Why should brands be eager to get back at it with experiential marketing?
Apart from the fact that, surely, you’d do anything to get out of the house by now and, even though you have a serious case of Germaphobia that’s been exacerbated by SARS-COV-2, we’re sure you’re also sick of the full on digital onslaught by these tear-inducing ads served to you by our creative friends. Yes, some of that COVID-tising has been nothing short of brilliant but we still maintain that nothing beats putting on those Nikes so you can try it on that space-grade Woodway treadmill that’s been waiting for your graceful yet powerful strides as you try your hardest to punish your phantom competition so that you can win that “limited-edition” shirt with your 2d face on it.
Ka-ching! Can digital do that?
A Convergence of Digital and Tangible Experiences
We kid, we kid. We love Digital Marketing. Sometimes we even fancy ourselves to be the digital production experts who might be able to help you finally integrate that pesky in-store experience with your omni-channel aspirations – yes, we do understand that being present in all channels doesn’t mean omni-channel. *wink* *wink*
In all seriousness, there’s no denying that digital is the way of the future but this doesn’t mean that going exclusively digital/virtual is the only way to go. After all, tangible brand experiences remain essential to the omni-channel brand journey since most products and services are, well, tangible in nature. So, rather than investing solely in an already saturated digital landscape, we say convergence of physical and digital is key in truly achieving an approach that will stand out in the hearts and minds of your audience.
With governments opening up economies, it’s a foregone conclusion that the great reset has begun. While we know that it’s easy to fall into stop-gap solutions that adhere to social distancing guidelines, we think that brands have ample opportunity to engage in some mindful innovation where marketers can rethink their approach to live activations and be at the forefront of this great convergence between digital and experiential.
That said, it’s even more important now to understand that back-to-business shouldn’t mean back-to-the-usual so we compiled a list of experiential ideas that we think might work well in a post-covid world.
Here they are:
6 Ideas for Your Post-COVID Brand Activations
1. Mobile Experiential Campaigns
Although there’s been an uptick in traffic as of late, marketers are still understandably hesitant to invest in live activations especially since mall footfall is still considerably lower than pre-COVID numbers. The same can be said about other public venues but, whoever said experiential can only happen in public places?
Needless to say, adaptive-thinking is necessary in uncertain times and brands that make strategic adjustments are known to outperform their rivals long after a recession has gone. Now if the problem is that people are not going out to where the brands are, why not bring the brand to the people?
This is exactly what Blue Bunny‘s summer campaign, funlightenment, did when it brought its “Ice Screen” Truck right at their customer’s driveways.
With theaters across the United States closed due to COVID-19, film lovers have been turning to an old staple of cinema, drive-ins. They’ve been popping up all over the country. However, that still means leaving your house, which isn’t always the safest option. But now Blue Bunny is offering an opportunity to host your own outdoor viewing party without having to travel past your front lawn. Lucky winners will get a personal visit from Blue Bunny‘s “IceScreen” truck, for a night of cinema and ice cream from the comfort of your driveway.
Summer. Ice Cream. Movies. Your Driveway. Need we say more?
2. Gaming Partnerships
Speaking of winning, the next big “winning” idea is Gaming (yep!). Not that it needed COVID to be relevant but since the pandemic pushed society into post-apocalyptic-prepper-level way of living, gaming has been one of the few avenues that has provided brands with opportunities to create captive interactive experiences for their audience.
Touted as the next frontier in brand activations, gaming has been in the crosshairs of marketers for quite some time. Rightfully so since this untapped yet incredibly influential segment is “one that is not only more likely to buy certain products than the general online population, but is also more likely to be key influencers for your brand regardless of whether you are in the gaming industry or not“. This behavior in gamers, however, also means that they are one of the more discerning segment out there and authenticity is, perhaps, the single most valued brand quality that they look for.
As such, marketers always have to be careful with what they put out there in the “gaming world” not only because these partnerships can be expensive but also because gamers easily sniff out any form of inauthenticity and, in consequence, expose those who make these mistakes as the brand behind The Establishment every gamer battles with. If these brands can at all have the forbearance to strike at the right moment like Wendy’s Keeping Fortnite Fresh campaign above then, perhaps, marketers are now finally starting to get it.
3. Hybrid Events
We say gaming partnerships since this, presumably, is already scaled (with solid gameplay) but this doesn’t mean we can’t create our own virtual worlds with similar multi-player capabilities as that of Fortnite. There are APIs a plenty that can handle up to hundreds to thousands of players and these can be implemented in many number of ways such as VR, AR, Broadcast and even Hybrid Events.
Promising experiences like Jam3’s upcoming ComplexLand, TomorrowLand 2020, MediaMonk’s LiveXP and more are all about to be launched (agile, iterated and only getting better with each release). While we wait for these, we can take a look at this quick execution by Hulu which organized a PrideFest during the lockdown. It featured DJ Sets, Dance Performances and Cultural Conversations From Extensive Lineup of LGBTQ+ and Ally Entertainers & Athletes.
The risk, however, is creating something that does not have the advantage of having been tested by millions of users and iterated methodologically over the past few years. As such, these environments can get pretty boring quickly if developers forget to create customer-centric products.
4. Experiential Gamification
Of course, big game partnerships and IPs can be logistical nightmares that require not only a lion’s share of your budget but also some high-level clearance usually reserved for our talented global friends.
If that’s an idea-killer then we can set our sights lower and create short tactical games and limited gamified activations that challenge your audience’s abilities like this one by Ford which took advantage of the Parisian attitude of being especially “cavalier in their efforts to fit into any available space” to highlight the Park Assist feature in their vehicles.
We can further iterate this type of gamification with features that espouse competition and include some sort of instant reward like what we did for adidas when we integrated a treadmill with an interactive vending machine – highlighting the product’s USP of instant energy returns from your running effort.
Gamified activations, in our experience, have always carried more impact than your usual sampling and promoter-led activities. Now that there are more social distancing restrictions, we think brand experiences that somehow automate a sampling process through gamification will do your brand’s bottomline wonders.
Since marketing in the time corona calls for different measures, it’s only fitting that we take the necessary time and effort to create experiences that adhere to social distancing using contactless technology. While touch interfaces had taken centerstage for the past decade or so, we think that we are at a crossroads where different human-computer interfaces can advance and be adapted for everyday interactions.
Here are some that we think are ready for prime time (although they’ve been around for a long time):
Camera-based technologies can be quite handy when it comes to machine interaction. We can track movement (face, body, etc.), super-impose 3D content and even implement facial biometrics to elicit an action or reaction mechanically or digitally.
With this technology, one’s movements can turn shop front windows into interactive spaces, it can be used to control games and vending machines as shown below.
Alternatively, a customer’s personal mobile device can also be utilized as a tool to enable interactions with connected brand experiences. These devices can be used to control both digital and mechanical functions similar to what T-Mobile did in this Angry Birds activation in Barcelona.
By using a personal mobile device, we can maintain a familiar human-computer interaction medium (touch) and also avoid unnecessary contact with physical objects within the interactive brand activation experience.
For example, we can collect data using web-based interfaces which can activate any form of digital activity within the brand experience area (like an interactive vending machine activity) – and then, we can bring this experience back online through well integrated emailers that are embedded with the brand’s digital marketing initiatives.
One might say that this is the perfect opportunity to bring online experiences to offline experience (and vice versa) to create that omni-channel loop that brands are striving for.
6. Interactive Architecture
Having the ability to control or interact with digital devices through iOT networks brings additional opportunities for marketers to create scaleable integrated brand experiences. We can control small things like vending machines or robots and big things like automated vehicles or large scale architectural shows.
This is especially interesting in destinations where the cityscape is as iconic as it is in Dubai. The city can be the canvas and the collective are the artists – both working together to create a powerful message that can be seen for miles.
It can be used for good like these initiatives by Spireworks, which is using this platform to help raise funds for Corona virus relief through Global Giving, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives who turned the Burj Khalifa into The World’s Tallest Donation Box to aid in the effort to supply 10 million meals for those affected by the pandemic during Ramadan.
What’s important is to create an experience where collective interaction is encouraged.
Sure, an architectural show is quite captivating but when used in such a way that it unites communities through participation, made possible by digital technologies, the convergence creates an unforgettable brand experience that lasts well beyond a display ad or promo ever will – something like what Unit 9 did for the launch of King’s Candy Crush Friends Saga when they extended the in-game experience of the popular game and projected over 1M lumens of it onto a 26-story building in New York City.
Let’s Get Phygital!
By mixing digital with physical, brands can extend experiences across channels. Resulting to a confluence of data and a singular customer experience that goes well beyond the limitations of each space – a common challenge for marketers trying to have a consistent digital-to-store customer experience.
Digital systems can be built with unique metrics and analytics layered into their programming,measuring data points such as dwell time, number of plays, number of interactions, social shares, which content sparked the greatest response and more. These analytics paint a vivid picture for marketers about their audience with far greater specificity than TV or banner ads.
— Jessica Worthington, Future Colossal
If brands make the effort to integrate these experiences, they can be sure that important point-of-purchase data can actually be pooled for integration with the digital infrastructure that they so effectively built up in the thick of this pandemic. To us, changing consumer behavior simply means that an acceleration of digital transformation across industries is inevitable and not the total replacement of tangible marketing with purely digital endeavors.
After all, even if one argues that the old-70%-of-purchasing-decisions-are-being-made-in-store-general-rule-of-thumb may not hold the same merit as it did before COVID, the fact of it is that a majority of consumers are raring to get back to normal as soon as we’re over the vaccine hump. #stayhome #staysafe
This bodes well for experiential activations since as Kamil Tybally, founder of Early Spring, so aptly put it, experiential marketing is the:
Confluence of brand and consumer outside the boundaries of traditional channels or with an innovative use of them, but always with the element of surprise, delight, and an inherent value exchange.
That said, what better time to innovate and push the boundaries of your marketing efforts than now when we are at the brink of a new age in contact-deprived consumerism aided by technology? While plenty of marketers are going with different versions of pretty much the same thing, why not create unique and personalized experiences for your captive audience while they are mostly hyper-aware of what’s going on outside their windows?
There simply isn’t a better time than now to innovate our approach to marketing and we believe that experiential is well placed to step up and be the vehicle that gives brand marketers that extra foundation in creating data-driven out-of-the-box activations that seamlessly integrate with that omni-channel journey.