Brand experiences in a post-Covid world

Guinness World Records' Neil Foster on how the past and present will shape the future

Marketers have been posed with a wealth of creative challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic and those wanting to create effective brand experiences for their targeted audiences have been most affected.

In a world where major events have been cancelled globally, the industry has had no option but to shift strategies to a virtual world. This rapid pivot to digital has seen brands using technology to enter our everyday lives in a way that has never been seen before. Take Brewdog in the UK for example, which launched its own online bar as an alternative to a Friday night out - and Nike, who offered free exclusive access to training, health, and fitness content to its subscribers.

We have also seen major music events taking place behind closed doors and becoming ‘inclusive’ to the world rather than ‘exclusive’ – an example is the One World concert where everyone from Mick Jagger to Lady Gaga performed, and two Guinness World Records titles were achieved in the process.



We are still on a path of discovery to see how this dramatic shift will shape brand interactions in the future. What is clear, however, is that the pandemic is not just a period that has scuppered marketing plans and driven creativity online – but an influence which will remain with us for many years to come. In this unusual and uncertain world, record-breaking has been of particular relevance for brands.


Being ‘the best in the world’ at something fascinates people globally - and provides a true competitive advantage highlighting the unique attributes of a brand or service. We have seen brands and businesses wanting to work with us on campaigns which virtually and globally bring their audiences together at this challenging time - achieving collective goals and spreading a little joy, whilst driving sales.

Crowdfunder is a great example of a brand which we worked with over the lockdown period when they attempted to achieve the title for ‘Most users to visit a virtual pub’. The activity was coordinated using Zoom and a linked bespoke platform, which allowed large numbers of people to be brought together during the peak of the pandemic in the UK. People were encouraged to have a virtual pint and raise money for their local pub and the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal. The online event was hosted by a wealth of famous comedians, raising over £32,000.


A great example of a brand bringing some good to the world in the midst of lockdown. Yet, the steep and rapid learning curve that brands have embraced around tech over lockdown is still very much alive and kicking – and as an industry, we are continuously learning. As we travel even further down the digital path, we will see brands getting more creative and the lines between experiential, digital and other disciplines becoming distinctly blurred.

Over the lockdown period, we have also seen a huge shift in consumer behaviour – our lives have changed in so many ways, from the way that we work, shop, interact, and even entertain. Having a plethora of digital content at our fingertips, or live streamed into our living rooms, has now become the norm and consumers will expect this to still be available even after the pandemic.


We have also seen certain social media platforms exploding in popularity due to the entertaining and visual content that they can provide. Take video sharing app, TikTok for example, who has achieved a record 200 million downloads in the first quarter of this year, making it a must-have destination for brands. Guinness World Records has seen particular success on TikTok with 9.1 million followers and is now the UK’s biggest brand on the platform. Yet all of this digital excitement certainly does not signal the death of the live event – it is most likely the beginning of an evolution and a new normal way of operating.

One learning that has come from the whole lockdown period is how much we value real world experiences. The emotional connection that we get as a result of ‘being there’ is just not replicable virtually, especially when it comes to gigs, festivals or sporting fixtures.



Once mass gatherings are deemed safe again then this emotional need will help the industry to bounce back and become stronger than ever. Mintel also predicts that as we exit lockdown, whether at home or not, consumers will be driven to try out new, exciting experiences and seek out brands that bring them an opportunity to try them. As we move into the future, expect to see more hybrid events as brands reap the benefits of both on and offline channels – a fusion of live and digital which use AI, AR, live streams and other tech to involve the world, not just attendees in an activation. Effective brands will engage their audiences in the real world through experiential - and then follow them into their car, homes and workplace, through digital and back again seamlessly.

Brands will build memories that will live on after the event as well as engaging with audiences who couldn't be there. Expect photo albums, quizzes, videos, live streams and vox-pops which will all help to straddle the fence between a virtual and live world’. Once the pandemic period is over, we expect that these online record titles will continue to be popular, with several clients already booked in for virtual attempts in 2021. Our offering will become a portfolio of live and online events that clients can mix and match or even combine, depending on their wider objectives. Brands will also continue to use our attempts as a great foundation for a PR stunt - with the jeopardy of ‘will they or won’t they’ creating suspense and ‘stickier’ viewing, as audiences wait in anticipation for the final result. The compelling short form content, which is generated, is also ideal for digital channels as it can be shared and viewed over and over again.

We know that our live events will return to the fore once the pandemic is over, but these will also evolve in line with the industry. We expect exciting, ‘edge of your seat’ live moments, supplemented by strong digital outreach - helping everyone in the world to feel that they are part of an incredible achievement.

This article came from issue 8 of Marketing Society publication Empower. Read the archive here.


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