The Ex Awards is the world’s only recognition program for the experiential marketing industry. Consider this an archival guide for best practices in experiential marketing, programs handpicked from more than 1,000 entries that represent the most innovative and strategically sound brand experiences in the world.
Smart marketers know that millennials are finicky about the brands they give their loyalty to. More than any other generation before them, they care about what their favorite brands stand for.
State Farm’s research revealed that 70 percent of millennials and Gen Xers love to volunteer, but only 25 percent actually do it. So the brand set out to close what it called the “intention gap” with an experiential marketing program that answered the question: What if we could transform good intentions into action all over America?
The heart of the resulting Neighborhood of Good program beat with the spirit of philanthropy, supported by locally relevant, easy-to-access volunteer opportunities across events, digital engagements and meaningful face-to-face experiences. The simple premise: State Farm would help consumers turn caring into doing while proving what it stands for in the process.
“We know that the ‘new adult’ millennial audience is really looking for ways to have community and worldwide impact—that’s something that’s very important to them,” says Mandy Garner Laux, State Farm’s brand content and experiential manager. “Their willingness to do business with a brand that shares that value of giving back and making a positive difference—you definitely see that correlation.”
We all have good intentions in life, but sometimes it’s hard to follow through.
When State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor” team began investigating the state of volunteerism among its target audience—older millennials and young Gen Xers—it discovered that 70 percent of Americans have expressed a desire to volunteer, but only 25 percent actually participated in a volunteer activity. The primary barrier: uncertainty over when and where to start. State Farm closed that “intention gap” with its Neighborhood of Good program that turned caring into doing on a local and more accessible level.
A campaign anchored at NeighborhoodofGood.com enabled consumers to find nearby causes and initiatives to participate in and read inspirational stories of volunteerism. State Farm then brought the program to life with volunteer events throughout the year to inspire consumers to take action together, like meal-packing for at-risk youth—a small step toward ending child hunger. From March through December, State Farm’s Good Neighbor Crews (brand ambassadors) and agents held micro-volunteering programs at events across the country. The campaign is also this year’s Grand Ex Award winner (get the full story on pg. 14).
During the summer, State Farm infused volunteerism into its #HereToHelp lounge at music festivals with augmented reality content and custom cause-related posters to give festivalgoers a fresh viewpoint on neighborhood needs. Artists played acoustic sets in the lounge and shared how they like to give back. In September, State Farm recognized Good Neighbor Day for the entire month, visiting community events where the brand encouraged passersby to take a few minutes to help local nonprofits.
Rounding out the program was a robust media campaign that infused the Neighborhood of Good campaign into TV broadcasts, amplified it through celebrity influencer partnerships, and put it on the national stage with integrations into ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC”s “Today,” as well as on the ABC sitcom “Black-ish.”
With the campaign and the live events supporting it, State Farm positioned itself as not only an insurance brand that’s there when something goes wrong, but also as a friendly neighbor who’s “Here to Help Life Go Right,” reflecting the brand’s refreshed positioning and platform.
Because State Farm engaged consumers in attainable activities aligned with what they’re most passionate about, like music, the efforts resonated with customers and non-customers alike. Surveys revealed that 50 percent of current customers and 31 percent of non-customers reported State Farm to be “committed to improving communities and helping people.” To boot, the program resulted in more than 17,000 volunteer hours, and generated 130,000 acts of good. In addition, NeighborhoodofGood.com logged 1.23 million volunteer searches in 2017. Now, that’s something to feel good about.
Brand experiences have the power to touch and transform even the most vulnerable consumers across the globe. In the case of Coca-Cola’s annual Christmas Caravan in South America, it was bringing lights of hope to communities along the Magdalena River in Colombia, a region that after decades of violence between the government and guerrilla militias had reached a ceasefire and a promise of peace for the holidays.
While the annual caravan program typically involves community visits by Coca-Cola branded 18-wheelers live-wired by 30,000 bulbs of lights, inspired by the Coca-Cola “Christmas Trucks” in advertising campaigns, in Colombia, the brand for the first time in its history created a floating caravan. On a souped-up barge it floated down the river, Coca-Cola engaged communities and helped shine a light on the economic importance and needs for those living along it—those in fishing, agriculture and livestock industries whose lives have been negatively impacted by war. The barge, which brought to life Christmas moments like Santa Claus and his eight reindeer, rose to 27 feet and featured more than 7,500 feet of LED lighting.
Coca-Cola held two launching and docking events at the start and end of the 535-mile journey. The brand handed out 20,000 bottles of Coke, reached 70,000 consumers along the river, and it captured more than 25.5 million views for its coverage online.
While some brands might have shied away from a program in a risky region rocked by warfare, Coca-Cola took the challenge head on, and along with ample security for its engagement teams, delivered Christmas cheer, and cold Cokes, to those who needed it most.
Technology transforms industries, but it also transforms lives. It’s the message that inspired Microsoft’s “Create Change” campaign. Fueled by an in-store program that encouraged people around the world to share their own “Create Change” initiatives, the program centered on a 3D design app specially built for the Microsoft Surface device.
On the app, consumers read about Microsoft’s partnerships with five NFL athletes, the philanthropic work they do off the field—and the Microsoft tools they use to aid in that work. Microsoft engaged consumers in the program live at Microsoft stores across the country, where consumers could make donations, select an athlete and charity, and design a helmet using the custom 3D illustration app on Surface devices. By posting the art to their social channels with #CreateChange, they helped the campaign gain momentum. All designs were submitted into a competition where one lucky consumer’s design would be brought to life on a real helmet.
An analytics dashboard gave real-time insights into user engagement at Windows stores around the country. Microsoft recorded an average user dwell time of more than six minutes and more than 1,700 hours were spent creating custom helmets—using the Surface, of course. But the most valuable metric of all was the support charities received, all thanks to these creative product demos.
The cosmetics industry is cluttered and saturated, which is why CoverGirl, in an effort to break through, has been supporting women and girls in areas where they are underrepresented, in technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, media and sports, through its #GirlsCan initiative. But when it came time to activate its sponsorship of the NFL as Official Beauty Sponsor for the 2017 season, CoverGirl needed to put its money where its mouth is. And we’re not just talking about lipstick.
The NFL sponsorship, however, created a unique challenge for CoverGirl, because while women make up nearly half of football’s 150 million fans, when it comes to media coverage, women and their opinions have been left on the sidelines. Since the first game in 1920, only four women have worked in non-sideline broadcast roles. Last September, Beth Mowins became the first woman to call a regular season game in 30 years, only the second in the entire 97-year history of the NFL. CoverGirl needed to make waves with this sponsorship, while keeping it relevant to the sport of football.
Since networks largely refuse to give women a seat behind their desks on game day, CoverGirl decided it would create its own game day desk, show and coverage, and put it right outside the stadium in the brand’s hometown. Hence, CoverGirl’s “Rantin’ & Raven,” the first-ever, all-female football pregame show was born at Baltimore Ravens stadium.
To kick things off, a casting call took place at the A Purple Evening event ahead of the home game, where 150 female fans auditioned to be sportscasters while hundreds more looked on. Fifteen “loud and proud” female football fans were cast to join Lesley Visser, the first female football TV analyst, for the CoverGirl show. On game day, CoverGirl went live and gave each woman a chance to participate in one of six episodes that covered a range of football topics. Passersby on their way into the stadium could watch the women as they talked football for hours leading up to the game, giving female football fans a voice louder than ever before.
The YouTube channel devoted to the program became an outlet for opinions, both positive and negative—but generally, all helping to amplify the overall conversation and sponsorship.
Although CoverGirl had the budget for only one paid Facebook post for this sponsorship program, the concept of a first-ever, all-female pregame show took off on social media on its own. The single paid post was shared over and over, resulting in seven million unique views and 27 million impressions, reaching 52 percent of CoverGirl’s Facebook audience. In addition, the show earned 421,000 organic YouTube views.
Easy, breezy, beautiful… Touchdown.
Woodford Reserve describes its target consumers as “spiritmakers” who want to experience all that life has to offer. And at the storied Kentucky Derby those spirit makers can drink a mint julip from a $1,000 limited-edition, sterling silver or 24K gold cup, thanks to the top-shelf bourbon brand.
The tradition of the $1,000 Mint Julep Cups, unveiled each year with a new design inspiration, pays homage to horse racing history. The proceeds from the sale of the cups go to a select charity. And at the Kentucky Derby in 2017, Brown-Forman decided to give $1,000 cup recipients an atmosphere befitting of their value. Attendees who purchased the cups were greeted by a British porter who regaled them with stories from Epson Derby, the “race across the pond,” that inspired the Kentucky Derby.
Inside the footprint, a historian from the Kentucky Derby Museum highlighted a collection of images and artifacts about Churchill Downs and Epsom Derby. They were guided to the copper topped bar where a mixologist stood in front of a rose wall, under an Edison bulb chandelier, and presented them with their mint julep cocktail prepared with British flair—“Anglophillic” ingredients such as elderflower and Pimm’s liqueurs and Earl Grey tea-infused bitters. To complete the luxurious experience, a high-fashion photographer took consumers’ photographs in front of an antique-bronzed frame, giving them bragging rights to tout their “unforgettable experience” socially.
The Kentucky Derby has been called the “most exciting two minutes in sports.” Woodford Reserve certainly helped consumers savor those moments, and many more.
Sports marketing is often imagined in the confines of a stadium or ballpark. As the official airline of the Seattle Seahawks, Delta decided to do something more intimate: a yard sale. This yard sale, however, was hosted by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin at a stunning residence, and it offered 916 pieces of free, exclusive and unique Seahawks paraphernalia.
The goal was to drive signups for the second year of Delta’s 12status program, named for Seahawks fans who are known as the “12th man” on the field. Clever promos like “Yard Sale” posters throughout the city helped spread the word. As consumers lined up to get in, they were greeted by Delta flight attendants who handed out the airline’s signature onboard snacks from a co-branded beverage cart.
All items had a quirky twist and spoke to 12s’ fandom: pairs of foam fingers with 12 fingers. A toaster was created that seared Doug Baldwin’s face on toast and even a custom-made Seahawks “12sie”—a onesie that fits 12 people. Attendees could take home one item of their choice. There were autographed items and a “golden ticket” giveaway trip to a game, to boot.
The result? Nearly nine million earned impressions and a surge in new members. Talk about a bargain.
When he’s not driving the Batmobile, you can bet Bruce Wayne is behind the wheel of a Mercedes, thanks to an integrated campaign that melded Benz and Batman’s posse.
In a strategic partnership between the “Justice League” film and the luxury car company, two Mercedes-Benz models scored appearances on the big screen: the Vision Gran Turismo, acting as Bruce Wayne’s daytime Batmobile, and the E-Class Cabriolet, driven by Diana Price, the character played by “Superwoman” actress Gal Godot.
Aligning these slick vehicles with the film fit with Mercedes-Benz’s brand message of “The Best or Nothing.” But it also exposed the carmaker to a new, wider audience in the DC Comics-extended universe and increased brand awareness within the entertainment industry. Overall, the campaign’s 360-degree approach included a 30-second TV commercial, digital and social extensions, an innovative Instagram comic series and experiential activations such as the world premiere screening in L.A. in November, targeted dealer screenings and interactive vehicle displays at AT&T stores.
It wasn’t enough for Mercedes-Benz to showcase the cars just on film. Extending the story of the vehicles within the DC world, Mercedes-Benz worked closely with DC Comic artists ahead of the premiere to create six original stories featuring the cars. The comics were released to fans via Instagram, as static illustrations and animated GIFs.
Further drumming up buzz, Mercedes-Benz dealers hosted private screenings of the film prior to its release, extending an invitation to prospects and employees. The brand also collaborated with film partner AT&T to create vehicle displays of the Vision Gran Turismo at its stores, which included props and film memorabilia as well as a VR experience for fans. The Chicago AT&T location saw more than 76,000 visitors pass through.
At the premiere, the red carpet featured the Vision Gran Turismo itself. (Fun fact: The vehicle was originally created in 2013 as a concept car for the Gran Turismo video game, so Mercedes-Benz had to modify the car to fit a human, actor Ben Affleck, and make it more maneuverable for the live action film.) The real-life version, on display at the premiere and in AT&T stores in Times Square and Chicago, weighed 4,000 pounds and was 16 feet long. Also on display were custom decaled vehicles for every Justice League team member—three S Class Maybach’s and three GL 550s—each with a character’s superhero symbol on the hood. The activation continued at the after-party with a 360-degree co-branded photo booth featuring “Justice League” artwork. The 24-camera experience created a shareable GIF of guests posing with the characters, as if part of the League themselves.
The program earned 295 million impressions overall, with the most success stemming from the live premiere, which garnered 230 million p.r. impressions.
To connect with a younger, edgier audience and celebrate the new line of Porsche E-Hybrids, Porsche North America in partnership with Rolling Stone created “Engine Notes,” an evening at the Porsche Experience Center in L.A. featuring a star-studded rock concert and a 45-minute track show precisely choreographed to guitarist Dave Navarro’s performance.
Here’s what went down: Using state-of-the-art light and sound effects, as Navarro played his guitar, an illuminated, pulsing display of audio waves appeared on the rear of the Panamera E-Hybrid Porsches. How? By way of an audio-connected computer in the car that ran programmable LED light strips.
You didn’t have to be on the track to enjoy it. During the concert, which featured the band The Royal Machines along with Navarro, a 16-foot by 9-foot on-stage screen projected the high-performance vehicles cranking out laps, thanks to a crew of 11 cameras and 65 videographers and producers capturing the event footage.
And boy did that footage have legs. Aside from wowing the event’s audience on-site, it contributed to a behind-the-scenes video, a hero video that traveled across social media platforms and content on Rolling Stone’s website.
The high-octane experience generated 332,986 video views on the Rolling Stone site—a key KPI for the partnership—and 1.4 million impressions via editorial amplification, beating estimates by nearly 42 percent. Rock on.
The official card of the Grammy Awards since 2008, in 2017 Mastercard chose to amplify its new digital payments platform, Masterpass, by increasing the brand’s association with music. The product of that effort was the #ThankTheFans House, a pop-up experiential music environment within the iconic former Tower Records building in West Hollywood. Live performances by Grammy-nominated artists, curated listening stations, a Gibson guitar trial station, an interactive dj area and a recording booth were available to the 4,000-plus people who visited the experience.
Capitalizing on the comeback of vinyl records, Mastercard partnered with online record store “Vinyl Me, Please” to offer special-edition and classic titles for $10 exclusively for purchase via Masterpass. The brand also delighted select cardholders and Masterpass users with “Priceless Surprises,” which included Grammy tickets, red carpet bleacher seats and an iPod touch.
Mastercard partnered with local influencers to get the word out. They posted Snapchat stories highlighting the consumer experience inside the #ThankTheFans House and follow-up posts about the activation on Instagram and Twitter—all told, driving 329,000 engagements. Meanwhile, the results of the objectives to increase awareness, registrations and transactions on Masterpass saw 801 vinyl records sold, 314 total Masterpass transactions and 287 registrations.
Taco Bell, with its millennial-friendly marketing and social media presence, has positioned itself as a pop-culture icon that’s attracted a diverse audience willing to engage in its quirky brand moments, from the famous Doritos Locos Tacos to Emojis to Taco Bell sleepovers and weddings. Tasty and innovative, for sure. But Taco Bell wanted to be perceived as a trendsetter, too, so it cooked up a partnership with Forever 21 to launch a super-fan inspired, limited-edition fashion line on social media dubbed Forever 21 x Taco Bell, brought to life with The Forever Taco Bell fashion and food show in downtown L.A.’s fashion district. Think: t-shirts with “Tacos 4 Ever” illustrations, a hoodie with a Taco Bell logo pattern, and a millennial-friendly unitard outfit with the words “Born Saucy” and flames emblazoned on it.
True to form, Taco Bell turned the typical fashion show upside down, enlisting super fans to model the clothing, serving up bites from a Taco Bell taco truck, offering live performances and a pop-up boutique to give fans early access to the collection. The show took place in an open-air venue surrounded by high-rise lofts and sports, concert and entertainment venues, aligning Taco Bell with cultural events. Day and night looks were incorporated into the show, which was set to the “Feed the Beat” playlist, a program Taco Bell created in 2006 to help support artists and discover new talent. Behind the catwalk was a backdrop of captivating LED imagery, content and custom neon-inspired lighting effects that felt ’80s-inspired—and highly Instagrammable.
In addition to the show, attendees engaged throughout the night in a custom graffiti-style mural that was curated live on-site by graffiti artists Lefty Out There. The mural brought to life the Taco Bell signature bell logo with colors inspired by the collection, and it was ultimately placed inside a Taco Bell restaurant to live on as a memento of the show. What’s a fashion show without an after party, of course, and dj electronic group Cheat Codes made a special appearance on the runway, performing their top songs. Throughout the performance, attendees enjoyed signature confetti bursts and smoke effects.
On top of organic posts by attendees, Taco Bell’s digital team was on-site capturing the best moments of the night and sharing them in real time. All of the efforts combined resulted in more than 1.6 billion media impressions. Just two weeks after the collaboration was announced: Bloomberg, Teen Vogue, Los Angeles Times and Cosmopolitan were among the 833 broadcast clips and articles that the fashion show was featured in. An Instagram livestream of the show garnered 40,000 live views and the brand’s Snapchat story from the event had a 71 percent completion rate. Those are some spicy results right there.
The best viral campaigns don’t shy away from a little feather ruffling, so when Arby’s set out to inform carnivores across the country that it serves up more mouthwatering meats than just its signature roast beef, it turned to a “Oh no, they didn’t” moment with the #MeatSweats campaign. The year-end earned media stunt involved custom apparel featuring Arby’s signature meats in a photorealistic sweatshirt and sweatpant ensemble.
But these snazzy ensembles could not be bought. They had to be earned. Arby’s asked carnivores everywhere to post on social media their most meat-worthy accomplishments, like consuming an impossibly large sandwich featuring all of Arby’s signature meats.
Select champions, the nation’s most publicly passionate carnivores, were rewarded with a packaged pair of their own meat sweats, each wrapped in bacon-patterned tissue paper, sealed with a “100% Meat Sweat Certification” sticker and wrapped in a bright red poly bag—and delivered just in time for Christmas.
A media kit and influencers helped send the campaign viral, like ESPN commentator and former NFL player Mike Golic, Jr., who launched a tweet that got the ball rolling. Then came an on-air appearance on “Fox & Friends,” articles in Food & Wine and Golf Digest, a shout-out by Seth Meyers on “Late Night” and scores of posts by recipients who donned their sweats on social holding up a card that read #MeatSweats.
Over the course of six weeks and with a budget of less than $100,000, Arby’s earned 92 million media impressions, another 29.5 million social media impressions and countless new customers. And zero love from vegetarians.
Hamburger Helper is an iconic brand, but sometimes “iconic” can be perceived as “old.” To spread the love of the meal-assist product among millennials, General Mills needed to transform its brand into something ageless and culturally relevant. So it celebrated it’s iconic box character Lefty’s 40th birthday. What unfolded was an epic, social media-fueled birthday bash in Brooklyn, NY, called Lefty’s 40oz. Bounce.
The brand teased the event with a conversation on social media between party promoter 40z and Lefty with a simple post of “I’m really thinking of throwing a birthday party.” They both hinted at party details, revealing artists and djs set to perform. Meanwhile, New York City influencers were sent special invites. Then, the public invite dropped via Leftys40ozbounce.com and in the last week leading up to the event, wild postings of the party were scattered throughout Brooklyn. Within three hours of the event going live, it sold out.
For the party, General Mills partnered with local bodegas to develop a New York City party menu and Lefty even visited the Blue Sky Deli himself to make sure the food was perfect for his party. By 11 p.m., two hours after the event began, it reached capacity at 700 attendees. Overall, the event garnered 700 million impressions and 11 publications covered the story.
Royal Caribbean is on a mission to change the perception of cruising—proving as much with “Sea Beyond,” a tech-fueled experience aimed at positioning the brand as a thought leader among an audience of financial investors, business partners and media. Featuring everything from autonomous vehicles to facial recognition technology to beacons, the 36,000-square-foot experience featured leading-edge technology from stem to stern.
Royal Caribbean is rolling out an array of technology across its entire fleet of ships, so to illustrate to attendees how that will play out onboard, the brand replicated its cruise experience, from arriving at the terminal all the way through an immersive dining experience. But like any savvy brand, the cruise liner began engaging attendees prior to the event by asking them to take a selfie and register for the experience via its mobile app.
The adventure began in the Big Apple on a water taxi that transported attendees to Brooklyn Navy Yard, where they then boarded Royal Caribbean’s autonomous shuttle and traveled to the “ship” (the historic Duggal Greenhouse). Upon arrival, beacons automatically signed guests in, while a welcome sign featuring billowing fog greeted each of them by name.
Then it was over to the 270-degree, interactive tunnel, which broadcast under-the-sea-themed content like jellyfish and whales from flexible OLED screens. After exiting the tunnel, attendees stepped into a 360-degree theater featuring a perimeter of projection screens and a circular LED screen hanging from the ceiling, which revealed a simulation of Royal Caribbean’s Micro-bubble Air Lubrication System. And on stage, six “Robo Screens”—LED screens mounted on robotic arms—entertained guests by reacting to and following cues from brand speakers.
Phew, you still with us? After the theater presentations, it was time to tour Royal Caribbean’s replica travel environment. First, a VR engagement gave attendees a peek at the brand’s potential shore excursions. Guests then went through an onboarding simulation using facial recognition software and the selfie provided before the event to demonstrate how Royal Caribbean will speed up the process.
Once “on board,” attendees could check out a replica sun deck and play mobile AR games the brand is working to implement in its ships. Next, guests entered the brand’s Safety Center to receive demonstrations on the latest crew-facing technology.
Attendees then participated in an interactive VR culinary experience featuring video content that reacted to the motion of eating. After dining, guests entered a futuristic replica state room that offered reactive video content playing on the room’s walls, ceiling and even the floor. The event wrapped with an introduction to Royal Caribbean’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell System, an eco-friendly power source. Can you feel the ocean breeze? We can.
Pinterest is a platform built for discovery, so to immerse the advertising and marketing bigwigs that attend Cannes Lions in its offerings, the brand created a physical manifestation of how the platform operates. Taking over a mile-long tract, Pinterest encouraged attendees to explore its platform via demo kiosks, a curated gallery of Cannes-themed objects, an interactive Pin Board installation and a large-scale screen that could be viewed all across the famous Promenade de la Croisette. The out-of-box approach made Pinterest’s activation space the largest of any company sponsoring the event—no easy feat considering the brand spent roughly one-tenth of what competitors were shelling out for the prestigious festival.
Serving as the first-ever brand to activate on the Carlton Pier during Cannes Lions, Pinterest erected a floating meeting room featuring an array of brand touchpoints that played host to the various c-suite executives who attend the event. The crux of the activation, however, was the journey to the pier. Branded kiosks that brought Pinterest’s new visual technology, Lens, to life peppered the Croisette, inviting attendees to tap a screen, take a picture of anything they liked and immediately view the results, which included a broad range of images similar to the one originally selected.
Further down the line, attendees could view a physical Pin Board installation featuring 200 pins from Cannes Lions jurors illustrating their favorite places to visit around the city. And rounding out the program was a screen built at the end of the pier looping 24-hour footage of real people in Cannes using the Lens tool and discovering new ideas. Ç’est magnifique.
At the 2017 Internet of Things World Forum, Cisco seized the opportunity to showcase the evolution of technology and get the c-suite executives who gathered for the exclusive event thinking about the future of IoT. To make it happen, the brand built a tech-centric world featuring everything from a robot concierge to an LED light-up bar, all packed into a 200-year-old British shipping port.
One of the highlights of the experience, a “RoboThespian” aptly named Ell-IoT the Robot, served as part concierge/part entertainer, offering attendees general event information—or acting out famous movie scenes on command. Over at the IoT Deployment Video Wall, attendees could view a map of where all IoT operators, equipment manufacturers and associated technologies are located around the world, and home in on a particular company to get more information.
Other key touchpoints included a connected lighting display that leveraged color-changing smart bulbs to illustrate where the highest concentration of people were throughout the event; a Steampunk-themed networking event that included 3D projections and a tricycle operating as a gin cart and bacon station; and an outdoor networking plaza featuring picnic tables and artificial grass.
The event ultimately gave attendees a better understanding of where IoT is heading and even earned praise from Cisco ceo Chuck Robbins—but we’re betting the bacon station didn’t hurt, either.
If ever fans needed a warm welcome, it was at Super Bowl LII taking place in Minneapolis. While some marketers may have found the climate a difficult challenge to overcome, Target embraced it and as the official “warm welcome sponsor” created the Target Bullseye Lodge, a destination inspired by Minnesota where attendees could escape the chaos and freezing temps of the outdoor Super Bowl Live free fan festival.
Taking place at Target’s own employee hang space, Plaza Commons on Nicollet Mall, Target created an “up-north” oasis with a photo-op-filled wonderland of interactive games and experiences and virtual surprises. As guests entered the lodge, they were greeted by a dimensional woodscape complete with sound effects from Minnesota’s state bird, the loon. Three-story cabins played home to various experiences. One cabin provided the framework for the Mars Sweet Shoppe, one of Target’s partners, where fans could choose sides for Super Bowl LII via team-colored M&M’s. Another cabin offered organic photo ops with props like ice fishing poles and fur hats, and a digital fireplace built into the mantelpiece that offered a warm atmosphere.
In the center of the space, a multi-layer, rotating snowscape featured icons that celebrated both the brand and the game. The structure was flanked by refurbished/upholstered vintage ski lifts that enhanced the winter thematic and provided an engaging platform for photo ops. At the nearby Marshmallow Photo Op, guests were invited to have their picture taken and printed on a custom marshmallow using a proprietary software and printer.
An outdoor backyard provided the final touchpoints for all things Minnesota with a curling experience that allowed guests to capture their throws via multi-cam and a larger-than-life bubble hockey experience that placed fans into the action. At the End Zone Dive experience, consumers dove amidst flying confetti for a slow-motion video they could share on social. At the Ice Bar, consumers could sample Mtn Dew Ice on custom ice furniture. And finally, consumers could capture their personal touchdown dances using a Kinect that displayed them in real-time on top of the Target Plaza South tower in downtown Minneapolis.
Tying it all together—RFID-enabled “lodge keys” that consumers received upon entering and registering. The key connected all of the digital experiences together in the activation to their email. Each photo experience simply required a quick tap of the key for instant receipt of the consumers’ content from the space. The lodge key also served as a virtual shopping cart for the Fan Shop, which featured custom products from Target’s “Project North” collection in partnership with Askov Finlayson. To top it all off, a fully functional, moving gondola soared above attendees’ heads and transported completed orders from back of house to the fan shop for pickup.
The results were icy and hot, with 38,000 guests coming through the lodge.
When it came time to promote the remake of the horror film “It,” one might assume Warner Bros. had only one goal in mind: scare the shit out of people. Well, that was one goal. But in recreating the “29 Neibolt Street” house from the film with an immersive, terrifying and Instagrammable experience for consumers to visit ahead of the release, Warner Bros. had a few others in mind, like capturing the nostalgic fan base of the original film, pleasing fans of the horror genre in general, and of course, generating awareness to drive new audiences to see the movie. The multi-level, realistic set was able to accomplish all of the above.
Located at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in L.A., the ramshackle abode with shiplap siding, dead vegetation and chain link fencing surrounding it offered a striking visual against the modern buildings behind it. Inside, consumers moved from room to room, guided by a “Georgie” character in the signature yellow rain slicker and holding a red balloon. Each room brought to life scenes from the movie with props planted throughout that amplified the fear factor and served as “Easter eggs” for fans who’d recognize the odes to the original.
At every turn were frightening surprises, sounds and special effects, like a bathroom scene with an animatronic mannequin, fake blood splatter and projected bugs “infesting” the space. Once consumers exited above ground and back into sunny L.A., they were greeted with signage driving them to share their photos and experience on social with hashtags #ItMovie and #ThatsWhereitLives.
Don’t you want a balloon?
Jameson’s permanent brand home and experience in Dublin, called Bow St., mixes live theater with sampling with immersive technology. Led by a Jameson brand ambassador who engages attendees in conversation, consumers are immersed in the history of the brand and John Jameson, who started making whisky on Dublin’s Bow Street in 1780.
The experience begins with a cocktail inspired by the stories of Dublin and Jameson at JJ Bar, enjoyed amid a surround of 230-year-old stones. Consumers move on to four experience journeys that have them seeing, touching, tasting, smelling and interacting with the brand. This includes noshing on specially curated companion foods, a visit to the live maturation house with a cask draw and tasting, and an exclusive Whisky Tasters experience in John Jameson’s “private office.” There is live music, product demonstrations and characters, and a retail experience with items and spirits series only available at Bow St.
Of course, the highlight of the experience is how the brand marries old history with new technology, like RFID-enabled media storytelling made possible by chips embedded in props that allow the host to trigger media to enhance the information presented, as well as projection mapping that, among other things, illustrates the distillation process. Neat, indeed.
“Hey Google, which brand turned its CES activation into a citywide experiential marketing blitz?”
Here is the answer: The technology behemoth couldn’t be missed at this year’s show, from the Las Vegas Monorail, to its 6,000-square-foot “playground,” to activations in more than 150 partner booths. The brand’s Sin City takeover was designed to demonstrate how its virtual assistant, Google Assistant, (and its call to action, “Hey, Google”) could improve consumers’ daily lives, and showcase the thousands of devices and partners it now works with since its debut in 2016.
The heart of Google’s activation, dubbed the Google Assistant Playground, was a three-level, 6,000-square-foot stretch of open and closed-air spaces chock-full of hands-on engagements. It included 200 partner engagements, 450 partner devices and opportunities to see how the products worked in tandem. It also served as the focal point of the experience thanks to two colossal, forward-facing LED screens that displayed partner and programming content and attendee selfies taken with Google Pixel2.
The first level of the playground featured a Product Gallery that exhibited the brand’s partner ecosystem through interactive displays and engagements. Attendees could also explore a Google Assistant cityscape diorama, a café with rotating programming, the Google Home Mini Donut Shop, the Google Express Pop-Up, the Google Assistant Juice Bar, Android Auto demos, Condé Nast Podcast stations and workshop spaces. Yeah, that was just level one.
The second level began with a group selfie before attendees embarked in small groups on a multi-room Google Assistant Journey featuring a 360-degree theater, a phone booth museum (each booth represented a use-case for the technology) and a catwalk lined in examples of “Hey Google” questions and commands.
Another level up, attendees could enjoy exclusive drinks at a Starbucks pop-up café, catch some rays on the sun deck, participate in meditation sessions with Headspace or hit the Juice Bar, where a DIY robotic home bartender whipped up drinks at patrons’ command. And then, the pièce de résistance for anyone (like us) who’s still a kid at heart—a 21-foot, custom-built corkscrew slide that sent attendees back down to the main level.
But that’s not all. Three 20-foot-tall Google Assistant gumball machines were placed throughout Vegas that allowed consumers to receive a giant, vended gumball capsule featuring partner prizes that ranged from Google-branded swag and partner gift cards to Google Home Minis.
All told, the Google activations resulted in 2.7 million social impressions, 5,000 product trials and familiarity with the Google Assistant increased by 60 percent as a result of the brand’s Las Vegas invasion.
Over the years, Ford has built a reputation for itself as a standout exhibitor at the SEMA Show, an annual trade event run by the world’s largest automobile aftermarket group. So to maintain its lofty status and demonstrate its commitment to supporting the $41.2 billion automotive aftermarket industry, the brand created a car lover’s paradise, complete with a vehicle showcase and live racing demos. Ford proved it was still up to snuff, earning 36.4 million social impressions around #FordSEMA.
The brand kicked off its SEMA presence with a press conference to launch its Performance Drift Stick, an electronic handbrake for the Ford Focus RS designed to induce drift, before giving attendees what they craved most—access. To that end, Ford leveraged its massive exhibition footprint to showcase vehicles modified under the Builder Project. The program featured 34 builders from across the country who purchased a 2018 Ford vehicle for $1, then retrofitted and customized it to their liking.
But what really revved up attendees was the Ford Out Front experience, which featured hair-raising driving demos conducted by pro racecar drivers that gave attendees the chance to sit in the passenger seat during a demonstration. Riders later received a digital film capturing their drive.
Additional touchpoints included a VR engagement that let attendees experience what it’s like to drift in a rally car, a custom-designed Ford F-150 Raptor built in partnership with Microsoft and a LEGO-building engagement designed for social sharing.
More than 160,000 attendees ultimately made their way through the Ford Out Front experience, including 2,400 who took a spin with a racecar driver—and lived to tell the tale.
Siemens Home Appliances generates 50 percent of its annual sales at IFA, a Berlin-based consumer electronics show, so to wow attendees with its breadth of smart appliances and illustrate their ability to transform daily life, the brand created the Siemens Concept Mall. The exhibit included a variety of lifestyle vignettes that showcased the brand’s products in the context of an urban lifestyle, and underscored its motto, “Solutions for a Seamless Life.”
The Design Gallery presented Siemens’ new Avant-Garde Series laundry units as works of art, while transparent monitors displayed their features. The Connected World vignette illustrated how Siemens’ home appliances can be interconnected via the Home Connect App through a “pixel ceiling” featuring 1,400 points of light transmitting digital impulses that visually connected the products on display.
Over in the Food Court, attendees watched as food bloggers broadcast their shows live on social media and offered a glimpse at the smart kitchen of the future. And in Coffee World, a combination of prisms and LED technology transformed the café into three different locations: New York City, Rio and Paris.
The Concept Mall proved to be quite a showstopper, earning the brand bragging rights as the most-visited booth in its category and proving smart technology works best with a smart strategy.
To connect with African-American females who act as primary decision makers in their homes when it comes to family finances, State Farm created culturally-relevant content for the demo and positioned itself as a resource for financial help via its “Color Full Lives” campaign.
State Farm research showed that financial services are often less recognized than the company’s insurance products. In fact, even among State Farm policy holders, just five percent are aware of the financial services available. What makes it even trickier is that the financial services category relies on one-to-one conversations to drive purchase rather than price. The solution: creating a series of experiences that would inspire this group of multigenerational women who, when seeking guidance, often turn to other women who are empowered and successful.
The campaign played out at the Essence Festival and through media on Essence.com that featured content under the theme of African-American women “living their most Color Full Lives.” It was all about making connections. State Farm leveraged celebrities Anthony Anderson and Issa Rae to discuss their own financial challenges during panel discussions. Another activity involved a financial quiz based on the women’s individual spending habits; each participant was assigned a color according to their financial aspirations, whether that entailed supporting a community or dreams of businesses they hoped to start. Three women were awarded $1,000 after taking a quiz during Essence Festival.
Elsewhere, women were challenged to vocalize their financial affirmations, which were recorded through sound wave technology and passed to them in the form of digital copies of their statements. After the festival, Essence.com featured a series of videos with entrepreneur and radio personality Angela Yee outlining tips on achieving financial goals. The brand also launched Facebook Live activations, customized articles and e-blasts, with the help of Essence editors.
All told, the activations engaged more than 150,000 consumers at Essence Fest, which included the experiential components and a main stage moment. The content from the campaign on Essence.com generated more than 21 million social and digital impressions—doubling what was expected—and, according to Essence editors, the videos were some of the most watched of any sponsoring partner in the past year.
But back to that five percent statistic. Customers who engaged with the on-site activations said they were 14 percent more likely to consider financial products versus those who didn’t participate, and 84 percent said there was an increase in consideration of State Farm financial services products. Beautiful results for a program with all the right ingredients: influencers, content and networking.
Buchanan’s Scotch Whisky was in its second year of its Es Nuestro Momento (“It’s Our Time”) campaign and on the heels of a one-year partnership with Latin award-winning artist J Balvin when it decided to amp it up. To capitalize on the partnership’s success, further enhance the brand’s affiliation with Latin music and continue to target Hispanic millennial males, the company created Casa Buchanan’s, an immersive brand experience featuring passion points and tasting experiences at each of J Balvin’s U.S. stops along his Energia Tour.
As the Official Spirits Sponsor of the Latin Grammy Awards, Buchanan’s created one of the experiences in the Skyfall Lounge in the Delano Hotel in Las Vegas—and in doing so celebrated the Grammys and the artists while exposing music industry leaders to the brand.
The focal point of the activation was a 10-foot by 20-foot experience, scalable and transportable to different spots along the tour. The Vegas installation, built at a larger scale to match the brand’s larger sponsorship role, featured several rooms and even a dj at the 64th floor of the Delano Hotel. The space was cast in neon green light and featured a variety of Instagrammable moments. There was a soundboard bar, a rotating record wall, a GIF booth experience and a customized, “Deja Tu Marca” wall, created for each market with the purpose of inviting consumers to literally leave their mark on the brand. And of course, custom cocktails made with Buchanan’s were served—16,406, to be exact. Attendance reached more than 81,000 and impressions crossed the two million mark.
When a character is lost on a favorite TV show, it’s a sad day for most of us. So why not acknowledge and honor them after they’ve passed? That was the thinking behind Netflix’s event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which saw 40,000 people congregate during Dia De Los Muertos, a sacred Mexican holiday that honors and celebrates the deceased through building altars and paying respects.
Netflix hired an award-winning Mexican flower artist to honor the fallen characters with specific details from their lives. Key touches like fresh flowers, pan de muerto (a special bread baked for the holiday), and sugar skulls were present. Zoe Barnes from “House of Cards,” Barbara Holland from “Stranger Things” and Salvador Iglesias, Jr., from “Club De Cuervos” were a few of the honored deceased, with Netflix making sure to include characters for both Spanish and English speakers. In a mausoleum, fans “spoke” to the fallen through a psychic, named “Señora Netti Flixa.” The takeaway was a shareable image featuring memories of the attendees’ favorite departed character—just to be sure that the message was relayed to the dead.
The one-day event was touched by 40,000 attendees. Photos of the messages, using the hashtag #NetflixDeMuertos, totaled nearly 200, and 1,000 remembrance candles were passed out to anyone who recorded a séance for their favorite character.
NBA All-Star Weekend tends to be a slam-dunk for endemic sponsors like sports drink and athletic apparel brands, but for Mtn Dew Kickstart, finding a way to authentically insert itself into the conversation around basketball culture proved to be a challenge. So the up-and-coming mid-calorie beverage brand created the Closer Than Courtside experience, a series of off-court cultural moments that leveraged the star power of current NBA players, the allure of Hollywood and the power of live content creation to deliver an immersive and inclusive activation that invited both physical and digital fans to be part of the action. By the end of the weekend, the brand had scored nine million impressions.
The activation was housed inside a custom-designed, three-story shipping container dubbed Courtside Studios. Each level of the structure offered its own hoops-centric experience. On the first floor, fans cracked open cans of Kickstart and lined up for a chance to enter Studio 3, where a “player’s vault” featuring a rare collection of streetwear curated by StockX was on display.
On the second floor at Studio 2, Kickstart leveraged its newest spokesperson, comedian and actor Kevin Hart, to create an audition experience that gave fans a chance to become the star’s “CourtSidekick.” The engagement featured a large video screen, which broadcast a series of prompts from Hart that fans had to react to in real time. The best part? It was all powered by an algorithm that populated random prompts and responses, making every fan interaction feel personalized. Footage from the experience was then sent to each fan for social sharing within two minutes of completing the audition.
And on the third floor at Studio 1, a fully functioning production studio served as the core of the activation. With Hart at the helm serving as master of ceremonies, the space played host to a rotating lineup of NBA All-Stars, up-and-coming talent and TV personalities, giving attendees a firsthand look at the players and celebrities they admired most. Every minute of action was also live-streamed for digital fans across the country to enjoy. And while hundreds of attendees scored VIP access to Studio 1 during filming, hundreds more caught the footage on massive screens located on the front and back of the venue.
As if three floors jam-packed with interactive experiences weren’t enough, Kickstart also transformed the ground level of Courtside Studios on the second day of the activation into a concert venue where hip-hop star TY Dolla $ign performed.
Kickstart released eight pieces of official, produced content during the weekend, and produced a total of 16 hours of live programming, all of which was, of course, shared across its social channels. Talk about a full-court press.
Ahhh…cotton. It’s the fabric of our lives and formerly the star of various pop-up shops, mall programs and e-commerce take-overs. But in 2017, Cotton Incorporated wanted to make a bigger impact by simplifying the consumer purchase journey and positioning both the brand and the fiber as relevant and on-trend. The solution? The 60 Second Fashion Show: a fashion experience designed for the social media age—digital, shoppable and brief. With help from influencers and partners, Cotton ultimately strutted its stuff to the tune of 2.5 million views.
Leveraging New York Fashion Week as its platform, Cotton staged a live fashion show featuring apparel from Bloomingdale’s for 350 influencers and journalists in order to develop content for its digital experience. The entire live event was then condensed into a single 60-second video featuring 85 different cotton-based items. And here’s where it really gets good: the footage served as the first-ever completely shoppable fashion show, meaning every item consumers viewed was available for purchase with the click of a mouse. The format even allowed viewers to pause the video and seamlessly view product information like brand, price and cotton-percentage. In addition to a swift purchase experience, the video offered viewers the opportunity to socially share items that interested them.
To help expose a larger audience to the content, Cotton leveraged a Snapchat strategy, a partnership with fashion site Who What Wear and six different influencers, leading to an average video view time that exceeded industry standards by 22 percent. If only a trip to the Gap were this easy.
The holiday season is supposed to be filled with joy, but for many travelers, stress levels can fly as high as the aircraft carrying them. That’s why WestJet has activated its Christmas Miracle campaign for the last five years, engaging customers and employees alike. But in 2017, the airliner decided to shake things up, turning its typical one-day activation into the “12 Flights of Christmas”—a 12-day media extravaganza featuring 12 highly shareable stunts.
As part of the campaign, the brand celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its WestJet Cares for Kids program. To mark the milestone, WestJet met with kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Canada to discover how they envisioned bringing the holiday spirit to life. Their answers served as the concept behind each Christmas Miracle stunt, which included in-airport experiences that ranged from a full-fledged ballet performance to a puppy visit. WestJet also released a pre-activation Facebook poll asking consumers to vote on an aspect of each forthcoming stunt. The winning vote was then integrated into the live experience.
To spread the cheer, the brand streamed the stunts in real time on Facebook Live and later posted the footage to the WestJet hub for the holiday season. The reimagined campaign generated 3.7 billion (yes, billion) media hits, and racked up 15 million video views. Miraculous, indeed.
Samsung added some slick devices to its Galaxy portfolio, so rather than let them sit static on store shelves, the brand placed them directly into the hands of consumers at six Samsung Galaxy Studios located across the U.S. to drive consideration and purchase intent. High-profile launch events celebrating the opening of each venue kicked off with celebrity appearances and live performances by artists like the Cold War Kids and DJ Marshmello to drive excitement before opening to the public. Inside the Studio, consumers got up-close-and-personal with an array of Samsung technology, received one-on-one Personal Care support for their devices and participated in playful, personalized engagements. The verdict? Ninety percent of visitors revealed visiting the Studio improved their overall opinion of the brand.
Interactives were, of course, the name of the game. A Gear 360 photo op placed participants in a cylindrical, 360-degree room featuring gusting winds and lighting effects. A 10-second, 360-degree video capturing the highlights was available for social sharing at the end of the experience. Then there was the seriously cool Liquid Canvas engagement in which attendees transformed their selfies into artwork using the Galaxy Note8 and S Pen by gliding the phone through a water basin.
Over at the 4D Gear VR zone, four attendees working as a team could virtually ride in a spaceship and compete in battle game challenges. More athletically inclined visitors could also check out the Galaxy Fitness experience in which participants could virtually row, play tennis, swim or ski against a friend as their heart rate was measured by the Galaxy Note8 and GearS3. And in the S Pen Gallery, which highlighted Samsung’s new stylus, attendees could snap a selfie using the Galaxy Note8, then use the S Pen to personalize their photo. (Fun fact: Samsung changed its interactive programming during the holidays, offering engagements like a Gear VR ride in Santa’s Sleigh.)
Dropping by the Studio also had its perks for those interested in purchasing a new device. Visitors who purchased the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+ or Galaxy Note8 through the Shop Samsung app could have their order filled directly on-site and set up by a Samsung employee. Customers also received a free Gear 360 with their purchase. And for those still on the fence about purchasing a Samsung phone, the brand offered a trial program specifically designed for that audience, which proved to be a wise strategy. Of the 246 completed trial participants, 86 percent opted to keep their devices at the end of the program.
As for the rest of the results, hold the phone: Across the six Galaxy Studios, 1,246 Samsung devices were ultimately sold, while engagements resulted in over 7.5 million product interactions.
There’s nothing quite like watching a movie or TV show from the comfort of your own living room, but for most, the technology and the atmosphere at home can’t quite compare with a true cinema experience. To prove to consumers that it could bridge that gap with its cutting-edge OLED televisions, LG partnered with Dolby and Netflix to bring the OLED Cinema House to high-traffic locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Florida, blowing past its projected p.r. and media impressions along the way.
Before stepping into the “living room of the future,” attendees waiting in line for the experience were engaged by brand ambassadors who encouraged them to try out the Face Swap app, which allowed them to switch their face with that of one of the characters from the Netflix series they were about to watch.
The Cinema House itself was constructed from two shipping containers and designed to feel like a standard living room, creating an intimate space that made each group of six that came through feel truly connected to the experience. As for the content, attendees viewed 4K Ultra HD clips from popular Netflix originals. But this wasn’t your typical “Netflix and Chill” vibe. The Cinema House immersed participants in a full 360-degree sensory environment, with content from the OLED TV emanating from the screen onto the walls, surrounding viewers in a projection mapping experience related to the content they were viewing.
Siskel and Ebert may not be around to rate the Cinema House experience, but considering LG saw a 200 percent sales lift in stores following the activation, we give it two thumbs up.
When Coca-Cola altered the formula of its Coke Zero product, fans weren’t having it. They took to social media in droves to share their contempt for the change. But, confident in the quality of its new beverage, Coke Zero Sugar, the brand accepted this challenge head-on, embarking on a nationwide sampling tour to persuade millennial-aged skeptics to ditch their preconceived notions and give the new formula a whirl. Tuning in to the sensory deprivation trend, Coke invited consumers (ultimately, 600,000 of them) to enter one of 18 of its sensory deprivation tanks located across the country to hyper-focus on its product’s new flavor.
When participants first stepped inside the deprivation tank, which looked like a classic Coke vending machine from the outside and featured 4K screens, their senses were heightened with video, sound and scent. Then, one-by-one, the sensory elements were stripped away until the consumer was left with nothing. Only then was the participant able to sample the new beverage, free from any distractions, and laser-focused on its taste.
When the 100-plus-city tour wrapped, the brand had earned a nine percent spike in Coke Zero Sugar sales. Now that’s refreshing.
Facing intense competition from other airlines, WestJet was determined to establish itself as Canada’s premiere airline for flights to Las Vegas. With just a 20-second window to surprise and delight the passengers aboard a chosen flight from Toronto to Vegas, WestJet built and illuminated a mammoth-sized prize wheel on the ground, modeled after roulette, that was visible from 12,000 feet—winning not only the hearts of the passengers and tons of media coverage, but also two Guinness World Records.
About those records. The first was “Greatest Light Output in a Projected Image,” amounting to 4.5 million lumens emitted from 164 gigantic moving lights that made up the LED wheel. The second record was for “Largest Circular Projection,” which spanned nearly 8.5 million square feet in diameter. Together they created a massive, gamified light show that amazed passengers from their seats and, most importantly, indicated through a flashing seat number which lucky Vegas-bound winner would take home prizes like a $2,500 shopping spree, two roundtrip flights, future hotel stays and show tickets. Every guest on the flight received Cirque du Soleil discount vouchers, $25 gift certificates to the Miracle Mile Shops, cocktails at STK and selfie sticks. Post-flight, WestJet continued the momentum by running nine weekly in-flight giveaways on flights from Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto to Vegas.
The work on the ground to organize such a stunt was months in the making and took a full week of building on-site. Not to mention the coordination of flight paths, pilots and in-flight operations that was required. The display itself was built out in two sections: the wheel and the winning seat number. The wheel was comprised of 24 sections of high-output lighting fixtures that allowed for control over the position, focus and color of the lights. The results were clearly defined, brightly lit sections of the wheel on the ground, elevated according to the slope of the terrain, which eliminated the need for actual infrastructure or walls. Seven segments made up the winning seat number display and were comprised of 150-foot by 50-foot sections of truss and scaffold covered with diffusion fabric, creating the effect of “pixels.”
This one special flight was truly illuminating for a select group of passengers. But the activation also spread across social media like wildfire with the help of strategically-placed influencers as passengers and using the hashtag #WestJetVegasSurprise. For the few weeks the event was in market, it garnered four million impressions, more than 25 press outlet mentions and 2.6 million video views of the stunt. Twitter alone saw more than 18,000 engagements. And most importantly, the target market of Canadians was overjoyed—15,000 reactions, 600-plus shares and more than 1,000 comments were generated from the event.
Children in the U.S. collectively consume 45,486 pounds of sugar every five minutes. Shocking, right? But when you see those numbers actually visualized, it really brings the statistic home. That was the idea behind KIND Snacks’ stunt in Times Square—the mother of all foot-traffic sites—where the brand built an oversized mound containing 4,549 bags of sugar to garner media attention, prospective consumers (parents who pack their children’s lunches every day) and position KIND Fruit Bites as a no-added-sugar healthy alternative.
It was all about the location, which allowed KIND to expand its reach to commuters, visitors and local media. The mound of sugar was strategically placed under the Nasdaq sign in Times Square, so as to attract media already in the area. KIND-branded placards placed around the sugar mound further amplified the brand’s message by sharing facts like the following: 4.7 billion pounds of added sugar would cover 1,740 football fields, and 13.1 million pounds of added sugar will fill 273 yellow school buses. The brand also installed sugary-white statues of children surrounding the mound and wearing lanyards containing disheartening facts about children’s sugar consumption. A total of 25,000 samples of no-added-sugar KIND Fruit Bites were distributed.
The stunt sure got the attention it craved. Business publications including Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider, Men’s Health, USA Today, Bloomberg and Adweek flocked to the scene, and nutrition thought leaders including Mike Rousell and Connie Diekman supported the campaign publicly, amplifying the sweet message.
To attract cutting-edge consumers and create buzz around its 2018 Stinger sports sedan, Kia staged a full-on drag race stunt at the most unlikely of settings: New York Fashion Week. Six celebrities, including model Joan Smalls, YouTube star Cameron Dallas and former baseball MVP Alex Rodriguez, duked it out (safely) on the track to see “Who Drove It Best” during a closed event attended by 100 carefully-selected media and social influencers.
Over the course of 20 hours, Kia transformed the concrete cruise ship dock at Pier 92 into a functioning drag race track with VIP viewing spaces and photo ops. Three visible HVAC systems measuring 14 feet high were concealed with signage promoting the event. To create a 1,000-foot drag for racing safely, more than 2,000 water barriers were assembled and covered with a branded fabric cover. The track was color coded with black and red to indicate acceleration and braking areas, and vinyl start and finish lines were applied to the ground.
Another nice touch: A Port-A-Tree Timing System, normally used for National Hot Rod Association tracks, measured the laps and displayed racers’ times on large LED monitors. The stunt received coverage from top entertainment publications and garnered 5.8 million likes, 13,742 comments and 27.25 minutes of video.
When chefs and foodies began to organically experiment with Cheetos as a quirky, new ingredient in food recipes—from the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Sushi Burrito to the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bagel—the experiential team at Frito-Lay saw an opening. Building on this trend and setting out to prove that Cheetos is more than a snack food, it created a real Cheetos-inspired restaurant featuring a full menu of tasty culinary creations during three nights of NYC Restaurant Week.
In partnership with celebrity chef Anne Burrell, “The Spotted Cheetah” restaurant featured a motion-capture CGI version of Chester Cheetah to greet guests at the door, Cheetah-print table cloths and even paw-print toilet paper. The experience sold out 500 table reservations through an OpenTable integration in just six hours, waitlisted more than 1,000 and made a huge splash on social media—630 million earned social media impressions, doubling the brand’s benchmark.
With its core demo being millennial parents, an ever-active group on social media, Cheetos launched the program solely through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram rather than TV. Each post pushed consumers to the mobile-first website thespottedcheetah.com, where the OpenTable integration, a digital cookbook of all 11 recipes served at the restaurant, Chef Burrell’s bio and food imagery were housed. Cheetos created geo-targeted social media ad units as well, served up to consumers based on their location. And for those who couldn’t attend in person, a digital cookbook was offered—12,000 downloads later, you can bet those millennial families are chowing down on cheetah-infused concoctions.
On-site at The Spotted Cheetah was a fan’s paradise, designed to immerse guests in the brand’s colors, textures and tastes. An orange carpet walkway, Cheetos-inspired art and menu items like Flamin’ Hot Limón Chicken Tacos and Cheetos Sweetos Crusted Cheesecake completed the experience. And the brand took full advantage of its cheeky mascot. It created a motion-capture CGI version of Chester Cheetah with a real voice actor at the front of the restaurant: as consumers walked in, he gestured to and responded to them as if he were there “in person.” Then in the restroom, an augmented reality-enabled screen overlaid Chester’s famous shades on attendees’ faces.
The campaign’s social media impressions and traditional media placements made it the most buzzed-about Cheetos program in the brand’s history. Coverage expanded beyond the snack food category to the pop culture realm and even the business world, with placements from Business Insider, Fortune, E! Online, Popsugar, The Wall Street Journal and US Weekly. Celebs including Mariah Carey, Shay Mitchell and a couple of Victoria’s Secret models made appearances, and Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb enjoyed the first on-air taste test on NBC’s “Today” show. Even more good news: The brand saw incremental sales lift during the restaurant’s run and immediately following. Delicious.
IKEA is known for its massive warehouse stores and assemble-yourself furniture. But its food? Not so much. So, after launching its successful pop-up experience “It Starts With the Food” the year prior, the brand sought to further solidify IKEA as a player in the food space—but in its own IKEA way, with the IKEA Play Café.
Set in one of Toronto’s popular shopping districts, the pop-up inspired attendees to defy traditional cooking conventions and treat food as a way to experiment, be creative and have fun. The storefront was designed with the brand’s signature yellow and blue colors, with brightly-colored placards beckoning passersby to SHOP, PLAY and EAT. Once inside, attendees were given red, blue and yellow RORT wooden spoons containing RFID technology that allowed them to interact with different parts of the experience—from purchasing IKEA kitchen items to playing games like pinball to eating meatballs in its outdoor café.
Calls to action with playful language suggesting that there are “no rules when it comes to food” drove home the store’s message. “Don’t be afraid to bake a mistake,” one game reminded attendees. A colored cup installation inspired photo ops to share on social. And the Burlington, VT-based band “Walk Off The Earth” unexpectedly incorporated IKEA products into the band’s five-song on-site set.
The experience saw 41,169 visitors, which exceeded the brand’s target by 218 percent. What’s more, 88 percent of visitors reported they enjoyed the café, which generated more than $55,000 in sales and 29.5 million media impressions.
Smart marketers know how to align what they’re selling with what consumers are needing—in exactly the right moment. Case in point: Google Play’s pop-up experience in Manhattan’s East Village, an activation that expertly transformed one of the most utterly mundane yet essential settings imaginable—a laundromat—into a play space designed just for millennials looking to kill some time on their phones.
The environment was all about guilt-free gaming, offering Angry Birds Match, Animal Crossing and Pokémon Go. Google found an actual laundromat to make over overnight, and wrapped the washers and dryers in bright green and yellow, a nod to the games’ various characters. Sleek, new tables replaced old ones, and signage, selfie stations and game figures like Pokémon and Angry Birds decorated the space.
Frequenters of the Play to Pay Laundromat could download a game, fill out a scorecard, and win prizes, from a croissant to coffee to headphones. Google specifically built moments into the experience so that during downtime—while waiting for a cup of coffee to brew, for instance—these casual gamers would be inspired to play. Free products distributed upon entry included popcorn, laundry detergent and water bottles, while prizes included croissants, neck pillows and headphones. All told, more than 500 people visited the pop-up over three days and more than 1,500 prizes were distributed.
Destiny is a sci-fi video game with immersive environments and storylines. For the much anticipated and long awaited release of Destiny 2, publisher Activision wanted to create a press event as immersive as the title itself, while engaging 30 million-plus players in the process. In other words: this was no “exclusive” affair. More than 1,000 targeted gaming press and influencers as well as select core fans from the gaming community were invited to the event at the Los Angeles Jet Center in Hawthorne, CA, with its expansive hangars. The millions of other “attendees” tuned in via a real-time global live stream in three languages.
Attendees were shuttled on-site and entered into two airplane hangars completely transformed into the Destiny 2 world. Upon arrival, they received their credentials, visited a 100-foot-long step-and-repeat backdrop and headed into the opening keynote. The keynote hangar included an expansive stage and massive screen flanked by draped banners reflecting the “iconic” in-game “shields,” along with dramatic 60-foot by 15-foot graphics floating above the audience.
Audiences experienced a cinematic trailer packed with game content before presenters hit the stage to give attendees an in-depth look into the minds and creativity behind the game—highlighting in detail its “expanded universe,” new characters, increased play options (for both new and experienced players), added missions, and an expansive new social structure to support the player community. Production note: The livestream featured exclusive camera angles and placements to feature full-screen gameplay cinematics and visuals, so viewers weren’t just staring straight at the stage.
Following the keynote, attendees entered into a vast 148-game-station environment rotunda in the second hangar with a 12-foot “Traveler” hanging above their heads. Larger-than-life mannequins in ornate suits flanked by 25-foot-tall pennants representing each of the three character classes within the game surrounded the main floor. Attendees then hit the main floor, which offered large-scale character art and a museum-like showcase of characters. Photo ops, galore? You bet.
Of course, what would a release event be without gameplay, and on both PlayStation 4 consoles and PCs, the attendees engaged in hands-on gameplay over a period of five hours. You read that right: five hours. During this super period of immersion into the new game, they were able to experience new features across three modes and select attendees were equipped to hook up gameplay capture equipment to gather first-person content for their press and influencer stories to follow. To boot, there were scheduled on-camera interviews with key studio reps and meet-and-greet sessions on the keynote stage, in addition to a partner-sponsored post-show recap (also live-streamed).
The event’s concept was described as “Think millions, not hundreds.” With its livestream and global audiences, and hours of gameplay, we say: Think billions.
Press events often take on a formulaic feel. There’s the general session. The reveal. The demo. And the cocktail reception. For the reveal of its “Unlike Any” line of apparel and global women’s campaign, Under Armour took a page from the consumer engagement playbook for a fresh take on the traditional presser.
The event in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market kicked off with a tour of a gallery space featuring 360-degree transparent cubes dedicated to each athlete showcased in the campaign. The cubes displayed the Under Armour products worn by the athletes as well as campaign content, imagery and organic materials. A poet from Brooklyn, NY-based All Def Poetry opened with a live performance inspired by “Unlike Any.” Then, a panel hosted by TV anchor and reporter Cari Champion dove into each athlete’s story, drawing connections to the work of other poets they were paired with for the campaign.
For the experiential portion, poet Lynn Gentry crafted on-the-spot poems for attendees. At an interactive art installation, attendees wrote what makes them “Unlike Any” directly onto a collective art piece. A branded GIF photo booth offered a custom animated overlay inspired by the campaign.
On top of receiving custom-branded tote bags, and a fill-on-site gift bags, attendees could purchase products from the “Unlike Any” collection directly from teammates from the local New York Under Armour Brand House, who had phones at the ready loaded with the UA Shop App. The result of this consumer-centric press event: 400 million earned media impressions on top of mentions in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Refinery29. Yep, unlike any.
Relaxing in the Centurion Lounge at airports is one of the many perks of owning the American Express Platinum card, and with a brand refresh of the card designed to attract more affluent millennials, as well as two new additions to the lounge network, the brand created an immersive, worldly event to promote both announcements among 150 media and influencers.
At the event in New York City, attendees chose a card that represented one of three immersive vignettes to experience. Each vignette depicted a different travel destination and offered a sensory experience. In “Hong Kong,” attendees were greeted with warm hand towels presented on bamboo trays and assorted fresh sashimi prepared by a master sushi chef. In “London,” attendees posed in front of a backdrop inspired by the famous street art in Shoreditch or popped into a traditional British phone booth to listen to a surprise message. In “Iceland,” attendees partook in a traditional Akvavit tasting from an ice bar and learned about the distilling process and ingredients.
A main reception area offered “platinum accents” and mirrored décor, as well as travel-inspired installations, and curated cocktail and food menus inspired by the Centurion Lounge. After this spin around the globe with 300 press, the launch announcement resulted in… wait for it… Five. Billion. Impressions. Put it on our card.
With the beer industry losing market share to wine and spirits, Heineken needed to captivate its annual National Distributors Conference audience of 1,200 family-owned, multi-generational business owners gathered at the Dallas Convention Center. Ditching the classic proscenium theater arrangement and replacing it with a 270-degree, bleacher seating setup that immersed guests in three, super high-definition 4.4mm LED screens, the brand communicated its big and bold plans for 2018 with color, imagery and graphics. But the real star of the show? A massive, 80-foot by 40-foot center stage floor, comprised entirely of LED lighting. The result was a beautiful display of Heineken’s core brands, communicated by each presenter.
The goal was to connect with the audience, achieve buy-in and ensure that Heineken’s products would receive ample time and attention in the future. But at the event, each of the core brands—Heineken, Tecate, Dos Equis, and Strongbow Cider—needed to convey its own personality, look and feel. To do that, each presenter needed to knock it out of the park. The solution: Malleable staging and presentations that could be altered at the touch of a button and tailored to the brand at hand. All the while, massive LED imagery transported the presenters and guests to environments and places around the globe.
Here’s how it played out: During the opening video sequence celebrating Heineken’s legacy, the production team used a haze lighting effect and took full advantage of the LED floor, immersing attendees in a sea of light and foreshadowing what was to come. Key moments included a championship boxer sparring with a distributor on top of a realistic LED boxing ring. When the brand’s ceo made his entrance, the video floor transformed into a Heineken green brick road for him to travel on that then dissolved in the wake of his path. When Strongbow Cider took the stage, the floor, in addition to the surrounding three screens, became an apple orchard. Other executives meandered across a soccer field or the clear blue waters of the Caribbean as Heineken showcased its international brands. Another presenter took a more unplugged, storyteller approach for an attention-grabbing interlude amidst a sea of high tech. Presenters walked across the LED floor in unique patterns, spoke in pairs and conducted panels from every corner of the set.
The end result was an unconventional presentation that drove some satisfying results: 95 percent of distributor attendees surveyed said they left understanding how the conference theme and supporting principles could help drive their business growth going forward. Seventy percent said they agree Heineken has the best-in-class conference among its competitive set, and 62 percent felt the conference was better or much better than the prior year.
GE’s annual Minds + Machines event explores the digital transformation of an industrial company, the state of the Industrial Internet, and the environment in which these industrial assets and technologies live and work. But this year, the company sought to go beyond offering content to its audience of GE customers, developers, partners, industry luminaries and technology thought leaders. It wanted to bring digital industrial transformation concepts to life, and then, engage audiences beyond the room.
GE incorporated industrial engineering concepts into the design of the conference, using large-format photo imagery, branding, A/V and experiences to compel them. Then, the brand activated a Social Studio in the heart of a centralized Tech Hall to amplify those stories and messages via social media.
GE integrated large-scale industrial assets, such as jet engine wind turbines and locomotives, which created a visual connection to the real technology at work. Attendees encountered actual parts of a turbine or aviation engine on display. In the event’s main hall, attendees could walk through GE’s digital ecosystem, including healthcare, transportation and aviation, all the while experiencing solutions by demoing products. Attendees could also check out a virtual power plant. The up-close-and-personal strategy with industry themes resulted in a 41 percent increase in turnout. But the true test of success was the amplification achieved through that live broadcasting Social Studio, which provided a platform for GE executives, partners and thought leaders to discuss core trends affecting the industrial world. Beyond the 229 traditional media articles the studio generated, the event generated 4.47 million social media impressions. Industrious.
Chinese e-commerce goliath Alibaba’s first public event in the U.S., Gateway ’17, was designed to educate people on business opportunities in China, inspire small businesses and reignite trade between the two countries. With a five-year initiative to fuel growth and spending in the Chinese economy while creating new jobs in the U.S., Alibaba created an event to connect sellers in North America and buyers in China through the use of Alibaba’s e-commerce platform.
The brand created a physical representation of this world, achieved using boxes and actual shipping containers. Attendees passed through glowing archways at the hall entrance, viewed customer testimonials and snapped photos in front of a physical stack of boxes. Additional boxes displayed infographics about the Chinese consumer market and, overhead, boxes made of white tension fabric were illuminated with pulsing lights. Exhibits of Alibaba solutions were designed with halo boxes hung overhead in a chandelier pattern, each made of LED-lit frames.
The event opened up a box of smashing results for Alibaba, including 18,000 new visitors to the website over the first two days of the conference. Within the first 36 hours of the event, more than 3,500 people subscribed to Alibaba’s Facebook page. Driving more social impressions was founder and executive chairman Jack Ma’s fireside chat, which received 26,000 views, and his keynote, at 97,000 views. Sold.
Whisky making is an old-world process, but to educate tastemakers about the differences between its two Scotch whisky varieties, Sherry Oak 12 Year Old and the Double Cask 12 Year Old, The Macallan turned to a new-age technology: augmented reality. In a crisp, modern art gallery experience called Gallery 12 that traveled to five cities (New York City, Miami, Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco), the brand engaged tastemakers and technology, media and spirits industry influencers in an AR world with four installations in the space that allowed them to engage in digital content and interact with holograms.
The AR visuals were triggered as each physical piece within the gallery entered the view of the users’ Microsoft HoloLens device. The mixed reality journey included a visit to the American and European oak forests, where by peering through a physical window installation, they could see, virtually, where The Macallan sources the wood to make the casks in which the whiskies age. The journey took them through The Macallan’s process to help them gain an understanding of the unique oak types and natural color. In another section, attendees peered at what looked like an artistic hollow cask but through the glasses, they viewed liquid and saw flavor notes floating above, like graphics representing cinnamon, fruit and honeycomb. The experiences were narrated by The Macallan’s national brand ambassador, Kieron Elliott.
As an extension of the Gallery 12 AR exhibit, The Macallan created an AR app experience designed specifically for Apple’s latest ARKit platform on iOS 11. The interactive experience brings the story of The Macallan’s two 12 Year Old whiskies to life, from acorn to bottle, and includes a glimpse through a virtual window at the brand’s wood sourcing process, along with an artistic look at both 12 Year Old whiskies’ colors and distinctive flavors. The brand will be using the app for educational experiences with consumers and trade and is meant to be used both at home and on shelf in bars and liquor stores.
While young people may have perceived Scotch whisky at one time as an older man’s drink, for millennials, who are embracing the category and appreciate technology, the Gallery 12 experience offered two things they like most: an exclusive, shareable experience and an immersive education on the ins and out of the product. And where VR is often a solitary experience, AR technology and HoloLens allowed consumers to interact with dynamic content without closing themselves off completely at the event. This innovative approach to a spirits event resulted in more than 115 million media impressions, and 2.1 million users reached on social channels, in addition to 110,000 social video views.
Seeing is believing.
Fox’s debut of “24: Legacy” received a coveted spot, airing right after Super Bowl LI in 2017. To generate excitement among fans of the original show and capture new audiences alike, the brand created an activation that would help it stand out against all the activities in Houston’s Discovery Park fan zone leading up to the big game: a mock Counter Terrorism Unit recruitment center.
The immersive experience started with fans entering the space and taking a multi-choice personality test. They were then assigned positions like Director, Analyst, Field Agent, Covert Agent or Tactical Agent within the “CTU.” Staff wore branded gear and military-style dog tags, while details like tactical bulletin boards, flags, flat screens and drum tanks gave the experience an air of authenticity. From there, they moved to a 180-degree photo op in front of a functional helicopter with voice commands from series star Miranda Otto.
While photo ops are a dime a dozen in fan experiences surrounding a sporting event, this was in stark-contrast to the sports-related activations. Running for three days, the Fox 24 Counter Terrorism Unit engaged 3,910 “members” (consumers), and resulted in 1,588 photo ops with the helicopter. The resulting sharable images generated 1,169 shares on Facebook and more than 100,000 impressions.
Jack would be proud.
Ahead of the launch of its “Start Something Priceless” campaign, Mastercard created an experiential retail environment leading up to the Grammy Awards that immersed cardholders, top pop artists, local musicians, media and influencers in a celebration of the New York City music scene. The five-day Mastercard House was designed as a throwback to the creative freedom and disruptiveness of the 1970s and 1980s: Outside the venue the brand placed 4,180 square feet of signage depicting a neon cityscape and the Mastercard logo. And inside the venue, more neon, eclectic furniture and vinyl record designs on the walls.
The experience began with the #StartSomethingPriceless step-and-repeat. There was a photo gallery depicting work of iconic music photographers, and a retail space where attendees downloaded the barcode app on their smart devices to shop for exclusive merchandise by partners in the environment. In a custom “recording studio” attendees burned their own vinyl, and in a listening area they could lounge and wait for their merchandise to be ready for pickup.
Panels and performances took place on a 27-foot stage in the space with a backdrop that paid homage to the New York City skyline. All in, $18,480 in sales for the week was donated to the MusiCares Charity. More than 2,500 attendees attended the daytime performances and 3,000 Mastercard holders and VIP guests attended evening concerts.
Sounds good to us.
Amazon Web Services’ re:Invent conference has grown 700 percent since its 2012 debut. And with 2017’s event attracting more than 42,000 attendees—a 40 percent increase from the year prior—the challenge was to sustain that growth and scale without compromising the attendee experience. So, AWS effectively took over the Las Vegas strip by expanding to seven properties and creating a “campus” serviced by a pop-up transit system for attendees and supported by a more expansive safety and security event plan. Compelling content surrounding the latest AWS tools and technologies anchored the experience along with a slew of activities to experience—morning, noon and night.
Given the event’s size, heightened security measures were put in place. K9 units patrolled the campus, particularly along the event’s transit system. A re:Invent safety hotline was created to handle any medical emergencies and high-traffic metal detection stations were placed at every key entrance.
And about transportation: AWS created a pop-up mass transit system featuring a fleet of branded touring buses along with subway-style maps to help navigate its North and South routes through the campus. This saved attendees from walking miles a day or paying for public transport, while at the same time letting them experience more conference content.
The event content was categorized and localized by venue so that attendees interested in a particular track would not have far to travel. Each of the four major keynotes, featuring AWS executives, partners and customers, were delivered live but also broadcast to multiple overflow areas. Content lounges, constructed for attendees who didn’t want to catch a shuttle, featured screens streaming content from popular sessions at other properties. The re:Invent mobile app used translation and assisted listening technology to help attendees who spoke another language or had hearing impairments.
And then there was the adult playtime. A “broomball” tournament—a quirky, lawn game created by AWS at an early employee picnic—saw well-established teams returning to defend their winning title and achieve major bragging rights. And the Tatonka Challenge, a chicken wing-eating (or celery, for the vegetarians) contest that attracted more than 200 contestants. The winner received a coveted, golden chicken wing trophy. This year the contest made history as it was witnessed by a Guinness Book of World Records representative who designated the contest the largest-ever chicken wing-eating competition.
But wait, there’s more. A 20-bar and restaurant Pub Crawl was a popular, sponsor-heavy outing, while boot camp, spin classes and a 4K run were on hand for the fit crowd. Perhaps the most exciting new element was the inaugural Midnight Madness event, which took place the night before the conference got underway. With a champagne toast at midnight, the event encouraged customers to go all in on the AWS cloud—all while listening to the beats of legendary basketball Hall of Famer and guest dj… Shaquille O’Neal. Nice.
To prepare and energize its smart car sales team, Daimler AG created the Global Training Experience Smart Electric Drive 2017 event in Valencia, Spain, featuring a purely digital program complete with virtual reality, augmented reality apps and interactive elements. Smart’s entire model range is fully electric, so under the umbrella theme of “A big idea,” sales reps learned the ins and outs of new Smart Car models, arming themselves with key differentiators that set the models apart from the competition.
The “course” kicked off with a virtual ride through Valencia in the new connected model smart cars. Using VR, attendees experienced the smart vehicles with a product manager acting as a chauffeur and assisting drivers within a specially-created immersive world. E-training was offered at training stations as an AR app that compared the current model to the previous one. Attendees used an iPad application that compared the Smart Electric Drive with its competitors, and a Smart control app allowed drivers to virtually adjust and access information such as the car’s battery charge status or its air conditioning from remote positions like a nearby café.
Through the event’s “My GTE” app, attendees created selfie films, which provided feedback for the brand. The app also enabled digital hotel and event check-in and doubled as a digital room key. Meanwhile, attendees digested content via digital workshops and were able to download learnings from the app. Smart, indeed.
To get MINI dealership employees excited about the new 2017 MINI Countryman, the company decided to go against traditional automotive training protocol and design an experiential event. Getting behind the wheel made all the difference. Instead of typical classroom training, dealers embarked on a five-hour driving experience that delivered curriculum in the car, a glamping experience at the top of a mountain and a high-performance race around a track.
The first day was all about the road. While driving the MINIs through scenic roads in Palm Springs and Highway 243 through the San Jacinto mountains, dealers learned about the car’s vehicle dynamics and performance from professional instructors via walkie-talkies. MINI built a glamping site in the mountains where attendees enjoyed a campfire and s’mores while snapping and posting pics of the MINI against a stunning natural backdrop. The second day upped the ante with thrilling racetrack challenges, from off-road mud tracks to street courses. Over the span of two days, attendees experienced more than 100 miles of road driving.
A 10-year veteran of MINI called it the best training event in the company’s history, and another satisfied attendee called it “one of the best experiences I have ever had.” Those are some big-time results, MINI.
How do you create demand for a restaurant? Some might say the key is to create the most exquisite food on the dining scene. Others say make it the hardest reservation to get.
Taco Bell took both to heart when it created the “Test Kitchen by Taco Bell” at its headquarters in Irvine, CA. The brand offered reservations through OpenTable. And, as its known for devising innovative recipes for its rabid fan base of millennial men and women—who themselves are known for traveling from far and wide to experience new inventions, like Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos and the Naked Egg Taco—the key was to make it a must-attend destination event by giving fans a peek behind the kitchen curtain.
Branding was an important part of the birth of Taco Bell’s new restaurant. The logo and identity developed had to represent the creativity and experimentation happening within the test kitchen. Bright, neon colors and a funky, block-lettered font defined the restaurant menu and print materials. A poster boldly claimed, “Caviar taste. Taco Budget.” The five-course meal was so anticipated that it was even leaked on Reddit ahead of the dinner. The dining room came to life with modern furniture, tableware and lighting. Artwork for the space came from the street artist “It’s A Living,” which pretty much guaranteed Instagrammable posts would abound when fans gained entry.
Taco Bell unveiled the URL for the reservations on Cinco de Mayo, appropriately, and announced via press release that the dinner would be free but travel and accommodations wouldn’t be. Once the restaurant went live with OpenTable, reservations sold out in just 34 seconds. As expected, hungry fans came from all over the country, as far as Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and New York, to name a few.
The lucky 32 fans, once they arrived, were served aperitifs in the Taco Bell HQ lobby and then escorted to the Test Kitchen. There they enjoyed a five-course Taco Bell dinner and cocktails served by its top creators and chefs—each dish experimental and previously unreleased to the public, whether a new spin on a classic or something completely new.
The results—accumulated without any media spend whatsoever—were more than 325 million impressions. An added bonus: Taco Bell effectively created its own new dining experience that fueled its cult fan base, to the point that the company will offer more Test Kitchen dinners in 2018 in order to satisfy demand. Fans who navigate to the Test Kitchen website can leave their email address and opt in to hear about the next dinner. Live mas? Oh, yes.
With the recent rise of the boutique fitness studio movement (who hasn’t been asked to join ClassPass?), Propel saw an opportunity to be a leading brand among passionate exercisers. Enter the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival in L.A., which brought together emerging fitness studios, bloggers, influencers and fitness fans to create “mashup workouts,” where different workouts partner to create one-of-a-kind experiences driven by live music collaborations. The fest kicked off with a day of more than a dozen leadership panels, workshops and discussions featuring leaders in fitness, wellness, business and social media.
Over three days of programming, attendees could choose from more than 40 workouts led by celebrity trainers and scored by the hottest musical acts, including Big Boi, AlunaGeorge, Spencer Ludwig and Gabriel Garzon-Montana. Consumers could try celebrity workouts from Shay Mitchell and Scott Foley (acting as ambassadors of the festival), led by renowned personal trainers Harley Pasternak and Gunnar Peterson. Or try mashups like Big Boi and Prevail Boxing, or AlunaGeorge and Playlist Yoga.
Beyond the workouts, experiential activities kept attendees engaged. There was a group meditation space with motion-sensitive visuals, hair braiding, restorative massages and a workout customization station. Influential brands in the wellness space were present—from Sweetgreen salads to Bandier workout gear to hair braiding from Glamsquad. The Smile’s Di Alba, Dream Pops and Pico House served food and drink all day long.
The festival earned more than 70 million social impressions, 278 placements, 27,359 Instagram profile views and 502 website clicks—a 70 percent increase month over month. No sweat.
Dating app Bumble, where women make the first move, only existed as a digital experience until Bumble Hive NYC arrived, a live, experiential pop-up space in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan that brought together thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs to celebrate the empowerment of women across relationships, tech and education.
The Hive’s design naturally had the appearance of a giant honeycomb. The 3,500-plus visitors to the Hive were greeted by brand ambassadors dressed all in white with yellow accents. Hexagon-shaped details abounded, from floating mirrors, to a white hexagonal path subtly directing traffic flow, to side tables, benches and light pendants. Honey-gold walls reinforced the hive motif, with the help of backlit mirrors. There was a cozy bar for meeting a match as well.
A “Connections through History” art installation depicted the evolution of communication since the beginning of time (and ending with Bumble), and a photo op room against a metallic-gold wall inspired 2,300 photos. Guest could also activate a Spotify feature in the Bumble app to compare most-played artists with their potential matches, and a match would see your song jump to the front of the dj’s queue. Makeovers from Glamsquad and Drybar touch-ups were on hand, and a “Bee.tique” display showcased Bumble’s online store.
Over 19 days of activation, the Hive certainly proved buzzzzz-worthy, earning 200 million media impressions and 50 million social media impressions.
When a legendary musician like Elton John announces his 300-show retirement tour, how do you simultaneously boost ticket sales and ensure his legacy lives on after the final curtain call? For the British singer’s management company, Rocket Entertainment, the answer was a revolutionary press launch that announced his Farewell Tour with all the style and grandeur the Rocket Man himself is famous for. Redefining the typical “digital plus live” event strategy, the launch featured a first-of-its-kind VR engagement followed by a live Elton John performance, then wrapped it with a live Q&A with Anderson Cooper. Within a week of the event, all 60 U.S. shows—spread out over three years—were sold out.
The concept for the VR engagement was derived from post-biological performances like the late Paul Walker’s appearance in “Furious 7.” The goal was to capture and recreate the most iconic moments from John’s career in formats that will still be relevant 50 to 100 years from now, paving the way for new generations of fans. To make it happen, cutting-edge motion-capture and visual effects were leveraged to ultimately create a stereoscopic 360-degree VR experience.
Recreating highlights from John’s decades-long career in virtual reality, however, came with its challenges. Generating the 23-year-old version of the singer required unprecedented computing power and natural language processing, and to make John’s 1970s performances look as authentic as possible, a body double was brought in.
All of the pieces of the technology puzzle finally came together at Gotham Hall in New York City, where the launch event, which aligned with the Grammy Awards, was held. The evening kicked off with the immersive VR experience, taking attendees on a hyper-realistic journey through John’s most memorable moments. A VR live-stream of the footage was also transmitted to venues in Los Angeles and London—an element of the program that required inventing new technology. Scraps of code and ideas from applications like mobile gaming and oil pipeline management were ultimately used in order to trigger thousands of VR headsets around the world simultaneously.
The VR engagement seamlessly blended into the next phase of the event as attendees removed their headsets to see John himself on stage, carrying the 50-year journey through his life into the present. The musician delivered a powerful live performance augmented by vibrant projections of his most iconic lyrics and looks. Finally, a live, global Q&A with Anderson Cooper gave John a chance to discuss both the tour and his plans for retirement.
Of course, with an experience of this caliber, no one had to ask if the pop icon “could feel the love tonight.” Breaking American Express’ record for pre-ticket sales at one million tickets sold, with revenue above $400 million, and earning 1.4 billion media impressions, pretty much says it all.
The world was perplexed when the 1968 Mustang Bullitt from Steve McQueen’s classic “Bullitt” was lost after filming. But in 2017, Ford located the coveted automobile and set out to surprise and delight car fans by unveiling it at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. There, the brand leveraged the vehicle’s nostalgia factor to drive affinity for the Ford brand and to promote the 2018 Mustang Bullitt—by inserting attendees into the film’s famous chase scene.
Ford set up four different stations for the activation, each hosted by product specialists trained to treat attendees like Hollywood stars. At the first station, participants posed against a green screen and were integrated into a specially redesigned version of the “Bullitt” movie poster. Next, Ford used an animatronic seat and projected b-roll footage behind it from a short trailer it produced with McQueen’s granddaughter to replicate how the vehicle bounced around in the original chase scene.
At the third station, attendees hopped inside the 2018 Bullitt to check out its features while a few dramatic shots of them behind the wheel were snapped. The final station was a triumphant walk away from the car.
The experience required knitting together various technologies, including two video camera cards and six video camera inputs, using a bespoke platform powered by Linux and iOS. The system was built so that Ford could tweak the effects, frame rate and cropping to create a 16:9 video square, making it prime for sharing on Instagram and Facebook.
Nearly half of participants (1,609) shared their personalized film on YouTube, earning an engagement rate of 254 percent. So, you might say Ford found the magic, ahem, Bullitt.
The chaos of traversing the IAA, one of the world’s largest auto shows, is enough to fluster even the calmest consumer, but for international press covering the event, it can be sheer anarchy. Like many auto shows, major brands are given 15-minute time slots on press day to deliver their messaging to the media. But with press conferences taking place back to back across a massive venue, it’s impossible to hit every booth, leading to frantic journalists. In 2017, Lexus sought to change the game. Enter: The On-demand Press Conference—a concept that ultimately delivered a 30-percent increase in media reach.
Lexus had to ensure the availability of the top-level executives who typically host press conferences at each on-demand press encounter, so the brand filmed the executives delivering key content beforehand. But the automaker also needed a way to combine that footage with a live experience, so it turned to technology.
Journalists called the Lexus booth to book a time of their choosing. Upon arrival, they were equipped with Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed reality tool, and given a quick overview by a live hostess. Then it was on to the booth, where a virtual hostess guided them around the stand. The 10-minute tour featured infographics, 3D animations, video content and, of course, messaging from executives and product specialists.
Talk about shifting gears.
Marriott wanted to make a splash at Coachella, but being a brick and mortar hospitality brand… this posed some challenges. The solution: bring its rooms to the party in the desert by building eight separate Safari Tents—each perfect for the glamping experience so popular at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and inspired by the distinct personalities of a Marriott lifestyle brand.
With a primary goal being media coverage and social sharing, influencers and celebrities served as a key part of the strategy tasked with engaging a target audience of next-generation experience seekers and millennial travelers. Vanessa Hudgens, Emma Roberts, Jamie Chung and Delilah Belle Hamlin were invited to stay in the custom tents and share their experiences on social media.
Guests were transported to each brand via Marriott’s attention to detail. The AC Hotel tent was stocked with books from the hotel library and curated by TV personality and fashion photographer Nigel Barker, while a bar cart held its signature Gin-based cocktail. The Aloft tent had a custom record wall, a pink, Aloft-branded guitar and a DIY Bloody Mary provided by its WXYZ bar.
In keeping with a desert theme, a macramé wall and Moroccan-themed cushions adorned the Autograph Collection space. Le Meridien was defined by a mid-century modern aesthetic with images of flamingoes, pink retro appliances and a record player spinning a curated collection of Nouvelle Vague albums.
Moxy’s tent featured Instagrammable neon signs, campfire instruments and a large, pink “Naughty Bear,” a reference to the brand’s #BlankCanvas art initiative, a rebellion against traditional hotel art. Renaissance was all rock ‘n’ roll with its textures, furniture, music and photography by Carrie Shaltz.
Westin’s tent featured a living plant wall, healthy snacks, New Balance workout gear and a yoga mat—all an ode to the brand’s dedication to wellness. Rounding out the glamping tents was the Tribute Portfolio, a space designed like an Airstream trailer and featuring desert cacti.
A final, ninth tent was dedicated to amenities for guests, from morning coffee to toiletries to snacks. A bonus for Marriott Rewards and Starwood members: They could redeem packages to stay in the safari tents during the festival’s second weekend. VIP Coachella passes, daily yoga, spa treatments and exclusive food and beverages were included—along with 24/7 hospitality from Marriott staff. Additional giveaways of dream vacations and redeemable points and festival experiences were doled out to attendees.
The results? More than 1 billion total impressions, including mentions in the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Conde Nast Traveler and The Telegraph. Moreover, the activation resulted in 46 influencer posts and a total of 3.5 million engagements.
To engage millennials in its HP Premium product lines of Spectre laptops, EliteBooks, ENVY laptops and ZBook Studio workstations, HP turned to this demo’s haven: the music festival scene. And where else but Coachella in Indio, CA, and Panorama Festival in New York City.
The goal was to position HP as a lifestyle brand and engage consumers in immersive technology and multisensory art installations in three unique spaces: The Lab, The Antarctic and the HP Lounge. The Lab featured eight digital and technical artists using HP products to blend together art and technology, from a real-time projection screen that manipulated guests’ gestures, to a mirrored room reflecting people’s movements in patterns of light and color, to a soundscape generated by cameras tracking guests across a room.
An 11,000 square-foot, immersive dome, dubbed The Antarctic, powered a massive, 360-degree projection experience created by HP workstations and OMEN X products and depicting a journey of intergalactic survival. Meanwhile, the HP Lounge served as an engagement zone for HP products. There was the Bandana Inking, where attendees made their own festival bandanas using HP tech, a kinetic art station for creating “light art” that would transform to GIFs and become shareable on social, and a six-minute, aerial light show of more than 300 Intel drones, powered by HP—to name just a few of the activations.
With more than 1 billion impressions, delivered against a goal of 400 million, a 13 percent increase in brand awareness and more than 167,000 demos of HP products, the strategy was music to HP’s ears.
BMW isn’t the first brand consumers think of when they think of a Coachella partner. So as the first-ever automotive brand to partner with the music festival, the brand sought to create an organic connection by highlighting the i Series’ sustainability message and its technology chops.
The brand first created an original content piece celebrating the “Road to Coachella” that was scored by film composer Hans Zimmer and featured cameos from the Coachella lineup and influencers. The narrative followed Zimmer as he embarked on his first-ever Coachella headlining performance. The piece blended together a mix of produced content, behind-the-scenes footage and user-generated content.
On-site at Coachella, the BMW i3 fleet sported a wrap created for the occasion. A group of festival-bound celebrities and influencers boarded the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid electric sports cars and took a drive between L.A. and Indio. At its lounge in the VIP area attendees could view the Coachella-inspired design as well as a photo collage documenting the campaign.
The goal was to engage attendees, but from a strategic perspective, it was also about driving awareness. And that translated to social. A digital campaign running in tandem unleashed 10 influencers’ and artists’ takes on #RoadToCoachella through original content and social media posts. Fest-goers had the opportunity to document their own journeys to Coachella using the same hashtag, too.
The sheer volume of credit card options available these days is enough to make your head spin, so when a consumer finally settles on one, they want to know it’s worth the commitment. It’s a fact not lost on Capital One, which leveraged the biggest music event series of the holiday season, the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball, to reward its millennial cardmembers and create “brand envy” (read: FOMO) among non-cardmembers. Activating at 12 arenas around the U.S., the brand delivered on-site hospitality experiences including VIP pre-parties, artist partnerships, a large-scale media campaign and an exclusive cardmember pre-sale. The efforts resulted in 38,000 ticket sales.
The program kicked off with the 72-hour cardmember pre-sale, which included VIP ticket packages featuring premium tickets, access to an exclusive Capital One VIP pre-party, commemorative merchandise, backstage tour passes, reserved parking and a surprise meet-and-greet with a Jingle Ball performing artist. One hundred percent of the packages sold out. Those who snagged an invitation to a VIP pre-party in one of eight cities were treated to photo ops, craft cocktails, branded earplugs and a range of millennial-friendly cardmember benefits like check-in with digital wristbands and upscale catering.
Providing exclusive access was the name of the game for Capital One, so the brand also executed an Ultimate Fan Experience in each of the program’s 12 markets. One lucky customer in each location was given the opportunity to introduce a Jingle Ball artist on stage in front of thousands of attendees. A video of the fan was also shared via iHeartRadio’s local and national social platforms on behalf of Capital One.
Capital One’s artist partnership with former One Direction member Liam Payne was also a key piece of the strategy, with Payne contributing radio interviews, social posts from his personal account, meet-and-greets with cardmembers in each city, on-stage shout-outs to the brand and exclusive video appearances.
To keep things interesting, the brand also created touchpoints unique to each market. Like in Washington, D.C., where four cardmembers received upgraded seats during set changes and saw the footage broadcast twice on the venue’s Jumbotron for all to enjoy. Or New York City, where Capital One erected a winter scene around a classic yellow taxi, prompting performing artists to capture content for social sharing. Scott Rogowsky, host of the popular trivia app, HQ, also engaged with the artists as they stopped by the cab.
The results of the program were music to Capital One’s ears. The brand earned a sizable lift in brand affinity among Jingle Ball attendees vs. non-attendees, and earned a whopping 1.6 billion social impressions.
It’s the classic homeowner dilemma: having all the ambition in the world to dive into home improvement projects, and none of the skills necessary to complete them. Millennial-aged homeowners, especially, have the drive to tackle difficult DIY tasks, but according to a recent survey, 28 percent consider themselves novices in the space. To help alleviate that pain point and foster the confidence and know-how necessary to achieve their DIY goals, Lowe’s rolled up its sleeves and unveiled The UpSkill Project. The education-based program taught millennial-aged consumers basic home improvement tasks including painting, tiling and replacing fixtures, and encouraged participants to enhance their communities by paying their new knowledge forward.
How it worked: Homeowners submitted a video describing the skills they wanted to learn in order to complete a project, and how honing those skills would affect them. Lowe’s selected participants based on the their passion for learning new skills and desire to pay it forward to their community, then provided them with a $2,000 budget to purchase building materials. The brand then sent an experienced DIY teacher and local Red Vests (Lowe’s employees) to work with the homeowners side-by-side, teaching them the hands-on skills necessary to achieve their goal.
After the homeowners completed their project, they were encouraged to share their UpSkill Project experience with friends, family and neighbors at a Community Workshop held at a local Lowe’s store.
Over the course of the campaign, Lowe’s worked with over 100 homeowners across 22 cities, serving up education on 250 different DIY skills and earning four million social impressions in the process. Nailed it.
Vera Bradley and its array of feminine bags, apparel and travel items are often coveted among young girls, teens and moms, but there’s a disconnect when it comes to college-age women and their ability to transition from high school gear to age-appropriate items for their day classes and nights out. Combined with the brand’s desire to design more back-to-school products for college kids, not just K-12 students, the challenge led to on-campus events at 10 top-tier universities, where Vera Bradley displayed a variety of products for students to explore. The brand also introduced students to full-year Vera Bradley campus ambassadors.
At four select schools, the highlight of Vera Bradley’s on-campus presence was the branded Claw Crane Game, which was integrated into campus culture and events like The Ohio State University’s homecoming parade. The game, which racked up 19 hours of engagement time, offered participants a chance to snag free products like backpacks and lunch bags, and, thanks to a wait time of over two hours, gave the brand an opportunity to chat with students about its newest products and gather feedback while they stood in line.
In addition to interacting with students through the live event, campus ambassadors engaged them digitally through the Instagram Stories feature and Snapchat takeovers of Vera Bradley’s account, ultimately earning over 400,000 Instagram impressions. Now that’s stylish.
It’s one thing to read about the perks and benefits that a credit card has to offer. It’s another to taste them.
To launch the new Uber Visa card, the ridesharing, food delivery and transportation company turned to a platform it knows best—wheels. In particular, a culinary experience on wheels. The Ride and Dine bus, which took place on a converted double-decker bus, mimicked the credit card art with its sleek black finish and Uber’s signature rainbow gradient. More importantly, it offered a visual cue and connecting of the dots for prospective cardholders on the benefits of owning it, like earning four percent back on dining as well as rewards like ride redemptions.
For the program, Uber targeted its most influential audience: power users, those frequent riders who make up 75 percent of the total trips made on Uber, spend 70 to 90 percent of their ground transportation with Uber, and are young, digitally native, high-income and urban dwelling. Hip, jaded and needing to be wowed? Oh, yes.
The attendees were selected by Uber and received a personal email invitation to visit the Uber Ride and Dine registration page to choose a day and time to attend. Along with plus ones and members of the media, Uber hosted a total of 108 attendees in two seatings each day of the program over three days. The menus were inspired by each neighborhood the ride took place in, including Union Square’s Green Market, the Jewish influence and culture in Brooklyn and the Gilded Age of New York City in Lower Manhattan.
Once on-site, Uber team members welcomed consumers and invited them into the lower level of the bus for a 15-minute welcome from Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli, an “Iron Chef” and recurring judge on the Food Network series “Chopped,” while amuse-bouche were served. The interior was a dining experience evocative of a New York City restaurant with white marble and subway tile, butcher block counters, bouquets of flowers, and wool throw blankets and pillows to warm up the space.
Upstairs, consumers enjoyed appetizers, entrees and dessert with wine pairings, served by five-star wait staff in traditional black attire. The upper level served as the main dining room, complete with candlelit tables, soft music and a clear canopy above highlighting views of the city skyline. During the dinner, Chef Guarnaschelli made an appearance upstairs to check in with diners and talk about Uber’s new credit card messaging and perks. Rather than bills, consumers were handed information about the new card.
The Ride and Dine bus let consumers be active participants in the key messaging surrounding the Uber Visa card launch. Not to mention, who wouldn’t remember the last amazing culinary experience they had? Especially onboard a bus. Talk about a statement.
The whisky category has grown 28 percent since 2016, the biggest boom for the sector since the 1970s. But despite millennials’ obsession with whisky, Dewar’s last year faced a set of challenges in capitalizing on the momentum of the category. Mainly, that it’s perceived as an old man’s Scotch.
Enter: Dewar’s Traveling Whisky Emporium. Hosted by North American brand ambassador Gabriel Cardarella, the quirky footprint visited millennial-rich festivals and events in a “tiny house” reminiscent of Dewar’s distillery with copper sheeting and piping and distressed barrel oak accents.
The storyline behind the mobile experience followed Tommy Dewar, the son of John Dewar, the “original” millennial who helped transform Dewar’s from a local Scottish brand to a global powerhouse with his “unconventional lifestyle” that included raising prize-winning chickens. (We see what they’re doing here.)
Outside on a deck, consumers could sit and enjoy a Dewar’s craft cocktail, or discover the flavor notes of Dewar’s through a Scotch whisky vaporizer, while a host “vapor-tender” described Dewar’s Scotch qualities. They could play a raucous game of “Chicken $#!t Bingo” featuring a mechanical chicken laying an egg on the winning number for prizes, or enjoy samples of neat Dewar’s 12 Year Old Blended Scotch along with a Scotch egg and other authentic pub food developed to pair with Dewar’s 12.
Inside and out, the Dewar’s Traveling Whisky Emporium experience served up atmosphere and irony, two millennial favorites, attracted 17,000 consumers and served up 21,000 cocktails. Cheers.
Deep Eddy Vodka is a small batch product out of Austin with a highly discerning audience. When it set out to drive trial and awareness of its product across different regions of the U.S., it needed a mobile experience it could activate at events that aligned with the brand’s signature style. And the Dive In Tour was born.
Three custom retro-modern trailers with the brand’s 1950s Americana theme visited Coachella, SXSW, Miami Music Week and other music, cultural and lifestyle events across the West, South, Midwest and Southeast regions. The atmosphere surrounding the mobile sampling activation was laid back by day with fresh cocktails and lounge seating, and jamming by night, with dancing and dj sets.
Retro barstools, a bar top accented with vinyl records, a blue leather U-shaped seating area and region-inspired décor completed the experience. For a taste of education, a flat screen within a wood encasement showed an animation of the vodka’s distillation and flavor process. And did we mention the pin-up-girl Deep Eddy Betty that lured consumers to the footprint?
An intimate setting, a throwback feel and “Real American vodka”—that’s a cocktail recipe for success.
Fans of the Amazon Prime Video series “The Grand Tour” tune in to watch three motoring experts travel the world and attempt “extraordinary things” with automobiles, like becoming special forces soldiers, and going on a “gentleman’s tour” of Italy. To promote the second season to millennial men around the world, the brand turned to streaming platform Twitch to produce an “extraordinary thing” in the form of a live-action esports tournament.
Forget all that you know about gaming tournaments for this one, however. The event, Battle Cars Live!, was a worldwide interactive gaming experience that included a life-size game board installed out in a remote quarry in Los Angeles County where different regions of the globe, each represented by a Twitch influencer, battled against each other.
Each square of the grid game board was rigged with different levels of explosives and randomly placed vehicles, from limos to sports cars, in each coordinate. Through live chat and custom overlays developed for the campaign on Twitch, users could join a team and select squares on the grid by selecting tiles in the gaming experience for destruction—which occurred in real-time. The square with the most clicks won. “Click on one of the coordinates to vote and then we’ll blow it sky high,” the commentators said. There was a north grid and a south grid, with each grid led by a different team captain from the U.K., U.S., Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Australia at each interval of the tournament. Talk about global amplification.
The interactive gameplay was made possible through early access to Twitch’s recently released feature on the platform called Extensions, which offers interactive overlays like heat maps and real-time game data. The program featured two, one-hour live streams, as well as other production elements that mapped back to “The Grand Tour” like a studio at the grids (mimicking the show’s traveling tent) with hosts and Twitch users HelloKellyLink and Seltzer dishing live commentary. “We just want everybody to have a good old time blowing the holy hell out of some cars,” they said in one segment.
Battle Cars Live! represented the largest branded content broadcast of the last two years on the Twitch platform. And it succeeded in increasing global exposure for “The Grand Tour,” netting a 140-percent increase in average international viewership for live Twitch events. The program engaged 170,000 users on Twitch Extensions, more than 2.5 million Twitch Emote (emoticons) uses, and garnered 3.3 million total views on Twitch.
As for “The Grand Tour,” we can assume the resulting viewership was… explosive.
HP needed to earn the respect of enthusiast PC gamers, a market that is forecasted to grow to $14 billion by the end of 2018. To build credibility within the gaming community, while helping showcase for gamers what its OMEN products have to offer, HP created an owned gaming event platform with partner Twitch. The multi-player “battle royale” gaming tournament was dubbed OMEN Challenge: PUBG Edition and featured the most popular game for streamers: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).
The event took place at TwitchCon within an elaborate 10,000-square-foot gaming center dubbed the OMEN Challenge Coliseum, with four, two-story structures that contained 20 custom soundproof interactive gaming pods powered by OMEN products.
With strobe lights streaming and the custom pods glowing OMEN red, 40 all-star Twitch players burst into the Coliseum with a “WWE”-style entrance. Over the course of two matches, each of the 22-person teams in the OMEN Challenge tried to complete a series of challenges designed by HP for the chance to win a variety of awards. The tasks highlighted OMEN capabilities, of course.
The results of the tournament strategy exceeded all goals with 134 million impressions (69 million more than goal); 8,000 attendees on-site (double its goal); and one million live stream views (800,000 more than goal). Most importantly, HP generated 3,567 product demos, more than three times their original objective. “gg,” HP.
Military service members are active gamers, so to engage them in this passion point, and drive PC sales, Dell leveraged its military engagement program that includes partner bases and discounts to create Branch Battle, a military-focused esports tournament that took place over four weeks in July on 10 bases.
Centered on the title Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, this particular tournament was all about scale. It involved the shipment of 100 Alienware desktop computers, monitors and accessories to each base for the events. It required large-scale connectivity. It included 349 players across 66 teams of military personnel, coupon codes for product, $10,000 in cash and prizes, and a live-stream of the semi-finals and finals on Twitch. (Phew.)
Each base hosted friends and family members to cheer participants on. And in the chat room Discord, participants received information about tournament timing, team advancements, had their questions answered and served up a little friendly competitive dialog among each other.
The program results: equally as comprehensive, including a 236-percent ROI for Dell, 268 uses of the 10 percent off coupon, (exceeding the goal of 100), and more than seven million impressions for Dell and Alienware. Perhaps most importantly, the tournament served as a unifying activity among bases and service members, arguably the best result of it all.
It seems like every time you turn around, a new craft beer has entered the market, and when it comes to light brews, Bud Light tends to dominate the bar scene. To differentiate its brand among the vast options available to consumers and prove that its product offers more taste and fewer carbs and calories than its closest competitor, Miller Lite rolled out the Know Your Beer campaign. Targeting 21- to 27-year-old beer drinkers, the brand created a blind taste test experience that served as an education on its brew and the light beer category at large. The program ultimately earned Miller Lite a 7.7 percent sales lift in activating markets.
Miller Lite’s young target tunes out traditional marketing and pushy sales tactics, so the brand developed unbranded in-bar experiences that offered no indication of who was behind them. At each event, two well-trained Know Your Beer specialists (one male, one female) wearing KYB-branded uniforms invited groups of bar patrons to participate in a beer tasting program, then gave them a rundown of how it would play out.
The decidedly analog experience began with a scratch card. Participants were informed that they would be evaluating the color, aroma and taste of two unbranded beers using the card to record their preference during each stage. First, they were asked which beer had more color, learning the affect that malt has on the color of beer along the way. Next, they were asked to determine which brew had a stronger aroma and were educated on the impact hops and malt have on scent. Then it was time to evaluate which product had more taste as participants learned about various flavor profiles. The experience wrapped as attendees selected which beer they preferred overall.
The program ultimately helped squash the popular opinion that “all light beer tastes the same.” The brand reached 42 states, executing over 19,000 events at more than 6,000 key on-premise accounts where Miller Lite is served. But the job wasn’t quite complete. To find out if the Know Your Beer campaign created a lasting impression, Miller Lite teamed up with IMI International to survey participants four weeks after their experience and compared the results to a control group. The verdict: Know Your Beer had a definitive, long-term impact on young millennial beer drinkers.
By the time the last brew had been poured, Miller Lite had engaged nearly half of a million people, 72 percent of which chose the brand over Bud Light. The more you know.
How do you convince sophisticated millennials that your natural, fruit-based snacks are worthy of their discerning taste buds? Host a mobile sampling experience with all the style and cachet of a modern wine tasting. That was the premise behind the launch of Welch’s Nothing But the Fruit (N.B.T.F.) product. In an effort to boost awareness of its entry into the natural foods category and promote its healthy new snack option, the brand developed the N.B.T.F. Tasting Room, transforming a branded tiny home into a little piece of Wine Country. Within four weeks of the experience, 86 percent of Tasting Room attendees had purchased the product.
The Tasting Room experience began with rigorously trained “Snack Sommeliers” who presented attendees with tasting mats and guided them through a culinary pairing of different N.B.T.F. flavors combined with cheese, nuts, granola or chocolate. Attendees were encouraged to take notes and rank each pairing on an iPad using traditional wine tasting concepts like judging the complexity and fullness of texture they were experiencing. The engagement also gave brand ambassadors ample time to discuss the health benefits of N.B.T.F., as well as Welch’s brand story.
Within minutes of completing the experience, participants received an email highlighting their flavor profile with recipe suggestions curated for their palette, along with Amazon purchase codes for N.B.T.F. Following the tasting experience, attendees could pose for a Polaroid at a handmade flower wall, or relax with a snack under twinkling lights on the garden patio.
When all was said and done, 85 percent of attendees reported a high opinion of the brand. Sweet.
When Swedish Fish began tossing around ideas for a sampling campaign that encouraged consumers to embrace their eccentric side, the quirky brand knew a typical venue wouldn’t do. The solution was drawn from an insight that visitors at U.S. aquariums enjoy taking playful selfies in front of exhibits featuring odd-looking fish. Linking its fish-shaped candy to the real deal, the brand partnered with seven aquariums across the country for its Swedish Fish Selfies program, which ultimately churned out 70,000 samples.
Each aquarium experience included a branded, under-the-sea-themed frame cutout that encouraged visitors to take their Swedish Fish Selfie and post it to their social channels. Attendees were also invited to take a digital personality quiz that, depending on the venue, asked questions like “What kind of fish personality are you” or asked participants to find their “aquarium spirit animal.” There was also a custom Swedish Fish Snapchat filter geofenced around the participating aquariums, as well as a pre- and post-event survey administered by brand ambassadors to measure brand awareness and favorability. To boot, each aquarium activated the program in its own style, giving each Swedish Fish Selfie experience a unique flair.
The program went swimmingly, reaching over two million consumers and earning an average engagement time of five minutes and 21 seconds.
Dove Men+Care has been a frontrunner in the men’s grooming market since its debut in 2010. When the brand developed its first-ever line of nature-inspired products, maintaining its position in the category was just as critical as driving awareness and trial for its new “Elements” collection. Recognizing that a standard launch event wasn’t going cut it, Dove asked Mother Nature to step in and lend a hand. Enter: The Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse. Designed with an adventurous male target in mind, and using many of the same ingredients featured in the Elements collection, the tiny home served as a bed and breakfast of sorts for media and influencers, who ultimately helped the brand earn over two billion earned p.r. and social impressions.
Located at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN, the structure was designed by renowned treehouse builder and TV personality Pete Nelson. The construction process was strategically carried out over a series of months, giving Dove and its partner influencers time to tease consumers with content that culminated in a room-by-room tour of the space and its surrounding environment, helping bring the products and the experience to life for the brand’s digital audience.
Of course, this wasn’t your neighborhood treehouse we’re talking about, so Dove recruited some experts: interior designer Will Taylor, who decorated the space using Elements-inspired décor; adventure traveler Sam Ciurdar, who curated an itinerary for visitors featuring insights on what to see and where to eat in Chattanooga; and lifestyle influencer Tim Melideo, who brought the product ingredient story to life through his daily grooming routine.
Design, ahem, elements included charred wood interior and exterior paneling to evoke charcoal, sandalwood railings and a living sage plant wall, but it was the fully functional bathroom that gave visitors something to write home about. Along with clay and mineral components, the room featured a glass-encased tree that intersected the shower—the very place where attendees tested out products from the new collection—bringing the nature-inspired activation full circle.
Fatherhood.org social influencer James Breakwell, one of the first to spend the night in the treehouse, helped jumpstart the campaign along with his young daughters by live-tweeting his stay. Dove also invited a host of national and local media and influencers to spend the night and share the experience with their legions of followers. To boot, a partnership with City Dads Group gave everyday dads a chance to stay at the treehouse and share the new product line among their communities.
By the end of the year, Elements had been named Unilever’s No. 1 Men’s Personal Care Innovation of 2017, and contributed to over half of Dove’s 2017 growth. Naturally.
In this day and age, if you’re preparing to launch a new pair of kicks, you better have your head on straight and your laces tied tight. Sneakerheads are a discerning bunch, and when it comes to shoe drops, they’ve come to expect the highest-caliber experience a brand can offer. So when Under Armour set out to launch Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s new signature shoes, the Curry 4s, no holds were barred. The brand’s solution, a “Drone Drop” experience on Curry’s home turf around the Bay Area that served as the first launch event to incorporate drone deliveries. Another thing the experience delivered: 16 million social impressions.
In the week leading up to the launch, Under Armour posted a teaser video with clues about the activation across its social channels, and partnered with eight Bay Area influencers to build additional buzz. On the big day, the brand launched a custom-designed interactive map, which included a basketball mini-game, which sent droves of fans on a hunt to find Under Armour’s secret drop zones.
When a drop zone was discovered, fans were given a QR code and sent to a booth featuring a digital kiosk that allowed them to choose a sneaker size and place an order. A drone pilot would then load the order from one of five ships anchored nearby in the bay and contracted for the activation and fly the sneakers to the appropriate drop zone.
In the end, 30 pairs of the exclusive new kicks were delivered to fans, earning Under Armour 119 million media impressions and some serious street cred among the sneakerhead community.
There are large-scale sampling programs—and then, there’s the #SamHasMentosGum campaign. To boost engagement among a younger audience, drive sampling and earn national media attention, Mentos Gum activated a “Fresh Connections” experience during campus move-in week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, the brand challenged a freshman named Sam to share 43,000 Mentos Gum bottles—one for every student at his school—between move-in day and the first day of class. If he succeeded, he would win a year of tuition for himself and a free, on-campus DJ Khaled concert for 43,000 of his closest friends.
To select the right man for the job, Mentos created a job listing and posted it to the university’s online career board. After poring over applicants’ social media backgrounds, the brand landed on Sam. To help the student with his daunting endeavor, Mentos blanketed the campus with billboards, banners, posters and table-tents featuring his likeness and #SamHasMentosGum, and executed 21 activations.
Video shorts were also created for Mentos’ social channels to help build buzz, along with a microsite that provided real-time updates on Sam’s progress.
Sam completed his challenge and won the school a DJ Khaled concert. In addition to becoming a campus legend, he helped Mentos distribute more than 49,000 samples. That’s fresh.