In with the new

With spring already underway and longer evenings approaching, there seems to be hope on the horizon in the UK. This, along with the announcement that the government is moving to lift restrictions on social gatherings and events by the summer, has prompted independent marketing agency iD to examine what audiences will be looking for from brands as they begin to re-engage with live experiences.

iD ran a survey of 340 UK consumers to gather tangible insight on audiences’ wants and needs. The findings have been compiled into an in-depth report: ‘Redefining Consumer Experiences Post-Lockdown’, which can be viewed in full here. The survey, which exclusively targeted consumers between the ages of 18 – 54, found that:

● 84% of UK consumers want to try new brand experiences post-lockdown.

While the nation is hopeful for some of our old normality back, consumers will also be demanding fresh new experiences; being cooped up and made to live with our usual creature comforts I think has made us hanker after adventure when things eventually reopen.

● 65% of the public want to attend a festival or outdoor market as their main experience.

This is unsurprising with sunnier weather on the way. The foodservice and catering sector has taken a major blow during the pandemic so I can imagine consumers will be wanting to support these businesses as much as possible, especially if they are small, local businesses or even startups. There’s definitely room for showcasing innovation in food and drink as events like festivals and markets open again to the public. iD comments that brands need to be seen where their audiences are, rather than adopting a ‘build it and they will come’ approach. This is something that brands will need to consider when deciding on how to activate new campaigns.

● 55% of consumers have planned events and experiences for summer 2021

I myself have optimistically booked in a weekend away (still in the UK) for September, and the past few weeks I’ve received a couple of updated wedding invitations too. Booking is going to be key as things reopen and with that, events may come with a more exclusive feel that brands can tap into.

● 7/10 respondents say that digital experiences do not compare to the real thing.

The industry has been incredibly resilient with offering digital experiences but clearly I’m not alone in experiencing fatigue from doing everything online. Although perhaps this is where AI is really going to excel, providing consumers with new and unusual experiences while still remaining Covid secure, which links to the final main finding that:

● 59% of respondents stated that they wanted Covid protection measures at any brand experience they attend this summer.

I can only agree with that 59%. Safety and hygiene is obviously going to be paramount as we move out into the open again, but in terms of packaging, companies are going to have to innovate to come up with solutions that fit both safety and sustainability credentials, especially with food and drink to-go. We’ve already covered some of these innovations at FDT, such as Radnor and Tetra Pak’s straw-free, vitamin D flavoured water; EcoTensil’s plastic-free paperboard cutlery; and Greiner Packaging’s recyclable in-cup drinks packaging being used by Brupac, and I expect we’ll see an even bigger surge in packaging news on the website in the coming months.

Food and drink is clearly essential to the enjoyment of any event and I think brands are really going to have to be playful with new releases and campaigns when restrictions ease, but it will also be a tough balance to get right. People will want excitement and new experiences but some of us will come out of the UK’s third lockdown tentatively, like stumbling out of a long hibernation.

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