The mixture of real and digital participation in events was the exception before Corona and is now forced to become the norm. As the virus continues to dominate our daily lifes this year, you don't have to be a prophet to predict that the virtualization of brand experiences that were once purely physical will continue.
Speaking of Epic, a much noticed and all-virtual event last year was Ariana Grande's "Rift Tour" on Fortnite. There were also remarkable virtual brand experiences in 2021, such as BMW's "Joytopia" on the occasion of IAA Mobility or the opening of "Nikeland" on Roblox. "Nikeland” resembles the sporting goods company's actual headquarters, and visitors can use their fitness trackers to incorporate real-world movements into their virtual online game.
However, my prediction for 2022 and beyond is that before an all-encompassing Metaverse emerges, we will first see the augmentation of existing realities, meaning a massive increase in AR applications at events and brand experiences. ABBA is leading the way with "Voyage." Voyage is not only the title of their album 40 years after its last release, but also the name of an undoubtedly revolutionary concert experience: advance sales for the performance of the "ABBAtars" together with a ten-person live band in front of a real audience in a specially built concert arena in London in May have already started.
The developments described above raise thrilling questions for brand managers and agencies: What new touchpoints need to be added to a customer journey, and where (and how) do these transitions from the virtual to the real world take place? How do we stage a brand sustainably in the virtual space, creating experience, emotionality, and genuine interaction? How do we organize ourselves, which talents will we need, and what do successful business models look like?
Yet, I don't have the answers to all the questions. But I take this development very seriously and see it as an excellent opportunity to establish additional levels for relationship management. And although the basic human need for physical encounters will remain, there will be no return to the former normality, hybrids remains, and virtuality comes - ultimately because of our responsibility to act lastingly.