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Beyond the ballpit — Imagination 2020 trend

23 January 2020

From frivolity to authenticity

As part of our series exploring the major experience trends of 2020, Senior Creative Strategist, Nick Blenkarne, looks at how brands can remain credible in a world of viral experiences.

Because brand experiences often require significant investment, increased pressure is understandably being put on measuring their commercial return. Which, much like in the world of online advertising, has led to the fetishisation of reach metrics. Brands are desperate for the next viral experience.

Off the back of successful work by artists with credible bodies of work — think Yayoi Kusama and her Infinity Mirrored Room or the Rain Room at MoMA — the past few years have seen swathes of artistic appropriation leading to the proliferation of branded mirror rooms desperately trying to appeal to GenZ and young Millennials. And when combined with the influencer-fuelled selfie-factories (cheers Museum of Ice Cream et al), a propagation of ball pits. But consumers are getting wise to this, seeing through inauthentic pastiches. In a recent study, 57% of respondents indicated that less than half of brand created content resonates as authentic. But 90% of people say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.

Who did it well?

Pernod Ricard x Boiler Room

Four Days. One city. No headliners. This October, Pernod Ricard partnered with Boiler Room to launch a music festival with a difference. A four-day event across Peckham Levels covered jazz, rap, bass and club, each paired with an associated Pernod Ricard brand - Beefeater Gin, Jameson, Ballantine’s and Absolut brands respectively.

Part of Pernod Ricard’s "Créateurs de convivialité" strategy, which centres on uniting people for intimate, authentic, shared moments. By forging a strategic partnership with a credible music brand that also happens to be a broadcaster, they were able to effectively pool marketing spend, achieve an incredible experience for 20,000 people over 4 days, and reach a much wider audience beyond through content created.

Matches Fashion

Matches Fashion is a global e-commerce fashion giant. Last year it bought Carlos Place — a four-storey townhouse in West London that is part store, part broadcasting hub. The two bottom floors are dedicated to retail and the top housing a small café and an events space. In the past year it’s run over 130 events, ranging from intimate dinners and cocktail parties to floristry classes and most recently a Hot Chip gig. Rather than focus on insta-ready vistas that have no meaning it has a clear purpose. Enable content creation that will be shared across its website and social channels, globally. Matches measures the success of Carlos Place not just in terms of impressions, but footfall and sales through the till. In the first year of Carlos Place’s existence, the company grew its customer base in terms of new customers by more than 32%.

MLB London Yards

This summer, Major League Baseball created an experience that struck the balance between being authentic to baseball but also, appealing to the cultural passion points of a new, UK audience. London Yards was a festival with a programme of content-driven events at its heart- but the content was relevant to baseball and the emotions baseball releases, not cool photos that serve influencers more than the public. From the world’s first indoor Home Run Derby that was live streamed on Twitter to 1.3 million viewers, to performances from UK grime artists Lady Leshurr and Nadia Rose. Cultural media partnerships were also used to amplify moments - Highsnobiety partnered with streetwear brand ‘47 to capture content and tell the London Yards story.

With a total reach of 12.3m, and 550k engagements, the content-first experience approach made sure the story reached the largest amount of new gen fans possible, in a way that spoke authentically to their interests, bringing new people into MLB.

What to consider — three key insights

Find original ways of achieving authentic reach from experiences — through partnerships, building broadcast moments and by placing content opportunities at the centre.

  1. ROI is important, but not at the expense of trying new things

  2. Find original ways of achieving authentic reach from experiences — through partnerships, building broadcast moments and by placing content opportunities at the centre.

  3. Don’t underestimate the power of PR to amplify an experience

Click here to explore the other major trends shaping the world of experience in 2020.