Understanding experiential marketing trends in a post-COVID scenario

As part of the Future Ready Series, EEMA recently hosted a webinar which was presented by exchange4media & Red Carpet Awards, and supported by BW Applause & everythingexperiential.com

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 9, 2020 1:24 PM  | 6 min read
Future Ready Series

We know the events and experiential industry is going through uncertain times. With brand spends on event marketing on hold, everyone in the sector is asking how soon will the activity return to normal? Will it return to the pre-COVID time? Will brands continue to spend on event marketing in a world headed towards social distancing and zero touch?

As part of its Future Ready Series the Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) recently hosted a webinar on how would event marketing and experiential spends shape up in the post-Covid world?

The webinar was presented by exchange4media & Red Carpet Awards and supported by BW Applause & everythingexperiential.com.

The speakers on this webinar were Sanjoy Roy, President EEMA and MD Teamwork Arts; Sandeep Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, Droom; Sanjiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Capital; Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld and exchange4media Group; Dinesh Agarwal, Joint MD, Panasonic, and Noor Fathima Warsia, Group Editor, A&M, BW Businessworld.

The session was moderated by Sanchalli Arora.

Speaking about the impact of Covid-19 on the event and experiential sector, Roy said every time there is a crisis, there is also an opportunity. 

“The thing to do now is to step back and rather than trying to break down that door in front of you, look out for the window that may be behind you. Use this time to think afresh and reboot. Look at your unique strengths and put them into the market. You will not just do better but phenomenal. The future has immense potential and we really need to bring forward innovative, clear, culturally nuanced communication. The media, brands and the event community need to come together and work together to find solutions collectively which will lead to revenue or sales.”

He also said that Covid was here to stay and we have to learn to live with it and find protocols to harness the incredible digital route. “Today the events, be it corporate, MICE or cultural, need to be created keeping in mind the digital medium because not all content can be carried on digital. It's a whole different world that needs to be curated. We need to look at creating virtual spaces with AI.”

Dr Annurag Batra urged the industry players to stay positive in these tough times and called the ongoing crisis a temporary pause.

“Storms do not last and dreams don’t perish. Event industry is a subset of what happens in the business domain, if the businesses come back in the next 3 to 6 months, events will also come back. It is a temporary pause and it is allowing us to digitally transform and add new skills. The event and experiential industry creates experiences which are being created digitally nowadays. They may not have revenues. But this is a 2-3 month phenomena and from August physical events will start coming back. In China post the lockdown events are following social distancing norms and hygiene rules. In India too events will come back,” said Dr Batra.

“The experiential industry will bounce back. It will bounce back and plan for the future. As entrepreneurs and businesses we have to bring down the cost but stay optimistic for the future,” he added.

Sandeep Agarwal of Droom spoke about how we were all moving towards a shared economy. He also spoke about the ease of digital, which is now becoming the backbone of all businesses.

“One advantage of being online is that it does not suffer from lockdown unless there are government rules and regulations. We are morphing more into the digital category with doorstep delivery and providing other services like insurance at the convenience of the customer.”

Sanjeev Bajaj termed the current phase of lockdown and loss of economic activity as WWC- World War Corona. 

He said that for businesses across sectors this was not the best scenario. “We have to be adaptive to the changes and reinvent our way of working. For us, too, the experiential marketing has moved to webinars. People are even willing to pay for webinars. This is the best time for us to engage with our clients. We are trying to reconnect with our existing clients and regain all our lost clients at this time. Financial services are slightly better off than the others but we will have to redefine the way we work.”

When asked whether brands would continue to spend on event marketing, Bajaj said that earlier a lot of their spends used to go into investor education and now they would do a lot of low key and customer centric events. 

“For us digital marketing spends will go down because for financial services we need physical existence. We are right now focussing on our existing services and clients. Digital events need to be shorter and interactive to cater to the attention span unlike physical events which can be a day long,” said Bajaj.

Dinesh Agarwal of Panasonic India said that the ongoing period has become a great opportunity to engage with the entire digital community. 

“We decided in the beginning itself that we would use this time for learning and imparting knowledge to our ecosystem. A web interaction will give us an opportunity to create awareness about your product or business in a better way than a physical event,” said Agarwal.

When asked how Panasonic was planning its experiential spends in a zero touch world, Agarwal added, “A large part of our spends this year will be on BTL. We will spend a conscious amount on the web as an enabler to reach out to our stakeholders. We have seen great responses this way. Nearly 15 to 20 per cent of our BTL budgets will go towards experiential marketing and digital. Experiential marketing is not going to be as cheap as we think it is going to be on the web.”

Sharing his thoughts on the impact on experiential spends due to Covid-19, Aggarwal said the BTL activities are set to make a comeback.

“We spend around Rs 400 crore on marketing. In times to come, our BTL and marketing budgets will come back and we will spend more on digital marketing.”

Noor Fathima, Group Editor (A&M), BW Businessworld, spoke about the nimble strategy that Businessworld has adopted in these digital-first times.

“While we are working very hard to convert everything into digital, the small advantage is that in some places these digital avenues are already paying where we were already present - be it digital circulation or our presence through BW online. We are also looking at augmenting the quality of our content. The simple reason being people are only consuming online. Even if there is a small dip in your quality there will be others who will replace you. For webinars we are trying to identify partners that can come in and convert contactless into an experience. What we have not let go is our core and our brand legacy. We have always made sure that we provide great quality content,” said Warsia.

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