Concerts have begun to pick back up again, to the delight of live music fans and community-starved consumers everywhere. But even while the pandemic was in full swing, all-digital phone service Visible continued to connect with consumers despite the limitations posed by virtual platforms. Case in point: its three-day livestreamed concert, dubbed Red Rocks Unpaused, which EM highlighted at the summer edition of the Experiential Marketing Summit last month. It leveraged state-of-the-art technologies to provide real-time interactions between the musicians in the venue and fans in their living rooms.
As an all-digital, direct-to-consumer brand, Visible is accustomed to the challenges of marketing to consumers primarily through online platforms, and for that reason offers a unique perspective on hybrid experiences. EM spoke with the company’s head of brand marketing, Pearl Servat, about how experiential marketing will evolve moving forward, the brand’s commitment to building communities and what she believes are the key marketing trends the event community should be watching.
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Event Marketer: Why was it important for your brand to stay connected to consumers even while IRL experiences weren’t happening?
Pearl Servat: We’re the first all-digital carrier in the U.S. The emotional connection with the consumer has been incredibly important to us from the beginning, because it’s a hundred times more difficult to maintain that connection as a d-to-c brand. So part of our strategy for connecting with communities and allowing them to get to know the brand outside of the digital ecosystem is through these experiential moments, events and activations.
With Red Rocks Unpaused, we wanted to be thoughtful and deliberate about not doing yet another streaming event. We had many conversations about how to continue to honor the consumer experience and the journey, because, as we say, your product can’t go to the right and your marketing go to the left. All of it has to mesh together really well and create… an end-to-end experience.
The biggest question was how do we bring this to life in a way that our audience and our members, our consumers, our prospects feel like they have a seat in the venue as they’re watching these artists. Ultimately, we designed an event with first-of-its-kind technology capabilities.
EM: What were some of the event’s touchpoints?
PS: Red Rocks is one of the most iconic venues in the world. If you were watching one of the shows, as you’re typing on social media the artist could see your messages on the rocks all around them. If you cheered for them, they could hear it. The audience had the ability to change the lighting within the show. There was an encore performance that happened live in real time. The audience got to choose which camera they watched the show from, so it was almost like choosing what seat you were sitting in. All of those elements allowed us to bring the audience closer to the artists. But more than that, for us as a brand, it was all about the type of experience that we’re creating as a means for them to get to know the brand, what we stand for, the types of marketing campaigns that we do and our product.
EM: How do you see the industry evolving as events pick back up? Will you be embracing the much-discussed hybrid format?
PS: That’s something we’re in active conversations about. We’re definitely going to embrace the hybrid format. We’ve done that from the beginning; as an all-digital brand it’s imperative that those experiences come to life both digitally and in real life. But I think the way that people consume these experiences over the past 14, 15 months has completely changed. For us, the answer is going to come through the design of these experiences and how we’re bringing people and communities together.
EM: What’s an example of how you’re bringing communities together?
PS: Our Party Pay offering is our marquee product. It’s our version of the old-school family plan. People come together to share a wireless plan that’s completely unlimited. You get everything on the Verizon network, but what’s really interesting about it is you don’t share a bill, you don’t share the data—you only share the savings. What’s cool is that a big percentage of the people who are in parties together—some of them have thousands of people in them—are finding each other online, through various social communities, Reddit chat rooms. They’re sharing their codes and linking to their parties and inviting each other to come. You’re essentially sharing a phone plan with someone you’ve never met and you don’t know.
There’s so much chatter back and forth that goes on in these communities online. It’s something that has never been done, obviously, in telco before, but I also don’t know what other industries are bringing strangers together that way. We want to ensure that as we continue to explore opportunities for experiential, both digital and in real life, that we’re continuing to extend these communities and build them in various ways.
EM: In terms of live engagement and experiences moving forward, what do you think they’ll look like at Visible? Is there anything that’s really exciting to you?
PS: We’re planning things right now for the end of the year, but we want to have the emotional connection of the experience be at the forefront of everything that we do, especially moving forward as the world has changed. And we want everything that we do to have a lot of depth because, again, perceptions have changed, experiences have changed, consumption behaviors have changed. It’s making sure that experiences are multidimensional.
When the brand first launched [in 2018], it was 95 percent digital with a little bit of in-real-life. Then it continued to balance itself out. Now the conversation is, OK, how do you make these experiences multidimensional so that when you come into our ecosystem you’re experiencing the brand and also the community aspect of what we’re offering in multiple ways and in multiple places?
EM: The fallout from the pandemic caused many limitations for experiential marketers. What kind of skills did the event community have to develop as a result?
PS: Brands had to very quickly adapt to this new normal and completely reshape and evolve their strategies. I can speak for ourselves: It was all about creating experiences on digital channels. How do you create those and give the same experience that you would have if this was happening in real life? With Red Rocks Unpaused, we had to peel the thing layer by layer. How was she watching the show? How is she interacting with the artists? How is she interacting with other viewers who are not in the same room as her? How are we bringing these communities and audiences and viewers together? What is the artist’s experience in the venue that they’re standing in?
Our unique position is that we’ve been all-digital from day one. It’s really easy as a digital brand to lose sight of that emotional and meaningful experience you’re building with your consumers. So how do you make sure that the experience that she’s getting through this digital activation is the same that she would expect if she was sitting here in a room next to you?
EM: To wrap up, what are the top marketing trends you’re keeping an eye on?
PS: What does experiential marketing look like in our new normal, in a hybrid model, for different brands? Real-time marketing is something that we’re really interested in and we watch other brands and see how they do it as well. And then as the world is changing, how various brands approach influencer marketing, how they’re aligning themselves with the different types of influencers, and how they’re building those relationships and maintaining them.
Featured photo credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Visible