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9 Experiential Marketing Trends That Will Shape 2021

When the Coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world in early 2020, no one knew what to expect. Some thought it would all be over in two weeks, others started bulk buying food and toilet paper as though the apocalypse was on its way. 

Although we were not ambushed by an apocalypse, our way of life did change at an exponential rate. The common thread that we have been hearing from people throughout this pandemic is “I can’t wait till we can see people again” because ultimately, humans are social beings who thrive on connection. 

However, what the pandemic has proven to us is that we are a resourceful bunch of people. In many ways, people have stayed connected through things like zoom and social media throughout this time, for some even more connected than they ever were before. In the world of marketing, experiential marketing techniques adapted to the situation. Brands were still able to engage and connect with their customers in different ways. 

XM trends for 2021: Top predictions you should be aware of

1. Brand experiences in unique places

Many marketing teams think bigger is better, but this is not always the case. For example, the kind of brand experience that is created in Times Square in New York or Leicester Square in London have been done time and time again and are rarely innovative as they are not new and therefore are not always exciting. 

Moreover, the pandemic meant that large groups of people could not gather in these kinds of places anyway, as large-scale events have been banned for some time. Marketing teams, therefore, had to get creative in their settings in 2020, which we hope will continue into 2021. 

Finding and utilizing unique places for their experiential marketing is going to be an exciting prospect for marketing teams in 2021. Think abandoned rooftops, warehouses, museums, farms or outdoor remote places like beaches, parks, mountain tops, etc. 

These are the kinds of places that marketing teams should be focusing their attention on. The venue may not be small (in size) but the number of people walking through it at one time may be to make the event safer and more exclusive! 

Not only will it create a completely unique experience, it will also allow you to create more personalized experiences as they will be more intimate spaces where those who attend will hopefully be eager to directly interact and engage with your brand.

2. Sustainability

Something that all marketing teams are aware of is the need to align your brand with causes that not only the brand supports, but their customers are also passionate about. This allows the brand to connect with their customers as their shared values are appreciated. 

In this 21st century climate, environmental issues are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It’s therefore essential for brands to engage with this issue. If brands are actively damaging the environment, it will do nothing but work against them. We are therefore likely to see marketing teams begin to highlight the need for sustainability. 

This emphasis on sustainability can manifest in different ways. One method that will likely be front and center in 2021 will be the emphasis on using recycled materials and creating things that can be recycled. Other ways that sustainability may take center stage could be brands releasing their carbon footprint data to highlight the work they’ve been doing behind the scenes to help the environment. 

Here are a few ways to make XM events more sustainable: 

  • Work with local vendors 
  • Use and provide environmentally friendly materials during events (compostable cups and utensils, etc.)
  • Add recycling bins so that customers can dispose of used materials in an environmentally friendly way
  • Go digital (tickets, rewards, etc.) 

3. Touchless Experiential Marketing

Touchless experiential marketing existed prior to the pandemic but its popularity greatly increased this year due to safety concerns. As suggested in the name, touchless experiences do not require any contact outside of maybe your smartphone, but even this is not always a necessity. 

Touchless experiences can be as simple as pressurized flooring. This can be utilized, as was done by Aero in London’s Westfield, to track the number of passers-by and hand out prizes depending on how many people have passed by. 

Alternatively, touchless experiences can link up screens and smartphones, and can even sometimes detect body movement to transform the everyday into something impressive in the digital sphere. Consumers will get to experience in-person events that turn into digital experiences in real-time right in front of their eyes.

4. Public installations & art installations

Public and art installations are two forms of experiential marketing that will likely thrive in 2021, due to what they can bring to the community. Both kinds of installations offer different things, however, both work to uplift communities, whether that be in a practical way, or a more emotional way that can help with issues such as mental health. 

Public installations can help out communities in a practical way. For example, a brand could place solar-powered lights in parks, on football fields or basketball courts, or could offer entertainment, music installation or washrooms in parks as they are more and more popular to meet up while staying socially distanced. 

Public installations will place your brand directly at the center of these communities and they will associate the help that they are getting with your brand. 

Art installations, on the other hand, are not as practically useful, but they are extremely impressive and will add a burst of something new and exciting into communities. Art installations vary greatly, as they always reflect the specific thing that the brand is trying to promote at the time, therefore the possibilities are endless. 

The reason these work so well as marketing tools is because they are something extraordinary in an ordinary place so they grab people’s attention. It’s also a brilliant way to create generated content as individuals take pictures with the art and post them on social media, subsequently widening your brand’s reach.

5. 3 Cs: Community, community, community

The importance of community was arguably the most valuable lesson learned throughout the pandemic. Across the globe, we saw images and read stories of how communities were banding together to overcome the issues raised by the pandemic. 

The focus shifted from a global investment to a local investment as those closest to us became the people that we thought about the most and wanted to help. Brands have to recognize this appreciation for community

Similarly to public installations, if brands can directly insert themselves into communities and run experiential marketing campaigns on a series of smaller community-level basis, they will be extremely successful. This may mean running many small activations as opposed to one pow-wow, but it will ensure you reach an optimum number of people and that they all directly engage with your brand.

6. Pop ups

Our first prediction for 2021 is that the experiential marketing field will see a rise in the popularity of pop ups. They are becoming increasingly relevant with the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic. Pop-ups are a great way for e-commerce businesses to connect with consumers directly. 

Pop ups can be anything from an Instagram-worthy cafe that’s only going to be around for a month or a limited edition pop up shop that focuses on a specific theme. They’re brilliant forms of experiential marketing due to the buzz they create. If people know it’s only going to be there for a limited amount of time, they are eager to get in on the experience, as it may never pop up again. 

To make pop-ups covid-safe, businesses should follow local safety guidelines and put in place line control to respect social distancing measures.

7. Food experiences

Food experiences are always a great idea. Whether you’re relying solely on the food itself for the experience or integrating it into your pop up or event, it’s a great way to get people excited! 

At the end of the day, food is always an attractive prospect, especially if it’s free. Offering people free food will draw them to you and from there you can put in the work to sell your brand. This will help you attract people who might have otherwise not had any interest in your brand.

8. AR & VR technologies

If you want to firmly place your brand in the 21st century technological age, AR and VR technologies are the way to go. These kinds of technologies create a blended experience as they combine the virtual and physical world to create a completely unique and immersive experience. 

Both AR and VR can be used at in-person events in order to create an exciting experience within the wider event. However, they can also be used at home, which is why many companies chose this form of marketing during the pandemic. 


If you’re organizing an in-person event then AR should be favored in covid times given its touchless characteristics. VR is difficult to manage during the pandemic as it requires shared equipment. However, it will likely see a rise post covid. 

One of the main advantages of VR and AR technologies is that when people are immersed in these virtual worlds, brands can integrate e-commerce strategies into the experience itself. This, therefore, has the ability to be an extremely lucrative option.

9. Advocacy

The final XM trend that we think is going to skyrocket in 2021 is the need for integrating advocacy into the experiential marketing of brands across the globe. 2020 was a time in which social justice was amplified, especially with causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement taking center stage. Brands need to recognize the importance of aligning themselves with causes that matter. 

Younger generations, especially generation z are extremely active in the world of activism, advocacy and social justice and are becoming increasingly aware of the work and efforts brands are doing, or not doing, to aid these causes. They are becoming more and more likely to boycott your brand if you’re not genuinely committed to social causes. 

In order to successfully integrate advocacy into your marketing plan, you need to align your brand with causes with which you genuinely feel a connection to and ensure your actions reflect your words. 

Surely other trends will emerge in 2021 that we have not foreseen, however, the ones that we have listed in this article will surely give much to talk about. The key message to remember is that the success of experiential marketing campaigns lies in focusing on the consumer, knowing what they are looking for, what motivates them, and how to establish a relationship that covers their needs and desires. 

This is achieved with data-driven strategies and industry knowledge and supported by trends like these. If you’re curious about experiential marketing, make sure to regularly check our blog posts to discover new things about the world of XM.