THE UNTHINKABLE: Experiential marketing in 2017

Timo Kiuru, award-winning creative director & consultant

Timo Kiuru is an award-winning creative director & consultant, “40 Under 40” Industry Leader 2016 Honoree by Connect Corporate magazine, former television producer, dancer, columnist, contributor for, blogger for The Huffington Post, non-profit fashion brand founder, entrepreneur, author first-ever book written on Experiential Creative Planning and a global citizen originally from Finland.

With over 10 years’ experience in the entertainment and experiential marketing industry, Timo now leads fully integrated projects as a creative consultant and director for cutting-edge brands; creating business-driven, strategic & truly creative campaigns. Timo has worked with the world's leading brands like Samsung, McLaren,Microsoft, Sporty & Rich, Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Highsnobiety and SK-II.

How does the outlook on the global experiential marketing industry look like in 2017?

According to Swedish futurologist Magnus Lindkvist there are only two types of change: vertical and horizontal change.

Vertical change means seeing the same things happening in more and more places. This kind of trendcasting is easy. In the year 2017, there will be another luxury apartment complex built in the Brickell area of Miami, the white dads of Apple will launch an iPhone 8 in California and Korean K-Pop star G-Dragon will release a new hit song again. Vertical change takes place in a world where nothing really changes.

Horizontal change on the other hand is unpredictable, unexpected, and it changes everything.

In 1826, English chemist John Walker was stirring a pot of chemicals when he noticed a dried lump had formed on the end of the mixing stick. Without thinking, he tried to scrape off the dried gob and – all of a sudden – it ignited. Something we now know as a match was born and it changed the lives of people.

In 1998, the scientists at Pfizer laboratories were testing a cardiovascular drug for its ability to lower blood pressure. Soon after the scientists noticed during those trials that patients didn't want to give the medication back – because is had another side effect. Viagra was born and it changed everything for its 35 million users and their partners.

Approximatelty ten years later two guys decided to get drunk in Paris, weren’t able to get a taxi and came up with an idea. Boom! An American multinational online transportation network company known as Uber was born.

Vertical change takes place in a world of constant change. Vertical change lives in the fringes, especially amongst the rebels and misfits. It happens when something we thought wasn’t possible, becomes a reality. I believe we are facing a year of dysrhythmia, 2017 is a year of horizontal and vertical change. A future where the expected and unexpected things happen.

“The revolutionary movement grows extremely slowly and with difficulty. There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.”, stated vladimir ilyich lenin ten decades ago.

The question is, what will change and what will remain the same?

There are two megatrends that will continue to intensify and gain ground in 2017.

One. Agencies, brands and eventprofs will continue to use, experiment and integrate artificial reality technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality into their tools and campaigns.

Two. Smart phones will be the main channel worldwide to connect the organizers of the event with the attendees of event before, during and after the campaign.

How does the campaign look through the camera and the screen of a phone?

These two trends will dominate our industry in 2017 and beyond. But let’s take a look at more evolving and silent changes and signals affecting our industry.

A. The emerging death of VIPs
As social media influencers have became more and more influential, it has become moreand more difficult for brands to differentiate who they should invite to their corporate events, especially launch events. It used to be easy: they would invite the biggest clients, press, and partners. But then the social media influencers took over, they came outside the industry but were so influential they couldn’t be ignored. Social media influencers became the grey are between Business to Business- and Business to Consumers — attendees.

Transparency and organic living! That’s something people also strive for in 2017. Brands want to be seen, not hide behind the scenes. Every brand can be a media house in this age of immediancy. All of us desperately long for something that feels real, something we can truly believe in, no more phony tricks and stunts. Modern experiential marketing is transparent and organic.

We’ve already seen a seismic shift in a traditionally VIP-driven industry like fashion, and will continue see similar movements in even more traditional industries like tech or cars later. The gaming industry has a whole different type of distribution, which seems to be already there, the leading gaming events are designed for the gamers, not gatekeepers. Let’s face it, having a VIP section at your event is pretty 2000. And let’s stop calling customers consumers in 2017, let’s show some respect and call them customers.

In 2017 smart brands will focus on the people who actually buy the product or service.

B. Less all-male panels

”Your own acts tell the world who you are and what kind of society you think it should be. One small act is worth a million thoughts.” AI WEI WEI

”You might not be able to change the world, but you can set set an example and inspire the one who will” ALVAR AALTO & 2PAC

According to data from Peterson Institute for International Economics businesses led by women are more profitable than the ones led by men. However according to different studies approximately only 3-5 % of CEOs in publicly traded companies are women.

It’s shocking to see how many eventprofs still organize events with dominantly male speaker panels alongside agencies who are run by only men. It’s 2017, isn’t there anyone else we can learn from?

Some people have asked me, am I as feminist? No, I just detest bullies.

We all have the power to change the world, think about how you use yours.

C. See now, buy now – experiments

More and more launch events are becoming a direct sales platform for companies. When people see the product, they want to buy it staight away, and not wait for days, let alone weeks before being able to purchase it.

Brands like Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have already staged their first shopable runway shows, and I believe more traditional industries will follow in 2017. This is naturally a huge opportunity for all the believers of measuring IROI, Immediate Return On Investment. New technology will blur the line between online shopping and a brand experince.

D. Experiential live streams

Most brands considered live streams as something secondary in 2016, some brands didn’t even consider live streams at all. In 2017, more eventprofs will acknowledge the importance of experiential live streams.

An experiential live stream is an experience of its own. The same rules apply to planning a live stream experience, as to planning a face-to-face experience. We want to participate, feel special, and belong to a community.

We’re perfectly happy watching Super Bowl on TV but we don’t want to watch other people watching Super Bowl. I hope more eventprofs will understand the subtle difference. Let’s make more experiential and immersive live streams in 2017.

Let’s make more experiential and immersive live streams in 2017.

E. The rise of minimal design and natural materials

We live in a world of clutter and information overload. Minimalism is an anti-trend of clutter and excess that occupy our senses and mind. What if people join the event because they want to experience less and escape the world of sensory overload?

I think broadly speaking design is becoming simpler. We need fewer and fewer things. We desire more physicality and a higher quality of things. We all want to be connected to the nature, although more are more people are moving to the cities in every corner of the earth. This affects the way we design experiences. Already now, we’ve seen how Apple’s new flagship store was a combination of minimal design principles and using natural materials, how design agencies like Snarkitecture are making a lot of noise by creating immersive and minimal installations, and how brands like Muji have proven that minimal design can be good business.

A minimalist can be defined as someone who prefers the minimal amount or degree of something – to get the task or job done. From a business point of view, minimalism is productivity.

I believe we’ll see more of minimal event design and more use of natural materials at events in 2017.

So the question is what’s next?

What’s the best way to be prepared and foresee the longterm view to the future of our industry.

The future of any industry is for those who create, not for those who compete. It’s not important to understand the future it’s important to create it. The only way to know if something works is by giving it a try. True in life and in business.

Head towards the fringes, towards the unthinkable. One day someone will come up with something unexpected, something that will change everything. The truth is out there.

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