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Return of the 'Old Normal'

With a sense of normality returning to the world, we take a look at how brands should adjust to capture consumer needs. Out with the new, in with the old.

Chris Knott
Chris Knott
Posted 1 year ago

The ‘new normal’, a phrase we’ve become accustomed to over the last 12 months, and seemingly now a commonplace in our vocabulary. It looks though, like we’re finally emerging from the 3rd (and hopefully final) national lockdown. It’s out with the new, and in with the old. But in the world of publicity and brand marketing we’re now at cross-roads, with big decisions to make on where that vital marketing budget should be spent. Well, the answer may now seem to many a distant memory… experiential.


The more consumers have been forced to engage through digital channels, the even more crowded these spaces have become, as such traditional ‘tried and tested’ content are at risk of becoming a nuisance, no doubt for many differing digital and social experiences have started to blend into another. Despite over a year in-and-out of restrictions, it would take far more to eliminate the human connection to experiences, and arguably the last year have only heightened that need. In 2021 consumers don’t want to be told what to buy, instead they tell others what they are buying, and create personal experiences around these, so simply relying on visual and reach is no longer enough. Successes have been found throughout this 12-month period in fusions between the mediums. Experiential had shifted from creating memorable moments and positive disruptions to day-to-day life, to a focus on creating ‘Instagram-able’ moments and experiences, meaning the previous aim of a positive branded mental image, became a mental billboard. Brands and agencies who have been able to harness the shift in experiential have once again had to go back to the drawing board to establish how best the relationship between physical and digital should exist, and more prevalently how that looks moving back to normality in society.

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Picture it like this. You take a daily stroll to your local high-street, you notice people or the odd new sight, but your surroundings are passive, because you’ve seen it so many times before. You walk down a high-street 50 miles from your house and there’s no doubt you take in all of your surroundings from people, to shops, to signs; because you aren’t used to it; because it’s new, out of the ordinary and enthuses your senses. Experiential brand marketing as we exit lockdown and return to normality should be seen in much the same way. We’re desensitised somewhat to digital channels, it’s all we’ve had; so now is the time to ride the shift and return to physical brand experiences.

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Similarly, if we look at social channels and consumer generated content, we’ll see a decrease in ‘lockdown-101’ UGC; from the usual banana bread, self-improvement, exercise and DIY, and a return to content becoming more engaging, as human experiences become undoubtedly more exciting and unique. Add that to a recent EM study showing 98% of consumers are likely to create and share digital or social content at events and experiences; then there is a clear formula to create stand out, cost effective brand presence via experiential and event activation; with the digital looking after itself. For brands and consumers alike, it’s now a case of who is first to the party, and who can paint the biggest canvas when they get there.

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With a 250% increase in event bookings compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, it’s clear the importance and prevalence of physical experiences is more established than ever. How brands cater to this in the coming months remains to be seen, but a pivot away from screen-lead experiences to physical and hybrid activations, is guaranteed to create a wave not just a splash. Times are changing for the better and with normality on the horizon there’s a question brands should be asking themselves; why keep making banners when we can make billboards?

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