The long-awaited social occasions of summer 2021 will have a Christmas-like level of emotional and social importance to consumers.
Never before in our lifetimes have so many families and close-knit groups had to wait this long to spend time together.
When the reunions begin this summer, they will have an unprecedented level of ceremony and celebration.
Families and friends in celebration mode could act this out through the social languages of celebratory food and drink – stretching well beyond what’s normal for summer, despite an ongoing recession.
It's time for food & drink brands and retailers to plan ahead and be ready to use experiential marketing to capitalise on this opportunity.
So why are experiences essential to this moment?
1. 'Hold my hand'
The high levels of anxiety reported in the UK in 2019 only worsened in 2020. This summer's rapid 'return to normal' could feel daunting for many, as consumers' ease with social gatherings - planning them and experiencing them - could take time to return.
We want our social moments back, but we need to feel supported and confident to navigate them.
In-store experiences 'walk customers through' summer, showing how it could look and feel, and how it could go well. At an emotionally charged time, experiences can reduce the demand on customers' mental energy.
2. Starved sensibilities
UK consumers have been starved of social interaction, multi-sensory stimuli and sense of place.
Experiences directly address all three of these starved sensibilities, providing an easy (low-stakes) social situation that touches all five senses and makes the store into a more emotional, meaningful place.
Come summer, consumers will be more emotionally responsive to real experience than ever before.
3. The unforgettable summer
'Historic summers' - The Olympics, D-Day, and now Summer 2021 - are passionate, powerful events that become part of our national consciousness. Little moments this summer - and the brands who help make them happen - will drive lasting consumer engagement. The challenge for brands in 2021 will be to link meaningfully into the overarching experience of this cultural moment.
Audiences increasingly value experiences over things**. Now, experiences give brands a direct way into ‘historic summer moments to remember’.
*The Lancet: Mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, 21.07.20
**Forbes: Experiential Marketing Is The Future Of Retail, 30.09.19
Image credit: N2O