The New Frontier of Experiential

Mitch explores key macro influences that will shape consumer behaviour in 2021.


Mitch CroweHardy


The New Frontier of Experiential

1 Feb 2021. Written by Mitch Crowe-Hardy, Senior Creative Strategist, Bastion EBA.

This article first appeared in AdNews here.

How brands can interact with consumers in a new frontier of experiential marketing.  

2020 was a year of turmoil, but it was also a year that made people think about what is truly important to them. Conscious consumption came to the fore and beyond the new digital shopping behaviours and consumer price sensitivities that have become a norm, three key macro drivers have become major influences in people’s purchasing decisions and brand affinity.


Driven by the Australian general public’s awareness of the economic effect of COVID-19 on local small to medium businesses (SMB)’s,  the focus has grown significantly from a general, back of mind thought to a leading front of mind consideration. Kantar’s COVID-19 barometer revealed 7/10 Australians are actively buying locally to rally support for SMBs and it’s here to stay moving forward.

Supporting local, whether it be through small decisions like supplier choices through to collaborations and talent, is a new expectation of all brands. Two examples exemplifying this surge in SMB support were the massively popular and positively received AirBnb ‘The Country Pub Project’ and Carlton & United Breweries’ ‘For the Love of Your Local’.


In a new normal where over half of all consumers globally will continue to buy from new brands, McKinsey’s field surveys in 45 countries discovered one of the biggest decision makers in choosing who people purchase from is a brand’s alignment with their personal values.

Accentuated by the early environmental issues, political and racial disruption and pandemic in 2020; seventy percent of consumers now consider buying from brands that represent their personal values. And as 2021 continues this pandemic, political, environmental and social disruption that punctuated 2020 – tangible, authentic CSR initiatives have never been more important. Shifting from a consumer nice to have, to a necessity and core focus.

In 2021 brands must have genuine social responsibility as a core aspect of the customer’s experience. Whether it’s sustainable packaging, supporting social issue groups with purchase donations, or all the way through to an event being carbon neutral.

Identifying key consumer groups’ personal values and having organisations and initiatives aligning to them is the key.


As people were forced indoors during the lockdown, aspects of life that were replicated at home from exercise, to WFH, self-care  and entertainment have created long term changes in the way we live. The home has become a new venue and experiential moment that gives brands great opportunities to bring the brand world and moments into at-home rituals.

The beauty and wellness category changed dramatically. WIth less need to dress up and more importance placed on staying healthy in the convenience of your own home, skin care and mental wellbeing have become major priorities, whilst exercise and the role of gyms and fitness classes will continue to be a mainstay at home.

Beauty and wellness trends of note:

HOME GYMS ARE IN: The brands that can provide goods or services to elevate the home gym experience will reap the benefit of consumers looking to find efficiencies in their daily routine.

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE:  It’s important for brands to find ways they can contribute to down time and create ownable brand moments throughout the day.

At the end of 2020 online fitness company Peloton inked a multi-year agreement with Beyonce Knowles, their most requested workout music artist. Curating a series of themed classes and content for at home spin based workouts.

The fashion and retail category saw a significant uplift in new ways people are purchasing and owning goods.  Fashion has been leading the charge focusing on ecologically minded and seasonless collections, eliminating runway shows, adopting augmented reality collection displays and shopping experiences, and seemingly out of place brand collaborations are driving new, exciting ways for consumers to experience their brands.

Key fashion and retail trends of note:

OUT OF THIS WORLD: It is time for brands to get on the front foot and embrace emerging tech to build never before seen experiences for the Australian market. 2020 accelerated the shift to online shopping by five years (IBM 2020 US Retail Index).  In 2019, according to a Neilsen global survey, AR and VR were the top technologies consumers were seeking for daily life assistance before this acceleration happened. A great local example last year was P.E Nation’s simple approach to the launch of its snow range with an AR change room and filter to try their ski jacket on.

EXPERIRENTAL: Style has always been cyclical. And now our consumerism can be too. Brands should consider trialing rental or subscription services that appeal to the desire for short term ownership – taking ‘try before you buy’ in a different direction.

For example, in the middle of last year luxury clothing rental platform HURR launched its first bricks and mortar rental space store at Selfridges in London.

Professional sport was one of the hardest hit categories by the pandemic. Virtual leagues and e-sports proliferated during the live sport glut, whilst codes and publishers met rampant demand for content by upping the frequency and ease of consumption for fans no longer able to go to live games. Athletes, teams and codes have started to become fully fledged representatives of significant social issues and as 5G starts to roll out here in Australia, the first incarnations of what’s possible in the US show a wealth of genuinely new and exciting fan experiences for Australian audiences.

Sports trends of note:

THE FUTURE OF THE FAN EXPERIENCE: 5G is set to fuel a wave in bringing immersive and spectacular experiences to engage fans beyond the stadium.

SNACK SIZED STORY TELLING: We have transitioned to a new era in digital fan engagement, as brands hit fast-forward to find new ways to connect with fans and supporters.

For example, Samsung and the Dallas Cowboys have implemented 5G experiences across its stadium; from artificial intelligence photo posing digital screens, to augmented reality live game stats and large scale stadium interactivity.   

Dallas Cowboys x Samsung 5G stadium
Dallas Cowboys x Samsung 5G pitch

Click here to get the NEXTperiential Issue III report from our Trends Catalogue.



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We offer a wide breadth of specialist capabilities across the communications spectrum including market research, brand and creative, advertising, corporate and change communications, PR and social media, digital and customer experience (CX), sponsorship and experiential, film and content production, merchandise, Asia marketing and communications, data analytics and panel management.