Crowd Shaping

Crowd Shaping an Experience

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a shift in experiential marketing that has placed consumers firmly in the driving seat. Instead of brands simply creating an event for consumers to react to, they are instead employing ‘crowd shaping’.

A term coined by Jeff Howe in Wired Magazine 2006, crowd shaping is essentially the collection of real-time data from people which will in turn influence a product or service. Put under the focus of experiential, crowd shaping is the placement of guests at the core of an experience, providing them with the opportunity to shape their surroundings and play an integral role in its outcome.

Whilst crowd shaping has in essence been around for a number of years – take live app surveys as an example – what we are now seeing is a much more exciting offering in the form of behavioural measurement. This is only made possible by the growth of biotechnology in the form of smart watches, smart jewellery and fitness trackers. These wearables allow us to measure guests’ emotions in real time, then in turn modify their surroundings to create a more tailored and enjoyable experience.

Take Pepsi for example, who trailblazed this form of crowd shaping in 2014 by partnering with Lightwave at SXSW Festival to create a bio-reactive concert powered by human energy. Using biodata gathered from the crowd’s physical behaviour, they changed the concert environment using a variety of special lighting effects and pyrotechnics. Pernod Ricard did a similar thing in 2015 for their Absolut Electrik London event. The large venue was split into multiple different rooms with LED motion reactive wall projections, controlled by the audience. Kenny Hyslop, Head of Experiential Marketing for Pernod Ricard UK explained their offering; “What tonight is all about is trying to really push the boundaries of what people experience on a normal night out, and when I say push the boundaries I quite literally mean transforming the physical space”.

More recently, in 2017 at the Mountain Dew’s Dew Tour event they used biometric data to create fine art in two different ways. At the event, six skate boarders wore wristbands that measured their skin temperature, motion, and heart rate. The data was then analysed and translated onto six framed LED screens in a gallery. The team then captured the emotions of the gallery guests with facial-recognition sensors embedded in each of the skaters’ LED canvases and this was then colourfully projected on to over 100 skateboards.

What does the intensification of behavioural crowd shaping mean for brands though? Being able to measure consumers’ emotions in a quantifiable way is undoubtedly an asset, contributing to future campaigns and activations. Indeed, Pepsi stated that their bio-reactive concert provided the most robust analytics ever possible when it comes to measuring an audience’s emotional response to a live event and environment. You would also assume guests controlling their real-time experience would ensure optimum enjoyment.

However, is it all too good to be true? Will behavioural crowd shaping actually make us too reliant on the audience’s opinion and dilute the brand message?

That debate will rumble but as the accessibility and popularity of biotechnology grows, crowd shaping is a key trend to key an eye on in 2018 and a serious consideration for all brands moving forward.


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