Alex Keech, executive producer at brand experience agency George P. Johnson, explores what the reopening will mean for the events sector and how the emotional hangover from the pandemic could impact consumer behaviour.
The main concern surrounding the events industry post-covid is what the future will look like. Although we’ve shifted more towards online and hybrid activities, it’s clear from the increased social interactions over the last few weeks that the need for interaction has not been dampened by the pandemic. If anything, the pandemic has opened our eyes to the importance of interacting with others and experiencing life beyond the confinement of our homes.
Accelerated societal shifts and experiences
As we slowly try to return to some sort of normality, there are obviously numerous aspects of events that will have changed. For example, the health and safety concerns surrounding events are more heightened than ever.
There will most certainly be a period of readjustment as we begin interacting with those outside our immediate circle, visiting crowded events, and socialising at work offices. Unsurprisingly, audiences will remain somewhat cautious regardless of the amount of safety measures taken. The emotional hangover from the pandemic will be long-lasting.
The prolonged period of lockdown has also made audiences more self-aware in terms of what channels they prefer to consume through. People now have a better understanding of what suits them most and how they are happiest consuming content – which allows brands to further target their audience.
These accelerated societal shifts may mean brands and agencies now have a new set of audience considerations, but these new opportunities are a chance for brands to embrace the change and produce the best experiences possible.
Brand considerations post-lockdown
Although the UK has prolonged removing the final restrictions, there is no doubt that brands will need to manage risk and reward alongside this new set of considerations. People will be eager to socialise and enjoy their freedom, while also ensuring they are staying safe and responsible.
The key to a brand’s success is making sure they are organised while working in a fast-paced environment and able to deliver relevant experiences for audiences. Brands should be focusing on how their audience will want to interact with them given the circumstances and should work alongside agencies early. This will keep them prepared for any changes (which we now know is a constant factor) and so they can deliver their best creative work.
Audiences will be assessing whether the events are worth the risk, depending on how safe an environment is and how far along vaccine roll outs are. There will evidently be a need for different approaches depending on the age group. The younger generation seem more excited for social interaction while some others may feel more cautious and anxious about returning to large-scale events. Brands need to think about how each audience will react and ensure they engage with each age group differently.
The return of events will be a slow process and may take some time to readjust. The last 18 months of uncertainty will have a lasting effect on how people engage with brands, and some are increasingly anxious about resuming normal life. There is already a transition period as lockdown eases and events have begun to take place, albeit with smaller groups of people.
Creating brand experiences during a global pandemic has been difficult but it’s exciting to see a move in the right direction. Recovery looks promising and even exciting as we’re conversing with clients more and more each day at full speed ahead. Events are being planned, commitments are being made and life seems to be confident returning to somewhat normal. The hybrid events will reshape the future of the events industry as we may witness some risk but the greater the risk, the greater the reward.