Budgets for experiential marketing are growing, though quantifying the value of live events remains a challenge. A clear majority of both brand-side and agency pros believe that diversity and inclusion are important in event strategy, but both groups also feel they are doing a pretty good job in this area.
The team at Agency EA surveyed more than 600 event professionals to get their thoughts about budgets, trends, tactics, and more on experiential marketing in 2020. Just over half were from agency side. Roughly a third focused on B2B events; about a quarter worked mainly on B2C gatherings; and the rest were involved in both.
The 41-page report is loaded with insights and well worth a read in its entirety. But here are a few of the key findings that jumped out at us.
Budgets Are Increasing, But Metrics Remain a Challenge
- More than half of both brand-side and agency event marketers say their budgets have grown over the past three years, and they anticipate additional increases over the next 18 months.
- Excluding "unknown" answers, nearly a third of brand event marketers said they allocated 20% or more of their total marketing budgets to experiential, and almost half spend at least 15% on events.
- 57% of brand event pros say budget increases are coming from new dollars (that is, larger overall marketing budgets) while a third say funds for experiential are being reallocated from other marketing tactics—reinforcing the growing importance of face-to-face marketing in an increasingly online world.
- Challenges remain, however. 69% of respondents say they struggled to prove the ROI of events; 55% find it difficult to prove the value of events and experiential marketing to the C-suite; and 44% are challenged to secure sufficient budget.
Online Tactics Play a Key Role in Real-World Event Marketing Success
- Events play a key role in both delivering and producing content. 60% of brand event pros agree or strongly agree that companies "should leverage content generated from an event long after it has been executed."
- 68% say that "extending an event's reach through online conversation is imperative to the success of experiential strategy."
- The most common channels used for pre- and post-event communication are email (82%), social media (79%), and a dedicated event website (65%).
- Events have to provide Instagram-able moments. 73% (the largest share of respondents, by far) cited share-worthy environments and photo backdrops as the top tactic "to generate or facilitate online conversation around events."
Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability Matter—A Lot
- Roughly two-thirds of respondents from both the brand and agency sides said that diversity and inclusion (in attendees and speaker line ups) are "important" or "very important." Fortunately, about 60% of both groups believe they doing a good or excellent job of incorporating diversity and inclusion into their event strategies.
- The top three areas of efforts in this regard, on both the brand and agency sides, are the composition of speaker line ups; making venues and activities accessible; and food and beverage (e.g., vegan and gluten-free options).
- Interestingly, while 60% of brand-side event planners called sustainability "important" or "very important," only 40% of agency respondents agreed. Still, about half of the professionals in each group feel they are doing a good job with it.
- Both groups agree that two of the top practices for incorporating sustainability into events are attendee swag and providing on-site recycling. Policies on swag range from outright bans to encouraging high-value swag attendees are unlikely to simply discard to encouraging the use of memorable experiences over physical giveaways.
There is much more. Again, the 2020 State of Experiential Research Study from Agency EA is well worth reading in its entirety. Increasing budgets, more use of online tactics to support offline events, and the growing importance of diversity and sustainability are just a few of the key findings reported.