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Are these the greatest experiential marketing campaigns ever?

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16th Aug 2007
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Experiential marketing is now part of mainstream marketing. MyCustomer.com asks leading marketing experts to nominate their favourite experiential campaigns.

By Neil Davey, editor

In some circles, experiential marketing is still viewed as the new kid on the block. These folk consider it to be ‘alternative’; a bit far out. But then these are the same types of people who thought that passengers would suffocate at high speeds on those ‘new-fangled' locomotives. Experiential marketing has been wholeheartedly embraced by mainstream marketers and it is now a widely adopted methodology. In 2005, $150 billion was spent on experiential marketing campaigns according to HPI Research Group, and on the back of a growing number of enormously successful campaigns this figure is set to soar. We look at some of the best experiential campaigns to date, as nominated by those that know best – the leading lights in experiential marketing themselves.

• Transport for London – ‘Live in cinema’
In March 2002, Transport for London brought live performances to cinemas to raise awareness of motorcycle deaths on London roads. The audience witnessed the manager enter the auditorium to persuade a lady sitting on her how to leave as he had news for her. She refused to leave, insisting she was waiting for her partner, hence the empty seat next to her. The manager then informed her that he has been killed in a bike crash, to the shock of the audience. A 90 second film was then shown to the audience explaining that they had been actors highlighting a very real danger. The campaign only ran in a few cinemas but attracted considerable hyperbole and made the national press.
"The real success of the campaign was not the performances themselves, but the word of mouth ripple effect it had." Nick Presley, Woo Communications

“This was an extremely brave campaign to run, using shock tactics to highlight some shocking statistics. Response to the campaign by people who themselves had been bereaved, ranged from abject horror that they had to relive their own experience, to a feeling of gratitude that something was actually being done to highlight the dangers bike riders face. What I really like about this campaign is that it was a landmark that helped establish ‘experiential’ marketing, moving it on from field marketing, traditionally the domain of fmcg brands who’s prime objective is to get samples into people’s hands. The real success of the campaign was not the performances themselves, but the word of mouth ripple effect it had – not the easiest thing to measure. But judging by the number of people booking cinema tickets and requesting times that included the ‘performances’, word spread pretty far and wide.” Nick Presley, founder and creative partner of brand activation specialist Woo Communications.


• Pampers – ‘World of babies’
‘World of babies’ is an immersive, interactive 300m² centre where visitors can experience children’s different stages of development, from being a foetus in the womb onwards. Developed by Pampers with input and guidance from child development experts from the Pampers Institute, it is designed to encourage parents to see the world as a baby does and thereby understand ways in which children develop.

"I was enthralled by it as a first-time father, and as a marketer who appreciates the notion that great marketing starts with great insights." Max Lenderman, GMR Marketing

”I was enthralled by it as a first-time father, and as a marketer who appreciates the notion that great marketing starts with great insights, and the best messages are the ones that make you look at the world from a different perspective. This does both. It presents Pampers as a brand that looks at the world through the filter of the daunting experiences of being a baby, and it talks to the consumer - namely mom - in an eye-opening and contextual way. Perfect experiential marketing.” Max Lenderman, executive creative director at GMR Marketing, Chicago, the former founder and president of Gearwerx Experiential Marketing and founding board member of the International Experiential Marketing Association (IXMA).

• Innocent – ‘Fruitstock/Village Fete’
Every year, in August, Innocent host a festival in Regent’s Park, London, as a way of saying thank you to everyone who has bought the drinks and to raise money for charity. Fruitstock attractions include live bands, yoga sessions, massages, bouquet-making and a carousel and farmyard for children. In 2006, over 100,000 people attended Fruitstock. After four year of hosting Fruitstock, 2007 saw Innocent shift to a traditional-style summer fête with home-made cake stands, welly throwing, tug-o-war, coconut shies and of course more live music.
"Innocence stays true to what the brand is itself and also looks at the consumer experience in its entirety." Barbara Walker, Capitalize

“Fruitstock – which has now evolved into the Innocence Village Fete - is very tasteful and with style and the entertainment was fantastic. A lot of experiential campaigns go incredibly wrong by going for creativity over relevance. Relevance is a critical word when it comes to a campaign – who are you talking to; what are their needs; where can you add value to them? Innocence stays true to what the brand is itself and also looks at the consumer experience in its entirety. It is very seldom that you see brand events that cater for families and that is very true to Innocence’s brand portfolio as it has smoothies for kids and smoothies for adults. It is an incredibly rewarding experience at a consumer level and the brand recall off of it must be phenomenal. For a token £5, you get a really great day’s worth of activities.” Barbara Walker, head of the experiential marketing team at Capitalize.


• Wendy’s – ‘Where’s the beef?’
A 1984 television ad that caught the imagination of the American public. An elderly woman receives a competitor’s burger with a massive bun (at the time, a competitor’s slogan was “home of the big bun”). The small patty inside, however, prompts the woman to growl “where’s the beef?!” The humorous ad and the memorable character of the old lady meant the catchphrase took on a life of its own and was subsequently quoted in countless TV, shows, films, magazines and even election campaigns.

"I can remember the Wendy’s campaign today as clearly as when I first saw it." Erik Hauser, Swivel Media

“People have a misconception that experiential marketing has to be tactile in nature – that you have to look, taste and feel things. The reality is that you can connect with any great visuals. I can remember the Wendy’s campaign today as clearly as when I first saw it. A great experiential campaign animates the brand DNA and every great brand should have a wink in it, which gives it the ability to do fun stuff. That is what makes this campaign very experiential – yeah, they were talking about the hamburger, but they were selling the notion of humour and connecting with the brand’s ‘wink’. Wendy’s as a brand was the hamburger joint that had a wink in it and didn’t take itself too seriously.” Erik Hauser, founder and executive creative director at Swivel Media, founder and director of the International Experiential Marketing Association (IXMA) and creator of the Experiential Marketing Forum (EMF).

• Daimler-Chrysler - ‘Camp Jeep’
Several years ago, the Daimler-Chrysler Corporation started to invite Jeep owners from across America to a Jeep rally. For 300 bucks, attendees to ‘Camp Jeep’ could take place in races, test themselves on off-road trails, test drive all-new vehicles, learn about the history of Jeep, check out memorabilia and vintage vehicles and enjoy a variety of entertainment, from live music to outdoor activities. The event has subsequently become an enormous draw, with thousands of people gathering to test their machines and talk Jeep. Furthermore, it is now acknowledged as one of the most clever marketing schemes in the auto industry.
"It's an awesome display of bringing a brand to life and immersing people in a holistic brand experience." Robert Gabsa, Euro RSCG Worldwide

“The event has been going on for several years and for the first time ever, it was taken on a tour this year (or maybe it's going on tour next year, I may be off on that), bringing it out and making it accessible to the general public. Regardless, it's an awesome display of bringing a brand to life and immersing people in a holistic brand experience way beyond anything conventional or otherwise. Really, really fantastic. Consistently gets many nods (and nominations) from top awards here in the States.” Robert Gabsa, vice president, Euro RSCG Worldwide.


• Charmin – ‘Potty Palooza’
Potty Palooza is the name Charmin has given its 18-wheel semi-trailer truck that since 2002 has spent 11 months a year visiting up to 30 events annually, from the Super Bowl to music festivals. Holding 27 private, home-like bathrooms, all adorned with wallpaper, skylights, hardwood floors and televisions – and of course stocked with Charmin toilet paper – it is a far more attractive proposition than taking your life in your hands using the usual festival portaloos. It’s popularity led to 30,000 people signing a petition to keep it coming back after the Covered Bridge Festival in 2002.

"People hike half a mile across the event site to use the Charmin toilet!" Erik Hauser, Swivel Media

“It is rigged out with beautiful bathrooms, complete with personal attendant, plasma screen and pristine cleanliness. Put this branded truck next to the usual green or blue plastic port-a-potties and it’s a slam dunk for Charmin.” Max Lenderman.
“Part of great experiential marketing is the art of surprise. When you go to big festivals your expectation is “Ugh! I’m going to have to use the porta-john!” But then they wheel in these extravagant vanity bathrooms with Charmin toilet paper. People hike half a mile across the event site to use the Charmin toilet! Experiential is very much about making something that is poor better. You are raising the experience level and the level of excitement. And that helps recall, so people will never forget that.” Erik Hauser.

Read more features, practical case studies and white papers about customer experience management.

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