really harness the “why,” thinking about what you want to achieve and how it directly supports your goals.
During an activation to help increase the number of environmental pledges for Timberland’s “Nature Needs Heroes” campaign, brand ambassadors in Boston and New York engaged with students around campuses to encourage them to use their own phones to follow QR codes. The codes directed guests to a page asking them to take the pledge to be more sustainable by asking them to share their views on what was most environmentally important to them. That information was then used to create a tag for a free plant each guest was able to pick up at the fabricated Timber Truck, which also included a 20% in-store discount code to help drive retail traffic.
In this case, we didn’t need to use a ton of technology, instead we picked the source that would best align with our goals. Utilizing the QR code allowed us to capture consumer data while still providing guests with a physical experience to pick out and take home a plant, while still achieving the goal of driving retail traffic.
If in doubt about how much technology to use onsite, ask yourself (a) will it enhance the experience and (b) is it purposeful? These two key questions are integral in this decision and have always served us well in assessing how much technology to incorporate in each activation we produce.
The activation might be done, but is it really over? Following an experiential activation, there are always additional opportunities to further engage with your guests and understand the impact of your activation.
Thanks to all the metrics and data you collected via beacons and other devices, you can ultimately measure the success of your activation based on your initial goals. It allows brands the opportunity to learn more about onsite behavior and what tactics or messaging might work better for their audience. Data capture during your activation provides you with the means to continue the conversation afterward via personalized, targeted marketing.
For an event with Outdoorsy, we used the platform LiveGauge to understand direct impressions and unique visitors that were within a 50-square-foot radius of the vehicle activation while driving and stationed at events. Understanding the dwell time of each guest provides key metrics for the brand to analyze which events were beneficial and which weren’t. This of course wasn’t something that affected the guests’ experience, but instead helped the brand to understand the failures and successes of the mobile tour activation.
We’re more reliant on technology today than we were yesterday, and will surpass that again tomorrow and the day after. With so much tech at our fingertips, literally, it’s imperative that brands and organizations harness its power and potential rather than rely on it.
The goal is to move the needle, not just grab a few headlines that will be yesterday’s news come tomorrow.
Technology has a place in experiential marketing, but don’t be lazy—use it purposefully and considerately, not as a substitute for giving people a true, authentic experience.