Jeff Harrow: Five Bets to Make in 2015

January 07, 2015 | B2B B2C

In experiential marketing, we don’t ease. Into anything. Especially into a new year. We reset the calendar with a boom: It’s CES time.

I’m on my way to the airport, hopping a flight to this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show. And since I’m already in a Vegas State of Mind, I’m going to throw down a few bets… on 2015. Whether you’re heading to CES or not, here’s a taste of where I’m placing my chips this year.

I’m Betting on the “Other” Consolidation.

For years the industry has equated “consolidation” with working with fewer partners. In 2015 we’ll see the “other” consolidation begin, as marketers take multiple events and combine them. In b-to-b, tech companies are merging developer’s conferences while financial-services companies consolidate investor meetings. In b-to-c, shopper experiences are now activating multiple brands in singular stores while others are combining several national tours into more powerful “super experiences” that reach more people with more immersive engagements. This is a seismic shift for an industry that has always had “lots of moving parts” but is now seeing the value of doing fewer but bigger things.

I’m Betting on Content Redistribution.

Experiential marketing has emerged as an incredible platform for capturing content—for the rest of the marketing mix. Tradeshow booths are serving as recording studios for YouTube videos. General session keynotes at b-to-b events are being captured and redistributed as investor briefings, sales overviews and employee messages. And all of Bud Light’s Super Bowl TV spots (cost: $4 million per 30 secs, each) were comprised entirely of content captured at, that’s right, an event. In 2015, I’m betting that live events become a leading and larger feeder of content to advertising, social media sites, media billboards, viral videos, and more.

I’m Betting on Unmanned Experiences.

Oculus Rift chairs, social walls, gesture media and event wearables. Motion detection, location detection, engagement detection. Say good bye to many of your brand ambassadors and embrace “the machine” as your greatest interactive channel. The event and exhibit experiences of 2015 are being designed around attendee-triggered interactives and anchored by unmanned technologies that attendees start and end on their own.

I’m Betting on Living, Breathing Retail.

More store environments are getting reinvented as destinations that draw shoppers in and keep them engaged, not for seconds—but for minutes and even hours. The goal isn’t merely to just sell a product, but to create a relationship with someone that will buy that day… and forever. The latest crop of retail stores also provides training and instruction on products and services and are designed more as a place to stay than a place to visit.

And I’m Betting on Bigger But Better Spends.

Initial (and early) projections from several sources point to a 13%-to-16% spending lift this year. Brands will benefit from bigger spends, but I’m betting on a bigger return being delivered by better events. The 2015 experiential budget is a tighter expenditure than I saw in 2014, as brands focus on making dollars “work harder.” Delivering added reach while generating deeper engagement. Driving better leads while creating more transparent measurement. Designing exhibits and event environments that drive new customers and repeat customers to a product or service—at the same time.

All in, 2015 looks to be the year that smarter programs get deployed by smarter brands. We’re thrilled to be powering many of them—and while I have more to say….I have a flight to catch. Safe betting and on behalf of the Sparks team, happy new year to you and yours. – J.H.

Posted by Jeffrey Harrow | Request as a Speaker