February 25, 2016
The Ex Awards are given out yearly to companies that have planned exemplary experiential marketing campaigns during the previous year. With the deadline for the Ex Awards coming up on February 25 (late deadline on March 10), we thought we’d look back at some of the campaigns that won in 2015. Each of these examples showcases the power of experiential marketing to engage with consumers in a meaningful way and build brand awareness.
Making the Illegal Legal for a Day
Some of the earliest skateboarding stars showcased their skills by shredding in front of the West Los Angeles Courthouse. But the boarders were considered such a problem that skateboarding was made illegal there. It’s remained that way for over a decade.
Then Nike stepped in. They managed to get the ban on skateboarding at the courthouse lifted for a stand-alone experiential marketing event.
Nike launched their Paul Rodriguez 8 skateboarding shoe on Go Skateboarding Day in 2014. They invited fans to skate with the shoe’s legendary namesake at a skate park in downtown Los Angles. They also spread rumors that a nearby site would be “unlocked” for the day. Attendees were thrilled when they realized the “unlocked” site was the West Los Angeles Courthouse.
Nike arranged for several streets to be closed off so skaters could safely make their way to the courthouse. Once they were at the site, consumers could try on the new Paul Rodriguez 8 shoes, watch professional skateboards do tricks, attend Q&A sessions with athletes, and play games. Consumers using a special Nike app could qualify for free prizes and product giveaways. Nike also announced that the city planned to leave the courthouse “unlocked” for the foreseeable future.
The event got Nike over three million impressions on social media, including 117,000 likes on an Instagram photo posted by Rodriguez. By giving consumers access to VIP events and people, engaging their senses in multiple ways, and letting them try the products the company was selling, Nike created a very positive association between themselves and their consumers. That association will serve them well.
Engaging a new generation of spirit drinkers
Jim Beam was looking for a way to engage millennial men who weren’t familiar with the brand’s many bourbon products. They decided to host intimate in-store sampling events to educate and engage consumers about their products.
The brand organized pop-up “bars” at liquor stores 14 major markets. A bartender invited consumers to cozy up to the bar and sample three different Jim Beam bourbons. If the bartender was able to determine how they were planning to use whatever bourbon they were buying, they made personal recommendations. They also gave out drink recipes designed to introduce young drinkers to classic bourbon recipes (not just the whiskey and cola they probably tried in college).
Consumers who signed up for the “I’m Beam” program (which provides discounts and insider information about Jim Beam products) at the pop-up store got to take home a customized label. The bartender helped them with an app that inserted their picture alongside the famous wood-cut portrait of the Beam family. The label was their welcome to the Beam family.
This series of experiential marketing activations led to a 68 percent increase in event sales from 2013 to 2014. It showcases the power of product sampling, especially when it’s done by well-informed brand ambassadors and coupled with on-going consumer engagement tools.
Bringing the French revolution to life
The imagery, sounds and plots of video games have gotten so detailed that these fictional games can feel like an immersive experience. Ubisoft created a true immersive experience for fans of their Assassin’s Creed video game at Comic-Con in 2014.
Assassin’s Creed was preparing to launch a new version of the game called “Unity.” All Assassin’s Creed games are set in historic settings, and Unity takes place during the French Revolution. To promote this new release, Ubisoft set up an obstacle course that looked like 18th-century Paris. The course was supposed to “train” people how to act like a real assassin. Comic-Con attendees who ran the obstacle course had to duck cannon fire, race across rooftops and take a 25-foot drop off a wall. Everyone who completed the course received a special t-shirt.
Consumers who didn’t want to run the obstacle course could watch professional athletes in period costumes do it instead. Consumers could also play the not-yet-released version of Assassin’s Creed at kiosks set up around the obstacle course.
The event made 200 million impressions on live attendees and generate 1.8 million interactions on social media. It also drew significant earned media for Ubisoft.
This is a great example of how a brand can leverage an already-assembled audience full of consumers interested in their products. Ubisoft did a great job of making themselves stand out in a crowded event and providing an experience fans will never forget.
Putting on a concert for people who can’t hear
Sometimes the best thing a brand can do to promote itself through experiential marketing is tie its name to a worthwhile cause, nonprofit or event. That’s what Domino’s did with “Vibes: A Night to Feel Music” in Austin.
The Texas town’s famous music scene is less of a selling point to people who are deaf or hearing-impaired. On the weekend between the two-week Austin City Limits music festival, Domino’s put on a special concert for students, staff, alumni and families at the Texas School for the Deaf. They synchronized light displays with the music of several well-known local bands. They handed out special Bluetooth devices that allowed people to feel the vibrations of the music. A special floor installed just for the concert, as well as balloons and beach balls that were bouncing through the crowd, also allowed people to see and feel the music.
Actor Russell Harvard, a school alum, was on hand to help interpret the music for consumers. Domino’s served pizza and awarded the school a $10,000 grant. A photo booth made it easy for consumers to take and share their photographs. The event generated a total of 1.5 million impressions on social media.
This concert is an excellent example of utilizing multiple senses to create an unforgettable experiential marketing event. It’s also a great demonstration of how giving back to the community can earn a company a big return.
Turning appliances into an art form
Major appliance manufacturer Miele wanted to do something extraordinary to celebrate the launch of its newest washing machine and dryer. To do this, they created an immersive event that more closely linked the company to art, science and innovation rather than busy parents, dirty clothes and bland basement laundry rooms.
Miele dealers were invited to the Winter Garden at London’s Canary Wharf for the launch event. The artistic décor for the space was inspired by the inside of a washing machine. There were performances by aerialists and dancers, and plenty of libations to keep people talking and enjoying themselves.
When Miele introduced the new washing machines and dryers to their dealers, they didn’t just give a boring monologue. Performers demonstrated each attribute in an artistic way. A tap dancer pounded away on top of an appliance to demonstrate its strength. A woman scattered rose petals across another machine to hint at the fresh scent left behind by the dryer. After these performances, attendees could walk through interactive exhibits that highlighted the high-tech features of the machines.
Dealers gave the event high marks, and orders for the appliances went through the roof. The experiential marketing event was covered by consumer and trade publications. This is a great example of how experiential marketing can go a long way toward helping B2B companies meet their goals.