Top 10 Experiential Marketing Trends to Expect in 2016

Calum McGuigan is the President at Fervent Events, an experiential marketing agency based in Toronto, Ontario which operates all over Canada.  Here, he provides his top 10 experiential marketing trends to expect in 2016, exclusively for Creative Guerrilla Marketing.

1) Increased Budgets

Expect to see more, higher quality activations. In 2013 experiential marketing budgets grew by 7.9% and then a further 5% in 2014. Budgeting figures aside, it’s obvious even to the naked eye. Five years ago simple kiosk set ups were a customary sight in malls or festivals. Simple is now a thing of the past, technology, engagement and social are integrated into all activations. These advancements are a direct reflection of money now spent in the industry.

2) Subsequently; Expect Increased Permit Costs 

Permit costs at private property’s, malls, festivals, events and trade shows seem to be like housing prices, they increase exponentially.  Event planners and property groups are realizing the true value of experiential marketing vs. old cash cows like arbitrary sponsorship levels. We have noticed activation permits increase by over 200% in 5 years at some locations.  Fervent Events paid one property group $2000 in 2010 for a one-day activation.  That location is now $4500.

3) Bigger Brands Will Continue to Combine PR with Experiential Marketing

It’s the ideal way to create their own engagement story. Neither service is an expert in each other, but both are friends in commerce for life.  PR & experiential marketing agencies/departments creating strategic partnerships, is mutually beneficial.  Red Bull have been doing this for years.

4) Differentiation Between Social & Experiential

On the back of #3 it’s important to note PR & experiential are friends in commerce, but friendship that still needs work.  In the past some companies have created a 5-minute stunt purely for social buzz.  To me, this isn’t experiential, it’s purely a social campaign.  The relationship between PR & experiential will flourish when PR comes after the experiential.  Let the marketers produce a program….tag PR on the back of it. Not vice versa.  This is starting to happen.

5) Experiential Marketing Will Continue to Integrate Sales

Experiential marketing programs often have a sales component, and it’s murky.  This is a result of experiential marketing still being a relatively new industry, and needing to show ROI. Even though traditional media can rarely prove direct ROI and never has, experiential was shaped in a modern marketing age.  TV, radio and for many parts print media still get away with no direct ROI being attributed to them, well, because ‘it’s always been that way’.  However, brand ambassadors have supportive tools like ipads and POS software.  This means more often than not a ‘sign up’ component is integrated making campaigns all the more accountable.

6) Out with The Old

Expect to see less photo booths and charging stations. These are great tools, personally I’m a big fan of photo booths, however they were exhausted in 2014 & 2015, in the same manner the QR code was exhausted in 2013 & 2014.

7) In with The New

Mobile truck activations and refurbished shipping containers made a splash in 2015, this summer they’ll be even more apparent.  This is both a wow and $$$ factor.  A mobile pop up (truck) can go direct to a target demo and it’s much more economical than a 1-month 2000sq ft pop up lease.  Pop up shops are great, but do it right they’re expensive.  The refurbished shipping containers also provide that urban cool feeling, which looks less corporate, less planned and more hip.  And that’s what people want to connect with.

8) Brand Ambassadors will become Brand Advocates

We know what brand ambassadors are, and we know what student influencers are.  Brand advocates is what we all marketers want, people to represent the brand onsite during activations (as a paid brand ambassador) and online at other times (as a paid influencer).

9) Olympics 2016 & Euro 2016, The Perfect Guerrilla Marketing Opportunity…or not

Publicity stunts at mega events are a thing of the past. Increased security due to political factors would (a) make guerrilla marketing difficult (b) frown heavily upon anything that was implemented. Risk now outweighs reward. Only 6 years ago a Dutch beer made waves at the World Cup in South Africa with an in stadium stunt.  At 2004 Olympics Golden Palace also made some waves.  I wouldn’t expect anything similar at this summers two mega events.

1) Another 1000+ New Companies Will Launch Tomorrow…

Our industry continues to grow. Six years ago I knew most companies in Canada, Google searches now show new companies monthly it seems. Why? Integrated marketing agencies are creating experiential divisions; ambitious marketers are going solo (little start up costs / equipment needed); younger graduates who have grown up with smartphones and experiential have fresh, relatable insight; remember point one – budgets are growing! 

Written by Calum McGuigan

Calum McGuigan is the President of Fervent Events.

Fervent Events is a guerrilla marketing company based in Toronto, Ontario. Fervent offers strategically conceived B2C campaigns, for any budget. They explore, develop and implement engaging plans of action, designed to increase immediate brand awareness and leave a memorable impression.

Calum moved to Toronto in 2006 after graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BA (Hons) Events Management degree and previously worked as Special Events Officer at Daily Bread Food Bank for 2.5 years. -

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