When was the last time a customer took a picture of your advertisement or campaign? The answer is probably never.
In an age where consumers can easily fast-forward television adverts and Joe Public has become the latest source of news thanks to the increasing use of social media, the need for people to actively engage in and share your campaign is hugely important.
The role of a marketing manager has become increasingly clouded with more media options being added to the mix and technologies developing fast.
I have a love/hate relationship with the term ‘blue-sky thinking’. I love it because that is what my company is all about: a passion for creative campaigns using the most unusually shaped creations imaginable, in the form of large, eye-catching inflatables.
On the other hand, I hate the fact that it has become a jargon nonsense-phrase that no one truly understands.
Inflatables and hot air balloons can be excellent tools when teamed with experiential marketing, social media and traditional media campaigns. So what if, instead of taking out a full-page advert in a national newspaper, you creatively switched that budget to commission something a little bit different?
Mr Blue Sky
A couple of years ago, roadside restaurant chain Little Chef featured in Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall documentary ‘Big Chef versus Little Chef’, featuring Heston Blumenthal. The term blue-sky thinking was used frequently.
Not long after the programme had aired, the restaurant chain asked Bloon to come up with a solution to the fact that many people assumed that most of the Little Chef outlets had closed down.
So we produced Charlie the 30ft-tall inflatable chef, who started his tour in Winchester. The inflatable was such a success that we were asked to produce more, with 10 of them popping up in locations all over the country.
Not only did the campaign have great success in terms of revenue, with some sites finding that sales rose by up to 27 per cent, but Little Chef discovered that people were actually tweeting pictures of the giant advertising inflatables.
Other activity has also produced tangible results, with some campaigns at a single site returning eight times return on investment.
The surprise factor
What makes inflatables and balloons such useful tools to have in your experiential marketing arsenal is the surprise factor. People just do not expect to walk around the corner and see a giant teapot floating in the sky or a 150ft character flying overhead during their usually uneventful drive to work.
A recent example is the eye-catching activity carried out by Jackpotjoy.com, which floated a giant rubber duck down the River Thames at rush hour.
This created a massive buzz on Twitter using the hashtag #jackpotjoyduck, as well as generating masses of media coverage, helping to maximise the reach of the event and making a high impact for a low cost.
An immersive experience
Experiential is the new way to engage your audience in a way that is surprising and fun. And if it is done well, it has the potential to create real brand advocates.
A fear of the unknown can cause even the most experienced marketer to shy away from looking at the use of inflatables for experiential campaigns.
However, any inflatable play item will instantly appeal to children, therefore helping to create a young fan for your brand.
Alternatively, an inflatable building or structure could form a much smaller part of the experiential activity but still be fully branded and inviting to potential customers.
And a hot air balloon ride is an innovative way to help people experience your brand. Indeed, giving someone the opportunity to experience this first-hand could create a life-long brand ambassador for your client.
It’s not all pie in the sky
There is a preconception about using inflatables for marketing purposes that stems back to childhood, when you turned up to a party with a bouncy castle.
However, inflatable technology has moved on since those days. Not only has the way that both inflatables and hot air balloons are manufactured altered, but so too has the approach to how they are used.
When looking into using inflatables or hot air balloons as part of an experiential marketing campaign, it is not enough to approach a company that can just build your inflatable or operate your balloon. An understanding of your campaign and what you want to achieve is paramount.
Far too many brands have jumped at the idea of having a hot air balloon tour the UK or Europe, but after only a few months the campaign loses steam as the brand exhausts its ideas and the operator is unsure what the client really wants to achieve.
The need to have a focused approach to the campaign and full understanding of the brief is often overlooked due to the excitement of venturing into something totally new and unknown.
The only way is up
With the public becoming ever more savvy and increasingly able to avoid traditional marketing messages, the need to engage with potential consumers in a fun and innovative way is more important than ever.
Brands need to have a conversation with their potential customers. Balloons and inflatables offer a starting point for that conversation, if nothing else.
This starting point could be a face-to-face interaction or could be played out via social media. The point is that a connection has been made with your audience, and this connection can go on to provide you with a sound platform to build from.
The off-shoots of media coverage are all positives. However, in many cases too much emphasis is put on this type of marketing alone, meaning the message can sometimes become over-complicated.
A simple large or flying version of what you are trying to market, though, could be all you need to get your brand noticed.