Loyal fans of the HBO series “Westworld” might have thought twice about the roundtrip ticket to Sweetwater.
The fictional town is home, after all, to more than a few gunfights, ambushes and bloody massacres that are the trademark of the provocative sci-fi Western series. But that didn’t stop attendees at SXSW from lining up for a chance to see the network’s SXSWestworld experience—a three-day event so ambitious Forbes said it was “Certain to inspire FOMO and regret for years to come.
It takes a lot to stand out at SXSW these days, but that’s exactly what HBO did with a program that transported festivalgoers 30 minutes outside of Austin and immersed them, as if by time machine, into a whopping 90,000-square-foot replica of “Westworld.” The experiential concept: in SXSWestworld, fans could live out their own “Westworld” fantasies.
It was a strategy born largely out of necessity—by one of the first television brands to build its business based on content, not advertising revenue. More people tuned in to the “Westworld” series premiere in 2016 than any other series in HBO’s history, including “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective.” But with a 16-month hiatus between seasons—the calling card, it seems, of many successful cable series—the network needed to reenergize its fan base while simultaneously piquing the interest of prospective viewers. The strategy would need to focus on leveraging the passion of existing “Westworld” fans while creating a live experience so unique, so spectacular and so shareworthy that it could entice even the most reluctant viewer to tune in.
Cause marketing programs are most effective when the connection between the brand and the cause is authentic and relevant. Blizzard Entertainment played fetch and retrieved a campaign surrounding its annual Chinese Lunar New Year live-streaming event that not only satisfied a specific marketing challenge, but sent hundreds of adoptable dogs to their forever homes. Enter: The Puppy Rumble Adoption Drive.
As 2018 was the Chinese Year of the Dog, Blizzard Entertainment saw a pawfect opportunity to help educate its audiences about the issues surrounding overcrowded animal shelters. And since gamers represent a young and affluent audience that spends more time than average at home, they make great prospective pet owners. Not to mention, gamers often lead a sedentary lifestyle, so having a furry friend at their side can have positive emotional benefits. Blizzard Entertainment connected the game its audiences love, Overwatch, with dogs in need by delivering on the game’s central message of “Be a hero by making the world better.”
For the Lunar New Year, Blizzard launched a new competitive mode, map, gameplay improvements and loot boxes full of new costumes and cosmetic items for the Overwatch characters. To promote these in-game features and heighten awareness of animal rescues, Blizzard created a “Puppy Rumble for the Flag” live stream during the event. Dogs from shelters in Los Angeles, Austin and Atlanta were spotlighted, and storylines were created for each one available via the Puppy Rumble website, which was then launched on Petfinder to tap into that platform’s API for an easy one-click adoption application and donation process.
The two-hour Overwatch stadium “takeover” in L.A. with the pups from that city’s shelter involved splitting puppies into teams to see who would earn the most points. The brand built an arena on a soundstage and used a green-screen overlay to showcase the new features from the game update. The puppies were then dressed in cosplay for the new costumes for popular players in the game. The live Twitch stream supported audience participation with a live chat room, and popular esports “shoutcasters” commented during the stream.
Given that casual gamers and esports players are often “silo’ed” audiences for Blizzard, this kind of program bridged the gap. And as a result, every dog featured during the event was adopted, with thousands of people being directed to other adoptable dogs in their area. More than 300 dogs found forever homes in total. The live stream drove 350,000 page views on the website and attracted 3.7 million views worldwide. And all shelters reported a 100 percent lift in site traffic the day of the event and at least 1,000 new followers to each social media account. The Puppy Rumble became the No. 3 trending hashtag in the U.S. and the 28th top trending hashtag in the world. Here boy.
Many of us aren’t so good at getting to the doctor for those annual checkups—preventative care that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could save up to 100,000 lives each year and reduce health risks before they become serious and expensive. In addition, 45 percent of Americans say they’re unaware that if they have insurance, there is no cost tied to wellness visits. So, Cigna set out to make it easy and free for consumers to follow through.
The Health Improvement Tour involved state-of-the-art mobile clinics that visited 90 cities and 237 events over 11 months, including fairs, festivals, concerts, community events, offices and more. The tour especially targeted underserved groups, including Hispanic, African-American, LGBTQ and Asian-American communities, and veterans and senior groups. The trailers were ADA accessible and contained five private rooms to comply with HIPAA laws.
The screenings took only 15 minutes, with consumers receiving their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and body mass index results instantly—the “core four” vital numbers that can identify a person’s risks for major chronic illnesses, the underlying causes of the majority of health costs. Specially trained health coaches were on hand to discuss the results.
Not only did the tour empower people to take control of their health (14,000 screenings were conducted), but it also saved lives. In several instances, health screeners assisted consumers with extreme circumstances, such as elevated blood pressure or low heart rate, and immediately referred them to a medical facility. Talk about preventative care.
Consumers aren’t as motivated to visit dealerships for test-drives, despite the fact it’s crucial to making a purchase. Ford found a way to not only encourage test drives by eliminating that high-pressure sales environment, but help dealers have positive interactions with consumers by supporting local schools.
Interested Ford dealers partnered with schools to host one-day test-drive events called Drive 4 UR School. For each consumer that completed a test drive on the event day, Ford donated $20, up to $6,000, for the schools to put toward clubs, sports, art and music programs, class trips and other school needs. Ford also armed event organizers with an event kit filled with promo materials and giveaways.
Ford incorporated Bonus Drive events, too, where, at select events, participants could take two test-drives—the first in a car of their choosing and the second in a bonus drive vehicle. Ford would then donate an additional $10 per participant, up to $8,000 per event. All in, the bonus drives generated more than $946,940 in additional donations and 112,158 more test drives in vehicles Ford wants to sell.
The program, which relied solely on grassroots marketing and word of mouth, was no Sunday drive—365,137 test drives (10 percent above goal) were completed; and 2,321 test drives were converted into sales (10 percent above goal). But the best result of all: more than $5.5 million was donated to schools in 2018. Beep, beep.
Football—and yes, we’re talking soccer—is a global mega sport with billions of energetic fans, so for its sponsorship of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Anheuser-Busch created a platform of experiences that spanned four weeks and every major global market.
It began with a complete takeover and transformation of the Intercontinental Hotel in Moscow to create the Bud Hotel, which served as the epicenter for all activations and hospitality for the more than 2,000 guests during the tournament. Every detail of the venue, from the rooms to the music to the staff uniforms were branded with the ever-present Bud-red glow. Throughout their stay they were treated to viewing parties, spa treatments, curated menus and all the Bud they could guzzle. To drive the reach even further, a Bud Studio on the rooftop served as a source for influencers and celebrities to produce content during the tournament.
Next, AB-InBev took to the water in two cities. Bud Boats served as memorable viewing experiences, allowing fans to cruise down the Moscow River or Thames River (in London). The barges were transformed with fully stocked bars and giant screens to watch matches. The boats became floating billboards, garnering attention from locals, tourists and the media. Nearly 5,000 guests hopped aboard the boats and consumed more than 18,000 beers over the four weeks leading up to the FIFA World Cup.
What would an epic tournament experience be without a place to close out the day? The Bud Club became the place to party. Budweiser took over Moscow’s GYPSY nightclub for 10 nights, hosting 3,000 guests and some of the most popular artists in the world. Cups pulsing Bud-red lights were distributed across the dance floor, and the cups were then distributed to millions of fans in the stadiums for tournaments, lighting up based on the volume of cheering.
Finally, as a content bonus for fans worldwide, Budweiser sponsored the Man of the Match winner, where trophies were presented to players by Budweiser market influencers. Q&As were filmed and broadcast on social feeds and a custom-built camera rig provided 180-degree angles across all stadiums and matches throughout the tournament. The content helped Budweiser stand out on social media, and involved six months of planning, 3D tech renderings, beta testing, shipping and logistics. Nineteen never-been-built-before, custom robotic rigs were sent to 12 different Russian cities to capture Man of the Match content.
Thanks to the epic backdrops and content Budweiser was able to generate from its experiences surrounding the FIFA World Cup, the brand’s coverage garnered 1 billion views. In fact, the Man of the Match buzz was two times higher than the 2014 FIFA World Cup itself. Who wants a cold one?
American Express’ sponsorship of the US Open is legendary—and twice Grand Ex-winning. Its secret weapon involves getting cutting-edge technology into the hands of tennis fans that brings them closer to the game and players they love. The sponsorship program in 2018 was no exception. The brand took augmented reality and virtual reality and moved it beyond the confines of screens, attaching real-world reactions to it.
Super Rally was an interactive gaming experience that allowed players to play tennis in both the digital and physical worlds. Consumers were handed custom-designed 3D printed rackets and were challenged to hit a virtual ball at real-life targets, and as the targets were hit, digital projections layered atop the physical targets created dazzling in-game animation sequences. The physical orbs would light up, creating a responsive and entertaining light show within the space for players and the spectators. Inside the game bay, scores and animation sequences heightened the fun factor to reinforce that virtual and real-world connection. Baller.
And since experiences like this often involve a learning curve, Amex enlisted tennis legend Venus Williams to serve as a virtual coach, guiding players through a tutorial and providing pre-recorded audio tips to help players in real time, thanks to the Vive precision tracker incorporated into the racket.
Over two weeks, American Express, with its interactive tennis wonderland, recorded 21,000-plus games played (up five percent from last year) and the experience garnered more than 500 million media impressions. Game. Set. Match.
Manchester United has a global fan base, but only one percent of it gets the opportunity to visit Old Trafford, the team’s home stadium, in person. So, Uber leaned on the theme of transportation and teleported its riders to the “Theatre of Dreams” in a fully immersive game-day experience that brought the essence of the stadium to life thousands of miles, and a world away, in Bengaluru, India.
The activation strategy satisfied Uber’s goals of democratizing mobility in transportation deserts and empowering undeserved communities, and it gave fans access to the soccer (football) team at the press of a button. The footprint included replica elements of the stadium, like the iconic red tunnel, complete with a sound system playing audio from a match; skills challenge activities amid the sound of player intros, songs and cheers; historic memorabilia curated by Manchester United’s own museum curator, Jason Leach, with 50 pieces on display; a live broadcast; one-on-one time with Manchester United legends and VIP experiences.
An immersive, 360-degree video projection dome was the highlight of the experience, enabling 35 attendees at a time to view games in a VR-like setting, including taking an Uber to the stadium, walking through the tunnel and experiencing game-day action as if they were standing on the pitch at Old Trafford. As one fan put it, “This has been amazing—I am indebted to you guys for life.” Talk about #activationgoals.
Let’s face it—there’s a lot of good TV right now. Original series abound beyond cable and across platforms. For entertainment brands like HBO, media-busting experiential programs have changed the game on what this industry can truly call immersive. Ahead of the premiere of the second season of “Westworld,” an event 16 months in the making, the brand wanted to make a splash and win back the 13 million viewers of the first season—and then some. So, the brand recreated “Westworld” at one of the most important influencer events of the year: SXSW.
You can read the entire backstory in our Grand Ex cover story, but here’s the CliffsNotes version on what went down, people:
In the series, Westworld is a luxury theme park where guests go live out their wildest fantasies amidst artificially intelligent characters. Way off the beaten path of all things SXSW in Austin, HBO activated a 90,000-square-foot footprint in a secret location, complete with 16 replica structures of the iconic establishments from the show, along with more than 60 actors to bring it all to life. A 444-page script guided the actors and program. And just like in the series, participants were transported into SXSWestworld via a train carriage from the series. Once inside, they scoured the park to find hidden season-two clues—no two consumers had identical experiences.
Technology behind the scenes personalized the experience for each attendee. A letter addressed to them awaited them at the post office in SXSWestworld that directed them toward unfolding storylines within the park. They also received a social media share page via email, a personalized “Wanted” poster and an Old-West-style photo GIF which “glitched” to reveal season two clues. While the AI hosts (those actors we mentioned) were “armed with guns,” the attendees were “armed with cameras,” the masterminds explained, “creating advocates for the series who could provide reach at a global scale.” Folks, just Google #SXSWestworld. You’ll see.
SXSWestworld was the “most ambitious promotion in HBO’s history,” which is saying something given the network’s high-powered status, and it helped HBO establish itself as a force in experiential marketing, standing out from the clutter of over 600 scripted shows in the marketplace. Not to mention it rose above the crowded marketing landscape of SXSW, where human interaction trumped technology, creating the hottest ticket in town. In fact, each day, tickets sold out in under two minutes and the standby line stretched more than two city blocks. On top of the nearly 1.9 billion impressions the program earned, one of the 500 pieces of press published across the globe called it “one of the best publicity stunts of the 21st century.” Draw.
Comedy Central’s “South Park” fans are dedicated and span generations, fueling the success of the 22-year-old adult animated sitcom. Due to that history, they’re also pretty knowledgeable about the nuances of the satire and its characters and plotlines. So, when it came to engaging fans at San Diego Comic-Con, Comedy Central turned to the escape room trend and put fans to the test to generate some epic buzz.
Comedy Central built an escape room that trapped attendees in a replica classroom inside “South Park Elementary.” They had to use their knowledge of the show and quick-thinking skills to escape before the time ran out. The brand worked with the original creators of Escape the Room to make the puzzles challenging, but in the true spirit of “South Park.” What we liked about it: It wasn’t another photo op—it was an activity based on human interaction that fans could experience together. Refreshing.
The line to get in was more than four hours long, and over the four days the experience was open, it received more than one million social media impressions with more than 1,600 fans participating. The activation was so popular Comedy Central took it to New York Comic Con that October. But, proving that some experiences are worth living on, the South Park Escape Room experience will be opening at official Escape the Room locations nationwide. “Whateva, I do what I want!”
We all should be able to feel like a VIP once in a while, and at the Capital One Orange Bowl the credit card brand did just that. Cardholders were able to unlock experiences tied to the brand’s title sponsorship of the semi-final college football game, including the Capital One Beach Bash concert platform, which provided cardholders and others the chance to partake in a free concert featuring Dave Matthews Band and Walk the Moon.
On game day, 750 cardholders were able to view the day’s performances from an exclusive lounge that offered elevated viewing, dedicated patio space and curated F&B. The lounge experience included an appearance by ESPN college football anchor Chris Fowler. To amplify the experience further and showcase Capital One’s perks, influencer @dcfoodporn was on hand to talk about the card’s benefits. Spanning 250,000 square feet, the footprint offered stunning ocean views of South Beach, to boot.
The content strategy was as rich as the activation, as Capital One partnered with ESPN to broadcast footage from the Beach Bash to millions during halftime of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and Capital One Orange Bowl, allowing the brand to reach more than 64 million people. Some 25,000 fans engaged in the footprint, earning the brand more than 180,000 impressions. Ninety-four percent of cardholders in attendance reported that the events met or exceeded their expectations. Cha-ching.
We often think of influencer events in a bubble—one-off experiences that may not go deeper than an open bar or Instagrammable space. On the 20th anniversary of the Lincoln Navigator, originally launched in 1997 and then relaunched in 2017 with an all-new design and luxury positioning, Lincoln raised the stakes with a nationwide activation that involved mico-targeting, micro-influencers and more, in 10 markets, across 58 event days with a total of 203 activations and 22 influencers involved.
It’s a tall order going after a niche market comprised largely of suburban families in affluent neighborhoods in major metro markets that need an eight-seater SUV and have the means to afford a $100,000 vehicle. Hardly a millennial target. Lincoln’s location-specific strategy was designed to lean into the character, tastes and lifestyles of each particular geographic region and community—which tied into Lincoln’s marketing message that one size does not fit all. Here’s what went down.
Experiences took place in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, L.A., Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, Tampa. The anchor point was the hub, an installation that showcased the Navigator at high-traffic upscale locations in each market. Modular and flexible, two kits were created for indoor and outdoor use, and included mirror plinths of varying heights, luxe wood and brass and lifestyle props like Tumi luggage, travel blankets, Yeti coolers and more.
Then there were the activations that popped up in venues in and around the market area, like acclaimed restaurants, coffee shops, gourmet markets and cultural events. Socially influential consumers were provided with a detailed VIP vehicle immersion, a multi-day experience with the Navigator where they could showcase the vehicle’s features among their social circles and families demonstrating the “effortless Lincoln ownership experience.” Along the way, they were given elite access to a variety of surprising, delightful and socially sharable experiences and events to shift perceptions and foster love.
Lincoln zeroed in on locations for these experiences based on neighborhood demographics and market data. Then, Lincoln assembled a select group of brand partners to co-create experiences, like Jo Malone, who curated a selection of coveted products to complement the Navigator’s three Black Label themes—matching their scents to each specially designed interior. Other partners included Sugarfina, Ladurée Paris and Bluemercury.
The results: Lincoln recorded 37,000 live engagements—more than double the goal of 18,300; 1,816 registrations against a target of 1,473; and 500,000 social media engagements across channels. On top of the comments from consumers saying when their leases were up with a competitor, they’d go to Lincoln, someone said: “If it wasn’t for you guys being here, I would have never taken a look at Lincoln.” And “If the Navigator wasn’t parked here, I never would have looked let alone sat inside.” Buckle up.
Marketers invite influencers to attend their events, but Samsung invited influencers on a weekend getaway in addition to its event, to generate additional buzz and content. Ahead of Samsung launching its Galaxy Note 9 device at Samsung Unpacked, the brand enlisted 15 influencers from 10 different countries and flew them to New York City and Seoul, South Korea, for VIP hospitality programs that included outings and events where they would be inspired to create Instagrammable content and share it with their followers. The program took place over four days in each city, and the influencers combined had more than 37 million followers on social media, ranging from 30,000 to 11 million each.
The influencers stayed in trendy hotels, received shareworthy welcome boxes to open (and post), attended upscale dinners and tagged posts with #withGalaxy #Unpacked and @Samsung along the way. At Samsung Unpacked, they were treated to VIP access so they could give their followers digital access to the event and reach audiences globally. They also had the chance to meet and take photos with DJ Koh.
The experience generated more than 370 million impressions, and audiences spanned the areas of tech, lifestyle, fashion, music, photography and fine arts. Influencers averaged five posts per day and had no creative guidelines or limitations—nor were they required to post anything at all, people—which means all the content was completely authentic and organic. Ooooo, we feel the influence.
Michelob ULTRA is a beer brand that markets itself toward a healthy and active lifestyle target, a challenge considering you don’t drink beer while exercising (or do you?). But Michelob ULTRA has found an inroad for engagement by creating inspiring fitness events where its beer is the sweet reward at the end. Events have included happy hour runs during “magic hour” in Manhattan and paddle boarding excursions along the Pacific Ocean.
Last year, the brand took this approach to the next level with a weekend influencer event called ULTRA Fit Fest, hosted at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ, where influencers had access to other high-profile influencers, trainers and experts, and were able to experience the latest trends and technology across the fitness (body and mind), culinary and recovery fields.
More than 20 brand partners helped bring it to life with engagements, including Cyc, LifeTime, City Surf, MNDFL, Hyperlce, Tastemade and Y7. Additional programming featured influencers participating in value-driven industry panels, and intimate fireside chats with game-changers in the health and wellness industry.
There was plenty of entertainment, too, including a Kali Uchis concert, and sampling of Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold with a Pure Golden Hour mediation and sampling experience at sunset. More than 400 attendees experienced (and paid to attend) the event, generating more than 17 million impressions.
Before we jump into what was the talk of CES—Google’s Disneyland-inspired ride—let’s quickly jump to why the brand staged an epic return to the show.
Google needed to steal the spotlight in the voice-activated assistant category, one that, according to Juniper Research, could encompass 8 billion products by 2023. And while CES is a rapidly changing show, it remains a relevant one for the hundreds of Google Assistant partners activating at it. Google tackled both realities with a buzzworthy, two-story installation outside the convention center that served as the focal point of a strategy that also included a Las Vegas takeover, partner activations across the show floor and OOH media.
When attendees approached the 36,000-square-foot Google Assistant Playground, its LED façade lit up according to the current programming in the space. Experiences inside included a café that acted as a pop-up space for Google Assistant software partners Pizza Hut and Starbucks. In a space for in-car demos, attendees interacted with a mini Las Vegas diorama that used queries connected to kinetic interactions to highlight how people can use Assistant “on the go.” In a Made by Google area, the brand showcased how Assistant is available on 1 billion devices. There was a museum-style gallery of Google’s own products, and a multi-purpose studio space that housed live programs rotating throughout the day, including celebrity chef Chris Cosentino showcasing the Assistant in the kitchen, Vox Media’s “The Verge” podcast, a workshop space for Headspace meditation, as well as networking space for invite-only happy hours.
There were artistic vignettes, too, that showcased how Assistant can help in all aspects of life at home, like getting out of bed, making lasagna in a faux kitchen, planning a trip to Italy or even answering the front door.
And then, there was “The Ride” on the second floor—a full-scale coaster that had attendees riding two-by-two in cars through animatronic vignettes describing the story of a family getting ready for Grandma’s 90th birthday—and how Google Assistant would help along the way. Attendees boarded seven train cars in groups of two and rode through five zones complete with animatronic characters, narration and multisensory elements. It culminated with a “hero shot” loop outside the building overlooking the plaza. And at the end, attendees swiped their badges to redeem their photo and received an emailed promo code to get a free Google Home Hub. Yes. Free.
Across the CES show floor, Google brought back its larger-than-life Google gumball machines stuffed with big prizes and also engaged with more than 130 partners. Sixty-three spaces were staffed with official Google Guides wearing clean white uniforms. Hey Google, who won CES?
Facebook’s F8 show, named after its famous eight-hour hackathons, is its annual developer conference that brings together developers and businesses from around the world. The brand had big announcements this year, like the launch of Oculus Go, AR tools for business and new partnerships with Nike, Sephora, Asus and Kia. But there was also a lot at stake with the brand needing to address major privacy concerns related to its service. Facebook rose to the challenge with a festival atmosphere.
It all took place in Festival Hall, a 60,000-square-foot hub with 13 activations, more than 115 product demos and 100 subjects to explore. Emanating from a central café, each of Facebook’s main demo areas was marked by a 25-foot-tall tower fabricated from a combination of commercial grade steel, birch plywood and acrylic. The biggest spaces included the Developer Garage and Classroom, which offered more than 50 intimate educational sessions presented by Facebook’s top experts.
Other fabrication highlights included a kinetic sculpture that hung above the central café that included 74 mirrored fins that changed color, and flooring that featured a graphic treatment with at-a-glance wayfinding in place of carpet. Design choices made the event easy to navigate and promoted one-on-one engagement among the 2,000-plus attendees.
And circling back to that big challenge for Facebook—glass panels were utilized throughout to create a literal sense of “transparency,” providing clear sight lines and making it easy to see what was happening at all the other activations. Message received.
The We Company is a global community that encompasses three distinct brands: WeWork (shared workspaces for start-up culture companies), WeLive (fully furnished apartments) and WeGrow (a school program). The company’s annual Global Summit gives employees across each of the brands a chance to connect with fellow team members from all over the world, and it includes the Creator Global Finals, a competition recognizing entrepreneurs with impactful ideas.
The Summit took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center and Madison Square Garden in New York City, with a live remote broadcast strategy that allowed each audience to view, in real-time, executive presentations happening on both stages about the company’s global achievements and impact. In L.A., attendees at the Summit networked in an outdoor marketplace, which offered activities like professional portraits and a photo booth. Teams could also record video messages and incubate new solutions from confessional phone rooms on-site.
Held on the second day of the Summit, the Creator Global Finals took place at the Microsoft Theater in L.A. and involved opening remarks by Ashton Kutcher and host Adi Neumann. Competitors from eight countries made 60-second pitches to a panel of celebrity judges, all in an effort to take home the million-dollar prize. Some 6,500 employees tuned in live, on both coasts. We like it.
The credit card market is crowded with an overwhelming array of offers and incentives. So when PayPal set out to launch its new 2% Cashback Mastercard credit card, it needed to find a way to stand out. Armed with research that showed the way millennials are spending is changing—using cards less for splurges and more for everyday items—the brand set out to demonstrate how a lot of little purchases can add up to big cash rewards. Up rose a campaign around “turning everyday into the extraordinary,” and an interactive pop-up Instagram museum designed to capitalize on the popular trend and spark a social conversation.
The Manhattan pop-up was inspired by the bodega (the local vernacular for “convenience store”), with each department of the shop transformed into an interactive art exhibit featuring favorite splurge items created from the everyday items millennial consumers purchase most on their credit cards. The entire collection of 2D and 3D art was based on audience data (what consumers typically purchase on a credit card, and then, what they would “splurge” on with $500 cashback) and created by maker-influencers that posted behind-the-scenes content of their creative processes as well as photos of the final results. The brand hosted media and lifestyle influencers at a special pre-opening event and then opened the doors to the public for one day.
Among the installations: a dress made of flowers (by FLWR Studio), a “Now Serving Flights from Deli to Dehli” counter featuring an urban terrarium made of food (by Nix + Gerber Studio); “From Candy to Eye Candy,” featuring a wall adorned with lollipops and a lollipop chandelier (by Alexis Jesup of Colors Collective); a turntable made of pizza; a produce section featuring the furnishings of a luxury dining experience made of fruit with “glamorous seating” for a photo op; a bodega cat lounge featuring photos of famous New York City bodega cats (photographed by Andrew Marttila); aisles of food items with custom labels like “Franklins & Beans,” (get it?); “’Bling Berry Crunch’ & ‘2% Milk’” that tied into the credit card name; and a magazine rack filled with a specially designed, PayPal branded version of the New Yorker.
Here’s what we loved about this program: It was based on specific audience research, so not only were the installations relevant (as was the bodega concept), but they were meaningful, which is something a lot of Instagram museums are missing and have been criticized for. To boot, the approach was intentionally analog, a refreshing departure for the tech-heavy financial technology or “fintech” space and, to us, a recognition of the often-unrecognized trend that millennials crave breaks from technology. Put that on your charge card.
State Farm’s successful Neighborhood of Good program (which won the 2018 Grand Ex award) capitalized once again on the insight that consumers want to give back to their communities, but don’t know where or how to start. Last summer, the brand decided to bring a literal Neighborhood of Good to life at millennial-rich music festivals with a 60-foot by 80-foot footprint that included four standalone structures inspired by various genres of music, comfortable lounge furniture and phone-charging stations.
Anchoring the “neighborhood” this year was the Community Center, inspired by State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington, IL, where brand ambassadors helped fans discover local causes on the Neighborhoodofgood.com platform. To reinforce the brand’s “Here to Help Life Go Right” tagline, festivalgoers received a festival premium, such as sunscreen, a cap, or a mobile fan.
The three remaining structures were dedicated to individual causes. The “Here to Help At-Risk Youth” structure was inspired by an industrial rocker vibe and included a tattoo art wall, and station where consumers could write notes of encouragement to struggling at-risk youth that were then stuffed into hygiene kits and donated to local organizations. The “Here to Help Music Education” home was country chic with contemporary design touches. Inside, fans assembled their own ukuleles that were then donated to local schools in need of music education programs. The “Here to Help Hunger” home took its design cues from mid-century rockabilly, with a 1950s vibes. Festivalgoers assembled food kits for donation to local food banks.
Talk about a positive State of mind.
You might not think home appliances are “immersive,” but LG made a good case for it with an event to promote its LG Signature line of premium products for its “sensible rich” consumer target. Leveraging the passion point of art, the brand aligned with Art Basel to activate its House of LG Signature experience, partnering with four artists to create a series of artistic experiences that transformed products into poetic and creative expressions.
The four rooms of the house included: Perfection, a six-screen OLED LD Signature video wall featuring animations by artist Maxim Zhestkov; Essence, which included a large sculptural cube with two windows inspired by LG’s Instaview refrigerator technology revealing 3D sculptural projection works from artist Gabe Barcia-Colombo; Minimal, for the washer-dryer product where consumers stepped under a dome and into a soundscape experience led by spiritual teacher and author Biet Simkin; and Simplicity, a fluid projection installation by multimedia artist Vincent Houze that illustrated the brand’s Air Purifier product.
While each year LG Signature hosts a variety of events to engage consumers, this year the brand concentrated on activating fewer and more meaningful events. By activating at Art Basel, “a place where technology meets the arts,” the brand engaged with its target in appliances—yes, appliances—in a relevant and thought-provoking manner. Talk about a no-spin zone.
It’s no secret that the auto show is in transition. Automotive brands have bigger stories to tell about their products, and they’re eager to create trade show engagements that focus more on the visitor experience than the show floor architecture. As Ford put it, people have become more “sophisticated experiential consumers” hungry for active engagements over passive ones. So, at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford unveiled a brand new exhibit and experience, creating its own micro-festival called “GoFest” that involved Cobo Center—and beyond.
The program within the convention center involved a 13,000-square-foot exhibit footprint with enough room for a course that had consumers riding in vehicles while experiencing virtual-reality content. Because the newest Ford Explorer wasn’t out yet, consumers climbed into the existing model and, through Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality headsets, went for a ride to check out all the new features. The experience came to life through Unreal Engine technology and 44 Optitrack motion capture cameras with 16 “active” tracking points on each car, so the vehicle’s movements synched with the VR content.
Also in the exhibit, Ford built an LED theater designed to create optical illusions surrounding its vehicles in all kinds of environments. Then, Ford changed the game on auto show reveals, too, by announcing its GT500 in the theater using a computer game scenario. On-screen, attendees watched as a helicopter lifted the animated GT500 out of sight—then, they were surprised by the real GT500 vehicle being lowered from the ceiling before their eyes. To make it happen, the production team used four chain motors installed in the ceiling to lower all 3,500 pounds of the vehicle, nicknamed “Shelby,” and then winch it back up again for reveals twice every hour.
The exhibit experience ran in conjunction with Ford’s Winter Festival, which ran over 10 days during the Detroit Auto Show. The brand shuttled auto show attendees from Cobo Center to the Michigan Central Train Station, in Corktown, MI, a historical property the brand purchased that was in business for 105 years before closing in 1988. There, Ford staged 3D projection-mapping shows displaying the work of local artists on the building, as well as offering activities, like ice-carving, vendors, and live music.
While the auto show is an event that takes place in one location, Ford’s combined efforts with the outdoor Winter Festival resulted in more buzz surrounding the brand, including 10 news segments on its activations, and a total of 20,500 attendees. As for the exhibit? Ford recorded a 42 percent increase in dwell time, with attendees spending a considerable 51 minutes with the brand, and 10,473 leads collected. Now that’s “going further.”
The trade show landscape is evolving and involving more consumer-centric experiences. Google took that trend and rode with it—literally—with the Google Assistant Playground that this year involved a Disney-inspired ride.
2018 was Google’s re-entry into the CES landscape after several years of having a minimal presence at the show. Flash forward to 2019 and Google Assistant is available on 1 billion devices. Google wanted to wrap that fact up into a story involving real-world scenarios for what it can do in life.
The first floor of the Google Assistant Playground included sets and spaces to demo Google Assistant, view Google’s suite of products and catch a live broadcast or podcast, or even a mediation class. Under the theme, “Life is a ride. It’s full of twists, turns, stops and starts,” Google built a fully immersive ride on the second floor that took attendees through a story about a family planning a party for their grandma’s 90th birthday. Outside the installation, Google activated its Gumball Machine that offered “only-Google-can-do” prizes like Nest thermostats, OpenTable gift cards, Headspace subscriptions, smart plugs, beanies and more.
Then, the brand engaged with 130-plus partners to create custom Assistant brand experiences throughout CES, spreading across the LVCC, Sands Expo and private meeting spaces. Sixty-three of the engagements were staffed with official Google Guides. (Talk about a footprint.) And in case you’re hungry for some stats, here’s what it took to build the experience, soup to nuts: 36,000-square-feet of activation space, 130,000 pounds of steel, 670 yards of concrete, 493 feet of track, 21 days of load-in, 36 hours of load-out, 56 dump trucks and 200-plus Google Guides. Indeed, this was no ordinary trade show experience.
At the Farm Progress Show in the epicenter of America’s farm country in Boone, IA, Nutrien Ag Solutions (formerly Crop Production Services) had a big rebranding to celebrate. Avoiding the traditional (and forgettable) tent space most other vendors leverage, the brand transformed a 140-foot by 80-foot footprint into the “Your Farm of the Future” Experience, housed in a Futuredome, a massive on-site geodesic dome structure.
Once inside, attendees registered for a promotional sweepstakes, and then used a QR card to check in to touchpoints so the brand could measure behaviors. Among them: a “Brand Your Farm” complimentary logo builder through a partnership with Logojoy, offering farmers the opportunity to brand or rebrand their own farm operation or business through the hands-on creation of a company identity and logo. They could print the logo in the form of an eight-inch by eight-inch vinyl decal on-site or have them emailed to use as needed.
And then there was an appearance by NASCAR Xfininty Series drive Elliott Sadler (an audience favorite), an emcee for the entire activation and free ice cream social hours. Thanks to the premium logo activation, the brand earned 900,000-plus potential brand impressions, nearly 1,000 leads generated through qualified lead registration, 200,000-plus social media impressions and national agriculture print and online media stories.
Cognac has long been associated with swanky country clubs and VIP events that point to individual success, but to keep up with today’s evolving culture and engage a new generation of cognac drinkers, Rémy Martin developed a campaign that celebrated collective achievement—without all the pretention. Tapping into hip-hop’s entrepreneurial spirit and tightknit community of creators and fans, the brand launched “The Producers Series: The Co-Sign,” an event campaign aimed at leveling the playing field for aspiring producers. With the help of two hip-hop icons, Rémy Martin launched a national call for beat submissions to find the next super-producer, striving to embed its brand in the multicultural, urban millennial lifestyle along the way.
With its sights set on engaging multicultural men, ages 25-34, who over-index on the aspirational lifestyle and cognac consumption, Rémy Martin activated “The Co-Sign” across seven regional events and a national finale. The program promised to award the country’s hottest aspiring producer with a featured vocal performance on their own track—co-signed by legendary rapper Big Sean and overseen by renowned record producer DJ Mustard. The campaign began with both hip-hop stars leveraging social media to drive 200,000 ambitious beat-makers to a microsite where they collectively uploaded more than 500,000 seconds of beat submissions, to be reviewed by the icons themselves.
After the finalists were chosen, they went head-to-head at live regional competitions where Rémy’s 1738 cognac flowed and fans and media celebrated performances by their city’s rising stars. DJ Envy hosted the events, which featured two rounds of beat battles performed by four finalists from each market that were ultimately judged by Big Sean, DJ Mustard, industry experts and fans. The brand even developed an app that allowed fans to preview the beats before the finalists took the stage.
To amplify the program along the way, Rémy Martin leveraged a retail strategy to sell 100,000 limited-edition 1738 cognac speaker boxes (which are exactly what they sound like) and hyped each “Co-Sign” event across its social channels and digital media outlets.
In the end, Milo was chosen as the winning producer and netted a real life “Co-Sign” with Big Sean, earning placement on the rapper’s forthcoming album. The program racked up 160 million p.r. impressions, over 188,000 microsite visits and more than 5.7 million views of Big Sean and DJ Mustard content on Rémy’s social channels. Add in the local communities and contestants who benefited from Big Sean’s mentorship, and you get the sound of shared success. Cheers.
Procter & Gamble’s My Black is Beautiful (MBIB) platform has been empowering black women to raise their voices and celebrate all that is beautiful about black culture for over a decade. In honor of its 10th year sponsoring Essence Festival, the largest event celebrating African American culture and music in the U.S., the brand offered black women a platform on which to tell their unique stories, celebrate their individuality and lift one another up—all while driving trial and awareness for key P&G brands.
The program centered on #BLACKGIRLSDO, an expression of black women and their narratives, in this case, Black Girls Do Create and Black Girls Do Change the World. To bring the themes to life, P&G developed the first-ever MBIB Hair Show, led by Mandy Williams, the brand’s master stylist. Williams offered live styling and professional tips using P&G products to demonstrate natural, relaxed and protective hairstyles as she interacted with fans on-site and at home via Instagram Stories. Product trial took place across 10 beauty stations where attendees received hair consultations and styling and skincare demos.
To amplify awareness of the MBIB platform, the brand asked festivalgoers to declare what #BLACKGIRLSDO on an interactive Creator Wall within its booth. The content was later projection-mapped live onto skyscrapers, lighting up the sky with fresh declarations each night of the event.
The results speak for themselves: 2,500 Hair Show engagements delivered 37,000 interactions on Instagram, and P&G earned its highest booth attendance in five years. Now that’s beautiful.
#LoveTravels is a storytelling platform launched by Marriott International in 2014 to underscore its commitment to, and celebration of, inclusion and peace—and its belief that travel is a catalyst for both. To usher in the next phase of #LoveTravels, Marriott launched Breaking Barriers, a campaign dedicated to supporting those who are actively working to promote inclusion, equality and human rights in their communities. The cross-segmented approach was designed to drive advocacy for the brand among African-American, USLatino, LGBTQ and women travelers, and to provide those groups with the opportunity to educate larger audiences on their initiatives.
Marriott first identified four individuals who were working to break down cultural barriers in their communities through various organizations, then took a three-pronged approach to amplify their efforts. First, the brand awarded each change-maker a $50,000 grant to support their nonprofit efforts. Next, Marriott launched the #LoveTravels Challenge, a $300,000 investment that will ultimately distribute $10,000 to each of 30 “barrier breakers” to back their vision of how to advance inclusion, equality, peace and human rights. The third component, Beyond Barriers Summits, took place throughout the year. Hosted by Marriott, the events featured panel discussions by the grantees and a diverse group of activists who examined the connection between inclusivity and travel.
The launch of the campaign, which wraps in September, garnered over 387 million p.r. impressions and more than 27 million social Impressions. Sounds like #WordTravels, too.
The most wonderful time of the year is also the most competitive time of the year for many retailers, so to secure mindshare among consumers and commemorate the communal nature of the holiday season, Target launched its “Gather Round” campaign. With New York City’s Pier 17 as its backdrop, the brand unleashed a content-based stunt followed by two nights of activations featuring classic holiday moments that invited New Yorkers to celebrate the season and the sense of community it fosters.
To prepare for the stunt, and a coordinated video shoot of the experience, Target dropped a nine-foot-high by 18-foot-long “boombox” in the middle of the plaza, along with its giant, 160-foot-long red cord. One hundred feet away, a mysterious, illuminated power outlet flashed “Low Battery. Please Plug In.” The message was clear, but there was a catch: the cord was so heavy, it required teamwork to plug in. Consumers took the hint, “gathering round” in a coordinated effort to achieve their goal. As the cord was being connected to the outlet, Sia’s remix of the holiday song “Round and Round” began to play and both the boombox and the pier were illuminated in holiday lights. And as the plaza roared to life, over 100 dancers and acrobats waiting in the shadows tumbled from three red school buses, surprising and delighting attendees with an instant holiday dance party. (Bonus: Target also worked with the South Street Seaport Museum to attach holiday strand lights to ships in the harbor.)
With consumers buzzing, Target leveraged the energy of the stunt to engage New Yorkers for the next two evenings. A winter-themed stage served as the home of Holiday “Carol-oke,” giving attendees a chance to belt out their favorite holiday tunes. Meanwhile, the boombox was transformed into a live projection-mapping surface displaying an ever-changing snowscape. Other holiday experiences included a sledding-inspired photo op in front of a moving backdrop, fake snowfalls, giveaways like mittens and beanies, a surprise performance by an 18-piece orchestra, hot chocolate and s’mores delivered on replica sleighs, table-top games and an appearance by influencer Jonathan Van Ness of Netflix’s “Queer Eye.”
To capture all of the action, Target secured 12 Panasonic Varicam 35 cameras and extreme telephoto zoom lenses that allowed camera crews to remain hidden. To show the spectacle from above, the brand hired an FAA-licensed pilot to man a custom, heavy-lift drone equipped with a Panasonic Varicam LT. Throughout the activations, Target was able to make live adjustments to its camera feeds based on the reactions of participants.
The holiday extravaganza resulted in 1.1 million views of the live stunt footage, 720 photos shared, a 181 percent share ratio—and a whole lot of cheer.
The booming esports industry influences all aspects of video gaming, and with EA Sports’ FIFA franchise representing the largest sports simulation title in the world, the publisher needed to be a frontrunner in the competitive gaming space. Ahead of the release of FIFA 18, EA expanded its established Championship Series to include the FIFA 18 Global Series, a live-streamed esports competition that was designed to increase viewership of gameplay on Twitch and engage the esports community through elevated broadcast experiences.
To make it happen, the brand enlisted an all-star roster of FIFA 18 players and YouTube creators to guide viewers through all aspects of the broadcast. Like social media “Feature Match” polling that allowed fans to vote on which matches they wanted to see next, or “Twitch Drops” that gave digital viewers and on-site fans a chance to win prizes for tuning in to the live stream. Adding to the excitement, the brand equipped select players with heart rate monitors, and during high-stakes matches, displayed an on-screen graphic that showed the heart rates of opposing players. Throughout each broadcast, members of the talent team relied on EA’s touch screen analyst telestrator, a tool that allowed them to add augmented reality overlay graphics and motion graphics to highlight key moments in gameplay. Meanwhile, a “Community Couch” served as a central broadcast hub that played host to a rotating cast of esports competitors and special guests.
In the end, EA Sports earned an 80 percent increase in live, year-over-year Twitch viewership and secured 108 hours of air time. Game on.
Today’s cereal aisles are filled to the brim with options, so for many time- and budget-strapped parents, shopping for breakfast food is purely functional—if it’s nutritious and convenient, toss it in the cart. To throw a wrench in the increasingly disengaged shopping experience and reward moms for “prioritizing goodness,” Cheerios and retail partner Walmart delivered Moments of Good: unexpected pop-up experiences that supported Walmart shoppers who were doing good in their local communities.
The cause marketing platform took many shapes. In Kentucky, the Louisburg High School pep rally was interrupted by Cheerios’ presentation of a $25,000 check for the marching band’s travel expenses. In Oklahoma, Walmart shoppers waiting in line were surprised with an acapella group singing the Cheerios jingle and distributing $100 gift cards. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Cheerios helped rebuild and restock the Wildlife Rescue Coalition of Western Florida. In California, the brand built a Cheerios Rube Goldberg machine and invited local STEM students to watch as it poured a giant bowl of cereal—then awarded them with $5,000 worth of STEM supplies and a $5,000 check to encourage their continued education. And the list goes on.
Every Moment of Good was captured live and shared on Cheerios’ YouTube channel and a dedicated microsite to generate awareness for the campaign, ultimately raking in eight million video views. We’ll raise a spoon to that.
Let’s be real—iPhones completely dominate the mobile phone landscape. Everyone from your best friend to your grandmother is likely to own one. So when Google discovered that its Pixel 3 device was getting rave reviews but had less than one percent market share, the brand made it a priority to get its phone into consumers’ hands to show them what it was really capable of. With a target that lives and breathes music and craves social credibility, Google hit the festival scene to deliver a variety of playful photo ops and installations at Austin City Limits, Electric Daisy Carnival and Rolling Loud.
In each market, Google leveraged a series of custom installations that showed off the Pixel 3’s individual features. Attendees entering the activation were given their own device to use throughout the journey, then set loose to discover what the phone could do—and gather some killer Instagram content along the way. A raised platform, for instance, let attendees use the Group Selfie Cam to take a wide-angle shot, using the entire festival footprint as the backdrop (FOMO anyone?). To highlight the Google Lens feature, fans scanned album art and festival-related imagery to learn about some of the artists featured in the festival lineup.
The pinnacle of the experience however, was an interactive laser house experience that gave attendees a chance to see the Pixel 3’s Night Sight, a low-light camera feature, in action. Google worked with a world-renowned hip-hop artist who frequently incorporates lasers into his concerts to bring the installation to life, and provide the ultimate backdrop for share-worthy photos. As attendees snapped their way through the neon-infused space, the brand worked behind the scenes, programming the lasers to playlists that correlated with each respective festival’s lineup, and inspiring epic dance parties along the way.
Throughout each engagement, trained brand ambassadors were on hand to offer tutorials on how to capture the best photo and make the most of the Pixel 3’s tools. And, to keep the interaction going, Google leveraged a prize wall powered by a computer program that matched engagement with various tiers of prizes—the more people interacted with the installations, the more prizes they could win.
Google additionally partnered with key artists in each festival’s lineup—St. Vincent at Austin City Limits, Tiesto at Electric Daisy Carnival and Tyga at Rolling Loud—to deliver surprise-and-delight moments to fans, and amplify its festival presence on social media. Fans were awarded real-time upgraded festival experiences like side-stage access and meet-and-greets with the artists, as well as autographed merchandise. A few lucky attendees even walked away with a shiny new Pixel 3.
As for the results—hold the phone: Google put its device in the hands of over 10,000 people and generated 41 million impressions.
Think of L.L. Bean, and it’s likely images of cozy flannel shirts and warm boots come to mind. To combat consumers’ perception that it’s a fall and winter brand, and to reduce its dependence on holiday sales, the retailer turned to its core target: the “outdoor family enthusiast.” Upon analyzing the demographic’s characteristics, L.L. Bean discovered that 95 percent spend their lives indoors, and 50 percent of that time is spent at traditional desk jobs. The insight: The target’s surprisingly stationary jobs were the No. 1 thing holding them back from enjoying more time in the great outdoors. Enter: The “Be an Outsider at Work” campaign, an extension of the brand’s “Be an Outsider” tagline.
Leveraging data from workplace strategist Leigh Stringer that showed employees are 50 percent more productive, 92 percent happier and three times more creative working outside, L.L. Bean erected the first-ever outdoor co-working space to give desk-strapped staffers and press a literal breath of fresh air. Using an online reservation system, employees from brands spanning IBM to Pinterest took advantage of the open-air office spaces in four markets, each offering wi-fi, furniture, power hookups and cycling desks. Some brands even took advantage of L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Program to conduct tree-side teambuilding.
The program generated through-the-roof social sharing, including 406 million earned impressions and over 3.9 million campaign video views, while L.L. Bean’s organic search interest saw a 14 percent lift. Talk about giving office life the boot.
Uniqlo is known for its unadorned apparel, but to show that it had a little more pizzazz up its sleeve, the retailer partnered with artists from across the globe to create a pop culture-inspired series of graphic tees dubbed the UT Collection. To change the perception of its product offerings and prove to millennials and Gen Z that its new line could be used as a form of self-expression, Uniqlo produced a block party-style experience just outside its retail locations in four markets under the tagline #WearYourWorld.
To tap into the younger generations’ penchant for nostalgia, Uniqlo designed its events around an old school clothesline installation that showcased the UT Collection. And, just like the old days, the brand relied on word-of-mouth to build buzz, unleashing street teams in the days leading up to the event that delivered custom clothespins that kept the activation top of mind.
On-site, in addition to perusing the t-shirts, attendees could rock out to dj sets, participate in a costumed photo op, play lawn games and snag discount cards that directed them to a nearby Uniqlo store where they could shop and enter for a chance to win a trip to Tokyo.
All in all, Uniqlo racked up over 20 million social impressions and earned an average dwell time of seven minutes and 45 seconds per attendee. Now that’s fashionable.
Sunoco touts its pay-at-the-pump mobile app as the fastest way to pay for gas, but with a limited budget, the brand had to get creative about promoting its new product. Instead of relying on paid media, Sunoco took a risk and set out to design an experience so buzz-worthy that it would earn the attention of press and consumers. The result? The World’s Fastest Fill-Up, an attempt to set the Guinness World Record for most cars refueled by a single person in one hour.
To pull off the stunt, Sunoco transformed one of its gas stations in Queens, NY, into a NASCAR pit stop, tapping into its NASCAR roots. But the brand needed someone nimble and experienced to carry out the refueling process if it wanted to stand a chance at beating the world record. That’s where John Gianninoto came in, the actual race-day fuel man for NASCAR’s Chase Elliott. With the help of the Sunoco app, Gianninoto was tasked with refueling a minimum of 140 cars in 60 minutes, but on the day of the event, the brand hit a snag—a Nor’easter swept through New York, bringing wind and torrential rain with it.
Despite the conditions, Sunoco knew Gianninoto was up to the challenge and pushed forward with the event. An elaborate strategy was implemented to control the flow of traffic in and out of the station, communicate with Gianninoto to let him know which cars were ready to be filled up and which cars were complete, and track all the data on each fill-up to ensure it complied with Guinness’ stringent regulations. Over 30 brand ambassadors were on-site to assist in the endeavor, while event host Jay Vargas kept attendees informed and spirits high in spite of the raging storm.
Consumers came from far and wide to participate in the experience, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Guinness World Record in the making, while digital fans watched the experience unfold as Sunoco live-streamed the stunt on Facebook. When all was said and done and the final horn had sounded, it was verified that Gianninoto had beaten the record, refueling 148 cars in one hour and solidifying Sunoco’s claim that its app was the fastest way to pay for gas.
The record-setting experience generated 157 million impressions, including a high-profile segment on NBC’s “NASCAR America,” and an in-stadium recap of the event at the NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway the following day. If that weren’t enough, Sunoco saw a significant jump in the use of its app to the tune of a 70 percent increase over an average week. That’s adding fuel to the fire.
TV show superfans are a powerful and passionate demographic, so when Fox picked up “Last Man Standing,” a sitcom that originally ran on ABC for six years, the network put supporters to the ultimate test to prove their devotion, aiming to earn brand loyalty in return. Ahead of the show’s seventh season and network premiere, Fox produced a binge-watching competition dubbed Last Fan Standing. The event gave 26 contest winners the chance to win a trip to Los Angeles for a walk-on role in the upcoming season—but only if they survived a marathon-viewing of all six seasons of the series.
The stunt was executed at a pop-up screening room within a tent structure at Hollywood and Highland, a notoriously high-traffic destination. As participants embarked on their 48-hour screening journey, Fox enhanced the experience with various engagements to keep them motivated. Catering and snacks were available throughout the event, there were custom, branded chairs, tees and blankets on hand and emcees hosting the event offered “Last Man Standing” trivia questions to eliminate contestants and keep the momentum going, with the help of brand ambassadors. Cast members also made an appearance, interacting with attendees and participating in interviews about the show’s comeback, and piquing the curiosity of passersby.
When the final credits rolled, Fox had generated 240,000 impressions—and redefined the meaning of “superfan.”
Before consumers spend time with loved ones over the holiday season, they often spend time waiting in line and battling crowds. So to demonstrate to last-minute shoppers how its Buy Online, Pickup In-Store service could save them precious time during the holiday hustle, Old Navy leveraged a festive, multi-day stunt. To add extra incentive, the brand teamed up with Lyft to offer customers free roundtrip rides to and from Old Navy stores on the two Saturdays following the experience.
On day one, Old Navy took over the ice rink at New York City’s Bryant Park, erecting an eye-catching stage setup. The platform served as the setting of a surprise performance by Lea Michele and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, who reimagined three classic Christmas carols, weaving in Buy Online, Pickup In-Store messaging throughout. Following the show, attendees were gifted Old Navy holiday accessories.
On day two, in an Old Navy and Lyft co-branded vehicle, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus continued to spread cheer across the Big Apple, stopping at editor- and influencer-heavy offices to deliver personalized singing telegrams (we can’t help but picture that scene from “Elf”), reiterate the value of its last-minute shopping service and distribute gifts.
The holly, jolly campaign ultimately garnered over 525 million impressions and saw a significant increase in Buy Online, Pickup In-Store orders during the two Saturdays of the Lyft partnership.
The luxury automotive category tends to conjure up images of stuffy salesmen and an air of exclusivity. But with the ever-increasing demand for change in the car-buying process, Mercedes-Benz wanted to pivot from a traditional luxury automaker to an accessible lifestyle brand that appealed to brand-conscious millennials and Gen X. The solution was a retail pop-up campaign aimed at prolonging interactions between consumers and product specialists, and positioning Mercedes as a more attainable and relevant brand, all while maintaining its mantra, “The Best or Nothing.”
The program popped up in four markets—Miami, Chicago, King of Prussia, PA, and Atlanta—with each store demonstrating the brand’s core attributes of performance, lifestyle, accessibility and attainability, hybrid and future mobility, technology and community. Storefront locations were chosen based on a number of variables, including daily estimated foot traffic and demographics surrounding household income, and were active for an average of 60 days. Inside each sleek, black and white pop-up, the brand strategically arranged vehicle displays amongst back-lit lifestyle product installations and interactive elements, giving visitors the option to explore on their own or alongside a highly trained product specialist.
Key touchpoints in each store were two Mercedes-AMG 4D Virtual Reality setups, each featuring racing sleds complete with replica Mercedes-AMG sports seats. Giving consumers a realistic ride in a GT R vehicle, the multisensory experience incorporated smells, wind, rumble packs and visual triggers. Meanwhile, actor and brand ambassador Jon Hamm narrated the content, helping participants navigate winding roads while providing technical information. Each pop-up also had an Audio Bar where consumers could listen to a custom playlist through Mercedes-Benz Harman-Kardon sound system and Bose headphones, further cementing the connection between merchandise, brand and lifestyle. Rounding out the stores were dynamic, largescale screen displays showing location-specific content and incorporating local cultural influencers, like street artists, designers, musicians and photographers.
Altogether, the engagements provided a non-traditional and non-linear journey, helping to shift the cognitive barriers of luxury automotive and giving Mercedes a leg up on the competition. What’s more, the pop-ups were designed to track the shopping habits of consumers through heat-mapping and lead-generation technology, with each footprint built to maximize shopper dwell time. The strategy paid off. Mercedes generated an average of 5,200 leads between the four retail locations, providing the brand with a large number of qualified potential buyers. Dwell time at each store was over nine minutes per visitor, and approximately 230 regional vehicle sales were attributed to each location. Now that’s shifting gears.
Most Facebook users at one point or another have stumbled upon a brand or product that they fell in love with while scrolling past status updates and cat videos. The social media giant wanted to extend that sense of discovery and boost its partner brands over the holiday season. And so, The Market @ Macy’s was born, taking the digital brand and its associates offline and into the real world.
The concept: Small business pop-up shops nestled into nine Macy’s locations across New York City, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The idea? To help 140 of Facebook’s small business partners grow their customer base by extending their brands into a physical environment.
The setup gave each company a chance to showcase their products and services in the flesh, rather than on a screen. To that end, the design of each space was fully product-centric, offering detailed information about each touchpoint and giving shoppers ample time to explore the various products and services IRL. Digitally-native nonprofit Two Blind Brothers, for instance, sells ultra-soft designer clothing to help fund blindness research. By bringing its products to The Market @ Macy’s, the brand allowed shoppers to feel the cozy clothing for themselves.
Facebook’s brick-and-mortar retail concept turned out to be a resounding success, garnering mentions from key media outlets, including USA Today, Business Insider, TechCrunch and Engadget. “Like.”
For many adults, Nestlé’s Nesquik brand brings backs fond memories of the good ol’ days. Ahead of its 70th anniversary, Nestlé wanted to tap into that sense of nostalgia while giving the next generation a taste of its products and personality. To make it happen, Nestlé threw itself an epic birthday party in Santa Monica that took the shape of a week-long pop-up dubbed the Nesquik Milk Stop.
From the décor to the engagements, it was clear that the pop-up celebrated the joys of being a kid. Like Quicky’s Milk Truck, where consumers could sample Nesquik’s ready-to-drink products or create custom “mega milk” creations with unexpected toppings. When their concoction was complete, visitors could place the beverage on a designated up-lit box designed for snapping and social sharing.
An array of Instagrammable photo ops also peppered the space, from a mock grocery aisle featuring a branded cart, to flooring designed to look like a splash of regular milk against a backdrop of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry raindrops falling from clouds. The fan favorite, however, was a two-story straw slide that led to a ball pit featuring the brand’s signature blue and yellow color scheme. A partnership with celebrity chef Jordan Andino, who created two custom Nesquik recipes, rounded out the experience.
The results were delectable: more than 10,000 consumers passed through the space, generating more than 109 million impressions.
Audi has always been a bold, innovative brand. When it came time to reveal its all-electric SUV, the e-tron, the automaker proved it hadn’t lost its touch. In the heart of the U.S. electric vehicle market, San Francisco, Audi hosted a press event for the ages. Spanning a dinner cruise, educational forum, dramatic reveal moment and an array of other experiences, the event engaged nearly 1,600 international press, influencers, government officials, dealers and employees, and millions more who tuned in to a live stream of the e-tron’s global debut.
The day began with an educational presentation on electric vehicle-related design, tech and charging infrastructure being developed to support new mobility lifestyles. Audi took over a 50,000-square-foot concert venue to deliver the experience, offering a learning environment that included electric concept cars, exhibits of mechanical systems, AR demos and hologram stations. Meanwhile, three theater spaces hosted TED Talk-style seminars led by Audi and subject matter experts.
Later in the afternoon, as Audi hosted a dealer meeting, the rest of the group was transported to Pier 3 at The Embarcadero, where they were given RFID-enabled LED wristbands. As attendees made their way to the dock, they passed down a corridor featuring cargo containers clad with largescale graphics conveying key innovations in Audi’s history. They then reached the San Francisco Belle, a 292-foot sternwheeler boat and Bay Area landmark, which was transformed into a sophisticated event venue that carried passengers across the Bay on a 90-minute dinner cruise.
At dusk, as the vessel neared the shore, attendees’ wristbands began to glow and music swelled from the coast. What appeared to be a swarm of fireflies lit up the sky and the next venue on the journey, the Craneway Pavilion, began to glow electric-blue, then expanded into a full projection-mapping sequence of circuitry and pulsating waves of electricity. The “fireflies” turned out to be a fleet of Intel drones performing a ballet choreographed to the music, concluding at the crescendo in the shape of Audi’s signature rings.
At the Pavilion, moving spotlights shone over the 40,000-square-foot venue, with attendees’ wristbands pulsing in time with the walk-in music and colorful lighting. After opening the show with a video and presentation from Audi’s ceo, a massive LED screen lit up, revealing a wireframe map of the Earth. An e-tron prototype then rolled on stage, shrouded in a projection-mapped wireframe grid that matched the imagery behind it. When the e-tron exited the stage, the LED screen split in two, revealing the San Francisco skyline and pulsating blue lights. Finally, all went dark, the music swelled, and when the lights flicked back on, a real e-tron was revealed as a fleet of Intel drones hovered over the cheering crowd. A performance by Diplo wrapped the event.
The event garnered 10.5 million live-stream views and 633 media mentions. Electrifying.
Every June, Ubisoft and many of the world’s largest video game companies participate in an exclusive E3 press event during which they reveal new games and other content that will contribute to their success in the coming year. Having escaped the threat of takeover from Vivendi, Ubisoft leveraged the 2018 event to proclaim its independence, grow its global fan base and prove to press that it had the most exciting lineup among its competitors.
For its formal presentations, Ubisoft leveraged an array of massive screens, stage design embedded into the floor, walk-in animations and game segment transitions to immerse attendees in its offerings, and engage live-stream viewers. A key objective was to demonstrate the brand’s commitment to authenticity and inclusivity. The brand brought that philosophy to life by featuring presenters who were actual developers, rather than executives, and enlisting celebrities who were true partners, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who announced his collaboration with the Beyond Good and Evil title at the show.
Ubisoft additionally introduced an experiential Fan Zone in the backlot of the conference venue. There, press and fans were invited to enjoy live gaming stations, food trucks, a live set for a 30-minute conference pre-show, a massive LED screen to watch the conference on and a contest where fans could win a “Golden Ticket” to enter the theater and see the show firsthand.
The brand’s dynamic E3 presence resulted in 4.1 million live views of its presentation, representing a 28 percent increase, year-over-year. gg, Ubisoft.
Smirnoff’s base vodka, No. 21, has always been gluten-free, but when the brand made the decision to go non-GMO, it needed an assist from the media to help get the word out and get people talking. Leveraging its recently launched “Welcome to the Fun%” campaign, Smirnoff leaned into the fact that its new product specifically incorporated non-GMO corn and erected a live corn maze in the middle of New York City just in time for fall.
The maze experience took media and influencers through an “a-maize-ingly” Instagrammable journey featuring messaging on the new non-GMO Smirnoff No. 1, playful product placement, quippy one-liners and lots of corn—we’re talking over two tons of the real stuff. The labyrinth ultimately led guests to an unexpected non-GMO-themed cocktail party overlooking the Manhattan skyline that lived up to the Fun% motif. Non-GMO and gluten-free appetizers were served with a side of drama, like trays of food suspended by balloons, while other touchpoints included Smirnoff-inspired lawn games, non-GMO and gluten-free cocktail recipes and a GIF photo booth experience.
Throughout the evening, attendees were hosted by brand partner and “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness (yaaaaaas, queen!), who served his own signature cocktail, raised a toast to Smirnoff and interacted with press on-site.
In the end, the event served up 409 million impressions alongside its new and improved product. Nothing corny about that.
Merck KGaA is the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world, but a recent rebrand positioned the company as a science and technology organization. To celebrate its 350th anniversary, immerse employees in its updated branding and create a sense of unity across its global workforce, the brand developed a campaign that began offline and was taken into the real world.
Leveraging its belief that curiosity is the driving force behind human development and progress, Merck KGaA dreamed up the idea of “CurioCity”—a place where its diverse, international employees could connect as a tightknit community. The journey started with an online platform where employees were tasked with building a digital CurioCity, which grew the more they engaged with one another through interactions like photos and written posts. The digital city was split into 12 districts, which ultimately became the basis of 12 real-world employee events across Brazil, the U.S., China, Japan, Mexico, France, Russia, Australia, India and, of course, the brand’s home base in Germany. Over 35,000 employees participated in the live events, while thousands more watched the action unfold online. The 24-hour global celebration began with a tour of the real-life districts, which was transformed into 30-minute content pieces that were live-streamed on the digital CurioCity platform.
For the live event at the company headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, 10,000 employees navigated five regions within a 10,000-square-foot festival environment. Curiosity-provoking engagements could be found at every turn. Like a bus stop with an integrated escape game, a mini golf course played with “reversal glasses,” a cabaret stage where employees with special talents became entertainers, a 360-degree projection-mapping experience and even orchestra performances. Similar experiences took place across the rest of the live employee events.
As an added bonus, attendees at the Darmstadt event could explore the brand’s newly built Innovation Center, including Emanuel Merck Platz, its outdoor square, which was furnished with a massive stage and five LED screens. There, employees took in a performance by 12 dancers that interacted with screens and presented a journey through the districts. The final engagement entailed projection-mapping various elements of the CurioCity onto the façade of the Innovation Center, along with a lightshow that integrated the buildings beside it.
In the wake of the worldwide celebration, Merck KGaA raked in nearly 50,000 posts on the digital CurioCity platform, engaged 53,000 employees live and online, and a generated a genuine sense of unity among its global employees. That’s one legendary birthday party.
AWS re:Invent, a learning conference that brings together Amazon Web Services users of all skill levels, has grown exponentially each year since its debut. AWS strove to scale its event even further in 2018 while maintaining a superior attendee experience. The brand’s solution: increased content accessibility, sustainability efforts and operational excellence—because increasing quantity doesn’t mean quality should be compromised.
At the heart of the conference were newly developed content hubs, meeting spaces where AWS presented multiple content tracks in a silent disco format, giving attendees the freedom to bounce between the sessions being broadcast. Each hub had a lounge atmosphere with comfy seating, charging stations and F&B service, and served as prime activation spaces for sponsors.
Also new to the event were AWS’s sustainability and philanthropy program, and an updated event app. The charitable program entailed donating undistributed hot food from the conference to local food banks and ensuring lunch boxes served at two of the conference’s venues were recyclable or compostable. The app aided in content accessibility and perfected its transportation functions, providing attendees with information to help them travel the re:Invent campus.
To maintain operational excellence, AWS enlisted a staff of over 640 representatives, and established 9,765 temporary positions. The army of staffers ensured everything was executed seamlessly across the event’s seven venues.
AWS’ efforts paid dividends, with 84 percent of attendees using the app, including utilizing the transportation function over 160,000 times, and generating 35,000 meals for people in need.
Walmart’s annual Shareholder Week is a sight to behold, combining elements of a Grammy Awards-level show with traditional sessions and meetings. To motivate the 14,000 shareholders and employees in attendance and deliver critical brand messaging in 2018, the retailer developed experiences designed to energize the audience and foster a “celebratory” atmosphere.
The U.S. and International Associates meetings kicked off the week, with magician Justin Flom serving as the event host and helping break down language barriers through his talents. Attendees performed during the general session, with select countries representing their nations through everything from vocal performances to costumed skits. Rounding out the entertainment was a Collective Soul concert that evening.
Following various events throughout the week, the last day of the show served as a final celebration, mixing fun and education. During ceo Doug McMillon’s keynote, 3D animations moved from screen to screen, allowing attendees to view a digital timeline of important Walmart moments in history. The address for the first time also featured a hologram of the brand’s founder, Sam Walton, helping present Walmart as a forward-thinking company.
Beyond traditional presentations, the finale event, hosted by actor and musician Jamie Foxx, featured another round of employee-led entertainment experiences, from a classical guitar set to a performance by 29 international associate flag bearers.
The annual event was again hailed as a major success, with the keynote garnering 85,000 hits on Yahoo! Finance, and employees across the world leaving the experience feeling inspired.
When you’re tasked with reimagining an experience as playful and whimsical as the afterlife, the sky’s the limit. Literally.
To promote and build buzz for the third season of “The Good Place,” set in a Heaven-like paradise imperfectly designed by architect Michael (played by Ted Danson), NBC wowed super fans and new fans alike at San Diego Comic-Con 2018 with a replica of the film set down to the smallest details, from interactive experiences facilitated and personalized by an RFID bracelet, to a 15-minute timed chaos sequence with professional actors, to digital takeaways to share on social media.
But first, let’s talk scale. “The Good Place Neighborhood” occupied a 20,000-square-foot space that included downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Plaza and Tin Fish Restaurant. Its open-air build accommodated the existing structural features of the setting, such as pavers, streetlights, trees and blue sky, with room for three, 20-foot to 30-foot-tall building facades. Whimsical design elements on set included a 15-foot oversized fork, an inflatable ladybug that climbed over a rooftop during the chaos sequence, and a three-person shrimp carousel ride that moved to theme music from the show. In a word, phantasmagoric.
Cleverly cutting through the clutter of Comic-Con, NBC used several tactics to drum up excitement ahead of the pop culture fanfest. The network released a call-to-action video featuring the character of Janet (played by D’Arcy Carden), the architect’s all-knowing assistant, announcing that “The Good Place” was coming to SDCC and fans should pre-register at the microsite, thegoodplacesdcc.com. The process entailed doling out a “certificate of life” to each registrant as well as a fake persona, similar to the fate experienced by character Eleanor in the series, played by actress Kristen Bell. Future attendees then answered a series of unimportant questions, like, “Did you ever spoil the end of a popular movie for a friend?” and the answers assigned arbitrary point values to users’ accounts.
Once attendees landed on-site and hopped into the three-hour line, custom video content entertained them with trivia and prepped fans for the journey ahead. Groups of 40 people at a time entered the experience, which began with an orientation video from Michael and Janet introducing the RFID wristbands and encouraging interaction with attendees’ “new neighbors.” The bracelets tracked visitor behavior with a points system inspired by the show’s themes and assigned a final score to each fan that could be shared on social media.
Giveaways included squeezable shrimp stress balls and custom “Senior Staff Pins,” as seen on the series. NBC also partnered with a local yogurt shop to create branded spoons that responded with color to temperature changes and earned attendees a complimentary yogurt.
The results? Heavenly. The campaign earned more than 149 million total impressions, more than triple that of past years, with 10,000 people pre-registering via the microsite.
Harley-Davidson’s 115th anniversary celebration went far beyond the scope of a typical motorcycle rally. The celebration began with four “Rides Home,” led by a group of executives and members of the Davidson family. Each group of riders headed to Milwaukee, WI, the birthplace of Harley-Davidson, from Seattle, San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Portland, ME, stopping at a total of 42 dealerships along the way to engage with riders and fans.
The official event kicked off when the Rides Home arrived home at Veteran’s Park along Lake Michigan. There, a “moto-carnival” was in full swing, from an all-female motorcycle high-wire act to a Globe of Death experience to new motorcycles to peruse. Attendees could claim their Harley Owners Group welcome kit, purchase merch and check out live music on two stages.
A second main location was the Harley-Davidson Museum downtown, where the brand showcased its innovative side with the 2020 Livewire electric motorcycle, shown for the first time. It also offered stunt shows, motorcycle skills challenges, partner integration from Bulleit Bourbon, Zippo and Tuscany trucks, museum access and more.
Other activities included beach racing, hillclimb racing, curated rides to local destinations, a moto-culture film festival, block parties and a closing parade with more than 7,000 motorcycles.
All in, with a total of 88 events across 27 venues in the Milwaukee, WI, area, HD connected 150,000 visitors from 39 countries, garnered 14,854 leads and racked up more than four million livestream views across the five-day affair. Now that’s a ride and drive.
Serving up a personalized lip lounge, a boozy glitter party and a laundry room-themed “Suds” area exclusively for cleanser products, Sephoria: House of Beauty was anything but your typical beauty convention. Nor is launching a branded, proprietary event a bad way to celebrate your 20th year in the U.S.
Marking its first annual House of Beauty, Sephora challenged 58 brand partners to each create personalized experiences for the 4,500 beauty loyalists in attendance at downtown L.A.’s three-floor venue, The Majestic. Consumers could touch, play with and purchase scores of beauty products, while interacting with industry gurus, founders, influencers and fellow beauty followers.
Every aspect of the playful scene was Instagrammable, from the Beauty Garden at registration to the electric pink Benefit Brow Bar. Moreover, expert tips of the trade were ubiquitous. A Masterclass Theater offered talks by Hollywood hair stylist Jen Atkin and celebrity makeup artist Angel Merino. A space dubbed the “Kitchen” featured only products with a food theme, and a Fragrance Bar offered cocktails and samples of fragrances. Complimentary brow shaping and blowouts abounded.
Over the course of two days and four sessions, the experience garnered 1.4 billion earned media impressions, 43.9 million organic social impressions and 8,900 #Sephoria mentions, with more than 60 product SKUs available on-site for purchase.
BMW’s concept car iNEXT, an all-electric, highly automated sports activity vehicle, represents a “new era of mobility” for the brand. So, when it came time to unveil the model to the media, it needed a visionary event to parallel its visionary concept. And boy did the brand deliver. Rather than bringing the press to the vehicle, as is customary, it delivered the vehicle to the press—around the world in five days, across three continents and four cities.
The event took place on a Lufthansa cargo plane, the Boeing 777F, tricked out with a high-tech presentation lounge and attended by approximately 400 carefully selected technology and business journalists in addition to key social media influencers. The iNEXT’s trajectory began in BMW’s hometown of Munich, then traveled on to New York City, San Francisco, Beijing and finally back home to Munich. Not that’s mobility.
The strategy not only provided a wildly unique b-to-b press event at which to reveal sleek, futuristic features like a windscreen that merges with a panoramic roof or digital features that appear on demand. It allowed the press to see the car nearly at the time of its release, which limited embargoes, and offered an unparalleled, up-close-and-personal experience.
As this was an industry first, there were plenty of logistical “firsts” that BMW had to literally build from scratch. The brand built an event setup that was able to withstand multiple, high-speed G-force take-offs and landings, within the limited space of a cargo plane. It also had to construct the setup in 1.5 days, the amount of time the plane would be out of circulation. To work around this challenge, BMW built and worked out of a test fuselage to ensure proper fit ahead of installation into the actual plane.
And then there were the time constraints during the event itself. To fit in four cities in five days, the crew had just 10 hours of prep between landing and guest arrival. That entailed parking the plane, clearing customs, preparing a stage with LED floor and walls, two hydraulic doors and 10 projectors, positioning the hero car, arranging the guest lounge and rehearsal. And then breakdown, which happened in less than four hours. Phew.
Two teams were required for each part of the project—the first managed setup in one city while the second was already in the air on the way to the next destination. Lastly, customs and security in the three countries—Germany, the U.S. and China—abided by their own set of rules and processes, which required working with authorities on myriad details. To say the event pulled off finely coordinated logistics is an understatement.
Social media engagements for this trip around the world reached 60,000, generating a reach of 41.9 million. We are cleared for take-off.
Accounting software company Xero’s annual networking and educational event isn’t the only financial conference in the space. Therefore, a point of difference is absolutely key for the brand. To achieve that, it built a massive adult playground, a unique breakout formation and a Las Vegas-themed wrap party for the ages.
Attendees mingled in an 80-foot, pool-themed ball pit containing 250,000 balls, inflatable flamingos, cabanas, café tables, sun lounge chairs, a diving board, a lifeguard tower and a real lifeguard. Delegates shot hoops on a basketball court with NBA stars. Five ping-pong tables, mini-golf, a pink dj booth overlooking the pool, a taco menu and multiple coffee trucks added to the playful vibe.
Xerocon’s educational and inspirational components were also impressive. When it came time for breakout sessions, the event crew lowered an X-shaped lighting structure that divided the main space into quadrants and color-coded each breakout area. Guests received their own pair of headphones with a Silent PA System, allowing them to tune in to a specific presentation. The lighting rig was then lifted again when a keynote or special guest performed, which prevented attendees from disengaging from the content.
A glitzy Las Vegas-style bash with aerial acts, show girls, a chapel experience, a bubble bar and a cigar lounge capped off the two-day event. With 3,300 guests attending, Xero achieved its goal of earning a delegate satisfaction level of more than 8 out of 10, and social media was abuzz. In fact, the #Xerocon hashtag trended on Twitter during day two.
In order to adopt a more customer-centric culture focused on caring personal service, the largest independent broker dealer in the U.S. needed to feel small. To accomplish this, LPL Financial simplified its seven-year-old mission statement and threw a surprise one-day launch event for its 4,000 employees across four cities.
The event theme, “Make It Your Mission,” was integrated into each activity. Employees were asked to fill out postcards with handwritten personal missions of commitment that would be mailed back to them in the future. Bright orange USPS mailboxes remained in the offices for weeks afterward, a visual reminder of their commitments. And fifty large electronic signs spelling out the mission appeared in halls and conference rooms.
Employees received “Making it My Mission” stickers, a journal to chronicle progress toward their goals, and various branded treats throughout the day. Prior to the launch, managers were briefed on talking points and competition between business units for employee involvement ensued.
Prerecorded video of company leaders’ commitments played on every monitor, ensuring company-wide saturation of the message. Post-event, the video of the launch was broadcast internally and included in recruiting outreach and new hire orientation.
The results were mighty impressive: 95 percent of LPL employees participated in the mission statement launch event, with more than 2,000 employees handwriting and submitting postcards with personal commitments.
A visit to any recent auto show floor will support the following insight: The automotive industry is rapidly becoming more electric. And for Audi, in particular, it’s a bit of a revolution, as the brand’s goal is to electrify one third of every Audi sold by 2025.
But there are obstacles to this goal. Not every consumer is sold on electric vehicles yet, particularly the progressive luxury driver demographic. Issues such as range anxiety and reliability concerns remain at the forefront. So, for the launch of Audi’s first fully electric SUV, the e-tron, the brand had to blow away the competition. (We’re looking at you, Tesla.)
dTo commemorate the moment that the general public gained access to the e-tron SUV, Audi built its own fully functional filling station, Charging Station Unleashed, in the heart of downtown San Francisco and right in Tesla’s backyard. It featured free charging, interactive installations and convenience-store snacks reimagined by Michelin Star chef Stuart Briozza of State Bird Provisions, all over the course of four days in a high-traffic area near the city’s waterfront.
Now here’s the kicker: Consumers weren’t able to purchase any of the munchies on-site—at least, not in the traditional sense. The entire event was driven by social currency. Once consumers tweeted out or posted a pic or video about the event on their social feeds, they gained access to the gourmet snacks.
Nor was it your typical charging station. The activities on-site were futuristic by design. Guests placed drink orders on a tablet while standing before an interactive wall. They then retrieved their orders from a cubby displaying their name or social handle on its digital doors. Visitors interacted with energy-generating floor tiles that powered an LED-lit moss wall and enjoyed branded Audi content displayed on a wall of video tubes. Greenery and potted plants abounded, giving the space a sustainable vibe.
The event footprint featured a lawn area dotted with white swings shaped like portions of the Audi logo, lit internally with LED lights. Complimentary car charging was offered to all consumers who drove by, regardless of vehicle. Visitors also gained access to an e-tron supercar prototype, the PB18, Audi’s high-performance sports car of the future, which provided insight into the company’s design direction.
One of Audi’s key goals with the charging station was to increase share of voice within the luxury car conversation. SOV was 27 percent leading up to the launch and rose to 43 percent during the week of the event—14 points higher than the brand’s goal. Moreover, 2,103 people attended, surpassing Audi’s goal by 30 percent. Social media provided another metric of success, garnering 320,000 online engagements and 1.2 million social views. Oh, and one more thing: seven Tesla vehicles charged up during the event. Aw, snap.
Cheetos enjoys creating brand extensions to delight its loyal fanbase. There was the invention of “Cheeteau,” a Cheetos perfume named after the brand’s mascot, Chester Cheetah. The big cat even ran for mayor of a small town in Montana named Chester. Then in 2017, it cooked up a Cheetos-themed menu to be served at a pop-up restaurant in New York City. Not bad for some cheese puffs.
The challenge, then, was how to step it up the following year. Cheetos decided to pop up a second restaurant, but this time in Los Angeles and curated around a flavor that’s particularly popular in the L.A. market: Flamin’ Hot. Menu items, curated by Chef Roy Choi, included the Five-Alarm Cheetos Steak, the XXTRA Flamin’ Hot Rice Bowl and Chester Cheetos Churros.
The activation featured flamin’ hot décor, from a wall simulating real flames that consumers could interact with to an augmented reality graffiti wall featuring Chester the Cheetah brought to life through the Cheetos app.
A new goal for the restaurant’s second iteration was reach. Cheetos made all recipes available for download at CheetosFlaminHotSpot.com, and through a partnership with AmazonFresh and Walmart Grocery Delivery, online shoppers could have ingredients for select dishes delivered to their door.
The brand served approximately 1,000 people, three times as many as the year prior, and waitlisted 9,755. The venue’s 500 reservations sold out in less than an hour and earned the brand more than 420 million impressions from social conversations across the three days. Hot.
In the competitive beauty product landscape, not even best-selling brands can afford to rest on their laurels. And the need to connect with consumers has become increasingly personal.
Dove’s answer to this dilemma, as it embarked on a product launch for Dove Dry Shampoo targeting millennial women, was to leverage cultural trends, social media and consumer insights. Research revealed that these women live an on-the-go lifestyle and seek simple life hacks to help maintain their busy schedules. They also love posting memes on social surrounding the topic, particularly related to the phrase, “running on dry shampoo and coffee.”
And thus, a partnership was born. Capitalizing on a meme that already existed in their target market’s daily routines, Dove Hair partnered with Dunkin’ on a pop-up styling café on National Coffee Day featuring mini hairstyle sessions and coffee brews, branded merch, a photobooth activation and free samples. The dry styling appointments showcased three looks inspired by the #DoveXDunkin’ collab: Feeling Fresh, Pumped Up Pony and the Half N’ Half.
Other components of the campaign that drove its 5,430 social mentions were a media day with Dove celebrity hair stylist Mark Townsend, an influencer program to drive consumers to a dedicated campaign microsite and promote product, and the Ultimate Life Hack Sweepstakes, where entrants could win a year supply of Dunkin’ coffee and Dove Dry Shampoo.
How do you communicate the significance of a storytelling platform that’s located in the palm of your hand? That was Instagram’s mission at the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival, where it served as an important part of Facebook’s on-site activation. The solution was a video art installation featuring eight hours of Instagram stories collected from around the world and projected onto an elaborate, cityscape set design.
The idea was to position Instagram as a platform that plays a leading role in creating culture, creativity and storytelling, while also educating attendees—both Cannes badge holders and the general public—about the shift toward Instagram Stories and vertical video.
A collaboration between Instagram and artist/designer Es Devlin, the Storyscape activation began with messaging and video reflecting the artist’s vision, which was to represent the power of community and storytelling on Instagram. Attendees then stepped through a round doorway, a nod to the Instagram Story icon on the app, and found themselves perched above a reflecting pool of water while viewing a sculpture of a cityscape, lit up by windows featuring Instagram Stories and projection mapping across the surface of 242 handmade, plywood windows. A mirrored ceiling and walls enhanced the reflective element, and surround sound from eight hidden speakers helped to amplify the narrative.
A team of more than 60 people spent 5,000 hours bringing the collaboration to life. The build also needed to be constructed so that it could be safely transported from Devlin’s UK studio to France, and then set up on the sandy beaches of Cannes, all within a 48-hour window. The cityscape set required 53 hidden display screens and 225 feet of curved scenic walls and windows to produce the desired projection-mapped experience.
Reflecting Devlin’s view that there is a connection between facades of buildings and storytelling, the film projected onto the building façade created an example of collective storytelling, with each Instagram story precisely placed to create the overall effect. Audio played a pivotal role in the experience as well. The team created a score and audio track narrated by Devlin, and using hidden speakers developed a synchronized surround sound experience that allowed guests to hear audio emanating from specific spots within the installation, all of which mapped back to the storyline. To enable the Storyscape experience to live on, Instagram captured the entire engagement for post-event sharing using the GoPro Fusion 360 camera.
Nearly 3,000 people experienced Storyscape over the course of four days, and hundreds of advertising, marketing and brand professionals attending the festival shared posts on social. A variety of industry publications highlighted the activation, and this year it was experienced by both b-to-b industry leaders and the general public.
FX Networks’ goal with its “American Horror Story” activation at San Diego Comic-Con was to scare and excite the series’ fans without revealing spoilers of the upcoming season. What materialized was a mysterious, sneak peek of what was to come, fueled by an augmented reality-enabled tour of the “American Horror Story Eccentricities Collection.”
The collection, containing a series of artifacts inspired from the folklore of the show, was experienced through the guidance of actors playing docents—as if presenting a true museum exhibit to interested spectators—and augmented reality technology experienced through iPads.
Guests were told that they were receiving a first-time view of a strange and unusual collection of objects possessed by unseen forces. As docents guided attendees through the 10-minute experience, eerie secrets behind the installations were revealed. Particularly terrifying was the Judge of Ipswich, a part goat, part man, who came to life with a heaving chest and eyes that continued to follow guests as they moved through the room. Other artifacts included a gilded cage, a chandelier and a statue of a bust.
Sound design was another important part of the experience. The AR animations were married with a soundscape heard through a pair of headphones and timed to maximize the scare factor. At the close of the experience, fans swiped their wristbands to receive a photo of them within the activation. Only this particular photo had an AHS filter applied to it that distorted attendees’ faces with burn marks. The horror!
All told, the activation garnered 695 social posts, amounting to a reach of 783,000 and 956,000 impressions.
Though 5G wireless technology is poised to change the world as we know it, from self-driving cars to telemedicine to gaming to smart home devices, most people are unaware of its true capabilities. Verizon set out to address this disconnect through presenting 5G as something consumers could touch, see and experience, while driving home the fact that Verizon was the first company to make it available to the public.
Enter the 5G Experience Labs, which brought the technology to life through interactive experiences, demos, games and photos ops in four 5G-enabled cities—Indianapolis, Houston, Sacramento and Los Angeles—and Atlanta for the Super Bowl.
Take the 5G QB game, where attendees tossed footballs at targets while wearing augmented reality goggles designed to demonstrate 5G’s low latency. An interactive display of fiber optic bundles made of 36 miles of fiber reacted to motion and touch by glowing red. Attendees also experienced a game of Madden ’19 streamed from the cloud to a phone and then displayed on a 4K monitor with no lag time.
To showcase 5G Home, Verizon created an infinity mirror room with 4K monitors and an LED video floor, and a 5G virtual reality experience saw attendees cozying up in red pods for a six-minute simulated moon landing based on the film “The First Man,” complete with vibrations and swivels for full effect.
Across its nationwide footprint, the activation attracted 11,000 participants, 120,000 engagements and 2.1 billion total paid media impressions.
When you think Ford, eco-conscious millennial women aren’t the first consumers to come to mind. The brand set out to change that perception by connecting with a group of driven, goal-oriented, community-centric and optimistic women, embodied by the Wanderlust community. With integrations in Wanderlust festival events, triathlons and its online presence, Ford made an impact with activations and programming, free rides in its sustainable lineup, Ford employee-led yoga classes, a wellbeing day for employees, cause marketing integrations and custom social and digital content.
On-site at Wanderlust festival, Ford went far beyond a traditional automotive experience with its Zen Den activation. Created from sustainable materials, bamboo, wood and recycled elements, the activation highlighted Ford’s green initiatives in three zones: Water, Earth and Air. Upon entering, attendees were presented with eco-friendly seed cards encouraging exploration of the Den and, once they completed the rounds, received personalized copper charm bracelets with festival coordinates, an offer toward a vehicle purchase and the opportunity to enter a consumer promotion for a VIP Wanderlust experience.
The Water Zone told Ford’s story of water conservation and sustainability through the sounds of a Ford-branded water wall, a water spheres box and information on green innovation practices at Ford facilities such as water reduction, bike-sharing and zero-waste manufacturing. In the Earth Zone, centered around raw material and soil conservation, attendees learned of Ford’s usage of recycled denim, castor oil, plastic, soy beans and more in its vehicle materials. A kinetic sand experience and river rock art sculptures also populated the space.
The Air Zone highlighted Ford’s clean air initiatives through an oxygen bar and vehicle design elements that reduce emissions. Phone charging, a coloring station and a comfortable lounge for attendees were additional touchpoints that drew in attendees.
Another draw to the Zen Den was the event programming featured within Ford’s festival footprint. Inspiring female Ford employees discussed conscious business ownership, body artists painted designs inspired by Ford’s earth, air and water art and messaging, and AcroYogis demonstrated their fluid, acrobatic style.
Lastly, Ford Warriors in Pink, an organization that offers support to patients and survivors affected by Breast Cancer, held yoga classes on-site with Wanderlust instructors. For each attendee, Ford donated $10 to the Young Survival Coalition, which supports women under 40 diagnosed with breast cancer. Ford also gave a donation toward the group for every drive or ride in an eco-friendly vehicle.
Beyond meeting KPIs—16,975 quality registrations, 12,800 email opt-ins and 1,671 drive engagements—brand awareness increased 15 points and favorable brand opinion shot up 30 points. Now that’s what we call driven.
At an event like Coachella, considered to be the festival of the season, attendees are inundated with options on where to party, drink, dance and post for the world at home watching through social media. To cut through the clutter, Heineken went old school with its music choices while being tech-forward with its amenities. The result? Heineken House attracted more than 10,000 people a day.
The activation’s centerpiece was a sustainable dance floor that converted kinetic energy generated by dancing into a power source that juiced up the space’s mobile charging stations, keeping festivalgoers connected at all times. Heineken’s most Instagrammable moment was a custom created mural by street artist Adam Lucas (aka, Hanksy). The brand also created an “Old School Snapchat” featuring Polaroid pictures that were printed and distributed to consumers. The brand nixed festival staple Cornhole, trading it in for music-themed pinball machines installed on its patio.
A key goal was beer sales, of course. Heineken introduced a limited-edition variety beer, H-41, which contained yeast from the wilds of Patagonia and whose unique taste profile and dedicated satellite bar drove consumer purchase. It also offered campers the ability to store a case of Heineken in the brand’s self-contained refrigerated unit, accessible by a thumbprint. It included delivery service as well. Attendees simply texted an order to receive a personal delivery.
And now for the old school part. Heineken presented a ’90s hip-hop reunion, bringing together Busta Rhymes, Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Ma$e, Diddy and others to the stage. Da bomb.
If you want to play with the big boy chips, you’ve got to play ball.
RITZ Crisp & Thins, positioned as a healthier chip than the original RITZ, needed to drive household penetration. But competition from leaders in the chip category was fierce. The solution: partner with QuickChek convenience stores, where shoppers tend to be more open to trying new items, and leverage a festival experience at QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning to engage directly with consumers.
Standing out among vendors with a giant red balloon tethered to the top, the RITZ booth literally rose above the competition. Attendees spun a raffle drum and drew out a “chip” for a festival-themed prize, such as a frisbee, a mini fan, a t-shirt or the grand prize, two VIP tickets to see festival music act, Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
The booth’s photo moment was a hot air balloon basket that attendees climbed into for a pic. Using a flexible tripod and digital camera, brand ambassadors took shots that enhanced the floating effect. Illusion of riding in an actual hot air balloon? Check. Staffers distributed samples of the chips as well as other Mondelēz snacks.
The product experienced a 19 percent sales lift during the promotion, helping to gain shelf presence in 14 more QuickChek stores. And the festival was a soaring success, with 2,100 prized given out, 1,449 photos taken and 100,000 samples distributed—all surpassing prior year numbers and current year goals.
Mountain Dew has been a supporter of the snow sports community for decades. But now more than ever, this target audience is inundated with newbie competitors claiming to be more extreme and more devoted to the group than the OG. Seeking to deepen its connection to this snow sports community, Mountain Dew took over an entire mountain, transforming the town of Breckenridge, CO, into “Mtn Dew”—a neon-green takeover with djs, a concert, a squad of snowboarding yetis, a VR arcade and much more, during the 2019 season’s opening weekend.
The activation was based on a fact little known to urban dwellers: hardcore skiers and snowboarders have been known to pray for a downpour of fresh powder ahead of ski season. Thus, “The Mtn Dew Snow Dance,” a 12-hour activation that engaged with consumers surrounding their number one priority, fresh snow, was born.
The target market wasn’t your typic millennial. Mtn Dew needed to win the hearts of the locals and mountain enthusiasts with authentic interactions, on their own turf. A month-long teaser campaign with radio sponsorships, targeted digital and social and grassroots marketing primed consumers for the big event. The town was covered with billboards and flyers, and social media posts for the Snow Dance included music acts set to perform, including Big Boi and Gramatik.
On the first day of the event, the touchpoints began the moment riders entered the parking lot. Basecamp featured a sampling bar flowing with Mtn Dew, djs spinning upbeat tracks and partners handing out giveaways, from pizza to ski gear. Consumers got decked out in yeti fur for pics and tried their hand at a snowball target range.
The mountain itself was home to more Dew-themed activities. Riders came face to face with snowboard Olympians Red Gerard and Julia Marino, as well as that crew of snowboarding yetis, at three outposts on the mountain. Gondolas decked out in neon green, a game of yeti-spotting and a mid-mountain lodge takeover, the DEW Den, offered entertainment and interaction at multiple elevation points. The Den hosted virtual reality snowboarding, where consumers could experience riding a mountain through the eyes of Mtn Dew pros, a live EDM dj set, a theater room that showed snowboarding movies and a station screen-printing gear on the spot.
At the end of the day, back at DEW Village, consumers enjoyed the grand finale, a series of musical acts including The Reminders, Big Boi and Gramatik. Yetis served as hype men, stoking the crowd, launching furry koozies and even crowd surfing.
The good vibes worked: not only did it snow a full six inches during the actual festivities, but 6,000 people attended the concert, 21,130 engagements occurred on the mountain and 29 million social media impressions were counted. Gnarly, brah.
College students are big spenders on technology, which makes them a prime target market for a tech company like Microsoft. But despite the brand’s efforts to appeal to these consumers, from developing Surface tablets and notebooks to providing Office 365 for free, Microsoft was perceived by the demo as a sales-oriented brand focused on productivity rather than one that truly connects with the college student experience.
The solution was to build a Microsoft Tiny House, a 24-foot pop-up, interactive study lounge—part coffee house, part gaming space and part roof-deck hangout—that traveled to the top 10 universities in the country. Each stop along its Spring 2018 tour lasted two to three days and featured various activities, from hands-on demos of Microsoft products to career prep. By spotlighting key components of the student experience—food, coffee, music, gaming and socializing—the brand provided an engaging environment for students to reacquaint themselves with the brand.
The Tiny House interior included a full HVAC system, glazed windows, designer plank flooring, a lounge furniture seating area, a tap cooler for Nitro Cold Brew Iced Coffee, TVs, gaming and a media wall with a music station. A spiral staircase led to a roof deck lounge with furniture, Xboxes and a music stage for events. The space also included product demos and swag giveaways.
The House enjoyed 10,992 unique engagements, a seven-minute average dwell time and 27,215 peer-to-peer conversations. And participating schools saw a 15 percent lift versus non-Tiny House schools, in active users of Microsoft product, year over year.
To get the all-new VW Jetta in front of an urban, millennial audience—a tough crowd to please for automakers—Volkswagen created a branded house and hit four cities, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and New York City, in two weeks. The Jetta Haus experience included Instagrammable moments, a nighttime test drive and a mini music festival.
Each pop-up, a cool, hangout spot worthy of media, influencers and discerning consumers, contained static vehicles, lounge furniture and creative lighting design. Musical acts, contributed by partners SiriusXM, Beats By Dre and Red Bull Records, took to the stage throughout each city’s three-day run.
Two infinity rooms told a product story while inspiring social posting. For instance, the “Light Room” gradually transitioned through all 10 LED ambient light colors in the Jetta’s interior. The “Turbo Room” was full of ribbons that were blown around with high-powered fans, a simulation of the car’s turbo engine.
An important goal for VW was getting as many people behind the wheel as possible, so the brand offered test drives within a closed-course illuminated by LED lights. Accompanied by a professional driver in the passenger seat, consumers raced around a winding track as fast as they could.
Thanks to celebrity attendance and music headliners, the campaign garnered 44 million impressions from online media coverage. More than 4,000 attendees experienced the pop-ups, 2,000 did the test drives and the brand locked in more than 300 dealer leads, to boot.
Now more than ever, careers in science, technology, engineering and math are booming, with employment in STEM fields expected to grow 13 percent by 2027 in the U.S. So when Intel discovered that most U.S. classrooms don’t have the resources necessary to prepare students for the workforce of the future, it conjured up a mobile Tech Learning Lab to ensure both students and faculty got schooled on how student outcomes can improve with the use of modern technology. Consider it Intel’s own version of “flipping the classroom.”
Built from a modular container system that unboxed into an activation space, the brand’s Tech Learning Lab was designed to feel like the classroom of the future, with Intel technology at the helm. The 40-foot container, along with two eight-foot by eight-foot auxiliary pods and an external classroom structure, housed a total of 17 virtual reality stations, in addition to high-powered PCs, augmented reality technology and a 75-inch interactive whiteboard.
The primary objective? To inspire educators to use more media for learning through storytelling. To that end, Intel offered eight groundbreaking VR experiences that had students doing everything from conducting chemistry experiments, to virtually dissecting a frog, to taking a field trip to the Smithsonian to view art installations to piloting a spaceship—STEM-based activities designed to help the kids develop skills in the areas of problem solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. (Bonus: Intel’s partnership aided in the Smithsonian’s effort to get one billion people through its doors.)
But the education didn’t stop there. The Tech Learning Lab also featured hands-on workshops on artificial intelligence, design thinking and drone coding taught by Intel’s own education leaders and partners (how’s that for mentorship?). Helping to maintain a seamless experience, 14 tech-savvy brand ambassadors were on-site every day to answer questions and manage the flow of activity. And to encourage educators to use its curriculum to teach even more students, Intel left a kit of activities and lesson plans from its workshops at each location for teachers to use in future classes.
In the end, Intel’s Lab traveled more than 13,000 miles and made 16 major stops at schools, museums and select events across seven states. The brand breezed past all of its goals, engaging with 3,500 participants and delivering 9,800 virtual demos and over 178 million media impressions. And perhaps more importantly, Intel armed educators with the knowledge and resources necessary to help their students succeed in the modern world. Or, as Intel’s education segment manager put it, “We knew the Learning Lab alone wouldn’t be enough. We needed to teach the teacher.” Mission accomplished.
California fad diets are rampant, so to promote the second season of its series “Santa Clarita Diet,” which follows the story of an undead woman who adopts cannibalism, Netflix put a playful spin on the concept to draw in new viewers and rev up loyal fans. Building on the success of the show’s first season and its signature dark humor, the brand hit the road in a 24-foot-long glass truck with a mobile spa experience dubbed the Santa Clarita Lifestyle Tour.
To demonstrate to consumers how being dead can make you feel alive, just like “Santa Clarita Diet’s” main character, Sheila, Netflix offered typical spa treatments with a gory twist. Fans had their choice of “blood” facials, blood-red manicures, “sexy” blowouts, deep tissue massages and more to leave them feeling “reborn.” Following their gruesome makeovers, attendees could quench their (blood) thirst with “Body Part” fruit smoothies served in blood bags, snack on small bites and snag giveaways like beauty kits featuring brushes, lip glosses, gel masks and other products to keep up their new look—because even the undead need to maintain their polish.
Netflix’s humorous take on the pampered California lifestyle resonated strongly with its female target. With the help of six beauty experts, four mixologists and 14 brand ambassadors, the brand delivered 459 beauty treatments in four locations, dished out 2,500 smoothies and built considerable social buzz. That’s one killer tune-in strategy.
Millennials love themselves a good nostalgic experience, but there’s something they might love even more: avocados. Combine the good old days with the trendy fruit and, Wholly Guacamole! You’ve got a recipe for engaging the notoriously fickle demographic. That was the strategy behind Wholly Guacamole’s Guaclandia Tour, a mobile program designed to promote the brand’s new Snack Cups and leverage timely, millennial-focused trends.
At the heart of Wholly Guacamole’s mobile tour was a custom-outfitted school bus, helping deliver the nostalgia factor from the get-go. Tapping into another millennial trend, the brand turned the vehicle into an Instagram museum on wheels, rife with playful photo ops, swag, interactives and sampling experiences. The exterior of the bus was covered in avocado graphics and photo-worthy elements, like a “Stop for Guac” stop sign, while the surrounding footprint offered branded cornhole, oversized puzzles and a sampling bar.
But it was inside the bus where the magic really happened. Among the touchpoints: an avocado tree graphic with removable magnetic avocados that consumers could “pick” as a giveaway, an avocado pop-art wall designed in the style of Andy Warhol, an avocado chair photo op, a retro claw machine and a chalkboard that encouraged consumers to share their feelings about guacamole in fun colors. Then, the pièce de résistance: an inflatable slide that cast attendees into a “guacamole” ball pit from the bus’s back exit.
The two-month tour was certainly fruitful—44,009 samples were distributed, surpassing the brand’s sampling goal by 10 percent.
When conducting research into the esports audience, a new marketing segment for Mastercard, the company quickly discovered an important insight: establishing credibility with this audience requires an approach that supports the advancement of the community. With this in mind, Mastercard entered the scene in a big way, with a multi-year partnership with Riot Games, publisher of League of Legends, that included an immersive pop-up experience, an All-Star Event sponsorship, and digital amplification through a partnership with Twitch.
Anchoring the campaign around the League of Legend World Championships (known as the Worlds) in Seoul, Mastercard built a hub of fan activity, the Mastercard Nexus, full of League of Legend engagements. Attendees played unique game modes on high-end gaming PCs, took advantage of streamer and pro player meet-and-greets, played around with custom-developed augmented reality mirrors and cos-play photo ops, and customized their own esports jerseys. On the day of the Worlds Final, Mastercard awarded select cardholders in-game digital content skin codes, behind-the-scenes tours, photos with the Summoner’s Cup trophy and the chance to game onstage on the same PC as the pros.
A key goal of the program was interacting with esports fans online in addition to on-site. Enter the Twitch collaboration, which significantly expanded the initiative’s digital reach while continuing to bolster the community from the ground up. Twitch Creator Camp, which educates new and aspiring streamers on best practices, took place at the Mastercard Nexus. Twitch also co-hosted more than 20 influencers who streamed 200-plus live hours from the fan hub.
The League of Legends All-Star Event in Las Vegas, reserved for a select guest list of pros and influencers, provided another on-site activation for the brand to engage with fans. As guests arrived at the event from around the world, Mastercard threw a welcome reception and provided a VIP gift. During the competition itself, Mastercard’s VIP Lounge offered a place to chill between matches and even grab a massage. Fans watching the All-Star Event broadcast got a sneak peek of the lounge during live look-in segments.
Leveraging its partnership with Topgolf, Mastercard produced an event within the event in the form of a Topgolf experience for pros with lessons from LGPA Champion golfer, Danielle Kang. League of Legends Twitch streamer Travis Gafford streamed his talk show, “Hotline League,” on-site at the event, featuring interviews with top pros. It marked the first time that the show was filmed outside of Gafford’s bedroom and became the show’s most streamed episode ever.
Mastercard’s collaboration with Twitch streamers amplified the program in a major way. A partnership with 14 Twitch streamers ahead of the Worlds produced 56,000 hours of content with over 256,000 unique viewers. And on-site, 20 additional streamers generated 1.6 million total views and 238,000 hours of Mastercard branded streams.
Gaming is central to Major League Soccer fandom. In fact, 65 percent of avid MLS fans say that FIFA is a major driver of their interest in soccer. So, when it came time to launch the inaugural eMLS Cup, an esports tournament held in conjunction with EA Sports’ FIFA franchise, the league leveraged both gaming strategies and traditional engagement tactics to delight eMLS and FIFA fans alike.
The competition, consisting of 19 eMLS competitors from 19 MLS Clubs, was held at PAX East, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. Group stage matches occurred during the tournament’s first two days, followed by the knockout matches during the next two, held on the PAX Arena stage and live-streamed on Twitch.
A dedicated fan experience on-site, the eMLS HQ, provided a space to enjoy eMLS, MLS and FIFA all at once. At a custom FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) card station, attendees created their own large-scale cards using their photo and favorite MLS Club. Gamers played FIFA 18 on PlayStations alongside eMLS players and traditional MLS players in a gaming area. The area was also home to a series of amateur tournaments, shout-casted live by FIFA streaming personalities, including The SpinBros, before hundreds of participants and attendees. Live MLS matches aired on TVs in a lounge area, attendees could customize an eMLS-branded tote bag with their name and jersey number and an eMLS store sold limited edition gear.
Approximately 1,000 fans attended each of the knockout days, Twitch viewership reached 30,000 peak concurrent viewers and about 9,000 social posts occurred during the week, helping to make #eMLSCup a trending topic on Twitter on the tournament’s final day.
To celebrate all things gaming, streaming and cosplay for attendees of the Fortnite Fall Skirmish Grand Finals at TwitchCon, Epic Games erected a 50,000-square-foot immersive Fortnite esports experience at the San Jose Convention Center, featuring game characters, green-screen photo ops, Fortnite-inspired snacks and more. Because with Fortnite, it’s all about play.
Upon entering the footprint, which was outfitted with wall-to-wall green AstroTurf, attendees were greeted by characters in cosplay dancing in front of a 12-foot-tall, wall-mounted Fortnite logo. Next up was the ingredient of all ingredients for Battle Royale play, a 38-foot Battle Bus, complete with an 18-foot-tall hot air balloon.
Activities for Fortnite fans included three-hole Lazy Links mini golf, inspired by the game’s country club terrain, photo ops with six hand-carved, painted pickaxes, and two “Where Are You Dropping” video activations, where holding onto hang glider grips in front of a green screen created the illusion of the game’s opening “drop in” sequence.
An even larger audience than the 6,000 daily guests to the activation tuned in through Twitch. Fortnite’s Twitch channel averaged more than 120,000 viewers over the course of the event’s three days, and the grand finals reached an audience of 336,000. Influential streamers like Ninja and Tfue were featured, and a Fortnite-themed locker room kept competitors entertained and relaxed while awaiting their next heat. Quite the bunny hop.
Popular food programs like Whole30, a 30-day nutrition program designed to eliminate unhealthy food habits and cravings, tend to limit participants’ ability to dine outside the home. Indeed, most restaurant menus are chock-full of the foods that the Whole30 community has vowed to eliminate, from added sugars to grains to legumes to dairy. So, when Applegate Natural and Organic Meats was looking for a way to introduce its new, Whole30-compliant foods, the decision to create a Whole30-approved pop-up in New York City that served menu items within the program’s restrictions was the perfect sampling solution.
Since the Whole30 community was the target market for the new products, attracting them to the pop-up and impressing them with delicious meals was key. The Clean Slate Café offered a menu of six meals with sides, including the crowd-pleasing Turkey Burger Rainbow Bowl with cauliflower rice and the Bacon Curried Egg Collard Wrap, both served with a side of Smokey Beef Bacon Chili. Applegate products were the stars, of course, but the brand partnered with other Whole30-friendly brands, such as Spindrift sparkling water, Vital Farms eggs, Primal Kitchen herbs and dressings, Chomps sticks and Fire & Kettle bone broths, that were featured in the recipes.
After check-in, attendees were escorted to an Applegate- and Whole30-branded kitchenette, doubling as a waiting area, filled with the products and featuring the brands’ signature red and teal colors. Guests could explore the products in a mini fridge or scribble on a chalkboard what they would “wipe away” to start with a “Clean Slate,” which some turned into a Boomerang.
The next stop was a modern barn-like area for an introduction to the Whole30 program and Applegate’s commitment to clean and simple ingredients. Photo art displayed deconstructed menu items featured on the café’s menu. Attendees were then served their meal of choice at the café’s communal tables, which inspired conversation amongst the guests.
Natural materials like wood, live greenery and farmer’s market vegetables kept the vibe focused on organic living, while on-brand messaging such as “finding my food freedom” and “changing the meat we eat” kept consumers motivated to make healthier food choices. Brand ambassadors and waiters played an important role as well. Armed with Applegate and Whole30 knowledge, they sparked and inspired conversations about the food and ingredients.
To keep the momentum going post-event, Applegate and Whole30 provided content and the pop-up’s menu items on their websites, encouraging the Whole30 community to prepare the recipes on their own at home.
More than 1,500 guests passed through the café over the course of its four-day run, with reservations selling out in a matter of hours. Visitors to the café spent an average of 30 minutes on-site. And social was a hit, too: foodie-friendly Instagram generated one million impressions for the café.
Following its successful “Swedish Fish Selfies” campaign the brand executed at seven aquariums the year prior, Swedish Fish was tasked with upping the ante in 2018 and promoting its new Tropical flavor to consumers in a fresh and engaging way.
A surefire way to go bigger is with scale. The brand first doubled the number of aquarium partnerships, broadening its outreach toward millennial parents with young children—its target market for the campaign. Meanwhile, the brand’s status as the official candy of Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” added an additional avenue for promotion at the aquariums.
The aquariums were instrumental in bringing each partnership to life. One constant, however, was a 10-foot by 10-foot Swedish Fish-branded floor decal featuring a shark breaking through the aquarium floor. Brand ambassadors handing out free samples encouraged visitors to interact with the 3D graphic.
Other activities at the aquariums included a scavenger hunt for red fish decals in different exhibits, a digital shark trivia game, a custom-branded Swedish Fish mobile truck tour and a “Sips Under Sea Shark Week Viewing Party,” which entailed watching “Shark Week” live—with real sharks!—while sipping on a Swedish Fish-inspired candy cocktail. Finally, kids and families played the “Swedish Fish Chomped” game for a chance to win a “Tropical” vacation to Hawaii and swim with sharks.
It was a sampling success by all measures. More than 174,000 samples were delivered across 58 event days, 7,488 consumers participated in the shark trivia interactive content promoted through digital and social media, and engagement with the “Chomped” game surpassed campaign goals.
Who doesn’t love a free carnival? And if there’s free ice cream, too? We’re sold.
Riding high off the success of its “Slice Carnival” in Los Angeles promoting its new Pint Slice product, and a Moo-phoria light ice cream launch in New York City that employed a giant human claw machine, the brand dreamed up a fresh and edgy experiential program with The Ben & Jerry’s Carnival. Combining new and flagship product sampling, Ben & Jerry’s one-day branded event experience popped up in three key urban cities on the coasts.
First, a giant swing ride stopped passersby in their tracks. Once lured into the free carnival, attendees tried their hand at four different games themed around the brand’s new flavors and products. For the Pint Slice product, people played a game of Plinko, dubbed “The Slice Drop.” Since the logo lockup for Moo-phoria is a cow jumping over the moon, Ben & Jerry’s reworked the classic frog hop carnival game to make it a cow flying over the moon instead. For Non-Dairy, attendees tossed almonds into a giant pit, a nod to its almond milk substitute. And finally, the Truffles flavor experience, which highlighted the new, delicious truffles inside, was a Truffle Toss into milk jugs.
Across the cities of Boston, San Francisco and Portland, a total of 16,400 attendees took time out to play games and eat ice cream—47,800 samples, to be exact. Mmmm.