Ah, relationships. There is so much to consider when it comes to igniting and maintaining a connection with another human being. Catching someone’s eye, striking up a conversation. And if we have aspirations for something longer-term, we take time to deepen the relationship. We establish regular check-ins and enrich our interactions with the other person.
There is no doubt about it – relationships take work, and that is especially the case when the relationship is between a brand and a consumer. From the initial hello to post-activation engagement, experiential is a courtship. But, in the wake of the current pandemic and the resulting “new normal,” the immense work involved in planning, designing, and executing a brand experience has become a lot more complex. Now, even the simple act of face-to-face engagement carries critical considerations related to everyone’s health, safety, and well-being.
The health and safety of consumers and event staff have always been top-of-mind for anyone involved in experiential marketing. We ensure our event staff have enough break times, frequent access to bio needs, and are treated with respect and consideration. We institute measures to ensure consumers can enjoy an activation safely and are eager to evangelize the experience within their networks. But in a pandemic-oriented world, suddenly “health and safety” means something else.
Now health and safety in experiential marketing means extensive precautions to ensure there is no viral transmission. It means designing an environment that is both engaging and provides a sense of comfort related to participation. It means keeping event staff healthy and confident when performing their jobs. It means that every aspect related to how we execute events is reconsidered so that we can adapt to a brand-new environment.
The truth is, most companies are still figuring out what our brave new world looks like. But there are clues all around us from many industries that might give us an idea as to what the future may hold. While smaller events, social distancing, handwashing, and other elements are no-brainers, here are three avenues that we might use to move forward and figure out ways for humans to, once again, be free to be human.
Events and experiential marketing are already high on technology. Digital innovations allow us to improve consumer engagement, amplify the event experience beyond the footprint, and prove ROI in ways that were once thought impossible. Now, in the wake of COVID-19, we need to rely on technology more than ever for health and safety in experiential.
Geofencing, which in the event staffing world we use to ensure our teams arrive on time, can also be used to enforce social distancing. Thermal scanning of event attendees is also a possibility, wherein a system “triggers an alert when someone with a temperature of over 99.5F (37.5C) enters the building.” And companies like Marriott are investing in electrostatic sprayers that contain hospital-grade disinfectants to ensure that every square inch of a hotel room is sanitary.
But these solutions are only related to regulating standards while people are onsite. Virtual and hybrid events provide a clear pathway for brands who are eager to get engagement back online now, as well as in a virus-free future. Event and community apps that provide polling, Q&A, and other interactive functionality will help virtual attendees feel connected with both the main event as well as each other.
The consensus, however, is clear. Tech is no longer here solely to help us measure the impact of an event. Event marketers will be relying on tech to maintain a healthy and safe environment for attendees and event staff alike.
Before COVID-19, you would be hard-pressed to find a brand willing to gather biodata from consumers as a requirement to enter an experience or participate in an activity. However, in the wake of the pandemic, the shift from personal data protection to public health protection is happening in real-time.
Over the past few weeks, a significant pain point related to the outbreak has sat within our ability to accurately and rapidly test citizens. However, as testing becomes more readily available, companies are talking about if and how that resource fits into their reopening or re-engagement plans.
But for some companies, testing is more than talk. Emirates recently became the first airline to use rapid on-site COVID-19 tests on passengers. This is not only to promote the safety of others but to “provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates, ” providing yet another glimpse into our pandemic-conscious future.
As event and marketing professionals, we will do everything in our power to keep audiences and event staff safe. But even with strict social distancing and hygiene compliance coupled with technology and testing, transmission still might occur. In those cases, brands and agencies will need to mitigate risk.
Event Manager Blog recently published a “non-exhaustive list” of insurance coverage considerations, which include:
In this new world, worker’s compensation alone won’t cut it. For those who choose to forge ahead, there is little doubt that beefed-up insurance coverage will need to be added to the “Health and Safety” line item on event budgets.
Faced with many unknowns, everyone in the event world is rethinking, reimagining, and reinventing brand experiences. Brands and marketers understand the inherent power of experiential and the human need for physical experiences, and it is up to us to ensure their survival. How we will get there remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that the destination remains both in reach and in sight.
What do you believe will be the greatest change in experiential due to the pandemic? Let us know!