Along with the recent social audio boom and an uptick in sonic branding tactics, audio-centric activations and events, both physical and virtual, are on the rise. Marketers are not only recognizing the power of sound to improve attendees’ wellbeing, but the importance of stimulating more than one sense to create longer-lasting, richer memories. And brands are serving up everything from wellness-based sound baths to content-driven sound art installations to make it happen. Here, we break down five sound strategies for producing audio-centric activations.
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In a bid to keep its experiential marketing tactics COVID-friendly, FX installed interactive sound sculptures in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles that were designed to maximize throughput and minimize crowding. The self-guided installations, part of the network’s Sound FX campaign, brought three of its most iconic shows to life. As passersby stumbled upon one of the sculptures, signage invited them into an immersive, audio-driven content experience: a fragmented, crystalline structure in New York City featuring a multi-layered a/v experience inspired by the soundscapes of its top original drama series; the world’s first six-sided comedic harp in Chicago that could be played to give participants a modern take on FX fan-favorite comedy series; and an ominous wings sculpture reflective of hit FX shows like “American Horror Story” that served as a contemporary take on the sci-fi and horror genres, and at the height of the experience, engulfed participants in a chaotic blend of audio. Agencies: Creative Riff (creative, production); SOFTlab (New York sculpture design); Vita Motus (L.A. sculpture design).
DAVID BOWIE ESTATE
To celebrate what would have been David Bowie’s 75th birthday, the late singer’s estate erected two Bowie 75 pop-up shops, one in London and one in New York City. Visitors could snag never-before-seen collectibles, apparel, music and photos, and attend curated events, partake in social media moments and even leave personal tribute messages to the artist. In addition, considering the nature of the pop-up, audio-centric activations were an important part of the experience. Among them: the Immersive Music Experience created with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. Kiosks set up around both pop-ups, as well as a dedicated room within each space, allowed visitors to hear Bowie’s music like never before thanks to Reality Audio, which Sony bills as a sound technology that makes people feel “as if you are there at a live concert or with the artist recording in a studio.” The content was updated throughout the program’s run. In addition, London-style phone boxes allowed fans to “place a call” and listen to recorded voice messages from Bowie. Agency: Factory 360.
Sherwin-Williams’ Valspar brand wanted people to hear—and feel—its 2021 paint Colors of the Year, six calming hues and six energizing ones. So, given the world’s general mood, the company created an experience built to provide attendees with a moment of pause, comfort and mindfulness at a time when consumers’ interest in self-care and wellness-based activities was sky-high. To make it happen, Valspar tapped sound therapist Sara Auster, a leader in the meditation and sound bath space, to create “The Sound of Color.” During the collection of virtual sensory events, inspired by the brand’s palette, Auster converted each of the hues into soothing, meditative sound experiences in which consumers could immerse themselves.
Photo credit: Valspar
Brand experience centers are having a moment, and Mercedes-Benz is making the most of it. The automaker’s pop-up Mercedes-EQ Experience Brand Centers in New York City and Santa Monica, CA, served as a means of immersing consumers in its electrification efforts and the features available in its electric vehicles. That includes audio, which the brand says is a critical component of the in-car experience. So, along with partners SiriusXM and Studio Resonate, Mercedes produced a one-day event at the New York brand center featuring “audio alchemist” Steve Keller.
Keller guided an experience that was part TED talk, part silent disco. Attendees learned how the brain is wired for sound, and the impact that sound can have on a person’s physiology, memory and emotions. Keller also introduced the science of cross modalism and how the brain uses sound to “hack” other senses. He even explored “sonic tonics” and how we can harness the power of sound to improve our health and wellbeing. Agency: Engine Shop.
At Art Basel Miami Beach, American Express activated its Platinum Studio platform on the shores of The Miami Beach EDITION hotel, where it offered a range of invite-only and Platinum Card member-only experiences across the art, dining, wellness and entertainment spaces (Momentum Worldwide handled). Among them were Equinox signature sound bath classes featuring a soothing blend of guided meditation and live musical instruments. But Amex is hardly the first brand to incorporate sound baths into brand activations and events. Audible made it happen at Sundance in 2020, and Michelob Ultra has integrated sound baths into its hybrid MOVEMENT health and wellness platform. Sound baths have also been seen in team-building activities and corporate wellness initiatives—food for thought.
Featured photo credit: SXM Media