Rewind with us for a moment.
It was 2014, and Airbnb ceo Brian Chesky’s online hospitality and accommodation marketplace was going from white-hot to supernova—amid a business footprint operating in 32,000 cities (190 countries) around the world, one of Corporate America’s most aggressive hiring initiatives and a recent record-shattering $10 billion valuation. All of it was unprecedented for a company about to turn seven years old.
While the business was getting shifted into overdrive, so was the brand. Chesky hired Coca-Cola vp-marketing and design Jonathan Mildenhall as cmo, and together they began building a new marketing blueprint that would not only keep up with the brand’s hyperspeed momentum—but accelerate it. The plans called for additional (and more integrated) investments into traditional above-the-line advertising, direct-response efforts, social media engagement—and, naturally, experiential marketing.
Airbnb thrives on two audiences: hosts who open their homes to the world, and guests who pay to stay in them. A new branding campaign launched under a fresh “Belong Anywhere” tagline was designed to inspire and educate the growing legion of global guests. But like so many power brands looking to generate both supply and demand, the company aspired to more deeply connect with the hosts that created the very inventory those guests purchased. And so, in an interesting experiment—and with an experiential twist—the company (with New York City-based experiential agency Civic Entertainment Group) issued an invite to hosts around the world to become Airbnb’s guests in its hometown of San Francisco, at a three-day event called Airbnb Open. “This event will empower successful hosting with a program that educates, inspires and celebrates our hosts” read the online invite from company head of global hospitality and strategy Chip Conley.
Held at the Bay Area’s waterfront Fort Mason Center Nov. 21-23, the 2014 Airbnb Open was a rather traditional b-to-b event, programmed with keynotes, peer-to-peer workshops (hosts shared tips and recommendations with each other), sessions with Airbnb managers providing best practices and insights on new products, excursion dinners held in Airbnb employee homes and a Host Awards gala “recognizing hosts that go above and beyond.” (There was also a tour of Airbnb’s corporate headquarters and a closing picnic.) More than 1,500 hosts from 40 countries paid to attend. They left educated about using the platform and inspired to become better and more frequent hosts.
The Airbnb marketing team was stunned by the sold-out turnout and themselves inspired—to do it again. A second event was planned as Airbnb Open was redesigned into a campus-style experience for 2015. A year later, the event invaded Paris’ Grande Halle in Parc de la Villette Nov. 12-14. Attendance quadrupled, as more than 5,000 hosts from around the world signed up. It was the largest gathering in Airbnb history.
American Express has long supported small business owners through its one-day annual Small Business Saturday program that offers cardmembers rewards for shopping locally. This year, the brand took its efforts a step further with the new Shop Small 2x Rewards, a campaign that threw some heavy weight behind the effort in the form of NBA star Shaquille O’Neill. Basketball fans at stadiums across the country enjoyed surprise and delight gifts from local businesses, all carefully selected by Shaq’s celebrity friends. The result: millions of enrollments in the Shop Small program, on top of 1 billion earned p.r. impressions.
The idea behind Shop Small 2x Rewards was simple: Why support small businesses on one day, when you can support them through the entire holiday season? American Express launched the campaign with an original content series featuring Shaq, a dominant voice in basketball and entertainment, plus an announcement of the gift drops by Shaq on the NBA “Halftime Report” on TNT. In an online series, which garnered more than 32 million impressions, Shaq got together with celebrity friends Kendrick Lamar, Wanda Sykes and Jeremy Piven to shop at local stores across the country, finding holiday gifts to “share the love” of supporting small businesses.
Next came the gift drops. More than 28,000 basketball fans at games in November and December were put on the receiving end of Shaq’s holiday gift list as JumboTron content triggered gift drops delivered by parachutes launched from the rafters and doled out by masses of brand ambassadors decked out in “Shop Small blue.” Adding to the celebratory experience was an in-stadium signage takeover, confetti cannons, cheerleaders and mascots.
Among the gifts: custom t-shirts from Miami-based retailer Peace Love World at a Miami Heat game; 1,200 gift cards from local business G20 Spa at a Boston Celtics game; sneaker wipes, Lakers socks and gift cards from sneaker shop Blends at a Los Angeles Lakers game; tote bags from San Francisco business Picnic SF at the Golden State Warriors game; and 2,000 wool and tech gloves from local merchant Brooklyn Industries at a Brooklyn Nets Game dispersed via 100 brand ambassadors and 250 Shop Small parachutes. The pièce de résistance—the distribution of 22,000 candles from local shop Abbey Brown at a Chicago Bulls game, one candle for every single person in the arena, delivered by 450 brand ambassadors.
American Express generated an untold number of joyful moments for fans—both customers and potential customers—through the drops, resulting in 116,000 live impressions from venue experiences. But the cherry on top? All of the love generated that season for small businesses courtesy of some high-profile friends and hoops. Cha-Ching.
We think of washing machines as cold metal appliances that serve a mundane purpose. But for many people across the U.S., clean clothes are far from the mundane. It was a story Whirlpool uncovered as it sought to “humanize” its brand, launching a national research survey that revealed as many as 1 in 5 students in America struggle with clean clothes and the stigma as a result. Whirlpool’s Care Counts program brought clean laundry machines to schools in need, demonstrating that campaigns can solve brand problems and change lives, too.
Whirlpool set the program into motion after an elementary school principal in St. Louis, MO, asked for a washer and dryer donation because students were skipping school rather than face bullying in school over their dirty clothes. Digging deeper, Whirlpool launched the survey, which connected dirty clothes to school attendance and performance, larger community issues such as absenteeism, dropout rate and overall declining opportunities for youth.
The Care Counts pilot program, launched in partnership with developmental psychologist and researcher Dr. Richard Rende, took place in 17 schools in two U.S. markets—St. Louis and Fairfield, CA—where absenteeism was a documented problem. Each school selected a trusted Program Leader and identified students in need, anonymously tracking their laundry loads, attendance and grades throughout the school year. Teachers tracked their emotional wellbeing, too. At the end of the school year, Whirlpool found that 93 percent of tracked students averaged 6.1 more days in school than the previous year and 95 percent participated in more extracurricular activates. Whirlpool’s fresh approach—we give it an A+.
Pride parades are no ordinary parades, and with its expressive float, activations and local buzz-building efforts, sponsor TD Bank’s parade program made personal and colorful connections with the LGBTQ community. What made the campaign so special was that it served as an internal engagement tool, too. Some 794 TD Bank employees marched along the parade routes nationwide. The brand also earned 4.5 million total impressions. Something else to celebrate.
The campaign involved six Pride Week festivals in Miami, New York City, Long Island, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. As diverse as the community itself, no two activations were the same. For the parades, drag queens kept crowds engaged, coordinating TD Bank dance routines and driving social shares with #ForeverProud. On-site at the festivals, TD Bank distributed free rainbow popsicles and branded premiums. There was a larger-than-life chalk wall for personal messages, a photo activation and a digital Twitter Wall connecting Pride participants across the country through #ForeverProud. TD Bank locations were outfitted in Rainbow-striped window clings, sealing the corporate support.
One consumer reacted: “We love TD Bank and all that they have to offer, not only as a bank but out here at the festival supporting their customers.” Put that one in the bank.
Facing category complacency and upgrade fatigue among its target consumers on top of challenges by Apple and Huawei, Samsung expanded its messaging beyond smartphones and created a campaign to showcase for consumers a fuller, connected ecosystem of Samsung products called “Galaxy Life.” At the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup events, Samsung’s 8,000-square-foot golf journey connected the dots among its offerings. Sixty-eight percent of visitors who went through the experiences demonstrated a 41 percent lift in purchase intent.
Upon entering the experience (manned by “tech caddies”), consumers registered via an RFID wristband that connected the touchpoints. They could borrow a Samsung mobile device to demo and capture views of the course to share with #SamsungOnTheGreen (fed to a mosaic video wall), or watch live broadcasts of the tournaments in a viewing gallery featuring a curved 4K wall. But the most talked about activation was Hole 360, a Samsung Gear VR experience that combined cinematic quality VR content with a custom-built wireless miniature golf club controller. Fans were “transported” to Hole 8 at Hazeltine National Golf Club, home to the 2016 Ryder Cup, to test their golf swing in real-time.
Samsung spread the love outside, too, with a Samsung Pay Vending Machine that dispensed PGA prizes with a Samsung Pay mobile wallet scan; and a VR golf cart that provided a “mobile” activation of virtual reality for fans at the clubhouse. “I normally don’t come to these sorts of things when I’m covering a sport but I am glad I did. Really cool experience,” wrote Darren Rovell of ESPN. Hole in one.
To rev up sales and market share in San Diego where it faces challenges by several competitors, Chevrolet as sponsor of the MLB All-Star Game set out to connect with the kid inside every fan segment, from older fans to millennials to parents with kids and kids themselves. And it was at MLB All-Star FanFest that the strategy served up a homerun.
Fans couldn’t miss the 40-foot LED wall that served as a backdrop to the footprint, displaying Chevy Youth Baseball messaging, MLB integrations and real-time social feeds.(Chevy added a Hispanic ad integration in the feed, too, targeting native Spanish-speaking residents of San Diego. Nice.) On top of vehicle displays, there was the Mini Chevy Youth Baseball Clinic where fans participated in Speed Pitch and Swing Analysis at stations staffed with Cal Ripken brand ambassadors. There were selfie bats, game-saving shareables and other photo ops fans love.
Chevy hosted nearly two dozen activations, large and small, throughout All-Star Week, including the FanFest footprint, Red Carpet Parade (complete with kid reporters and a kid viewing area) and All-Star Game integrations like ride-and-drives and contests. All told, Chevy recorded a one percent lift in San Diego market share—which translates to 233 vehicle sales—and 60,000 unique fan engagements.
To maintain its leadership among U.S. Hispanic subscribers amid competition from digital media and new over-the-top services, HBO Latino, in premiering its new and first bilingual series in the U.S., “El Hipnotizador,” turned to live theater. The immersive experience recreated key elements from the series and on top of digital media and p.r. initiatives, resulted in plenty of “magic” for the series online including 2.2 million views of the trailer.
With the goal of reaching Hispanic adults ages 25 to 49, HBO Latino invited key influencers, media outlets and select guests to the live “El Hipnotizador” event in New York City at the McKittrick Hotel, home to live theater events that have the 1920s vibe of the series. Brand ambassadors and hotel employees donned 1920s attire and brought characters to life throughout the different floors of the venue in what was called Hotel Las Violetas. Guests were greeted with cocktails and a map to navigate the different experiences. Interactions included tarot card reading sessions and a room with a green screen where guests were “levitated” by the show’s main character (the photos of the levitations were provided digitally to share on social media). There was a scavenger hunt and then a premiere of the first episode.
Wrapping the evening—a hypnotist led a group hypnosis experience and concluded his set by sending everyone a “message” in the form of a text that included a link to the episode across HBO Latinos’ digital platforms. Voilà.
Adult Swim is known for its nostalgia-inducing event activations. (Bounce houses for adults? Yes, please.) To get millennials and consumers ages 34 to 49 amped for its 2016 programming, the network for a second year launched a classic drive-in movie tour to premiere Adult Swim content and earn social media buzz in the process. The 10-city, sold-out tour, complete with lawn games, a photo booth and trivia, experienced a 26 percent increase in attendance year over year with 8,928 consumers.
At each drive-in stop, 60 to 75 cars were invited to pull into the footprint and as they did, passengers received quirky premiums like event-specific posters, “The Eric Andre Show” ranch dressing air fresheners and “Rick and Morty” comic books. Brand ambassadors handed out free popcorn, candy and drinks to cars and those lounging on the lawn in front of the screen. There were five food trucks in case they wanted a bit more.
The event began at sundown at each stop with a trivia game that consumers texted answers to. The first person to answer the question correctly was invited up to receive an Adult Swim prize pack. And then: 90 minutes of unaired Adult Swim episodes. Cannonball.
Greyhound is a 100-year-old ground transportation service that has recently undergone extensive upgrades with better terminals, leather seating and wi-fi outlets to stay competitive and change perceptions among younger consumers. It needed to spur fresh conversations, too, as most of its social media pages were used as sounding boards for negative comments and feedback. To “take control of the conversation,” Greyhound sent influencers on a trip, inviting them to document their experiences along the way. The campaign hashtag, #AffordToExplore, ultimately gained 13,150 likes, showing a 185 percent growth in audience reach and visibility.
Influencers created their own content and provided insights and genuine feedback on the new features and lesser-known aspects of the Greyhound fleet. This continued at stops in cities like Washington, D.C., where influencers toured and reported on their adventures. Content included “out of the box” features like influencer Andrew Huang creating a music video using only items that were found on the bus, including the horn, the sounds of seat belts clicking, chairs reclining and more. He then posted another video showing how the project came to life.
As a result of these authentic posts, Greyhound experienced an influx of positive feedback that historically had not been shared on its social platforms. Among platforms that experienced growth, Facebook, with 20 relatable posts and a total of 71,455 likes, averaging 3,573 likes per post—which is exponential growth from the 100-like average before the program rolled out. On a roll, we say.
Bartenders by nature are influential. After all, they’re the ones making drink recommendations, shaking up their preferred liquors into tasty cocktails, hearing the ins and outs of peoples’ lives and adding their two cents, too. And so, it makes sense that when Wray & Nephew Rum wanted to expand its popularity beyond Jamaica where it’s a staple, it turned to bartenders and gatekeepers in key markets across the U.S., targeting them with intimate events that merged style (through personal style subscription service Trunk Club), rum and mixology.
The events celebrated Jamaican culture and style. On top of mingling and mixology, the 30 influencers in each market were pulled aside one-by-one by Trunk Club’s professionally trained personal stylists who worked with each bartender to pick out and personally tailor shirts, pants, skirts, shoes and more. Each attendee received a $300 gift card toward their purchase, though on average, attendees spent an additional $85. Afterwards, each influencer was signed up for Trunk Club, establishing a link for future brand communication.
The result? A “seamless” tie between a culturally deep rum brand and an up-and-coming, and on-trend, style subscription service. Because everything tastes better when you look and feel good.
While many big tech brands were fluffing their feathers on the CES show floor and in ballrooms throughout Sin City with flashy booths and experiences, Twitter decided to set itself apart with a warm and inviting “Twitter City” experience at The Cosmopolitan Hotel complete with city blocks, scenic townhouses, billboards, a cinema, park, pizzeria, sports bar, café and more. And did we mention the VIP suite with secret access through a recording booth?
The 18,000-square-foot #TwitterCity ballroom space showcased how “Twitter is happening in the world all around you,” using city vignettes to tell that story and to serve as a space to host sales meetings with key accounts, clients and technology partners. The space held 12 meeting rooms for eight to 30 people, stylish interior sets and a fully functioning outdoor café with a turf grass surface. Form and function? Check. Every element of the “city” was purposefully designed to showcase a real-life Twitter case study. For example, Twitter pulled inspiration from a Domino’s tweet for a pizza campaign, emoji battles during the NBA finals, Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, and others, finding ways to seamlessly integrate them into the city structure.
The coolest feature? The secret speakeasy backroom for Twitter’s Influence Council, an exclusive gathering of C-level executives and influencers together for one night. As we mentioned above, they entered through a recording booth inside #TwitterCity’s “Muzik store,” and then spoke a secret code into the recording booth microphone to open a hidden door. The Prohibition-style space included an intimate seating area, bar and food spread. #VIPbaby.
Target’s annual meeting covers the important stuff—like the direction and strategy of the company for the next year. But it also offers something above and beyond your standard national meeting: Love. That’s right—love, conveyed through creative employee and store recognition programs, displayed in inspiring art installations conceived from Target products like EOS lip balms, and communicated by emphasizing the importance of community service.
Overall, the Target Stores Showcase within the Fall National Meeting in Minneapolis focused on the future of retail in a self-guided experience that offered glimpses into the past year and the year ahead. At the heart of it all was the employee and store recognition installation along a 20-foot-high by 80-foot-long wall adorned with “Work somewhere you heart” and “Work somewhere you ____” with a fill in the blank section and photo op. And then came the celebration of community initiatives, including a program with the nonprofit KaBOOM! to donate playground kits to schools and communities.
To top it off, the event featured an immersive tour of all of Target’s innovations for the next year, unveiled at the show via two virtual reality stations that displayed a five-minute self-guided tour of a Target store.
Google Play Music has not always been as well known in the music streaming space as Spotify and Pandora. But its offering is quite different. With this in mind, and the desire to increase market share, Google Play Music went after millennial festivalgoers with a cube activation called Google Play Music Block at Panorama Festival on New York City’s Governor’s Island that delivered larger-than-life visual and audio demonstrations of how the service personalizes the music experience for users.
The 30-foot LED-covered cube structure displayed 36 hours of unique content that reflected festival happenings in real-time. The custom-built software reacted dynamically to auditory cues from the main stage and to contextual cues such as weather, time of day, current events and social sharing.
For instance, when temperatures got hot, the Google Play Music Block “showered” digital popsicles reacting to the music—while brand ambassadors handed out real popsicles to festivalgoers. Ahhhh. Then at sunset, the “Block” displayed paper lanterns ascending into the sky and disco balls with reflections of the sunset. When music fans tagged #PlaytheBlock to Twitter or Instagram, it reacted by broadcasting their content 30 feet high for all festivalgoers to see. And when news spread that David Bowie had passed away, his albums popped up on the displays, and Arcade Fire came to the Block to perform a Bowie tribute.
The digital experience aside, the Block offered physical advantages as well, including a rooftop deck with 180-degree views of the New York City skyline in the background. Music to our ears.
There’s no better way to visually communicate Jägermeister than through antlers, which is exactly what the liquor brand brought to life at electronic music festivals across the country—a new music genre for the brand. The Haus 56 activation was a two-story “treehouse” that paid homage to Jägermeister’s heritage and 56 ingredients used to make the herbal liquor. And the 40-foot antlers that sprouted from the main bar through the second floor, flanking both sides of the activation footprint? Hard to miss.
The structure featured a second-level observation deck, craft cocktails, djs and brand ambassadors decked out as “magical forest” characters. There were festival-favorite activities like a custom jewelry-making station and station for head crowns made of dry herbs from Jägermeister ingredients, plus three photo activations and face painting. On top of the on-site activations, Jägermeister ahead of its festival dates released a 12-part episodic video series called “Art of the Craft” featuring artists playing EDM festivals and their passion for the liquor, and hosted a sweepstakes for airfare, hotel and VIP tickets.
Across all the festivals (Electric Daisy New York, Electric Daisy Las Vegas, Nocturnal Wonderland, Escape, Electric Daisy Orlando and HARD Summer) 42,000 consumers went through Haus 56—93 percent of whom were the target millennial age. Cheers.
The MINExpo mining show takes place every four years, which is a long stretch between opportunities to engage the decision makers that come to the show. As Caterpillar approached the 2016 event in Las Vegas, it knew it needed to make a splash in order to attract attention from these hard-to-reach attendees. The 14 gigantic machines certainly helped in that effort. As did the 52,000-square-foot exhibit. But it was Caterpillar’s emphasis on content, and the interactive ways in which it delivered it throughout the space, that made for an experience to remember.
Accompanying the machines were marker kiosks with iPads, and nearly 60 product benefit signs mounted on high-visibility areas among the machines. There were 42 different wall messaging areas to guide foot traffic through the exhibit and communicate product messaging; two custom-programmed interactive wall displays; and three large tabletop interactive touch surfaces featuring 14- to 55-inch MultiTaction screens (meaning, multiple people can manipulate the content on the screen at once). That’s not all: there were five interactive touch monoliths with technology-related content, two different immersive Oculus Rift virtual reality experiences, two CAT operator simulators and six translucent screens that featured animated content on Caterpillar’s data optimization services for mining companies.
Through all of this, on top of stages with films, 3D animations and comfortable high-top seating, live hosts launching customized trivia games, two on-site meeting rooms and two off-site events for VIPs (including a private concert with The Doobie Brothers and Sarah Evans), Caterpillar certainly made its presence known. Indeed, big machinery is easy eye candy to bring ’em in from the aisles. We give them props for its equally big content delivery systems.
Slack had quite a job at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s mega technology conference. The communications software platform that entered the scene in 2013 needed to show off its industry leadership among 171,000 savvy professionals who have a desire to streamline their processes, and have many options to do so. With its light-handed, playful and modest activation teeming with natural elements, Slack certainly offered the fresh approach needed to break through to this crowd.
The visually appealing space included a center stage with a living wall on top of a natural wood backdrop, as the Slack logo hovered above. Edison bulbs offered a natural glow over the minimalist, modern space. And then there was the crisp scent of succulents that filled the footprint—a sensorial atmosphere in which to engage one-on-one with Slack representatives. For a fun twist, a large screen displayed cartoons mixed in with customer stories representing major brands across the globe using Slack.
A respite from the stark, hectic expo floor? For sure. An oasis that was absent of the pressure to buy? Oh, yes. In fact, to accommodate the substantial visitor flow, Slack had to schedule more than 100 demos over the course of four days.
For Coca-Cola, the Olympics are like an old friendship—an 88-year-old one. But despite the historic age of the Games and its partnership, Coke wanted to make sure that its sponsorship program and the Games were relevant to teens and millennials, too. The resulting #ThatsGold global marketing campaign that spanned the Olympic Torch Relay to the Athletes Village gave teens special access to the Games.
Among the teen-centric activities of the sponsorship was Parada Coca-Cola, or Coca-Cola Station, that featured product tasting experiences and interactives. Fans could take 360-degree photos of the Olympic torch, show off their best moves in “Just Dance” video competitions, and, of course, sample Coke. In addition, teens could digitally “face swap” with the Coca-Cola polar bear, customize Olympic memorabilia, take photos in a kaleidoscope or snap a selfie with the Olympic medals and the Olympic torch. To boot, the main ceiling installation was inspired by a burst of bubbles exploding from a Coca-Cola bottle that lit up in gold whenever athletes won a gold medal during the Games. And then there were the nightly concerts streamed by MTV and online through Facebook Live with 600,000 fans tuning in, the most engagement for the brand throughout the entire campaign.
On top of building brand love, Coke was launching new packaging and the new global Coca-Cola Life low-calorie option in order to broaden the reach of Coca-Cola across Brazil. A refreshing strategy this time around.
It’s easy to capture the essence of Olympic sports, but the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) for its 15-month, multi-market Road to Rio tour captured the spirit of both Brazil and of Olympic sports, through in-person and online experiences. With a target audience of families and kids, the USOC’s tour helped engage a new generation of Olympic sports fans.
The Road to Rio tour boasted a party atmosphere complete with Samba dancers, Olympic history and a Sugarloaf Mountain replica that doubled as a zip-line platform. That’s right—the experience included a 26-foot-high zip across the entire activation. At the heart of the experience, two customized 53-foot trailers outfitted with green screen photo ops put fans into Olympic moments. There were also virtual reality experiences in volleyball, gymnastics, pole vault and diving. The custom-built RFID app for registration also provided a seamless social extension and created a connected digital environment.
Topping off the experience were concerts including The Band Perry in Times Square in New York City, Hunter Hayes in Indianapolis, IN, and Rachel Platten in Venice Beach, CA. In all, the program garnered 1.55 billion impressions across on-site, social, earned and paid media, on top of 34,000 on-site registrations. That’s what you call spirit.
In an industry that thrives on creating disruptive experiences, Cricket Wireless offered a textbook example through its Smile Trucks campaign. With its sights set on upsetting the competition while driving consumer consideration and, ultimately, sales, the brand leveraged a fleet of “Smile Trucks” (drawing from its “Something to Smile About” slogan) that made stops in 11 hyper-targeted markets. The experience exceeded the expectations of organizers and consumers alike, ultimately earning the brand more than 19 million impressions.
With two demographics in mind—the underserved consumer and the local community—the brand transformed its trucks into “Cricket stores on wheels” aimed at making consumers feel that their business was valued (something larger wireless providers often overlook). Each vehicle featured device displays, a sales counter, heavy doses of the brand’s signature green color and two floor-to-ceiling windows that represented Cricket’s commitment to conducting transparent transactions.
On-board engagements included an inflatable cash-grab machine and a custom digital gaming station—both offering premium prizes to top participants—meant to simultaneously educate and entertain attendees. Each truck was also equipped with a three-person team of brand experts who distributed retail flyers to entice consumers to engage with the brand post-event.
After 39 weeks touring the country, Cricket racked up nearly 14,000 new phone activations and engaged over one million consumers. Something to smile about, indeed.
Building professionals are a discerning breed, often demanding proof that a tool or product will perform as advertised before implementing it on job sites. So, to showcase the superiority of its products and provide essential education to builders, lumberyard dealers, architects and general contractors, Huber Engineered Woods rebooted its Prove It Tour in 2016, bringing its hands-on experience to job sites in five major markets across the U.S. But the brand wasn’t just building castles in the sky—98 percent of attendees reported learning something new after participating in the activation.
Huber’s business model doesn’t often incorporate interaction with its end user—the brand sells to distribution partners, who sell to lumberyards, who then sell to the builders—so training and education is key to success in the marketplace. To that end, Huber took four trailers and two vans on the road to give building pros a chance to interact with its products through interactive demos and hands-on installation challenges. Attendees could also use a touch screen to view product videos by activating a “trigger zone,” which prompted videos to play when they entered a specific part of the footprint.
Over 500 events and 180 job site trainings later, it’s safe to say Huber has nothing left to prove.
Copa America is Latin America’s biggest soccer tournament, so when the competition headed to the United States for the first time in celebration of its 100th anniversary, Bud Light seized the opportunity to kick it with Hispanic beer drinkers. The brand’s Barra Centenario experience was a chance to position itself as the beer of choice among Hispanic millennials and to speak to the demographic in an authentic way. Live performances, an art gallery, Latin bites, customized photo ops and plenty of ice-cold brews made it happen. The results: 100 percent positive sentiment from more than 2,000 attendees.
The experience began at check-in, where attendees received custom bracelets representing the team of their choice. In The Gallery, they could view large-scale artworks created by artists from their team’s corresponding country that paid homage to those competing in the tournament. From there, the full Barra Centenario experience was unveiled. A movie-sized screen played the “Bud Light Party” while the “Hero Bar” and a mural of Mexican soccer player Chicharito served as an introduction to the space. On The Patio, attendees could view projections of the game or chow down on fare from local Latin food vendors. There were also interactive three-on-three soccer tournaments to catch, and of course, plenty of ways to amplify all the action on social media with an on-site Giphy booth, custom Snapchat filter and a live-stream of the event on Facebook Live.
Performances by Venus X, Que Bajo and Princess Nokia, and a surprise performance by rapper Tego Calderón capped off the evening, ultimately generating 52 million social impressions. Can we get an olé?
How does a brand win the attention of a modern college student? The same way brands have been doing it for years—tailgating and giveaways. That’s exactly how BET Networks connected with students at a handful of Historically Black College & University (HBCU) campuses to promote its new series, “The Quad,” the first TV drama set at an HBCU campus. Armed with a two-pronged strategy, BET engaged HBCU students, alumni and administrators, generating 35 million impressions.
Phase one of the program, The Quad Lounge, delivered the tailgating experience inside a 65-foot by 65-foot inflatable cube. Students could chill in a viewing area playing trailers of “The Quad,” spin a prize wheel to win Quad-branded swag, munch on mini chicken and waffles plates served up by Waffle House, create a GIF and listen to a dj spinning tunes just outside. For the second phase, The Quad Back To Campus experience, BET partnered with Procter & Gamble to create care packages for students containing school supplies, toiletries and a branded tote. Upon receiving their kits, students were invited to an advance screening of “The Quad,” complete with a red carpet step and repeat and plenty of popcorn.
A multi-pronged strategy, a multi-generational audience and millions of impressions.
Now that’s what you call making the grade.
Kids say the darndest things—especially when they’re posing as car salesmen to drive the launch of the Chrysler Pacifica. And that’s the point. To create a simple car buying experience, the brand turned to a team of child actors dubbed the “PacifiKids” to highlight the new vehicle’s features to prospective customers. The kicker: every interaction was captured on hidden cameras, turning Chrysler’s adorable activation into a content generation machine that yielded 367 million impressions.
Chrysler set the scene for the activation by transforming a real dealership in Victorville, CA, into the Chrysler PacifiKids’ showroom, complete with miniature desks, scooters and a second-floor slide that led into a first-floor ball pit. Enlisting a team of child actors trained on the Pacifica’s features, the brand turned the banal act of buying a minivan into a unique experience. Of course, all of it was scripted to ensure success—a director tucked away in a second floor war room fed the actors their lines to help sell consumers on the vehicle’s perks. After imparting their “expert” knowledge on families, the PacifiKids led attendees to bean bag chairs and asked them a number of unscripted questions to determine if they qualified for the van (naturally, everyone made the cut).
On day one of the activation, families’ interactions with the PacifiKids were caught on one of 14 hidden cameras, ultimately generating a two-minute “hero” spot. On day two, the content strategy shifted to accommodate an open shoot with a mix of scripted and unscripted conversation, which yielded an additional eight pieces of content. Everything was published to Chrysler’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with a call-to-action encouraging families across the U.S. to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win an on-camera Pacifica test drive or “field trip.”
That’s where phase two of the activation came into play. Interested families could submit a “permission slip” to a dedicated microsite for a chance to participate in the field trip. To promote the contest, Chrysler enlisted 28 influencers to post social content surrounding their personal experience with the Pacifica, resulting in 146 pieces of content.
Ultimately, three families and one paid influencer family were selected for the filmed field trips. The excursions were captured and transformed into four new pieces of content, effectively extending the campaign’s momentum. When the field trips came to a close, the three (unpaid) participating families’ videos were uploaded to the microsite and put to a vote to give consumers a chance to win a brand new Pacifica, allowing Chrysler to further engage its digital audience.
Chrysler made it look like, well, child’s play. The activation earned 19.3 million actual impressions from four family field trip content spots alone—444 percent above the brand’s goal.
Amid the political whirlwind that was the 2016 presidential election, CNN aimed to get more Americans involved by making the process more social. To give more voters a chance to have their voice heard, the network teamed up with Facebook to launch a mobile political tour built for social media-fueled content creation aboard a converted Airstream trailer dubbed the “Campaign Camper.” The tour attracted thousands of participants and ultimately helped highlight social media’s impact on the political landscape.
Beginning with the first presidential debate at Hoftstra University and ending on election night at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the Campaign Camper made its way across the country. The vehicle was equipped with a video-enabled teleprompter podium that allowed participants to share their election opinions and/or ask candidates questions during live debates (at every debate stop, CNN anchors hosted multiple live interviews from the Campaign Camper). All of the content could be shared on Facebook and Instagram. In addition, a replica CNN news desk allowed participants to “report the news” using Facebook Live.
Adding to the program’s “wow” factor, an Instagram engagement allowed consumers to take a photo that was tinted red, blue or purple based on their political preference. The images were projection-mapped onto the Empire State Building on election night. Yep, that happened.
All of the content generated aboard the Campaign Camper was aggregated on CNN’s Facebook and Instagram pages, where the network could moderate the footage. In the end, the campaign allowed voters to make their voices heard loud and clear, and ultimately reached more than 20 million people.
The political climate surrounding the 2016 presidential election was a rocky road paved with dissent, to say the least. But JetBlue wanted to know—was America really that divided? To find out, the brand executed a sky-high social experiment aimed at getting passengers, and the general population, to compromise. The Reach Across the Aisle stunt involved 150 passengers aboard a flight from Boston to Phoenix who were told they would win a free round-trip ticket to one of 20 destinations served by JetBlue—but only if they could all agree on a single destination by unanimous vote before the six-hour flight landed. And in the end, agree they did.
To kick things off, JetBlue distributed red and blue hand signs for voting to each side of the plane. Passengers then debated and lobbied as the “Speaker of the Plane” guided them through the deliberation, all of which was filmed by three roaming camera operators. GoPros were also positioned throughout the aircraft to ensure all of the action was captured.
The activation ultimately reaffirmed JetBlue’s position as a risk taker and highlighted its “ inspiring humanity” messaging. Oh, and it earned 300 million media impressions, along with 70 unique social mentions from major news outlets and influencers. That’s some serious liftoff.
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there to assist its customers with their insurance needs. But most don’t realize that the company also offers them an array of financial services. To change that perception, and to get consumers thinking about their long-term goals, State Farm rolled out the Write Now campaign. The idea was to have household decision-makers write their goals down, instead of writing them off. With a six-city event tour fueled by inspiration from local women who shared their success stories, the brand ultimately engaged more than 30,000 consumers in six key markets and significantly boosted awareness of its financial services.
At the core of the Write Now program was a mission to foster financial conversations with the target audience. And with a recent survey revealing that 71 percent of millennial women claim to be the financial decision-maker in the household, the brand had its sights set on building relationships with leading ladies—the type of hardcore planner that checks off goals on her five-year plan within the first month.
With its target in mind, State Farm set out on a quest to help women identify and write down their aspirations, and assist them on their journey. To that end, the brand partnered with WME Live for the six-city Together Live tour. The conference featured a lineup of captivating storytellers, as well as special guests that ranged from songwriter Alicia Keys to retired soccer player Abby Wambach.
Each Together Live event offered an on-site activation that tasked attendees with writing their dreams on wall clings, then physically adding them to a “dream tower.” One submission in each market was selected by State Farm, and the winner was surprised on stage with $500 to jump-start her goal. Attendees could also engrave their dreams on a customized notebook, and everyone left the event with a goal-planning worksheet that mapped back to the Write Now program.
To keep the women inspired, State Farm also developed “dream achiever” content for each tour stop that showcased a local woman who started living out her dreams as a result of writing down her goals. At each event, the brand called the dream achiever up to the stage and surprised her with $5,000 to help continue her work. A partnership with Bustle.com and Romper.com extended the conversation beyond the event through customized content and video footage of the dream achievers.
The Write Now program exceeded engagement and impression goals on all fronts, with success measured on increasing awareness of State Farm’s financial services products. Sentiment for the program was overwhelmingly positive, and with 44 million impressions, the brand certainly had something to write home about.
“Think global. Act local.” It’s a phrase you can’t escape these days, whether it’s in reference to environmental issues or marketing initiatives. For Bloomberg, it’s the mantra that drives its Square Mile Relay races. The annual team-building events, and their corresponding spectator villages, engage the brand’s premium client base. In 2016, the program was bigger and better than ever, hitting four continents and resulting in 162 percent year-over-year growth of Bloomberg’s Instagram and Facebook followers.
What began in 2006 as a single race in the City of London, colloquially known as the Square Mile, has evolved into a seven-city program that brings the spirit of competition out of the boardroom and onto the streets. Ten-person teams, comprised mostly of Bloomberg’s high-profile clients, train together for months leading up to the event, which in 2016 was refreshed to reflect purpose-driven messaging. Case in point: The brand leveraged employees as volunteers to staff the events, and each race included a local non-profit community partner. But the engagement extends past the relay, thanks to each event’s spectator village. The footprints provide sales teams a place to mingle with clients, and include food and beverage tents, team selfie stations and a dj. To amplify the experience, teams in each city are given the freedom to customize their spectator village with culturally relevant engagements, like the signs that lit up with Chinese characters for the 2016 Shanghai race.
When the program reached the finish line, Bloomberg had earned more than eight million #WeRunThisCity social impressions and increased race participation by 38 percent, year-over-year.
Ever the experiential brand, MasterCard’s belief that experiences matter more than material things last year translated into 55 “priceless” culinary experiences that brought cardmembers to unexpected—and iconic—venues across the country. From a four-course meal on the legendary Paramount Pictures Studios lot, to dinner on the field at Dodger Stadium, the brand treated affluent customers to unforgettable experiences and unlimited access in 10 markets.
Each engagement was as dynamic as the city it was hosted in. In Boston, attendees dined on fare whipped up by the city’s most notable chef, Ken Oringer, and enjoyed the music of a local string quartet at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In New York City, cardmembers shared a meal atop the largest building in North America, One World Observatory, with a private dinner curated by Chef Matthew Eland and a Q&A led by New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. And the list goes on.
All in all, more than 2,000 MasterCard customers participated in the 2016 program, and the culinary talent was expanded to include more than 30 of the nation’s top chefs. Now that’s bringing something to the table.
Plenty of brands label their event campaigns as “bold” these days, but few can walk the talk. Doritos is one of them. The brand’s Bold View experience at Super Bowl 50 took football to new heights (literally) when a group of 25 fans were surprised with a world-class meal prepared by celebrity chef Matt O’Neil as they watched the big game from a table suspended 137 feet in the air. Mission to extend Doritos’ “for the bold” narrative, generate shareable content and offer an unrivaled experience? Accomplished. The brand even shattered the Guinness World Record for tallest suspended football party. Fortune favors the bold, after all.
To find the courageous souls who would ultimately participate in the Bold View engagement, Doritos sent an ambassador to the NFL Experience at San Francisco’s Moscone Center to approach fans with a few simple questions: Are you bold? Would you drop whatever plans you have for Super Bowl Sunday to join us in a bold experience? Those who opted in (mostly millennials) were contacted and asked to meet downtown the following morning, where a bus was waiting to whisk them away to Santa Clara (just outside Levi’s Stadium), for a sky-high dining experience. Along the way, intrigue continued to grow as participants viewed branded skywriting that spelled “Doritos: For the Bold” over the stadium. At the activation site, attendees strapped themselves in and indulged in the views of Super Bowl 50’s opening ceremonies as they were hoisted up into the evening sky. Throughout the event, fans experienced the sights and sounds of both the live game and television footage of the competition being broadcast from center screens. Chef O’Neil served up a multi-course meal featuring Doritos-inspired dishes created exclusively for the event, as a director from film production company The Original Chicken Boy captured all the action using a rig designed specifically for the Bold View shoot. The brand also ensured attendees could capture and share the experience in real time on their social channels by securing wi-fi at 137 feet.
During the game, Doritos extended the experience to digital consumers by live-streaming the event from its Twitter/Periscope account. It was the first time a brand’s Periscope live-stream showed up in its news feed as a video, versus a traditional link to watch the stream live from another window. Executing the world’s boldest Super Bowl party was no easy task. The effort required 200-foot cranes for setup, along with special clearance from the NFL and Homeland Security, among others. But boy was it worth it. Video content of the experience earned 717,000 views, while the program as a whole generated 280 million impressions. Looks like the sky really is the limit.
We’ve all been there. The hassle of the airport is behind you and you’re just settling into your flight—when a baby begins to wail. “Crying babies” is rated the second most annoying aspect of flying. And while it’s a frustrating situation for most passengers, the pressure of the scenario often causes the child’s parents to suffer the most. Enter: FlyBabies.
To show that empathizing with moms flying with young children can be rewarding, JetBlue offered 150 passengers on a special flight from New York to California a 25 percent credit toward their next flight every time a baby cried. Earning 637 million traditional media impressions, the campaign, carried out just in time for Mother’s Day, gave everyone something to smile about.
To pull off the stunt, JetBlue documented four real moms and their babies leading up to the cross-country flight. The brand also captured the in-flight action, which included resounding cheers every time a baby began to cry. Passengers even got to know the moms and babies by name. In sharing the footage, the brand aimed to celebrate moms and generate empathy beyond the FlyBabies experience, furthering its “inspiring humanity” messaging.
The campaign turned tears into cheers in more than one way. Within a few days of launching the video content, the stunt accumulated over five million views and 41,000 social shares. And all passengers earned a free JetBlue flight, to boot.
There’s nothing quite like a new pair of kicks—unless they’re accompanied by a pop-up concert in the heart of New York City. For the launch of its Air Jordan Retro XI, Space Jam Edition sneaker, and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the “Space Jam” movie, Nike did just that. The surprise performance in Harlem featuring rappers Lil Uzi Vert and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie was strategically located outside the House of Hoops retail store, where sneaker aficionados could purchase a new pair of Jordans and have them customized on-site. And they came in droves—selling the store out of its coveted new product before the event wrapped.
The experience was designed to be shareable across social media, with specific focus on Snapchat and Instagram. To set things in motion, Nike built buzz on its social channels prior to the event, teasing the site of the pop-up concert before eventually revealing the location at the last minute. Adding to the excitement was the brand’s custom mobile stage, which was created out of a hydraulic trailer, complete with a one-of-a-kind truss and lighting system that amplified the show’s production quality. The activation garnered 1.3 million social impressions across Snapchat and Instagram, proving Nike’s experiences are as sought-after as its sneakers.
Nike recognizes that the modern woman needs support. Not just moral support, but a more intimate kind of support only a great sports bra can give. But with bra fitting still considered a somewhat taboo topic, the brand needed to provide a compelling, and more importantly, inviting, environment in which it could engage consumers and promote its Pro Bra collection. The solution: BraHaus, an upscale pop-up where bra fittings and other personal wellness engagements were designed to make women feel confident and sexy. And the strategy didn’t disappoint—more than 300 bra fittings took place in six days.
With its sights set on urban fitness buffs, Nike partnered with high-end fitness retailer Bandier to appeal to its discerning target. Together, the brands created a stylish, immersive environment that simultaneously showcased the innovation of Nike’s Pro Bra collection and assisted women in their quest to find the right bra fit for the activities they love most.
Recognizing that a staggering 80 percent of women wear the wrong bra size, Nike ensured none of its attendees’ cups would runneth over (sorry, we had to) by enlisting six bra fit specialists who provided free one-on-one fittings and consultations on which fit was best suited for various workouts. But the BraHaus offered more than education. A 360-degree infinity mirror engagement defined the fitting room, encouraging women to snap and share photos of themselves immersed in psychedelic reflections under pink LED lighting. Meanwhile, a plush pink lounge offered a relaxing place to take in the Pro Bra exhibit where attendees learned about the unique performance features of each product. There were also custom-created juice blends from Juice Witches, nutritionist consultations and hair braiding courtesy of Amika.
Nike’s other key BraHaus partnership leveraged Manhattan-based artist Baron Von Fancy, known for his unique artwork featuring clever turns of phrase. To help draw passersby into the pop-up, Von Fancy designed an in-store Pro Bra installation featuring items from the collection and quotes like “I Run My World” aimed at motivating consumers. Additionally, those who purchased a Pro Bra on-site could have it customized with one of Von Fancy’s inspirational quotes at a designated station where they could browse through his artwork.
Think the fun stopped there? Think again. Nike’s multi-faceted strategy also leveraged Bandier’s workout space to hold free Training Club classes over the course of the week, offering attendees a chance to learn from the brand’s top trainers. In addition, a Train + Trial experience gave consumers a chance to test out Nike’s latest training footwear, with an option to purchase.
Over the course of six days, the brand increased Nike+ membership by 20 percent and racked up over $16,000 in product purchases. Talk about a sales lift.
As brands decked the halls and lured shoppers with special sales over the holiday season, Stella Artois set itself apart from the pack with a luxury shopping experience aimed at boosting sales of its iconic, limited edition holiday chalice. Teaming up with GILT, a flash sale site that offers its members special access to designer merchandise, Stella brought good tidings and tasty brews to New York City, generating 93 percent of offline sales for the holiday chalice in just 12 days.
Stella Artois was originally created for the people of Leuven, Belgium, as a Christmas present. To perpetuate its gift-giving legacy, the brand turned to Manhattan’s famed 5th Ave., where GILT’s concept shop at Saks Off 5th served as the backdrop to Stella’s “holiday to remember”-themed lounge activation. In addition to GILT’s collection of chic followers, the brand targeted affluent millennials—passionate experience-seekers between the ages of 25 and 34—to put the holiday chalice directly into the hands of high-end shoppers.
Inside the venue, attendees had the opportunity to purchase a Stella Artois holiday chalice and have it personally engraved on-site. While shoppers waited for their engraved gifts, they could also take advantage of complimentary gift-wrapping services, along with ice-cold samples of Stella Artois and Stella Artois Cidre, all from a plush, chalice-inspired lounge.
All in all, nearly 3,000 consumers engaged with Stella Artois brand ambassadors during the activation, while 851 samples were distributed and 975 gifts were wrapped courtesy of the brand. We’d say the chalice is half full.
It seems like every time you turn around, another airline is taking away another amenity without a hint of remorse. But as other brands were making quick enemies of travelers, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines activated a pop-up experience and street campaign around an unprecedented concept in modern travel: helpfulness. To showcase its brand ethos and promote its new direct flights from Amsterdam to San Francisco, KLM piloted a series of interactive engagements around the premise of good will. The verdict? Very good: The pop-up alone garnered 157 million media impressions.
To participate in the pop-up experience, Bay Area residents first registered for an RFID-powered “passport” that allowed for personalized check-in at five stations. The stops included a VR experience that took participants aboard the brand’s new Dreamliner aircraft, the chance to sit in real Business Class seats and snap a selfie using a Twitter mirror and an opportunity to explore KLM destinations through a touch screen map.
To amplify its presence in San Francisco, the brand also executed a “helpful” street campaign featuring billboards used to help owners find their lost pets, a countdown for ferry departures, a real-time surf report and more. The campaign ultimately experienced a smooth landing, earning 28,000 impressions from the Twitter mirror engagement alone, and earning 7 million more from the street campaign.
For the launch of its HERO5 camera, Karma drone and new accessories and software solutions, GoPro went quid pro quo. Instead of communicating the features of its products through a static press event, the brand unleashed journalists, influencers and athletes at an interactive “day camp” in Squaw Valley, CA, where they could play with the items at their own pace in a hands-on environment. From horseback riding to mobile ziplining, attendees participated in activities that not only highlighted the new products, but authentically immersed them in the GoPro lifestyle. And the strategy paid off. In just one week, nearly 2,500 stories covering the launch were published worldwide.
In what GoPro calls its biggest launch event to date, the experience kicked off with a live show inside a custom tent outfitted with a 180-degree screen. Leveraging a “theatre in the round”-style seating arrangement, ceo Nick Woodman delivered a keynote address announcing the new products and technology to physical attendees, while a Facebook Live stream of the speech kept digital fans up to date. The brand also hosted a Q&A session with Woodman, giving press the opportunity to learn more about the new products, and in some cases, conduct one-on-one interviews.
Next, GoPro trainers organized attendees into groups and provided them with HERO5 cameras to be used on their adventure. The trainers were present throughout the event to educate participants on the new products through hands-on experiences.
Over the course of the day, influencers and media members were invited to get down and dirty to capture footage from a variety of activities like mobile ziplining, horseback riding, cruiser bike rides, a sky jump, archery, wall climbing, mini golf, hiking, RC rock crawler racing and e-bike riding, along with opportunities to use the Karma drone at various launch points throughout the camp. To keep the details of their experience fresh and their readers up to speed, press members could also utilize an editing room complete with computers and GoPro editing software.
The brand ultimately took what could have been a standard product launch to the next level by giving attendees direct access to some of GoPro’s most technologically advanced products in an authentic (and picturesque) setting—a far cry from PowerPoint presentations and image slides. The event hit capacity at 320 attendees, including U.S. and international press, generating 500 million impressions from U.S. coverage alone. In total, 2,500 stories published internationally translated to more than 4.5 billion media impressions. No failure to launch here.
It’s pretty much every brand’s dream to collaborate with an iconic film franchise that spans the generations. So when Nissan teamed up with Lucas Films at the Los Angeles Auto Show for the international launch of the Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition vehicle, the brand knew it had to do something epic. And it delivered with a never-been-done-before press event featuring a choreographed action sequence combining media, lighting and special effects that transported thousands of auto journalists into the world of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
The highlight of the experience featured myriad special effects, as the Nissan Rogue was battle-tested on a high-speed, programmatic turntable positioned on a stage. The turntable moved in sync with a film trailer-style “Star Wars” sequence presented on a 60-foot LED screen surrounding the stage. To merge the physical and digital worlds, Nissan used a synchronized motion technique that matched the rotation of the turntable with the movie footage, creating an immersive experience that made attendees feel as if they were part of the scene. With all of the show’s elements combined, including pyrotechnics, lasers, smoke, authentic “Star Wars” audio and even a team of Stormtroopers, the brand was able to captivate both the live audience and thousands more viewing the event online.
The experience also included a 21-foot replica TIE Fighter, cognitive reality technology and a gallery featuring real “Rogue One” film props. Following the launch, video footage of the event was viewed online over one million times. The Force is strong with this brand.
Think of The North Face, and you typically think of sweeping natural landscapes. But for the launch of its first global flagship in Manhattan, the retailer had to showcase its brand narrative through the lens of a concrete jungle instead. Operating under an “Urban Exploration” theme, The North Face unveiled the store with a three-pronged approach that included an influencer photography series, photo exhibition and the official launch event, resulting in 4.6 million social impressions.
To build buzz for the launch among a broad range of media outlets, the brand tapped a number of photographers who navigated unknown corners of the Big Apple, snapping shots of unexplored tunnels and rooftops, urban athlete playgrounds and other rare snippets of city life. A selection of the images was exhibited at a special pre-launch event, which also included a 30-foot brand timeline, custom climbing wall and dj.
When the flagship’s grand opening finally arrived, it was an all-day affair. During the day, attendees could view a screening of the new sports-action film “Meru,” listen to the dj spin tracks and snag giveaways, like Lot, Stock & Barrel embroidery. At night, key partners and media were invited to attend a private St. Lucia performance. In the end, The North Face had engaged 5,000 attendees and generated 48 unique media posts.
How do you celebrate 100 years of success? If you’re BMW Group, you throw the biggest event in your brand’s history. In true BMW fashion, the automaker didn’t focus its centennial celebration on the past, but rather highlighted its vision for the future with an event dubbed “The Next 100 Years.” The highlight of the experience was an hour-long multisensory journey for stakeholders that rivaled Broadway’s biggest productions. Featuring live performers, stunning audiovisual elements and the spectacle helped BMW deliver on its goal to position itself as a thought leader and game changer in individual mobility. Lending authenticity to the experience, The Next 100 Years was held where BMW got its start—in Germany (at Munich’s Olympic Hall, no less). And although the event emphasized BMW’s ambitions for the years ahead, the experience as a whole served as a journey through the brand’s history and future, and incorporated all four BMW Group brands: BMW, MINI, Rolls Royce and BMW Motorrad. As 2,000 attendees from the automotive industry, media, politics and art looked on, BMW communicated its brand story through 12 multimedia vignettes in which projections, sound, dance, poetry and BMW vehicles all converged on stage. As if that wasn’t enough, the show culminated in the reveal of the BMW VISION NEXT 100 concept car.
Of course, a production of that magnitude was fueled by a variety of technologies. The brand’s 2,300-square-meter multiscreen projections (about 25,000-square-feet), which were cast onto the walls, floors and ceiling, were fed through 140 projectors and 27 media servers. The surface was leveraged for 37 minutes of high-definition content, supporting a staggering 105,400 terabytes of files. The setup even earned BMW an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for biggest projection surface. To boot, the brand leveraged a kinetic ceiling sculpture featuring 880 moving spheres, which supported the stage activity from above.
Fortunately for BMW employees, stakeholders weren’t the only ones who got to enjoy the experience. The show was live-streamed to enable employees and partners to view the production from around the globe. The brand even rented out the Allianz Arena, a sports stadium, where 50,000 employees viewed the live broadcast and shared the experience together.
The results were, naturally, worthy of a standing ovation. The event was a top story on more than 25 international print and online publications, including Fortune and the Washington Post, while BMW’s social channels garnered 13 million impressions.
A number of luxury automakers have recently opened brand experience centers, but Porsche’s $60 million endeavor—and its subsequent grand opening event—took the concept to a whole new level. The red carpet-style experience featured everything from tap dancers to simulation labs to the highlight of the event—a theatrical demo of the Porsche Experience Center’s gargantuan test and development track. Still not impressed? Consider this: the event caused a three-mile backup on California’s I-405, as drivers stopped to get a peek at the action.
The invitation-only event for an audience of 550 Porsche executives and other VIPs began on a Porsche-inspired red carpet that led attendees through a tour of Porsche’s history. Inside the Experience Center, attendees were invited to take one of three property tours, which included garage tours, driver demos, simulation labs, the first public tour of the motorsport garage, an unveiling of the Panamera G2 and a gift (a piece of leather stamped and signed by Porsche’s board of directors).
The main attraction was the theatrical track test demonstration, which attendees viewed from 30-foot-high executive bleachers. During the demo, 19 Porsche vehicles sped around the track, underscoring its features, like the high-speed straightaway, drift corner, kick plate and low friction zone. A team of cameramen and two drones captured the live footage and fed it to screens around the venue. The event then culminated in a fireworks display and after-party. And with social activity tied to the event earning a reach of more than 23 million users, we’d say Porsche lapped the competition on this one.
Harley-Davidson has hit countless milestones in its 113-year history, but its 2016 Annual Dealer Meeting was one for the books. The unveiling of the new V-Twin engine—only the ninth engine introduced in the company’s lengthy history—would impact the brand, its dealers and its customers. The high-stakes scenario prompted Harley to transform the event into an audiovisual presentation worthy of a historic product reveal. And the strategy paid dividends, generating an increase in test rides, touring sales and gains in market share, all within the ultra competitive U.S. market.
The experience kicked off in a replica work environment of the Harley-Davidson Product Design Center, where four actual designers worked on everything from sketching cruiser bikes to refining the design of the brand’s new leather jacket. Next, at the Worldwide General Session, attendees watched as one of the Boston Convention Center’s 180-foot by 60-foot windows was transformed into a projection screen that played brand-centric animations and videos.
When the time came for the big reveal, three engines were raised on custom-built elevators that offered a rotating view of the V-Twins, accompanied by fog, dramatic lighting and the sound of the new engine revving away. The event wrapped with an epic sendoff that had Harley designers driving off stage on the brand’s full portfolio of bikes—and redefining “joy ride.”
The Pokémon World Championships is the pinnacle of competitive Pokémon play, and this year’s tournament delivered the pinnacle in results as well. A record-setting 5,000 players from 35 countries competed, the event was streamed on eight separate live broadcasts and more than two million unique viewers accounted for the largest reach of any Pokémon championship to date. Part competition and part celebration and festival, the event previewed new products and characters and engaged the diverse and passionate gaming community in a scenic environment that reflected the imagery of the host city San Francisco in a uniquely Pokémon way.
The championships feature the best trading card and video game players from around the world who qualified by their outstanding play throughout the season. The three-day multi-national tournament took place at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis in atriums, ballrooms, meeting spaces and common areas.
Besides the tournament, the World Championships engaged a diverse group of gamers and fans who embrace the Pokémon culture throughout competitive and casual play, and aimed to expose the next generation through family and friends of current players as well as through creating a direct connection with the residents of the host city.
The challenges of executing such a multi-faceted event are complex and in constant flux. The scenic environment had to reflect the iconography of the host city, San Francisco, while recreating it in a style unmistakably indicative of the Pokémon brand. A comprehensive content and online media strategy supported the opening ceremonies, including a video montage that was filmed and edited throughout the day immediately preceding the ceremony. Due to the venue’s limited capacity and size of the anticipated crowd, no area could remain static throughout the course of the event. Spaces changed throughout the weekend on a daily and, sometimes, hourly basis. In addition, the tournament’s Swiss-system format meant that players were not eliminated after each round, but required an aggregate amount of points to be invited back the next day, which required adjustments in the number of participants at the end of each day. A sophisticated system of leveled badges integrated with metered checkpoints ensured maximum viewership and attendance without leaving a competitor “locked out.” For the first time, the championships included the Pokkén fighting video game, which created a whole new level of interest and excitement in the proceedings, and leveraged the use of social media on Pokémon websites, blogs and Twitter feeds around the world. Organizers said the championships exceeded all estimates on a quantitative and qualitative basis—we’d say the organizational structure of the event, on top of the experiential elements, exceeded fans’ expectations, too.
“No Commission: The Bronx” brought a fun, engaging music and art festival from Art Basel 2015 to the Big Apple in a big way. Curated by music producer Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, the event combined artwork from The Dean Collection, music and Bacardi in a cultural experience that drew more than 7,000 people. Ninety-eight percent of the artwork was sold, with all sales going back to the artists, living up to the “No Commission” promise. Event reporting tracked more than 200 media clips for a total of 500 million-plus social impressions.
Leveraging its deep heritage in art and music, Bacardi converted an abandoned school bus depot into a 20,000-square-foot gallery that brought the brand to the forefront of the cultural conversation and allowed consumers to interact directly with artists—minus the middleman. Gallery walls and build-outs covered steam pipes and existing infrastructure to white out the space, which included a 5,000-square-foot area with three large video projections. The temperature-controlled venue included gallery lighting, sound systems, bars and a VIP area. An outdoor summer party featured food trucks, shaded areas, custom bars, a Ferris wheel and a stage for concerts by A$AP Rocky, Pusha T, Young Thug, Swizz Beatz and special guests DMX and Fabolous.
An integrated approach from pre-event planning, including media and influencer outreach, to during- and post-event coverage, powered the campaign and guided a “cultural reappraisal” of the Bacardi brand by W Magazine, Huffington Post and other media outlets. The rum cocktails were “fabolous,” too.
To drive awareness, emotional connections, preference and purchase intent for its convertible laptops among young millennials, HP leveraged a high-engagement partnership with the Panorama music, art and technology festival, which took place last July at Randall’s Island Park in New York City. Two spaces at the festival—The Lab and the HP Lounge—featured HP technologies, including HP workstations and Intel technology, displays, tablets and laptops. Immersive art installations, interactive mirror walls, an HP video arena and hands-on experiences with the brand’s offerings created a hotbed of millennial engagement and results, market share, impressions and social engagement.
As millennials and festivalgoers grooved to headliners Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes and others, they also got the message loud and clear that HP technology can inspire and enable young creators. The Lab, presented by The Verge and powered by HP, served as a brand experience “playground,” with an interactive, projection-mapped exterior and virtual reality theater inside. An immersive Dome HP video arena surrounded attendees with motion designs and engaging graphics. At the HP Lounge, they could create and print temporary tattoos with Sprout by HP. The engagements achieved more than 10 times their social benchmark goals and attracted nearly 29,000 visitors.
Since its inception in 2012, re:Invent has grown more than 500 percent in size, leaping more than 60 percent in attendance from 2015 to 2016 alone. Maintaining that rate of growth without sacrificing results for customers requires sustainable scaling, which means adding value while executing flawlessly for more attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, breakouts, VIP events, entertainment, fun and ultimately, ROI. With final attendance at nearly 31,000, re:Invent 2016 shattered expectations, goals and records, and established Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a perennial powerhouse in the world of b-to-b events. All of AWS’ decisions for the 2016 event revolved around growing attendance levels and engagement. On the expo floor, which is known as re:Invent Central and served as a conference hub, attractions increased attendee engagement and drove exhibitor attendance. An enormous 100-foot by 100-foot AWS booth anchored the space. A 40-foot by 50-foot Partner Theater offered attendees the chance to take in 15-minute technical and thought-leadership sessions delivered by AWS partners. Fun diversions included Mind Gamers: Mission Unlock Enoch, a Red Bull-sponsored game activation and a Developer Lounge that provided a chill-out space for connecting with fellow developers, getting hands-on with technology and the chance to relax and play games or participate in Dev Chats led by AWS experts. On the content side, AWS added a half-day of sessions on the Monday before the official conference kick-off, supplying more content and learning opportunities for more attendees. In addition, breakout sessions included more in the way of lectures, demonstrations, guest speakers and deep dives into technology, customer stories, new product debriefs and recaps of particularly popular modules. Ten learning tracks covered topics such as databases, business apps, networking and mobile. The re:Source Mini-Con program offered the chance to dig into specific topics.
To accommodate more attendees, both on-site and virtually, the conference’s three keynotes delivered on three separate days were simultaneously broadcast to overflow areas and live-streamed to tens of thousands. Additional activities ranged from altruistic to competitive to good old-fashioned fun with a hackathon, a sponsored Gameday competition, a Security Jam as well as a pub crawl, a 5K foot race, a wing-eating challenge and a closing re:Play party.
For the conference, AWS added two Las Vegas venues to the re:Invent map, the Mirage Hotel and Encore Las Vegas, expanding beyond the Venetian, Sands Expo and LINQ parking lot, which required a content management system to handle hundreds of speaking and breakout sessions. A reserved seating system and a scheduling tool helped attendees find their way through it all. Indeed, AWS proved it had a strategy for growth. Thanks to sustainable scaling, re:Invent 2016 continued AWS’ winning streak.
Oracle OpenWorld 2016 reimagined the traditional conference format through a b-to-c lens that focused on learning, innovation and engagement to appeal to its younger, multicultural attendee base. Through a holistic approach, it transformed the massive 55,000-person conference into 10,000 five-person interactions, adding humanity, connection and engagement at every touchpoint. With attendees and its sales team at the heart of the experiences, Oracle focused on improving areas where learning and engagement occurred most frequently: “space, story and education.” The result: 81 percent said they would recommend the conference to others and 94 percent appreciated the new learning formats. Oracle redesigned static OpenWorld common areas into organic attendee-to-attendee engagement spaces and transformed San Francisco’s Howard Street between North and South Moscone halls into a branded plaza with gathering hubs for conversation and collaboration. Six hundred pieces of functional content became 2,200 pieces of dynamic storytelling that engaged and educated attendees. Two hundred and fifty hours of interviews with Oracle executives, customers and social media influencers were beamed online and around the event, and a live TV station in the central hub provided deeper understanding of content. A new Collective Learning (CL) format developed with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education featured interactive zones built around discussion, personal reflection and information sharing.
The b-to-c format met with resounding success. Besides the high attendee recommendations, the conference featured 270 hours of live content programming and generated 8.4 million social impressions. Quite a story.
The Branded Moments Road Show reached media buyers at agencies in seven cities with an immersive experience that showcased Spotify’s ability to target the moments that its listeners are currently in. Moments-based marketing is new to the advertising industry and considered the new currency of the “attention economy.” The road show showcased Spotify as a Tier 1 media partner with ubiquity and data insights, and built buzz for its Branded Moments advertising product through a three-part experience that involved an invitation, educational sessions at a media agency and a dance party. Traveling over eight weeks to 61 agencies, the road show educated more than 1,000 people about the product. The interactive journey began with the invitation, which featured Spotify usernames as part of the RSVP and made it possible to see user-generated data instantly and compare it to colleagues attending the events. Educational sessions explained more about the product. At the party, insights came to life with interactive panels and light exhibits that showcased the data and inspired attendees to touch, move and photograph the motion and graphics, helping them visualize how Spotify utilizes data in a productive way. Dancing with data. We like it.
Call of Duty XP 2016 went way beyond the typical brand activation with a massive fan experience that celebrated the history of the franchise and showcased new experiences to come. It integrated a live-broadcasted consumer- and press-facing keynote presentation by Activision ceo Eric Hirshberg, a professional Call of Duty esports competition and a theme park engagement that included the opportunity to play a completely new game and a re-mastered version of a previous one. Cutting-edge production, multiple live-streaming platforms, RFID technology, gameplay, live experiences, entertainment and zombies (yep, zombies) engaged 30 million-plus global community members and generated billions of impressions.
Outside of the world of sports video games, Activision is the only major publisher to release a completely new game within a specific franchise each year: the critically acclaimed and fan favorite Call of Duty. In 2016, 14 years and 13 titles into the franchise, Activision was preparing to release Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and a re-mastered version of 2007’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. To engage its highly jaded millennial audience, Activision leveraged a formula: epic live experience + future technology and production = mind-blowing results.
The activation combined the power of three successful global events into one unprecedented experience: the global reveal of the new game by the ceo of Activision on the world stage; the Call of Duty Championships, a competition of the best 32 out of 1,000 teams; and the Call of Duty XP fan experience, which literally brought the legacy of the Call of Duty franchise to life in approximately two square mile blocks that combined digital, virtual and live experiences.
Held at The Forum in Los Angeles the event included 10 live broadcast streams, four satellite trucks, RFID maps and check-ins, social media integrations, digital and physical badging, alternative reality games, virtual reality demos, 1,200 feet of zipline, juggernaut cage fighting, more than 330 networked gameplay kiosks, and more, not to mention the first-ever Facebook Live integration that pushed gameplay directly to social channels creating 420,000 impressions out of 1.5 billion total impressions. Custom-designed 48-foot-tall Hero Entry Towers modeled after in-game architectural elements and home screen theme music anchored the experience. In addition to the zipline flight and hands-on gameplay, there was a zombie-infested Spaceland Arcade and a football field-sized paintball course complete with 1950s-style tract homes and swing sets.
A custom-powered event app and branded RFID wristband helped attendees find their way through it all. And after the final match, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa closed out the four-day event.
Seriously, folks, does it get any better than this?
Crystal Pepsi Summer of ’92 took over New York City’s Terminal 5 with a ‘90s-themed trip through time that raised awareness for the iconic, clear-colored cola among young millennials too young to enjoy it the first go-round, and older consumers hankering to taste it again. The one-night event recreated the era with a mini mall, salon and arcade, interactive Slinky art, a Scratch-N-Sniff mural and a rooftop playground. A ‘90s-themed GIF photo booth and Crystal-inspired cocktails added to the fun. Nearly 3,300 fans rocked the ‘90s night away, driving millions of social media and editorial impressions.
Pepsi ramped up excitement the day before with a ride through the city streets in a classic car filled with celebrity look-alikes straight out of the TGIF line-up (hello, Urkel!), then re-built the Summer of ’92 from the ground up, utilizing each of Terminal 5’s four floors to re-imagine spots where ‘90s teens may have hung out with their Crystal Pepsi. A mini mall greeted guests with a bevy of throwback swag including flat-bill hats, customized t-shirts and fanny packs. Hairdressers crimped, straightened, curled and cropped hair-dos in ’90s-style. An arcade offered the chance to replay ’90s favorites from NBA Showtime to Tekken and Mortal Kombat. An emcee perched atop a 20-foot glowing neon boom box, and a dj and dance squad stoked the crowd until Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue brought down the house.
With a line around the block and tour buses alongside, the experience was da bomb.
What better way to get millennials to take a test drive than by incorporating the car into a driveable game. Ford last summer did just that in a collaboration with visionary puzzle maker Victor Blake, creator of the Escape the Room pop-up game, that integrated technology from the new Ford Escape into a creative plot to solve puzzles so participants could literally drive to the next room. More than 1,000 participants and 100 media played Escape the Room over a three-day period. Shared photos and videos from the event numbered in the thousands and media impressions reached more than a million. Ford’s innovative test-drive game took place in a converted warehouse space in New York City where players made their way through a series of rooms, each with a theme, such as an apartment, an office, a street scene, a highway construction zone and more. Participants used the Escape’s technology features, such as its voice-activated entertainment system and Enhanced Active Park Assist, to solve clues to guide their journey through the space. The event used a new and popular experiential concept to communicate vehicle product information to a sometimes-skeptical audience. Game on, Ford.
To create buzz and drive tune-in for its four-part special, “Expedition Unknown: Hunt for the Yeti,” The Travel Channel unleashed a band of brand ambassadors dressed as the Himalaya’s hairy white Abominable Snowman in New York City in a one-day stunt that also involved ice sculptures, a mobile iced coffee truck and a double-decker bus. Throughout the day, three Facebook Live videos hosted by The Travel Channel’s Caitlin Dunn amplified the event to nearly 100,000 fans who tuned in to watch the antics. Passersby also shared the fun on social media.
The Travel Channel mini series chronicles host Josh Gates’ quest to find the Yeti, a legendary man-ape living in the high altitude of the Himalayas. Throughout the hunt, billed as “the mother of all hunting expeditions,” Gates met with world-renowned researchers and explorers as he followed up on history’s most credible accounts, gained access to ancient artifacts and investigated the most recent sightings of the so-called Abominable Snowman.
The stunt was as big and badass as the hairy creature itself. The first sighting took place the day before as the Yeti, joined by Travel Channel executives, rang the New York Stock Exchange closing bell. The ceremony touted the premiere of the program, while the on-air promo played on a continuous loop on NASDAQ’s outdoor video monitor in Times Square. The next day, a team of 36 costumed Yetis took to the streets of Manhattan in a branded double-decker bus, surprising locals and tourists alike in an unexpected press stunt in Flatiron Plaza. After performing a parody of Lauren Hill’s “Ready or Not,” the Yetis boarded the bus and traveled around the city, interacting with fans and posing for photos at iconic stops, including an appearance on ABC’s “The View” and an on-air NBC “Today” show sighting. Beyond the bus, a branded coffee truck distributed free iced coffees in Herald Square and Union Square. A live ice sculpting demonstration took place at Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza where two seven-foot-tall, 6,500-pound Yeti-themed ice sculptures also were on display. For social media, a customized Snapchat geofilter was created for each of the key areas of the activation. Facebook Live videos by Travel Channel’s Dunn captured key moments including the Yetis performing a choreographed dance in Flatiron, a live feed of the ice sculptors and an exclusive Yeti “interview.”
Results were as huge as the elusive shaggy ape-man himself. Hashtags #ExpeditionUnknown and #HuntfortheYeti generated more than 2,000 Instagram and Twitter mentions. The Facebook Live videos garnered more than 96,000 views, 600 reactions and 200 shares. The stunt helped solidify the program as one of the top 20 ad-supported cable shows for its timeslot among adults 25 to 54, with seven million viewers tuning in.
Ride Experience 2016 brought Oracle out of the cloud and onto the ground in an experience that trolled conferences across the country offering attendees free rides on branded Teslas back to their hotels, the airport or wherever they were headed. The engagement ignited conversation and shareable moments and helped make a dent in those long cab lines at the end of the day. Tech-geek conference attendees, regular attendees, VIP influencers, speakers and tech influencers on social, especially Twitter, all came along for the ride.
Oracle chose the Tesla Model X and S vehicles for their high-tech sophisticated technology on the road. After all, what’s better than a car with falcon doors and driving modes like “ludicrous” and “insane?” Each was wrapped with Oracle flair and equipped with a mobile photo booth for passengers to document and share their experience via text, email or Instagram. During breaks at each conference (HR Tech, Workday Rising, Strata+Hadoop World, Microsoft Ignite and re:Invent), the cars were strategically staged at conference center entrances, hotels or hot spots on the conference agenda.
The word about Oracle’s free rides quickly spread through the crowds of people lined up for cabs and other ride-sharing services and people began pre-arranging rides in person or on Twitter using @OracleFreeRides and #OracleFreeRides. At some conferences an out-of-home campaign complemented the program and some of the cars featured Snapchat Spectacles and red interior lighting for nightlife activities.
The campaign offered more than just a free ride. It delivered more than four million media impressions and 250,000 Twitter video views during 650 rides.
Pepsi’s #HeyBatterBatter photo activation capitalized on the Chicago Cubs’ playoff run to create excitement around Pepsi’s partnership as the Official Soft Drink of the team. The photo op featured four oversized seats inspired by the section of seats in Wrigley’s Field located beneath the scoreboard known as the “Batter’s Eye” seats and a replica scoreboard. Fans posed and uttered the phrase, “Hey, Batter, Batter,” made famous in a scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” then posted the photos for social sharing. The experience traveled to key Pepsi accounts across Chicago.
In March 2016, Pepsi became the Official Soft Drink of the Cubs, which includes in-stadium advertising at Wrigley Field and a batter’s eye bleacher façade featuring the Pepsi logo. The #HeyBatterBatter photo installation encouraged fans to snap photos and videos with a six-foot-tall replica of the batter’s eye seats and 10-foot-high scoreboard while saying the famous phrase for a chance to win tickets to that night’s Cubs playoff game and secondary autographed Cubs prizes.
Fans shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #HeyBatterBatter while tagging @Pepsi and @Cubs for a chance to win on the spot. The activation scored 885 consumer engagements, and more than 750,000 impressions.
Ford has long been recognized as a leading global automotive brand, but in today’s fast-changing world, it needed to drive consumer awareness of its cutting-edge mobility innovations in the form of apps, ride sharing, autonomous vehicles and electric cars. Ford’s multi-person Future Mobility VR activation engaged attendees at the North American International Auto Show on a journey of discovery into these innovations. The experience achieved positive impact in brand opinion and purchase likelihood, excitement and engagement, and positioned Ford as a tech brand with a mobility vision.
In the fast-growing megacities of today there is little need, or even room, for cars, a challenge that Ford has stepped up to by developing smarter ways to move and more technologically connected human experiences. Ford’s Future Mobility VR engagement at NAIAS communicated that message in a way that was dramatic yet easy to understand in a short period of time and delivered a “wow” experience that stood out from the competition.
Ford had already created a 2D animation view of a future city. The Future Mobility experience ported that world into a VR engagement that told Ford mobility stories via a high-tech platform that created emotional moments and remained true to brand. It began with a warm and welcoming voiceover and a realistic model of the Ford experience at the Detroit Auto Show. As visitors settled into the 12 chairs and put on their headsets, they experienced a VR immersion into the physical stand modeled around them, which oriented them. Each chair had a unique point of view for the flight, and the sound was binaural, creating a 3D stereo sound sensation that contributed to the experience. The premise of the activation involved a giant drone that “lifted” participants into the air to experience a flight through the city of the future, hovering and focusing in on various storytelling moments along the way. One story centered on two friends who share a lease on a Ford vehicle and manage their time using their FordPass app. In another, a man parked using pre-booking and autonomous vehicle technology. A third story highlighted Ford’s ride-sharing and ride-hailing services, and a fourth showcased what cars look like without a driver holding the steering wheel. Between the stories a scripted flight took the riders up the sides of skyscrapers and on thrilling dives down the other side, twisting and turning through parks and zooming along streets.
Carefully calibrated sound, vision and movement delivered a hyper-real experience and real-world results. Ninety-one percent of visitors got the message of Ford’s commitment to the future of mobility, and more than 9,000 went along for the ride.
Faced with the challenge of promoting the mysterious sixth installment of “American Horror Story,” FX leveraged virtual reality at San Diego Comic-Con to create a world that let fans face their darkest fears on a journey through iconic elements of the show. In keeping with the overall marketing campaign, the VR engagement immersed fans in as much detail of the show’s horrors as possible without divulging specifics about the upcoming season, and generated ROI through social amplification.
Housed in a large black structure, the Fearless VR experience began in a futuristic-looking lab with beds where groups of five attendees wrapped in blankets and wearing HTC Vive headsets journeyed through a five-minute experience that elicited fear, vulnerability and panic, allowing them to engage first-hand with what they love most about the series. While the experience was constructed in a game engine, 360-degree motion capture technology evoked feelings of horror by making characters such as the White Nun and Twisty the Clown as real as possible. To create a seamless experience, yet keep the mystery in tact, the physical space was designed to isolate those participating and pique the curiosity of those outside waiting. An online reservation system helped fans avoid long lines and guaranteed participation.
The “American Horror Story” VR experience was one of the most popular at the convention, garnering more than two million social impressions. Since then, thousands more fans have participated in the virtual horror from the comfort of their homes through the HTC Viveport. In short, it was a scream.
Humana’s Bring the Parks to You (BP2U) tour in partnership with the National Park Foundation was one of the first to target the senior audience with a VR component. Designed as a pop-up log cabin, the tour also leveraged a nature engagement quiz, a photo/GIF wall and a Find Your Park mobile app to inspire, educate and motivate older consumers to spend more time in the country’s National Parks as a way to improve their physical and mental health.
Social media features on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram combined parks-based content with Humana’s Start with Healthy brand positioning. The integrated effort garnered 200 million impressions across digital, media and experiential platforms and was Humana’s most engaging campaign to date. Despite concerns about their potential intimidation factor, the VR experience created a sense of nostalgia among seniors who recalled visits to parks with friends and family and inspired them to visit local parks once again as a way to stay active. The program also challenged Humana’s 50,000 associates to volunteer in parks and share their experiences on social media.
The BP2U tour traveled to more than 50 events engaging seniors in 24 markets and resulted in 5,901 VR park visits, 1,109 photos taken and 287 quiz completions. Ahhhh… the great outdoors.
State Farm’s Roadhouse, a custom, fully furnished tiny house built on an extended Ford F-350 pick-up truck, reached tailgating football fans at NFL stadiums and promoted its message that policyholders can save money by combining their home and auto insurance with State Farm. Through multiple stops and more than 15,000 engagements to date, the Roadhouse has touched sports fans, car and truck enthusiasts, potential new customers and current policyholders. Real-time content generated on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via #Housegating and #Trouse has received more than 33.6 million views.
The objective of the program was to develop a mobile tour that would tie in tailgating and watching the big game at home with the savings advantages of combining State Farm’s Home and Auto Insurance offerings. The State Farm Roadhouse traveled to NFL games throughout the 2015-16 season. On-site at the stadiums, large puffs of smoke coming from a chimney attached to the tiny house and music amplified by an outdoor sound system made the activation hard to miss. The exterior of the house featured large-size windows, residential siding, a modern “State Farm” entry door with decorative glass, entry steps skinned in high-end composite decking with a decorative cable railing system and simulated shingled peak rooftop.
Brand ambassadors welcomed attendees to join in the experience as exterior lights illuminated the entry to the tiny house. Inside, the Roadhouse featured a full-size stacked stone accent wall that displayed a fully operational electric fireplace and a 65-inch HD 4K smart TV. Fans could watch live NFL games via DirectTV programming in a comfortable leather seat or test their skills in a digital interactive game with branded content. Custom sport lockers displayed team jersey and football artifacts. Fans could also walk outside into the “backyard” through a custom three-tiered lounge to play cornhole and other yard games or enjoy a catered meal under a branded tent. State Farm representatives chatted with attendees in a low-pressure environment while they tailgated at the Roadhouse experience. To push the experience beyond the stadium, State Farm created commercials around the vehicle and hosted media and NFL team partners at the Roadhouse for live broadcasts and Facebook Live features. Live Q&A segments filmed on-site offered last-minute tips for lineup changes to fantasy football fans.
To engage fans at home, State Farm created a Housegating playbook with instructions for hosting game-day experiences. Fans could also check out a 360-degree video of the Roadhouse and videos showing its construction. The integrated program drove home the message that State Farm is “here to help life go right” when it comes to saving on home and auto insurance… and watching football.
What better way to “toast” the most important meal of the day than with a giant toaster on wheels feeding the hungry hoards at festivals, events and retailers in 18 cities—building awareness, increasing loyalty and engaging potential new consumers along the way. That’s exactly what The Breakfast Like No Other Tour cooked up for Thomas’ Bagels and English Muffins as brand ambassadors served up custom, handcrafted breakfast sandwiches, along with a GIF photo op and other games with a Thomas’ twist. While awaiting their breakfast, attendees entered the 28-foot toaster trailer to create a GIF alongside a seven-foot English muffin replica and played a “Toast Your Luck” slot machine game to win branded premiums such as sunglasses, tote bags and cutting boards. Participants pulled down a lever installed into the truck to reveal their prize, then munched their sandwich at custom high-top tables designed to resemble stacks of Thomas’ muffins and bagels (cute). Afterwards, they could stick around for games of cornhole, ring toss and KanJam.
Touchpoints inside the trailer emphasized the “toaster” element of the experience. English muffin and bagel replicas popped out of the top, and at the entrance to the vehicle “Start Toast” and “Toast Level” dials provided photo ops. At night, the lights emanated the bright red glow of bagels being toasted. The tow and box truck were wrapped with Thomas’ branding and the tour’s social media hashtag, encouraging consumers to follow along any time of day. Delicious.
As a follow-up to its successful Roche Diagnostics’ mobile tour program, Roche created a similar experience for its newly acquired Ventana Medical Systems brand as a marketing and educational engagement for potential and current customers. Launched at the brand’s national sales meeting in 2016, the unit travels to full-sized hospitals and small clinics to connect with labs and their team members.
The 40-foot gooseneck trailer delivers a lab-like experience with a premium look and a layout that matches how a technician would work through the equipment in an actual lab.
A bulkhead that wraps around the roof of the trailer accommodates wiring, and to allow for future equipment upgrades, the rear of the trailer is framed out with a stretch fabric that matches the interior wall color for a clean, crisp finish indicative of the Roche and Ventana brands. The nose of the trailer houses five computers and a server, out of the way of consumer interactions. Nine-foot ceilings accommodate the Ventana line-up of equipment and enhance the overall space with an open and airy feel. Seven touch screens and a Canon microscope give Roche staffers the ability to run a virtual lab—on wheels.
General Mills’ Nature Valley brand has been around pretty much since its target millennial consumers were kids who carried them in their lunch boxes and snacked on them at soccer practice. Last summer, the brand reconnected with this group in a sampling campaign that involved them in a more contemporary context as they created custom packaging for their Nature Valley bars and generated shareable moments around the “Be Great Out There” tagline. The artists’ interpretations became stickers that were distributed along with the samples. Attendees ate it up, generating more than a million event impressions and nearly 7,000 custom packages.
The Be Great Out There food truck updated Nature Valley’s heritage in an authentic way that appealed to its millennial target. Stickers that looked like they came from the rear window of a Subaru parked in the campground at Bonnaroo lent the truck a cool “cross-country road trip” vibe. Visitors used iPads to design and print their own custom, personalized packaging that held two Nature Valley bars, one for themselves and one to share. Looping digital content on a video monitor on the side of the truck showed sample packaging for inspiration. The sharing and sticker theme continued with the artist-designed stickers, which attendees shared in posts online using #BeGreatOutThere as well as on their skateboards and bicycle helmets. The 13-week tour traveled to music festivals, concerts and summer fairs in 15 markets and distributed more than 235,000 samples to friends of the brand, both old and new.
To raise brand awareness and support on-premise account placements, The Kraken Rum leveraged a sampling program that gave consumers a taste of its new 70 proof Dark Label spirit while wrangling a menacing black tentacle in an old-school arm wrestling game. Taking inspiration from the Kraken sea creature featured on its label, its initial launch had consumers sharing GIFs of themselves escaping the Kraken’s tentacle and playing an Escape the Kraken card game to win prizes. But the Wrestle the Kraken game activation was the hands-down winner with 125,000 game plays and counting—and one million brand impressions.
The Kraken’s young, mostly male consumers favor the rum because it’s different, darker and cooler, much like the “anti-hero” many consider themselves to be. Wrestle the Kraken translated the brand’s story into a fun experience as consumers tested their strength against the mighty sea beast by pressing down on a tentacle-like lever. Participants donned boxers’ robes and hammered a boxing bell to signal the imminent battle with the sea creature, then posed for photos wearing a championship belt. As buzz has grown, markets have clamored for their own machines and a new wave of sampling events.
Hershey’s Take5 Swag Exchange at SXSW was built on one well-known insight: you can never have too much swag… until you do. To engage festivalgoers, who are often inundated with the Koozies, pens, backpacks and chargers that are handed out over the course of the festival, Hershey created an innovative experiential sampling initiative that gave SXSW’s largely millennial audience a taste of its Take5 candy bar—and the chance to trade in those unwanted promotional items for prizes such as Bose speakers, Samsung tablets and dinners at the hottest restaurants.
With the goal of attracting millennials to its cult-classic Take5 candy bar, which hit candy counters for the first time in 2004, Hershey relaunched the bar early last year. Knowing millennials covet authenticity and co-creation, Hershey and the Take5 brand partnered with them in the relaunch. Through months of engagement with a panel made exclusively of diverse millennial-aged students, the brand developed a new wrapper and bold green logo co-designed by the group. Fortunately, the candy’s salty-sweet, chewy-crunchy taste remained—the result of five classic ingredients: pretzel, caramel, peanut butter, peanuts and, of course, milk chocolate. The new wrapper and identity were just the beginning. Hershey’s brought the “re-mixed” version of the original to SXSW, along with an innovative and immersive experience that cut through the clutter of the festival.
Hershey’s Take5 Swag Exchange offered attendees the chance to unload their unwanted swag for something they actually wanted based on an algorithm that assigned each item an exchange rate that fluctuated based on intake. The fewer of an item that came in, the higher its value. So instead of going home with flashlights and t-shirts, they walked away with portable iPhone projectors and gift cards. The activation took away a fundamental pain point at SXSW, remixed it, and excited attendees by giving them a fresh take on the things they know and love. The space also gave them a place to customize their items, play games and share the experience. People loved it so much they returned again and again, utilizing the space in their down time between meetings and events.
The Swag Exchange attracted more than 2,500 people and earned 32.7 million social impressions and five million brand engagements. It was ranked the No. 1 experience at SXSW by media company PSFK. Over the course of four days, attendees exchanged more than 5,500 swag items and plowed through 150,000 Take5 bars.
To spark consumer interest and give fans an up-close and interactive look at “Man in the High Castle” and “Thunderbirds Are Go,” Amazon created Amazon Village, a large-scale immersive activation to drive tune-in through its Amazon Prime streaming service at San Diego Comic-Con. A multisensory 4D Mitch VR activation shot on the set of “Man in the High Castle” in Vancouver utilized sight, touch, sound and custom scents that aligned with the storyline. A pop-up museum featured actual props and photo-sharing opportunities, including a 360-degree photo moment. The family-friendly “Thunderbirds” activation introduced attendees to the magic of miniatures.
Amazon’s activation marked the largest presence the streaming service has had to date at Comic-Con, giving fans and future consumers hands-on experiences with the shows’ storylines during all four days of the convention. In addition to “The Man in the High Castle” pop-up museum, Amazon Kindles with scrollable trivia deepened the experience. Guests also could go behind enemy lines in a VR experience with leading lady Juliana Crane. The adventure ended with a 360-degree shareable photo of each guest superimposed within the world of the show. The “Thunderbirds Are Go” engagement had guests board a life-sized replica of the Thunderbirds 2 ship to help Thunderbirds’ team member Virgil Tracy fly over a miniature downtown San Diego. A green screen photo op captured their best “hold on for dear life” pose. More than 12,000 guests went through the village and 50 percent of participants shared their experience via social media.
State Farm’s new brand promise “Here to help life go right” offers a solution for life’s challenges, from insurance and loans to financial planning and small business. Last summer, State Farm helped life go right for millennials, an important target for the brand, by tapping into their passion for music festivals. State Farm’s rustic-looking #HereToHelp Lounge offered festival attendees an air-conditioned escape from the high outdoor temperatures, free wi-fi and charging stations, storage lockers, sunscreen, bandanas and other helpful products. Attendees used the hashtag #HereToHelp to post about the experience and ask other fans for help on Instagram and Twitter.
The #HereToHelp Lounge felt authentic to the events as well as the State Farm brand. A General Store served as its focal point where festivalgoers could swipe their RFID wristbands to receive up to three freebies a day. A #HereToHelp social digital board inside the lounge captured their posts in real time. Through the festival’s RFID wristband, State Farm monitored premium distribution, streamlined traffic flow and gathered fans’ information for post-festival communications. The activation helped 469,000 festivalgoers and 399 cars that needed a tire change or battery charge, resulting in a positive brand opinion, which was very helpful, indeed.
When it comes to picking a restaurant for a night out with friends, most millennials won’t make a move without consulting a restaurant review site. For Zagat, the 38-year-old publisher of restaurant guidebooks, this presented both a challenge and an opportunity that was ultimately solved through a clever pop-up experience that connected its concise reviews to a “tiny food” trend millennials love. Among many Gen Y consumers, Zagat’s little maroon guides were perceived as outdated—something that their parents consulted for a night out in the city. They had no idea that Zagat was the first to publish reviews from everyday people instead of professional restaurant critics, and that the books offered fewer, more succinct reviews than their online counterparts.
The brand developed a strategy for changing this perception by seizing on a key insight they called “restaurant review exhaustion”—that while millennials love their review site apps, they are also easily frustrated by the time required to comb through all the conflicting opinions. Zagat set out to ameliorate that pain point and differentiate its brand by offering its signature short summaries of user reviews, all available through a new mobile app. The plan was to show millennials that Zagat was a tool for their generation, and that it could deliver all of the opinions they wanted, in way less time.
To draw attention to Zagat’s “tiny-yet-perfect” reviews, the brand aligned itself with the international tiny food trend, a movement made popular on YouTube and across social media with millennials. The Tiny Food Café activation, “proving that small reviews are easier to digest,” opened for three days in October in New York City. It featured a fully functional tiny cafe where customers could order real miniature versions of the city’s best food (for free), prepared with real recipes of some of the most popular dishes at New York City’s highly-rated Zagat restaurants.
From a tiny food gallery and tiny branded takeaway boxes to miniature menus, the activation was designed for social sharing. At a table on the opposite end of the café set with miniature place settings, customers could photograph their tiny food in relation to normal place settings. Visitors were encouraged to use the campaign hashtag #tinycafe. To build momentum before the event, Zagat reached out to foodie influencers, traditional press and social media influencers. Volunteer restaurants and chefs created the tiny food and helped generate buzz around the experience.
By the time the last tiny burger had been served and Instagrammed, The Tiny Café had earned more than one billion impressions, with not a single dollar spent on paid media or influencers. Best of all, Zagat’s “tiny-yet-perfect” reviews were frequently mentioned in the press and on social media, creating authentic connections between the millennial-friendly experience and the fresh new face of the brand.
To drive trial and generate buzz for its new Choco Chip OREO cookie, Mondel¯ez transformed a vacant storefront in the ultra-hip Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake into the Wonder Vault—an over-sized nostalgia-fueled kitchen where consumers could feel like kids again by sneaking a treat from the cookie jar (without getting in trouble).
A gigantic OREO cookie mounted on the front door marked the speakeasy-style entrance to the one-day experience. Inside, all of the home décor was fabricated 30 percent bigger than normal to create the sensation of being a child in a grown-up space. A towering refrigerator was covered in colorful alphabet magnets that pinned up childlike drawings. In the center of the room was a massive wooden kitchen table where adults had to crawl up onto huge white kitchen chairs to read “The Wonderfilled Times,” an oversized newspaper filled with branded content about OREO. “Too-tall” countertops encouraged adults to stand on a stepstool to reach for samples in the cookie jar.
A tromp l’oeil effect and backlit lighting created the illusion of a hallway and a backyard scene. An ambient soundscape brought the environment to life with sounds of children laughing and birds chirping. Although the Choco Chip OREO Wonder Vault was designed to be experienced in real life, social media “photo-ops” created opportunities for consumers to share OREO’s brand with the world online. No word on how many millennials needed a nap after the event.
In an effort to boost positive sentiment among 24- to 35-year-olds who typically drink craft beer, Budweiser activated a series of Denver-based events that treated millennials to an entirely new take on the Halloween season—a fictitious Budweiser Bottling Plant turned pop-up party… for the undead. The brand’s “Fear Fest” program ultimately attracted 7,000 target attendees across four nights of activations, generating more than 90,000 earned media impressions.
The program kicked off two weeks before the live events, overtaking malls, NFL tailgates, hundreds of on- and off-premise accounts, the nation’s largest Zombie Crawl and other haunted experiences. Radio stations, Facebook, online media outlets and billboards invited millennials across Denver to Budweiser’s Fear Fest, the “ultimate afterlife after party.”
For two consecutive weekends, thousands of experience-chasing millennials braved “ground zero of the zombie outbreak,” navigating a zombie-infested front office that included a ravenous “cast” hidden amid employee locker rooms, corner offices and cubicles. Those that “survived” were led to an experiential warehouse space overrun by zombies, as well as a “terrifying” Boomerang booth that captured their terror. Hollywood-quality special effects amped up the authenticity of the experiences. It all led to the night’s biggest moment: Stacked atop a mountain of Budweiser cases and stray limbs, the brand created the ultimate dj booth where headliners Ghostface Killah and Raekwon presided over the zombie apocalypse—and some killer beer sales.
Inspired by the storytelling of Sundance, the world-class innovations of TED, and the awe of Burning Man, the 2017 Grand Ex winner curated an annual festival of travel and hospitality designed to become a must-attend cultural event. Part developers conference, part user group, part internal event, part consumer activation, part street fair, part influencer event—the genius of what Airbnb Open became was that by definition, it could not be defined in traditional event marketing vernacular.
More than 20,000 people from 100 countries came. Taking place Nov. 17-19, Airbnb Open 2016 turned an entire downtown into a connected brand experience—using the sum of Los Angeles’ parts as something greater than any single venue could ever provide. The festival came to life across a whopping 17 primary venues and dozens of others in downtown L.A. Over three days, there were 55 sessions featuring Airbnb experts and third-party thought-leaders, keynotes and panels focused on such topics as how to be a successful hostrepreneur, discovering passion through innovation and creativity, inspirational travel adventures from around the globe, providing extraordinary hospitality, improving the guest experience plus new products, services and features from Airbnb.
There were organic content hubs featuring hosts, with seven downtown bars and restaurants converted into “Conversation Spaces,” themed idea exchange venues at which hosts and Airbnb employees presented to attendees on a range of topics including making Airbnb listings stand out, creating five-star experiences, building local communities and making the most of new Airbnb tools and features. Throughout it all, content machines were in full gear, with Airbnb capturing content and redistributing it online. The best part? The attendees themselves became the ultimate global content ambassadors, beaming key insights, ideas and learnings back to the 100-plus countries they came from.
There were also more than 150 hyper-local city-wide excursions and meet-ups never scaled to this level by an event, as L.A. Airbnb hosts and restaurants across the city opened their doors for explorations, neighborhood tours and community dinners. And there were special events, including a Saturday night Bélo Awards, which recognized the best and brightest from the Airbnb community, produced at the Orpheum Theater and hosted by late-night host James Corden.
Not only did attendance quadruple, but the business grew. Host and guest sentiment blew through the 92 percent mark and intent to book and host increased. Content from Airbnb Open was amplified by 29 million views, and an additional two million hosts and 70,000 guests watched the stream of the opening keynote live. Earned impressions hit 80 million and more than 2,000 media hits were generated.
Looking to go beyond the mere “format tweaks” that other brands have instituted at their b-to-b events, Oracle designed an ambitious strategy to completely reinvent and reimagine the modern b-to-b event, serving up its own OpenWorld 2016 to the industry as a guinea pig. The goal? Rethink, reimagine and redesign the 55,000-person event as a more immersive, educational, collaborative and shareable experience.
The initiative focused on three main areas: redesigning collaborative spaces, deploying an all-new storytelling strategy and rethinking event learning. With attendees now putting more value on spending time with other attendees, OpenWorld common areas were redesigned as organic, attendee-to-attendee engagement spaces. The anchor of it all was the Howard Street area sitting between Moscone halls, turned into a branded plaza.
Oracle also reimagined its 2,500 conference sessions this year, with an “attendee first” pilot test of 20 sessions. Developed with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, the test sessions featured multiple interactive zones built around discussion, personal reflection and information sharing. All speakers were put through a live, face-to-face training boot camp months before OpenWorld.
And then there was the content. No b-to-b event has ever created this much content in advance of an event or embraced this ambitious of a content “storytelling” strategy. Mosaic spent six months interviewing Oracle executives, customers and social media influencers, turning it all into more than 250 hours of content beamed online and around the event as living, breathing stories.
For years, Google’s evergreen I/O developers conference, like all b-to-b events, took place in a convention center. Every year. In a convention center. The same format. Over and over again. For a brand like Google, the “same old thing” was eventually no longer an option. It was time to take a leap. A leap of faith to turn this event into something that had never been done before.
And so, nearly a decade after what began as Developer Day on Google’s campus in 2007, Google brought it all back into its backyard for a three-day, two-night immersive outdoor festival held across 10 acres at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA.
With a new laid-back, outdoor music-festival vibe, the event was programmed with 380 speakers in 190 sessions, 18 Google product teams in a developer sandbox, 85 hands-on Code Labs, two evening events featuring chart-topping artists like Charli XCX and Kygo, and a spectrum of festival-inspired structures and experiences. Over 625 I/O Extended events hosted in 90 countries garnered 22 million minutes of watch time via I/O Live, making it the largest I/O ever.
While the overall programming was indeed festival-inspired, the backbone of the event was content curated specifically for developers, appropriately designed structures based on the technologies being demoed, and creating a cohesive attendee experience