AT&T’s Four Tips for Elevating Engagement to Meet the Needs of the COVID-era Consumer – Event Marketer

AT&T’s Four Tips for Elevating Engagement to Meet the Needs of the COVID-era Consumer – Event Marketer

AT&T’s Four Tips for Elevating Engagement to Meet the Needs of the COVID-era Consumer

The new year offers organizations a chance to reset and reevaluate, and AT&T has wasted no time in reshaping its approach to experiential marketing to meet the needs of the modern COVID-era consumer. For the telecom brand, the days of using a single strategy to market to the masses are coming to a close as a focus on celebrating consumers’ individuality becomes ever more critical. And in the year ahead, AT&T plans to build on recent successes, like its interactive Wonder Woman 1984 exhibit and HBO Max Orbit experience, as well as overhaul its measurement strategy and lean into an omnichannel approach. So we sat down with Harley Ward, national creative director-retail innovation and store environment at AT&T, who revealed how the brand, with help from agency partner Twenty Four 7, will leverage three key flagship retail stores and a strategic online presence to grow deeper personal connections that last well beyond a moment in time. Following are Ward’s tips and insights on winning consumers’ hearts and minds in 2022.

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Brands must offer choice.

The key to event marketing in the year ahead is to be flexible and fully prepared to adjust to varying consumer preferences, needs and comfort levels. On the one hand, the dominance of virtual events during the pandemic has proven that people don’t necessarily have to leave the comfort and safety of their homes to participate in a brand experience. On the other, there are still many consumers that crave face-to-face engagement. Ward suggests taking a hybrid approach that gives consumers the choice to interact virtually or in person.

“What we’ve seen is every market that we’ve gone in, there’s a different expectation,” says Ward. “And there’s a different willingness to engage. So what you stand up from a virtual perspective also has to have that mirror, that match in the physical, because there is a subset of individuals that still crave that. But they like the option of having the flexibility of doing it from home or doing it from wherever. Maybe it’s a recap of the event that feels equally as important and as amazing as having been there in person. That’s kind of where we’ve been leaning in. And I’m super excited about it because it opens it up to a much broader audience that we weren’t really able to reach before.”


Reevaluate how you measure success.

For AT&T, working in silos and traditional measurement tactics are becoming relics of the past. The brand is moving forward with an omnichannel strategy, and that requires a new approach to operations and event measurement that goes beyond the typical “What did it cost, how many people showed up and what was the reach,” according to Ward.

“We’re in a change-making time in which we have to, as a brand or as a large corporation, really rethink how we measure success and why we are going out and having these events or having these moments,” Ward says. “It’s so much more impactful now to who we are and why we are standing up what we’re standing up as a brand because the level of engagement and the level of pull-through that you could potentially get, and the longevity of what you create during that moment, live so much longer now that you have to think about the long term on how you measure that success, as opposed to the immediate, ‘What did we spend, what did we gain, what was the success of it,’ and more of what is that staying power of what you’ve created and keep feeding into it over time so that whatever that relationship you’ve built with the consumer, they come back eager for more of what it is that you’re offering.”


Embrace the widespread adoption of event technology.

One of COVID’s silver linings is that it has accelerated consumers’ comfort level with an array of technologies, from QR codes to virtual event platforms. AT&T plans to leverage this widespread adoption of tech to push the envelope on how attendees experience both live and digital events.

“When it comes to this digital space, I think we’ve made leaps and bounds in that regard because it’s becoming part of the normal vernacular to start talking about these experiences in a virtual world or QR codes—people know what that is,” says Ward. “That opens up the door, and where I’m super excited is pushing that even further in a more tech-forward way in which maybe three years ago we would’ve done, but it would’ve been a much smaller audience and much more early adopter kind of demographic that would be willing to engage with the experience. Whereas now, it’s become a little bit more general or mass audience because there’s this level of comfort of, ‘Oh, I’ve done it this way.’

“Imagine a world where you have this event that is in a physical space, but it’s also piped out in some sort of virtual world as well, where people are coming together and intermingling from the comfort of wherever they are and still feel like they’re in the physical space or some aspirational space that you’ve created that is, in some cases, maybe even be a better experience than being at the concert or the performance or the panel discussion or whatever it is that you’re standing up in the physical space.”


Individual engagement is paramount.

AT&T is leaving its mass marketing strategies in the dust and taking on the challenge of personalizing all of its experiences to align with and celebrate consumers’ individuality. It’s a strategy that has been brewing across the industry for some time, but has now become critical to cutting through the clutter and making a lasting impact.

“It’s about how [consumers] want to receive information or how they want to engage with it,” Ward says. “And that may look completely different in Dallas than San Francisco or Chicago or New York or wherever it is that we’re going. And being able to understand that variable adds a lot of challenge to the planning and the programming and really the story that you’re telling. But what it does is it opens up a really interesting opportunity to feel authentic in the connection that you make with the consumer and really celebrate the individuality and what they’re willing to do and how they want to engage. And what you’re delivering becomes that much more important to them.”

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music and doting on her fur baby.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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