‘Digital experience will replace in-person experience, making it the new normal’

Experiential Marketing experts share insights on how the industry can tackle the situation of the COVID-19 lockdown and sustain a connection with the consumer

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: Apr 8, 2020 1:22 PM
Experiential Marketing

The Experiential Marketing Industry has been hit the hardest during the COVID-19 impact. According to the latest report by Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA), The impact of COVID -19 on the events and experiential industry would be to the tune of Rs 3000 Cr for the first two months, at a minimum, as projected in a survey of 100 MSMEs in the sector.

However, this period of lockdown has become a bootcamp for the Industry to recoup and calibrate the experiential industry as a whole.

e4m spoke to Experiential marketing heads on the challenges the industry is facing and the techniques they are bringing into play to interact with their consumers during this lockdown.

Noting down the challenges in the industry, Navneet Mohan, Director, CEO, Laqshya Live Experiences said, “For the first time ever, business has come at a complete pause and for a company like ours, which handles a lot of MNC clients, the impact was quite early. The challenges would be maintaining cash flow and ensuring employees are kept motivated. As the ecosystem of people is quite large, I estimate this industry to employ at least 10 million people directly and indirectly. The employees in the lower part of the pyramid: the carpenters, light boys, promoters, freelancers, etc. are going to be the most affected and it’s our collective responsibility to ensure they have some kind of an income cushion till things recover.”

At the moment, the biggest challenge is managing working capital and cash flows. Ranjit Raina, CEO, Geometry Encompass shares that in the long run, we need to understand how experiences and engagement will change and how soon can one pivot to address the change.

The concept of experiential marketing is to engage the audience with the brand while establishing an emotional connection with the customer. Sameer Mankani, Co-Founder, Managing Director, Makani Creatives remarks: “Marketers now need to understand that digital experience will replace the in-person experience making it the new normal. This largely creates a distinct avenue for marketers to study the behavioural change of the consumer and engagement more minutely. This approach will re-calibrate the execution of the experiential industry and marketers can now help brands more than ever in creating informed interactions with the end-user. These hard times are providing brands with an opportunity to deliver real-time assurance along with building a stronger connection with the consumer.”

Talking about how the industry as a whole can rethink and calibrate the experiential marketing industry Mohan stated, “The good part is working together as one industry ideas are shared on a daily basis. I think it's time to adopt technology without losing the fundamentals. Our industry needs a hybrid solution to augment and expand the live experience with virtual engagement as close as we can get to the real experience. We should be able to communicate the brand message creatively. As long as humans are social animals, events will grow and prosper. We expect a sharp growth for this business once things normalize."

Raina advises, “As the industry pivots to new models of engagement, it would do us well to relook at how we charge for our services. In the coming months if the industry doesn’t resolve then the business model of the post-COVID-19 world will be made by procurement.”

Aniket Sharma, Director, Co-founder, 121XP shares, “This is the time when industry bodies like EEMA can jump into action. They can organize industry conventions (virtually) to discuss the crisis at hand and allow for some of the leaders of our industry to be heard on their solution. We all need to act collectively together. Standardization of agency revenue models can be arrived upon as an agency and it’s the perfect time to stand together. This could be time to collaborate with peer agencies or bigger agencies with smaller agencies over projects so there can be mutually profitable together. We could look at creating an emergency fund where agencies that are doing relatively better than others can contribute towards the survival of other smaller struggling agencies and partners.”

Mohan says the solutions for the Experiential Marketing Industry during this lockdown lies in virtual events. He adds, “Creative solutions for clients utilizing the extra bandwidth are the only business solutions at this point. Currently, we are focusing on re-skilling our talent, getting prepared for better times. Working on ideas and innovations. I remain optimistic in my belief that as people, as a company, and as an industry, we will come out on the other side better and stronger.”

Raina commented, “To discover solutions we need to first define the opportunity created by the lockdown. The absence of access to real events has resulted in a proliferation of digital events and experiences. Today we have technology that makes us agile and allows us to create and share the creation with audiences even with the limitations of a lockdown.”

Many prominent events like NH7 and events organized by Bookmyshow, NCPA, etc have moved online. Platforms like Instagram Live and YouTube are taking centre stage during this lockdown, showcasing how digital platforms can be an impactful medium at this uncertain time.

On a parting note, Sharma says, “We need to think of business challenges the brands are likely to face and how to add value to their problems. Write your own briefs for the brands. Reach out to your brands with solutions to problems even if your brands haven’t thought about. In my experience brands have been more than welcome to listen to potential solutions from their agency partners. Keep thinking of solutions agnostic of those written creative briefs. Think business problem-solving ideas not necessary marketing experiential ideas alone.”

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