How mobile tour programs are providing a platform for COVID-friendly engagement
We’re calling it now: 2021 is officially the year of the mobile tour. The strategy has been leveraged for decades by brands of every stripe, but a deluge of b-to-c mobile programs hit the road this year as marketers grappled with the ever-changing COVID regulations and consumer safety concerns associated with traditional events.
You can see the appeal: By meeting people where they are and delivering smaller experiences with fewer attendees, brands are relieving consumers’ pandemic-related pain points and reaching a variety of markets at the same time. Indeed, in an era when the future is uncertain and flexibility is paramount, mobile tours have become a beacon of light. So, strap on your seatbelt. We’re taking you behind the wheel of six recent mobile programs that drove results.
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What a difference a year can make. In 2020, outdoor lifestyle footwear brand Chaco pivoted a mobile tour scheduled to stop at major music festivals into a mask-making program for healthcare workers. A year later, the brand is on the road activating its original tour concept across the U.S. on the Fit for Adventure Tour, which wraps Oct. 3.
The centerpiece of the tour is the ReChaco Roving Repairs Bus. The vintage school bus was designed to provide consumers with the same experience they would have while visiting Chaco’s Michigan-based ReChaco Factory, where workers repair the brand’s signature Z/ sandals and new after-sport Chillo slides. The tour strategy further promotes Chaco’s message of sustainability—that you don’t dispose of its made-to-last products; you repair them.
At each tour stop, consumers can board the Roving Repairs Bus to drop off their sandals for free same-day repairs (any repairs that can’t be done on-site are sent to the ReChaco Factory). They can also design their own custom Z/1 sandals and Chillos and watch while the footwear is made right in front of them. A “foot selfie” photo op with “Show Us Your Toes” messaging encourages attendees to share the adventure they’re “fit for” (think: “fit for climbing”) and post it on social using #ChacoTour. And after having their Polaroid photo taken, attendees are encouraged to tell their personal Chaco story, which is then shared on a wall of fame alongside the photo.
The program strategy also includes Chillos Mobile Pop-Up experiences in and around each tour city. Attendees are encouraged to sign up for giveaways, pick up swag, drop off their sandals for repairs, get fitted for and/or purchase Chillos, enter to win a whitewater rafting trip and get a tarot card reading.
The tour’s original goals—to churn out content and drive awareness of both the brand and its new Chillo product—have remained the same. But Chaco had to make a few COVID-era tweaks to the program’s execution, like encouraging consumers to book appointments for their repairs online and designing its pop-up environments for shorter visits.
“The years that we have been on the road doing consumer face-to-face interactions, our brand has grown, so it’s crucial to our long-term growth and continues to bring in new consumers to our brand,” says Lyndi Bell, brand marketing manager at Chaco. “How are we going to really know what the consumers want or what they love about our brand or what they need without actually talking to them? There is nothing that will ever replace a face-to-face consumer interaction. I believe it now more than ever.”
SAVE THE CHILDREN
They say if you don’t use it, you lose it, so to keep underserved kids engaged in learning and prepare them for the school year while they were on summer vacation, Save the Children took its youth reading campaign on the road. Along with brand partners T.J.Maxx, SC Johnson and Nickelodeon, the organization traveled from coast to coast on a 10-city tour.
The mobile program served as the face-to-face manifestation of Save the Children’s 100 Days of Reading campaign, which provides tips and activities on the organization’s Instagram account and a microsite to ensure kids are actively engaging in reading and education all summer long. To bring the concept into the real world, Save the Children and its partners worked with local organizations to identify the most underserved elementary school-aged kids in each city, and provided them with hands-on learning activities and essential resources.
The objective was to hand-deliver backpacks filled with school supplies, educational materials and personal care products to 2,000 children in each market. But beyond the bags, the tour provided a platform for engagement and education. At each stop, young attendees were encouraged to participate in a range of educational activities that centered on literacy, math and STEM. An interactive kindergarten readiness activity, for instance, featured a larger-than-life magnetic storybook developed around Nickelodeon’s “Blue’s Clues & You!” program. Similar to Mad Libs, the activity encouraged kids to fill in blanks within the story with their own pictures and words.
There was also a math race game themed around Nickelodeon’s “Blaze and the Monster Machines” series, and a Greatest Catch activity from SC Johnson that taught kids the importance of recycling. Participants used magnetic poles to fish a water bottle out of the “ocean,” then either recycle the bottle or took it to a crafts station to repurpose it.
Rounding out the activities was T.J.Maxx’s Longest Story Ever Told, which empowered kids to help author a book by adding a sentence or drawing to a crowdsourced story. When the campaign wrapped, Save the Children packaged the stories into mini digital books in each market and shared them with the community.
“Bringing together like-minded partners who want to make a difference for children is really key to helping make events like this even more impactful and meaningful for kids because it helps put a little more fuel into the bus tour, so to speak,” says Jennifer Kendra, head of cause marketing and partnership development at Save the Children US. “SC Johnson, for example, really believes in contributing to the wellbeing of communities, and particularly communities where they operate, by supporting initiatives that enhance that quality of life. And they, like many of our other partners, believe that education is an essential part of helping families move out of poverty and have access to greater economic mobility. So it’s bringing together all these like-minded folks into an opportunity for us to really engage hands-on.” (Agencies: Inspira Marketing Group, Norwalk, CT, production and creative; Trinity Displays, Chesterton, IN, mobile build)
As COVID restrictions lifted and vaccines got underway this spring, the industry saw the widespread return of sampling, and Impossible Foods wasted no time getting its plant-based products into consumers’ hands. On a mission to reach a new retail audience and support Walmart, a key customer, the brand embarked on the Impossible Food Truck Tour just in time for grilling season.
Traveling to Walmart parking lots and a handful of other grocery partner locations, Impossible leveraged its two food trucks, Baby Heme and Juicy Lucy (oh yes, they have names), as mobile billboards to draw in both grocery shoppers and passersby from the road.
“We are really targeting meat eaters, which are over 90 percent of the population,” says Erin Dress, director-retail marketing at Impossible Foods. “So that’s a nice slice of audience to try and reach. And we actually find that the vast majority of our consumers still eat meat—we haven’t won them over to being exclusively plant-based. But we’re often the first brand that they’re coming to try from meat because we taste the most like meat and our positioning is trying to show that you can come to plant-based meat without sacrificing the taste and the dishes that you love and grew up with that are such a part of your culture and your family. We’re happy to be driving accessibility for all.”
At each stop on the tour, signage helped direct consumers to the activation, which was available as a walk-up or drive-up experience. Upon arriving, attendees were greeted by brand ambassadors who answered questions and educated them on Impossible Foods’ products and the plant-based category. Next, consumers were served a complimentary sample—a mini-Hawaiian kabob developed by the Impossible Foods culinary team featuring vegetables, fruit and the brand’s plant-based “beef,” served in compostable trays. A tablet-based survey built to collect qualitative feedback for both Impossible Foods and Walmart was also part of the experience.
With plenty of initial engagement around the activation on its social channels, Impossible also incorporated a social media contest into the tour to keep the momentum going. Attendees were invited to snap a photo of the food truck and tag #ImpossibleFoodTruckTour for a chance to win a brand swag box that included a t-shirt, bandana, face mask, tote bag, camper mug, socks, pins and stickers.
The average consumer can’t distinguish between wild and cultivated blueberries, if they recognize that there are two types at all. Maine-based frozen fruit brand Wyman’s is on a mission to change that with help from two alumni of the Oscar Mayer Hotdogger and Planters Peanutter brand ambassador programs.
The 147-year-old, family-owned company marked its first foray into experiential marketing with a summer mobile tour aimed at delivering wild blueberry education and connecting the dots between Maine, Wyman’s and the wild blueberry category. The brand is traveling up and down its home state through early fall with a pilot program it hopes to take national in time for its 150th anniversary.
The anchor of the Bee Wild mobile tour is a vehicle designed to look like a flatbed truck carrying a wooden crate brimming with wild blueberries, along with wildlife imagery associated with the state of Maine. But it’s the tour’s brand ambassadors—a former Hotdogger and Peanutter—that bring the experience to life.
“Even if we had the best program and the coolest vehicle, 80 percent of it is who are you going to get to staff it?” says Colleen Craig, former Hotdogger and current brand manager at Wyman’s. “We thought, if we’re piloting this program, we’re going to give it the best chance of success if we have the right people behind the wheel. And they’ve just been fantastic.”
Among stops on this year’s tour: parades, food truck festivals, summer camps, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, Portland Sea Dogs games and L.L.Bean’s flagship store, where Wyman’s parks next to the retailer’s Bootmobile, providing consumers with a unique, Maine-centric photo op.
At each stop, consumers can snag coupons and a free 2.3-ounce sample of Wyman’s newest product, Just Fruit Cups. They can also spin a prize wheel to win t-shirts, hats and bee pins that showcase the brand’s “no bees, no berries” sustainability messaging, take home wildflower seeds packets and grab a deck of custom, Maine-themed playing cards.
Attendees can also learn more about wild blueberries—like the fact that they only grow in Downeast Maine and the Canadian Maritimes—and chat with the brand ambassadors about the flavor combinations they’d like to see in future Just Fruit Cup products, giving Wyman’s real-time customer feedback. And then there’s the soundtrack: a dedicated Wyman’s jingle that plays on a 10-minute loop at every stop.
Given the state of the world, Godiva figured we could all use some good cheer—and chocolate.
Recalling a post-World War II stunt in which Godiva founder Pierre Draps repainted delivery trucks a bright pink to spread good cheer throughout Brussels, the premium chocolate brand sent a pink-hued vintage truck to hot spots around New York City for a sampling activation that doubled as a celebration of its 95th anniversary.
With mask mandates outdoors lifted and more tourists and office workers on the streets, there was ample opportunity to reach consumers near high-traffic spots throughout New York City such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Herald Square. The brand also spread the word through traditional p.r. and media outreach, social content and paid social media with geo-targeting, and influencers on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. All told, brand ambassadors handed out some 15,000 chocolate products.
The nostalgic activation was centered on the vehicle—a vintage 1948 Citroen truck painted bright pink with detailed artwork that featured images of the products being sampled and messaging related to the 95th anniversary.
“As we shift more to our CPG strategy, it was clear to us that in-person activations and guerrilla-style marketing would be necessary to connect with consumers,” says John Galloway, chief marketing and innovation officer at Godiva. “We wanted to get in front of them where they are every day, and no better place to reach a diverse audience than the streets of NYC.”
Along with prioritization of the CPG channel, Godiva sought to stay authentic to the brand and its roots of delivering joy.
Says Galloway: “It’s always great to see brands who can successfully surprise and delight consumers—watching people come across the van with wonder on their faces and excitement is exactly what we wanted to accomplish.” (Agencies: Department of Wonder, Los Angeles, creative and production; Lippe Taylor, New York City, p.r.)
The average American generates 81 pounds of textile waste each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so to help consumers reduce their fashion footprint, LG Electronics launched the seven-city Second Life Tour. The program represented the first leg of a multi-year initiative designed to inspire consumers to take “responsible action” through fabric care, donations and upcycling—all while underscoring how LG’s solutions extend the life of a wardrobe.
To address the temporary shutdown of donation centers as a result of the pandemic, LG turned its tour footprints into clothing donation sites where consumers were encouraged to unload their used apparel. At the end of the tour, the brand set up a wash center in Los Angeles equipped with LG washers, dryers and LG Styler steam closets to clean, sanitize and sort clothing donations before handing them over to local organizations that provided the items to families in need.
Each activation included a vignette where LG offered demos and education highlighting one of its new WashTower units. Nearby, another WashTower unit served as the donation vessel where attendees could drop their goods. Adding incentive, the brand invited donors to participate in an on-site clothing swap where they could exchange their unwanted items for rare vintage pieces curated and stocked by thrift chain Round Two.
But there’s more to unfold. LG committed to collecting 10,000 pounds of donated clothing throughout the campaign, and vowed to recycle 100 percent of items received. To ensure no scrap is left behind and to raise awareness of upcycling, the brand teamed up with Nicole McLaughlin. The designer will take any unsalvageable contributions and upcycle them to create a limited-edition capsule collection that will be unveiled this fall, effectively guaranteeing that all donations are given a “second life.”
“We’re kind of taking a hybrid approach,” says Josie Salazar, senior brand marketing lead for laundry at LG Electronics USA. “The tour kicks off with physical points of interaction, but we’re not just relying on that to raise awareness of the campaign. The idea for the rest of the year is to also have these other touchpoints that are going to be highly social and digital. I think making sure that we always have this hybrid approach to going to market in ways that are very complimentary to each other is ultimately what’s going to make the moments memorable.” (Agency: Lupine, Los Angeles)