If only standing in line for a brand experience were as entertaining as a Disney theme park where long serpentine lines are filled with animatronic surprises, strategic changes in scenery and the occasional visit by Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs. Fairytale characters aside, it can be.
At the Winter Olympics this year, where long lines began forming early in the morning, Coca-Cola trained a team of “Happiness” ambassadors with the sole mission of keeping folks content as they waited in line to enter the Coke Pavilion. Though not as charming as Minnie Mouse, the staff revved up the crowd with peppy chatter and fun routines.
“It’s important to remember that the moment consumers decide to spend time with your brand, their experience begins. You have their attention, why not make the most of it?” says Maxine Chapman, director-marketing activation and integration on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Project Team at Coca-Cola. “If you can surprise and delight them, it can establish a positive connection for little cost.”
The Coke ambassadors did everything from the wave and high fives to cheering the campaign slogan “Open Happiness” in English and French. And they did impromptu stunts, like when a four-foot-tall female brand ambassador hopped on a six-foot-tall male brand ambassador’s shoulders and high-fived consumers with her maple leaf embroidered gloves. Details like that make the difference, says Amanda Daniels, vp-global projects work stream at Atlanta-based Ignition, which handled the program. “We make sure that we’re delivering key messages related to the overall campaign and putting consumers in a good mood,” she says.
The formation of the line is also important, Daniels adds, explaining how her team laid out the queue so people could face the sponsor zone’s Jumbotron that was airing Olympic competitions and updates. This setup allowed consumers coming out of the Pavilion to share positive reviews with the crowd about the experience inside. The team also updated the crowd regularly on Olympic wins.
Mark Shearon, evp-engagement at Los Angeles-based TBA Global, which handled the Canada Pavilion at the Vancouver Olympics, also emphasized how critical it is for brands to understand the importance of updating folks about the main event, which is the reason they’re there in the first place.
“If you’re at the Olympics, one of the major things you want to see are the events,” says Shearon, whose team played live Olympic feeds on high definition LED screens while people waited in line. “This way people don’t have to compromise—they can stand in line and also watch the actual games, too.” There were additional LED screens leading up to the entrance of the Canada Pavilion to entertain people with Olympics-related trivia questions.
Entertainment is important indeed, but so is comfort. TBA added freestanding awnings that could be moved around to protect people from the rain and snow at the Canada Pavilion. Such small gestures can make a long wait feel more enjoyable.
And how do the theme park masters do it? At the Disney Institute, companies can take classes to find out. “Disney Imagineers frequently walk our parks on their knees to see it from a child’s point of view. They also experience the parks in wheelchairs to ensure all areas are as accessible as possible. Our guests observe these things and tell us, ‘You’ve thought of everything,’” says Jeff James, vp at the Disney Institute. “We believe that everything we do speaks to guests about the quality of the organization and gives them a reason to come back and to refer others. Our guests become trusted advisers to their family, friends and associates.” In other words, keeping consumers happy while they wait in line results in positive word of mouth. And that’s what it’s all about. EM