COVID has killed marketing. Long live the experience economy

COVID-19 has all but killed traditional marketing, but the “experience economy” is taking its place to reorganize our relationships with customers and engage us more deeply than ever.

The experience economy is based on a simple principle: brands must stop marketing To their customers and, instead, engage with them through shared experiences. While the pandemic has accelerated adoption of the experience economy, it has been a long time coming: According to Eventbrite, 72% of Millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than material things. We can expect that number to increase among Gen Z.

Not so long ago, I visited a Belgian gallery and saw a child trying to slide a painting in as if it were a screen. Future generations will be prepared for all be interactive. Imagine the experience museum goers would have if, using AR, Vincent van Gogh could jump off a painting and walk through its process.

I learned how to create meaningful customer experiences during my 30-year career at Disney. Arguably the biggest lesson in the economics of experience comes from Walt Disney himself. When “Fantasia” hit theaters in 1940, Disney pushed for immersive experiences through “Fantasound” and “Smell-o-Vision”. Theater owners, however, were not interested in paying and installing new technology to accommodate the enveloping sounds and scents. In response, Disney took its films where customers could experience the brand in its entirety, and Disneyland was launched in 1955.

Sixty-five years after Disneyland opened – and a year after I said marketing would be dead in a decade – COVID-19 has changed everything. Despite all the heartache and loss, it also highlighted what really matters.

Think about what we worked so hard to virtually recreate during lockdowns: family dinners. Concerts. Cooking classes. We didn’t spend our time alone dreaming of a trip to the mall. We spent it dreaming of shared experiences.

When I was tasked with driving more traffic to Disneyland Paris for its 25th anniversary, survey data revealed that people came to the parks for the rides. But when we sat down with real clients and asked them why they had come, we learned that the real reason is to create family memories.

Instead of spending millions on new rides, we launched a simple communication campaign focused on creating memories, one that generated more traffic in the park than we had seen in the previous five years. . Ask “why? »Helped discover the true experience our customers want.

When the pandemic emerges, the brands best positioned to succeed will be ready to deliver engaging experiences (even from a distance) that go to the heart of consumers’ desires.

I recently ran a roster for the Philadelphia Eagles. During our event, I learned that 90% of the fans never attending a game in person for reasons such as cost. I encouraged the group to think about this: “How could we involve the 90% of fans who will never visit our stadium, and what income opportunities could this offer? “

The pandemic has done wonders for hybrid event technology. Just look at the interactive fan screens used by the NBA during its bubble. Or even before the pandemic, when Manchester United used Google Hangouts to give fans a front row seat. By asking them how they might solve a particular problem, brands will tap into new experiential ideas that go beyond the typical marketing messages that people are familiar with.

In a post-pandemic world, brands will immerse customers in experiences – and marketing to people will no longer be enough.


Duncan Wardle, Former Head of Innovation and Creativity @ Disney. Founded iD8 & innov8 to help organizations integrate a culture of innovation.

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