Brand buzz: Are you experienced?

By Ben Robinson

8th May 2019

With a multitude of brands targeting us through our smartphones, tablets and laptop screens, the opportunity to market and engage with consumers digitally – while maintaining lasting impact – has become relatively saturated.

The result is an increasing number of brands turning their attention to activations and experiential marketing. In recent years, brands have been going the extra mile, employing more exciting activations and pushing creative boundaries in order to wow audiences.

According to a 2018 report by event software specialist Bizzabo, 62 per cent of senior marketers plan to invest more in live events in the future—both in budget and number of events. Given the digital overload we are facing, this isn’t entirely surprising.

Marketers are certainly seeing the value in experiential, and that was evident in April. FMCG brands in particular have sought to engage with consumers beyond the simple methods of free sampling.

Don’t get the wrong impression, straightforward product gifting and FMCG sampling certainly has its place. It often gives consumers an much-needed incentive to trial a new product.

However, when it comes to truly winning hearts and minds, an ambassador handing out free juice and murmuring “have a juicy day”, as busy commuters descend like suit-clad vultures, simply won’t suffice.

To achieve real cut-through, brands have been doing more to create impactful moments to maximise consumer-brand engagement.

In April, Eulogy client Halo Top led Londoners on an exciting ‘escoopade’. The Los Angeles-based creamery commissioned an ice cream hotline to launch its brand new snackable ice cream sticks—giving away more than 10,000 free samples in the UK.

Of these, 5,000 were stored in a Russel Square phone booth in London, transformed by the brand into a freezer shaped like a giant, melting ice cream—complete with a stick in the top. The product was handed out on a first come, first served basis.

Another great example was Yakult’s science-themed augmented reality (AR) experience in Waterloo station. The fermented milk brand installed an AR ‘magic mirror’ to promote ‘the science of wellbeing’. The activation looked to communicate the drink’s scientific backing and trustworthiness.

To support its messaging around wellbeing, the activation encouraged people to touch a Yakult bottle on the AR screen—revealing a selection of wellness tips including a 30-second breathing exercise. Tips were shared across Yakult’s social media channels and the activation was backed by sampling and a competition to encourage product trial.

Experiential activity is not limited to FMCG. Sky also decided to raise awareness for one of its series last month using a very different, ice-themed activation.

Game of Thrones experiential events have always been ones to watch, successfully reminding fans that “winter is coming”. In 2017, the show deployed actors dressed as the Night King and his henchmen across the London Underground network, before transforming Kings Cross St. Pancras station into a Game of Thrones fan’s fantasy.

This year, to launch the final season, Sky dressed actors as members of the Night’s Watch. They were accompanied by the Tower of London’s Coldstream Guards for the day, serenading passers-by with the show’s iconic theme tune. This activation was particularly memorable and immersive.

Judging from the plethora of brand activations that took place last month, we are certainly set for further exposure to experiential marketing throughout summer and the rest of the year. With more and more brands opting to engage audiences this way, marketers and agencies alike will have to continue to develop more creative, eye-catching and mouth-watering campaigns to reach audiences with lasting impact.