Above: Casio ran a live-feed of Instagram photos at a recent event in New York
The role of technology is not necessarily a big consideration for brands when it comes to experiential marketing. While digital marketers will aim to keep up with the latest gadgets and online trends, experiential project managers are concerned first and foremost with how to create compelling brand experiences that will engage consumers in a ‘real-world’ setting.
However, as the offline and online worlds increasingly converge, for example through smartphone usage and the growth in outdoor digital screens, brands are discovering ways to turn their live events or experiential pop-ups into multi-platform experiences that provide deeper engagement and reach wider audiences.
Earlier this month, for example, Red Bull announced an upcoming music event at the London Eye that will involve transforming all the capsules into unique ‘club experiences’ from the past and present. Although the public can buy tickets for the event in November, Red Bull is planning a live-stream so that people at home can watch it online.
The event, which the energy drinks brand describes as “a world first in live-streaming”, will show all 30 capsules broadcast in real-time via on demand service 4oD as part of a deal with Channel 4, while concurrent streams will be available on YouTube so that fans around the world can participate.
The event is designed to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Red Bull’s Music Academy project and is supported by a tie-up with location-based music app GigDropper, which will provide fans with exclusive content about the underground club scene based on their location in the UK. Red Bull hopes that “as those in attendance dance through history in the skies, others can dive into the action online via the comprehensive coverage”.
We believe it’s better to use technology as a supportive tool rather than as a lead
In addition to video streaming, brands are engaging audiences in their events through social media and photo-sharing websites. Electronics maker Casio recently held an event in New York in which it invited both attendees and non-attendees to upload photographs of themselves wearing Casio watches to Instagram via a specific hashtag. Using technology by event agency Crowd Reactive, the images then appeared in a live-feed on screens throughout the venue, as well as online.
John Lauro, internet marketing manager at Casio, says this technology helped to raise awareness of the event in real-time as people at home logged on to see shots of performers like rapper Eminem and appearances by Casio-sponsored sports people such as snowboarder Louie Vito. The event, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of Casio’s G-Shock range of watches, generated more than 3,000 photos – due in part to a social media campaign that promoted the hashtag several weeks in advance.
“We used [the live feed technology] as a two-way communication tool so that people at home could be part of the event by adding their own photos while at the same time people at the event were sending their own photos back via the hashtag,” explains Lauro. “It was a great way to generate excitement about the event on social media and involve as many people as possible.”
Many brands have sought to integrate photo-sharing into their experiential campaigns in some way, while others are experimenting with the technology behind the photos in order to create unique and interesting images. For example, whisky brand Ballantine’s is running an experiential campaign at Switzerland’s Zurich Airport where it is using advanced photographic software to ‘read’ a passenger’s body – including their clothing colour, stance, and gestures – before creating a unique personal image.
The photo unit, developed in partnership with digital creative agency Work Club, then uploads the images to a Ballantine’s webpage and passengers are able to access and share their abstract impressions online.
Zurich Airport is the second airport to host the campaign after it debuted at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands last year. The campaign, which is part of Ballantine’s’ long-term Leave an Impression positioning, is intended to help the brand stand out in an airport setting, explains Neil Sharp, senior brand manager at parent company Pernod Ricard.
“The typical airport journey is quite regimented and dull so this is an unexpected experience for passengers going through an airport,” claims Sharp. “It feels like a fresh activity that’s both engaging and fun. We’ve seen a lot of very joyous reactions from passengers – both delight and surprise and that’s really reflected in the images that have been created and that now live digitally.”
Similarly, Marriott Hotels has attempted to make the airport experience more engaging through its experiential work at Heathrow Airport in London. In July, the company agreed a deal to sponsor the airport’s futuristic travel system of 21d riverless ‘pods’ that transport passengers between Heathrow Terminal 5 and the business parking zone.
The typical airport journey is dull so our experiential activity is an unexpected experience that’s engaging and fun
The campaign, agreed with outdoor advertising company JCDecaux, is designed to promote Marriott’s worldwide network of hotels and its Marriott Rewards loyalty scheme to frequent business passengers. The company’s branding appears across the exterior and interior of the pods with each of Marriott’s 14 hotel brands assigned an individual design. On-board audio explains the benefits of joining the loyalty scheme.
“Our approach was focused on enhancing the travel experience through clever branding and creative elements inside each pod,” says Osama Hirzalla, vice-president of marketing and ecommerce at Marriott.
“The creative approach was to add vibrant and unique colours representing each hotel brand so that when a traveller approaches the terminal they can see the variety of choice. I do believe that travellers will go to the pod that best fits their personality and ultimately their hotel brand. It is an invitation for our customers to go online and explore more about the programme and the hotel brand they are interested in.”
In addition, Hirzalla believes that the technology behind the pods, which were opened in 2011, further enhances the experience. Described by Heathrow as “the first new example of transit technology in 100 years”, the pods are battery powered, zero- emission vehicles capable of carrying four passengers and their luggage along a dedicated guide-way. “We were also interested in branding an environment that is considered futuristic as well as hi-tech to show our support of innovation within the travel sector in general,” says Hirzalla.
Other brands have had success by using existing technology for their own experiential purposes. In May, for example, water brand Volvic ran a two-week campaign focused on an interactive digital billboard at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.
Working with Frank PR and creative technology agency Grand Visual, the brand created a touchscreen game to promote Volvic Juiced, its range of flavoured drinks. This encouraged passers-by to ‘physically’ burst digital fruit in order to fill up an on-screen Volvic Juiced bottle. Meanwhile, brand ambassadors were on hand to give out samples of the drink.
The campaign was also supported by a Volvic Juiced Burst Facebook game. The brand’s parent company, Danone Waters, claims the experiential work at Bluewater generated a positive response from shoppers by providing both entertainment and a physical interaction with the brand (see Q&A, below).
However, not all brands are sold on the benefits of putting technology at the centre of their experiential campaigns. For example, Gastro Alfresco, an experiential food roadshow event that runs in the summer, focuses on the more traditional executions of product sampling and face-to-face conversations with consumers. The event, run by experiential agency Brand Belief, works with a number of food and drink brands to provide recipes and samples at supermarkets across the UK.
Brian George, managing director of Gastro Alfresco, says: “We believe it’s better to use technology as a tool rather than as a lead. So while we use tablet data-collection, live social media, website links, on-board video and many more applications, we do so as being supportive to our roadshows and to enhance the physical direct and in-depth engagement with consumers.”
Indeed, many brands are usong technology to open up new opportunities for direct engagement with customers. For example, Fujitsu is using 3D product demonstration technology to support its business-to-business IT and telecoms division in a trade show environment, as well as attract potential customers via the internet.
The technology, provided by marketing software firm Kaon, helps companies to demonstrate products through interactive, photo-realistic demonstrations. These enable customers to explore the functionality behind products that they would otherwise have to interact with in person.
Michael Rapp, senior marketing manager at Fujitsu Network Communications, says this helps to drive down the cost of transporting products between trade shows, while also enabling people to interact with the application online via tablets and other business touchscreens. “It feeds the customer 24/7 and forms the backbone for a lot of marketing campaigns that we’ve done for digital engagement,” he adds.
Rapp reports that in the first half of Fujitsu’s 2013 financial year, the technology provided his network communications division with sales leads worth more than $93m (£60m). He claims that in addition to creating interest and excitement at trade shows, the 3D technology serves to make its products more accessible and extend their reach online.
Pernod Ricard’s whisky brand Ballantine’s launched a two-month experiential campaign at Zurich Airport in July to support its long-term Leave an Impression brand positioning. The campaign features a photography unit, developed with digital creative agency Work Club, that reads particular aspects of a person such as their clothing colour and gestures before producing a unique, abstract image.
Participants receive a receipt that can be taken to a Ballantine’s pop-up bar and entered into an iPad, which recommends a cocktail based on the impression. The images are also shown on a live gallery at the back of the bar and appear on a web gallery for people to share online.
The campaign is the second time Ballantine’s has used the photo unit after it ran a similar experiential campaign at Holland’s Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam in November last year. Neil Sharp, senior brand manager at parent company Pernod Ricard, believes the unique technology behind the campaign has helped to provoke a powerful reaction from passengers at the airports.
“We haven’t seen a huge amount of digital innovation in the travel retail channel so we’ve undertaken to become a leading innovator in this space,” he says. “We wanted to develop a platform that was really strong and effective to the extent that people participating in it would feel compelled to share the experience online among their social media network.”
Sharp reports that during the two-month stint in Schiphol, the campaign generated around 550,000 impressions on social media as well as a 30 per cent uplift in Ballantine’s sales at the airport. Encouraged by the initial reaction, Ballantine’s is planning to apply the technology to similar experiential campaigns in other European airports.
Head of marketing
Danone Waters UK
Marketing Week (MW): Why did Volvic decide to use an interactive touchscreen game in its experiential campaign at Bluewater shopping centre?
Pam Pines (PP): This year we created a brand new campaign to promote our latest product, Volvic Juiced. The campaign included new above-the-line advertising, so we needed to find an innovative, emotionally engaging way to bring these assets to life for consumers. The interactive billboard game enabled us to build proximity directly with consumers, allowing them to have fun while playing a game that was literally bursting with the Volvic Juiced brand concept. The activation also translated really well to social media. Working with We Are Social we created a Facebook game that people around the country could play.
MW: Has Volvic used technology like this in its experiential work before and was it easy to use?
PP: This is the first time we have executed a large-format interactive digital out of home game. We worked closely with out-of-home production and technology specialists Grand Visual, which handled the tech build and implemented the laser-touch system to make use of the full length of the screen surface.
The interactive campaign ran seamlessly over the two-week period and succeeded in getting the target audience of young families interacting with Volvic Juiced in a fun and memorable way. The giant screen created a focal point at Bluewater and helped our Volvic Juiced ambassadors to hand out record numbers of bottles.
MW: What reaction did Volvic see from members of the public to this experiential campaign?
PP: The game proved to be extremely popular, entertaining thousands of shoppers and allowing them to get hands on with our brand. Over the two weeks there were more than 6,000 game plays, plus more than 8,800 members of the public stopped to talk to our Volvic Juiced ambassadors and sample the drink.