I’ve been hanging out with a lot of people in the marketing industry recently, and have noticed an interesting convergence between how marketers think about live events and how they think about brick-and-mortar retailing. Both are among the most traditional institutions of human society, both have been dramatically disrupted by the digital revolution, and both are being theorized as timeless due to its fulfillment a basic human need for social interaction.
Live events and brick-and-mortar retail converge because effective execution of either requires the utilization of principles from experiential marketing and sensory marketing. Incidentally, many event producers and retailers are also experts in these fields of marketing, as brands count on these professionals to activate their products in front of live audiences. Just as tech professionals innovating ways for humanity to engage digitally, event and retail marketers are innovating ways for people to engage in live settings.
Digital and live doesn’t necessarily have to exist in mutual exclusivity either. Anybody with a smartphone knows that live experiences are often enhanced (though many may argue the opposite) by digital access to unique experiences, whether a geolocation app alerts you to shopping deals nearby, or a social app for an event connects you with friends at a crowded space. The convergence between the digital and physical worlds will grow only stronger as consumer technologies in augmented reality enable us to access digital information more seamlessly in the real world, and virtual reality enable us to access the physical world more digitally. For event producers and retail marketers, these new technologies will present evermore interesting challenges and opportunities for creating immersive experiences and effective marketing activations.
As we look into the future, it is somehow difficult to envision that we will always live in a human world. It tends to be the technological frontiers that grip us and instills in us a combination of intrigue and fear, while the humanity so ingrained in our biology is presumed to just be slowly wilting away to irrelevance. We’ll count on the internet of things to tell us how to live our lives, on artificial intelligence to automate our lives, we’ll become evermore proficient at digital messaging and increasingly less proficient at face to face socialization. Many see technological development as a bleak future, but as I see the world through the lens of event management, our biological humanity is only becoming evermore sophisticated. As we have increased access and options for experiences, we will discover in ourselves needs and wants that we didn’t even know we had.
Human beings will always find ways to interact with one another face to face. If that wasn’t a given, the technology we had 20 years ago would’ve already been more than enough to render the events industry and the brick-and-mortar industry all obsoleted. People just want new kinds of experiences. Richer, more immersive, more direct engagement, and through mediums previously impossible without digital facilitation. Just as television broadcasting brought the sports industry to levels previously unimaginable, all these other mediums for digital engagement will create boundless opportunities for events and retail.
See you at the next exploration!